What Might Have Been

I was badly bullied when I was a kid.  I remember one guy, “Bryce”  I went to Mt. Vernon Jr. High with who simply insulted me and pushed me and mocked me daily, until it was almost more than I could bear.


Then one day I was at the bookstore   and saw a copy of a book called BRUCE TEGNER’S INSTANT SELF DEFENSE, and begged my mother to buy it.  Oh, it was a revelation.  When I was even younger I’d seen the line drawings for “KETSUGO! UNSTOPPABLE SELF DEFENSE!” or even “BLACK DRAGON FIGHTING SOCIETY!” in the backs of comic books, but never gotten up the nerve to purchase one.


Well, Mom got it for me, and I remember practicing chops and kicks on the poor grapefruit tree in our back yard.  I was still too frightened to actually USE any of this, but I was starting to channel my fear into action.   (I would not understand the power of this approach fully for another two decades, unfortunately).


I carried that book with me everywhere, even to school, where I probably hoped that people would see it and be intimidated into leaving me alone. Didn’t work. Bryce took my book and played keep-away with his buddies.  Humiliating.  The teachers didn’t help.  Bullies are great at knowing when there is no authority figure to help.


This kept up for six years, through   high school.  Then, finally, just the week before graduation, he insulted me one final time and something just SNAPPED inside me.   “I’ve had enough,” I finally told him one day.   “Meet me out behind the school. Bring your friends.  Bring a broken bottle.  I don’t care.  Let’s settle this.”


He looked at me, laughed, and said: “Aw, man…I know you know that karate shit” AND WALKED AWAY.


I stood there with my mouth hanging open.  WTF?  You mean all I had to do was call his bluff?  I had suffered through six years of hell because I’d been afraid to fight?   That was the first glimmering I had of something which, again, I didn’t fully learn for another twenty years: EVERYONE FEELS FEAR.  The only question is what we do with that emotion.


He coped by inflicting fear on others, trying to control through intimidation. I coped by becoming an intellectual “brain in a box” and then later through meditation, therapy, and martial arts.


But then, at that moment, he had pushed me out of our social game (him bully, me nerd) into reality: a real fight is two cats in a sack.  No social rules, just using “every fang and claw in the awfullest way you ever saw.”


He’d pushed me until I had forgotten my ego identity as small and weak.  I was just focused on hurting HIM.   I was ready to crawl into the sack with him (so to speak) and he was not.    Shit had gotten a little realer than he wanted.


It was an important rule, and one of the hidden principles of the martial arts:  “it isn’t the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog” is one way to put it.   “I’m ready to die, and I’m ready to take you with me” is another.

Sporting contests are decided by size and strength. That is why there are weight classes. The real world is determined more by who is more willing to go ALL OUT.  Who hits that point first. No bluff. No bullshit. No social rules.   Enter THAT space, and predators will leave you alone: they know they will be injured.

My own version of this: “no matter who you are, no matter what you know, no matter what you do to me…I’m going to take the left eye out of your head.”  You don’t SAY that, because if you say it aloud you challenge their ego.  You have that in your body language. In your voice, in the calm certainty of every action.    You cannot bluff this.  You have to mean it.  And the only way to actually mean it is to be very, very clear on what you are or are not willing to die for, and fight only for that.



The way I put it is that in every animal is the survival drive, that all-or-nothing response to fight or flight.   Fear arises from anticipation. Actual survival is IN THE MOMENT, and if you are acting, you don’t feel fear the same way at ALL.   That energy is going into fighting or fleeing.   The “I’ll get hurt” isn’t a factor because you are IN THE SHIT already. Its happening.  Anticipation will kill you.  Living in the moment sets you free.




The same thing is true in so many arenas.   Most of the really, really excellent people I know, in any arena, were not people with “innate talent”, they were and are people who love something so much that they obsess about it.   Artists draw all the time.  Singers sing.   Writers write, athletes play their sport and do drills all day.  And on and on.


And those afraid to enter that burning core, to commit, will talk about “talent”.   They never committed because they didn’t have the “talent.”   That’s fear of admitting they want it enough to be willing to give it EVERYTHING THEY’VE GOT.  They never picked the hill they were ready to die on. So…they often die for nothing.


I remember the day I realized that I’d rather FAIL as a writer than SUCCEED at anything else.  Boom. The world got simple. Ride or die, man.  This is me.


It wasn’t really any different from realizing I simply wasn’t going to take shit from Bryce any more, ever again.  Maybe I’d have gotten my ass kicked. Hey, I’ve had my ass kicked before.


Maybe I’d have died.  Hey, I have to die anyway.   What matters is how you live, and if you are totally absorbed by what you are doing, one day at a time, you really aren’t thinking about dying.  The people most afraid of dying aren’t doing much with their lives NOW.   If they were, they’d be too busy. Similar to worrying about “talent.”  If you are really focused on what YOU are doing, you are having such a good time (and you did choose something you love, right?) that you don’t really notice where other people are.


If you aren’t “observing yourself” you don’t notice if someone is ahead of you, or behind you.  It is said that a musician like Prince was hugely kind to other musicians and performers. He adored the icons who were ahead of him, supported those on the path behind him, and jammed with his equals as often as possible. He loved the PATH.


The time I attended the party at his house, and he jammed for us, he asked us to listen to the music and dance, NOT to look at him.  Enjoy the music, and the moment.   If our attention was on him he had to think about his performance, and all he wanted was to flow with the groove.   If we could be there with him, we were all One: lovers of music. Dancers, listeners, musicians, singers. All together on that patio under the stars.


The Path. Focus on it, and you enter a timeless space. If you notice fear…you aren’t there. If you are worried someone is better…you aren’t there.  If you take pride in being better than others–you aren’t there. Not at that moment.


What you want is to be “there.”  In the flow. Doing the thing you love. The people ahead of you have spent more time on that path, in that space.   They DESERVE the greater success, and it would be a cruel world if they didn’t have it.


And the greatest success is spending your life being what you want to be, with the people you love, doing what turns you on.    Being an authentic ‘you.’  That person is not your ego shell.  It is the “real” you and you can glimpse it in the moments you lose “yourself” in the moment.  Sex, by the way, can be GREAT for this, the most common human experience that extinguishes the ego, at least for a fear moments.  You know what I mean…if you can remember your name, it wasn’t good sex.


At the moment I told Bryce to meet me, I couldn’t remember my name.  At the moment I was deepest into any story I’ve ever written, I don’t know who I am.   When I’ve pulled off the best martial arts moments of my career, I wasn’t “there” at all.


How to learn this?  Focus on being present, five times a day, in sixty second increments of breath.  Focus on what you intend to accomplish today, and what you need to do and who you need to be AT THIS MOMENT to make it happen.


Connect those core outcomes to your survival, sexuality, power, love, communication, intellect and spirit.  Balance the child and adult, the male and female of “you” until you lose your language and enter the flow state, a world of emotions and images and feelings.


So wonderful. That part is the best and strongest “you”, and a wealth unknown to those who cling to their identities. Let it go. Eventually, you will, you know. Everyone does.


Don’t wait until your last moments until you learn this.  “For of all sad words of tongue or pen, The saddest are these: ‘It might have been!'”– John Greenleaf Whittier







A Major new 5MM “Life Hack”?

I’m a mad scientist when it comes to personal development, and that’s kept me engaged with the process for decades.  On one level I ALWAYS feel that “the Perfect Program” is just out of reach…it’s a game I love to play.  Tananarive or Toni or Nicki could tell ya.  Notebooks full of plans.


Been percolating a notion for about a month.  It has to do with the cross-referencing of several things.


  1. 5MM.  The fact that if you take 60-second “breathing breaks” every three hours, you transform your relationship with stress.
  2. According to Pavel, the perfect number of reps for an exercise is 5: after 5, you cannot focus total concentration.
  3. Synaptic Facilitation suggests that a skill is best learned by practicing it in short sessions throughout the day, rather than all at once.
  4. There are Five Tibetans
  5. Islamic prayers are practiced five times a day
  6. The more often you remember your primary outcomes and motivations, and check where you are, the easier it is to maintain focus, and the more you accomplish.



What if I combined these?  Not “more time” spent meditating, exercising, renewing, but distributing and coordinating that time differently?  Can you see where this is heading?


I have longer blocks of time for some things, but that “Five Minute Miracle” every day…what can I do with that, as sort of a separate “track” of action?  Well…


WHAT IF YOU COMBINED THESE?  Here’s a sample protocol:


  1. Every three hours perform 5 reps of one Tibetan.
  2. With each, focus on the breathing, with a “cat vomiting” “be breathed” style exhalation/compression built into the rep.
  3. As you do, think of the Most Important Outcome for the day.
  4. Feel gratitude for the health to do this activity. Remember: one day you will NOT be able to.   Enjoy your body while you have it…remember it is just on loan.



How long would this take?  Five minutes a day.  What would the next level be?

  1. Increase the number of reps.  What would happen if the 21 reps of five exercises were distributed through the day instead of “clumped”?  Well..you’d lose the mild “cardio” effect but raise the amount of focus on structural integration.  If you focus on the breathing, you are accelerating the rate of re-programming the body-mind for extraordinary function.   SERIOUS intervention.    Imagine a night’s sleep where you have to get up five times to pee. How restful is that?  YOU CAN INTERRUPT THE “WAKING DREAM” state exactly the same way.
  2. Add another action (like practice three minutes of martial arts or a yoga asana)
  3. Extend meditation/focus time.


Minimum investment?  Five minutes a day.   But I could add a yoga asana AND a minute of Kali/Escrima, for a total of Fifteen minutes a day.  That is an AMAZING amount of re-programming.


I don’t know for a fact that this is an effective protocol. It is a theory, and the experiment it suggests is obvious, and exciting to me.  I’ll letcha know!



(p.s. This is NOT to replace the block of morning exercise time. There are aspects of fitness/wellness that require extended engagement (triggering the neuro-immuno-endocrine response requires 12-15 minutes of steady-state activity to enter “second wind” which is great for a whole host of reasons, especially managing fear) But in an emergency…its an amazing five daily minutes, providing basic integration and mobility, focus, energy, motivation, positive emotions, discipline, centeredness, and much more.

A great little “Hack” for you to try!)



Steven Barnes


Twenty years of joy

Twenty years ago today, the amazing Tananarive said “I Due” to me in her parents’ home in Cutler Ridge section of Miami Florida.   I couldn’t believe my luck then, and I don’t believe it now.



My first marriage was going belly-up due to mis-steps along the way.  You can take such small actions, but over time, they magnify until you are lost, and Toni and I couldn’t find our way back to each other.  I was pretty miserable, but even more, I felt spun, unable to catch my balance.  Some time later I had a chance for a relationship with a fabulous lady who in many ways was an exemplar, the most attractive human female I think I’d ever seen.  I blew it, partially because we were on different paths, and partially because I was too open and eager.


A period of adjustment followed, during which I realized that to attract women I needed to be both focused and casual.  Otherwise I’d come across as either needy, or a predator.


Once I found that “relaxed focus” mode, things got scary easy.  I mean SCARY. I’d never been that attractive before, and I realized I could be one of the great dogs of all time…and didn’t want it.  Traveling to Clark Atlanta Universary for  the “African American Fantastic Imagination” conference, I encountered several ladies who…let’s say the connection was instant and almost overwhelming.   But…I was playing a game, and I didn’t want games. I wanted something real.


And that night, after arriving, I prayed.   I just asked God for a soul mate.  Someone I could really be myself with.  No games. And I was willing to wait the rest of my life for her, if that was what was necessary.


And…the next morning, coming out of my room, a cute little girl named Tananarive Due came out of the room next to me (!), asked if I was THE Steven Barnes, and asked if I was going to breakfast.


Well, sure, I said, a little confused. We had breakfast, and she was charming, and full of enthusiasm. She had published one book, THE BETWEEN, with another close on the way, MY SOUL TO KEEP.   I was polite, and just a little distant. But when I read a couple of pages of BETWEEN I realized that despite a fifteen-year head start, when it came to “memetic” or realistic fiction, depiction of the everyday world, that critical element that effective fantasy MUST possess…she was already better then me.  I decided that I would adopt her as a little sister, would support her and give her whatever I could to protect and propell her toward what I knew would be a hell of a career.


But…I wasn’t “attracted” to her, not consciously. I knew she was cute and smart of course, but I wasn’t in touch with anything else inside me.  We did some line dancing on the first night there, and I got to see how well she moved her body–a healthy, fit animal.  Very nice. But STILL nothing else kicked in.


Then…on our last day at the conference, she gave a talk about how she got Stephen King to blurb her second novel, and it was a complex strategy using her position at the Miami Herald, her skills on the keyboard, and the nerve to ask if she could play in King’s band, the “Rock Bottom Remainders” when it appeared at the Miami Book Fair.  She did, she made friends with him, and he agreed to look at her book…and the rest was history.


I sat in the front row watching her…and was thunderstruck. She wasn’t “smart”. She was SMART.  And…damn, she was really really REALLY cute, too…


And at that moment, a chill ran up my spine.  It was something I’d never felt before, like a door opening, revealing a path to my future.   “Oh, Steve,” I said to myself. “You are in TROUBLE”.


She lived in Miami. I lived in Vancouver, Washington. Opposite corners of the country. We were leaving Atlanta the next day. I had to get her attention FAST.


In situations like that, fully engaged, the WHAT clear (connect with Tananarive Due. See if this feeling is real, and if she could share it), the WHY (this was a potential Soul Mate.   Someone with whom I could create a life. Someone with similar values, energy, interests, skills.  She spoke my language and lived my life intellectually, emotionally, physically.  If I was right…this was the answer to my prayers)


All that remained was the “HOW.”  Have I said before that if the WHAT and the WHY are clear enough, the HOW presents itself?


She came down off the stage and was immediately surrounded by autograph seekers.  I looked around the room.  How could I catch her attention..?


And there, in the front row a few seats down, was a woman with a baby on her lap. Inspiration struck. I went to her.  “Excuse me, ma’am,” I asked.  “May I borrow your baby..?”


She looked at me blankly, wondering what this was about. She knew WHO I was (which was more than I knew, at the moment!) and I told a tangentially relevant truth: I love kids, and love playing with kids, and miss babies.    She said “o.k.” and handed me the child.  I got down on the floor in front of Tananarive, and started playing with that adorable little baby.


Now…if I hadn’t been serious, hadn’t been dead bang 100% blown away by her, that would have been an amazingly nasty and manipulative thing to do. I KNEW that there was no way an unmarried heterosexual professional black woman in her early 30’s could see an available professional attractive black man who loved babies without her hind brain going DING DING DING!!!  She would HAVE to investigate, find out if this was a possibility.


Was it foul play? Hell no. And I knew that if she was what I was looking for, she would understand even if I told her EXPLICITLY what I was doing.  I was communicating directly from hind-brain to hind-brain: I desire you.  I believe we are potential mates. And if you will give me a chance, and we both decide to go forward, I will love you all your life.  Give you children.  And die to protect them, if necessary.   All I am is yours, if this connection is real.


She got it.  I got my chance. We went dancing that night, and I kissed her good-night for the first time. And the next day, we were sitting in the Atlanta Hartsfield airport, our heads leaning against each other, holding hands and talking about how we could build an empire together.  That was the beginning, and we’ve never looked back.


I remember that prayer: give me someone to love.  Someone I could just be myself with.  I was tired of wearing a mask, or being anyone other than who and what I am.   If I could just find that person…I was prepared to strive every day to be the best man I can be, so that they never, EVER regretted the trust it would take to build a life together.


I’m not perfect.  But God, I love her.  From that first moment I saw her spirit and drive and creativity…let alone how well she danced and how good she looked doing it.


Sigh.  That’s the story.    I’m going to take her to breakfast now.  But if you want to know why every day, EVERY DAY in my Morning M.A.G.I.C. program I give thanks for “my beautiful, brilliant wife”…this is why.   The universe heard my prayer and answered.   I take my gratitude for that, for her, and pour it into everything I do, every day, and it has indeed made me a better man.


Thank you, baby. For the best twenty years of an already wonderful life.  The best is yet to come.






The Power of Love…and Tribe

Everything, every single thing I say about race and gender comes from a simple basic premise: equality.  Sometimes modified by complementarity, but basically…equal. Trust me, I take crap from both sides  about the implications of my positions. As the song goes, “Everybody Wants to Rule The World.”   If you think I feel anything but bemusement by the attacks, you don’t know me well at all.

Hang around. You will.



I posted a link to news stories about the recent event where a white guy named “Whitman” (come on, God.  If I was writing this story, people would throw it across the room) followed a black man named “Lovett” (and considering how he reacted, that name is just as cliche’d. Sheesh)   calling him the Verboten Word.  And…the  idiot let himself be videoed doing it.  The community reacted by withdrawing support from his business.  And of course he immediately went into “poor me” mode, and released a very lawyer-drafted sounding apology.


And as one can predict, from a certain corner of the political spectrum, complaints arose that, well, BLACK people use el Verboten Word.  Why not them?   The logical answer is: because words and actions are both low and high-context, and that social context determines the meaning of the communication. 

ME kissing my wife on the lips unexpectedly has one whole set of implications and meanings.

YOU kissing her unexpectedly on the lips means something else altogether. We instinctively understand this.  If you are mature, and intelligent, you have experienced countless examples.

So the question is: IF you are intelligent, and have lived long enough to stroll around the block a few times (“wisdom” in this sense being recognition of patterns to create better choices.  “Clever” would be solving problems.  “Wisdom” would be avoiding the problem in the first place by recognizing the root.  I’m not impressed by someone who survived countless barroom brawls. I’m impressed by the person who quickly realized that places where strangers gather to drink can be fight clubs…and avoid them) then…why can’t you generalize from a general principle (“language and communication is high context and culturally specific”) to a specific instance?  (“There are words and actions that mean different things WITHIN cultures than BETWEEN them”)


I suggest that there are “sleepers” here, but also snakes and monsters.  Let me explain.




I got a PM last night from a gentleman who thought to educate me on the hitherto unsuspected factoid that black people use El Verboto.  That, therefore, one might assume he concludes, it is no big thing.  “Sorry to say, but black people use this word the most…”

Wow. Thanks for that news flash.

Wearing my “Caucasian Whisperer” hat, I actually explained things a little to him.  It amuses me, and who know: he might actually be sincerely ignorant.

But he could also be a snake.   Snakes would react the same as sleepers here.   It is clear that people make a world map, fit into it, and when it is proven flawed, begin to go a little crazy. The “map” white people made of black people allowed them to treat us as sub-human and broadly manage the entire sweep of interactions, as well as program us and create the laws that governed us.  As that starts breaking down, the fear of what the true nature might be is starting to disrupt thought patterns.


Sad, and dangerous.


“Sleepers”  literally cannot or will not engage the logic necessary to engage deductive logic (from a general principle to a specific instance).


Frankly, I place most racists in this category. They literally haven’t the knowledge or capacity to step out of the immediate history and see the flow of humanity, such that the concept of “race” is revealed as, primarily, a social construct.  Often they don’t even realize that their attitudes are racist: they think they’re just being “realistic”.   Not necessarily bad people. But asleep.

“Snakes” know damned well what the issue is, but pretend not to understand, protesting, trying to guilt-trip or obfuscate and say it should be just fine.

The “kiss my wife” example doesn’t help?

How about boxing. If I agree to box with you, and you hit me in the face, it is very very different than if you walk up to me on the street and try to hit me in the face. Different meaning.  Different reaction.

Damned sure different result.

Are we understanding each other yet?

“Monsters” aren’t going to be stupid enough to get into this fight directly.  They are going to sit above the fray, clucking sadly.   Transactional Analysis calls this game “Let’s You And Him Fight.”

They don’t care about race much more than you or I care about red ants versus black ants.  They operate on gradients of power and money.  THAT is their tribe, and they often seem astonished when people who have gained money and power still care about tribal issues.  (This attitude isn’t confined to the powerful, but they’ve raised it to an art form).  They will use “snakes” and “sleepers” as cannon fodder and shock troops to keep the red and black ants fighting so that they can swoop in and steal the sugar.


Oh, what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive.




What is the way out of this?  Extracting meaning from the traffic event, let’s look at how this works.  I’m unavoidably resorting to a little mind-reading here, and I ask your indulgence.


  1. Love yourself.  When Lovett was confronted with Whitman’s use of El Verboto, he kept his cool. Why? Because Lovett had an internally determined sense of self. What Whitman (starting to LOVE that name)  thought about him didn’t matter BECAUSE LOVETT KNEW WHO HE WAS.  If someone calls me a Martian, unless I’m afraid I’m a Martian, I’m not confused or frightened…UNLESS there is a history of people lynching Martians, of course.  Then I will interpret it as a threat, reacting with fear and anger unless I am very very centered.  More on this later, but just as “You Lie” was probably thrown at Obama in an attempt to educe a public “Angry Black Man” response to damage public support, what would have happened if Lovett had felt fear, and responded with anger and violence? Very different story.
  2. Love one other person.     When you love someone, you want to be there for them.    You also see yourself through their eyes.   You no longer have the right to react purely from individual ego: “stay calm.  Your wife/kids need you” becomes a factor. But also “Tonya loves me. She sees the beauty in me” allows you to counter the negative opinions of others.
  3. Understand history without guilt, blame, or shame.  If you grasp the enormity of the damage inflicted by 250 years of slavery followed by another 125 years of Jim Crow and segregation, you will have no fear of inferiority.  In fact, you are likely to struggle not to feel like a superior form of being, capable of absorbing massive damage and still standing tall.  Best believe that some of our Honorable Adversaries are afraid of just this.   Anger is fear, remember?  If you really grasp what human beings have done to each other out of fear for the last 250 thousand years, but that violence has actually been decreasing…personally I think you gain a sense of wonder about our species. We’re doing the best we can. We screw up, big time.  Multi-generational problems require multi-generational solutions, and that set of delusions about the meaning of dark skin will take more generations to break down. Remember: IF you grasp the history without first loving yourself, the chances of feeling some mixture of guilt, fear, rage, and other pale emotions is a living danger.  It requires real balance to avoid falling into that chasm.
  4. Avoid sleepers, snakes, and monsters if possible. But hew to, and protect, the tribe of human beings who can see through the illusion to the unity beneath, who are willing and able to move beyond fear and anger.  Lovett remained calm and polite, and video’d the encounter.  Love my Iphone.    Released it to social media because HE TRUSTED HIS TRIBE to deal with this.  Wasn’t going to get snared in a streetfight, in which he could be killed, or jailed, or descend to Whitman’s level of fear and confusion.  PERFECT response.  Kudos.  Note that social response: POC and non-POC alike, the tribe of those sick of the centuries of lies and ready to face the future responded swiftly: “I’m not a part of that shit.”
  5. Win, with integrity.  No one threw a Molotov cocktail through Whitman’s window, or burned a cross on his lawn.   Support was withdrawn from Whitman’s  business, based on individuals deciding that their custom was better invested elsewhere.  This is how it happens: those of good will standing together.  Sleepers awakening (“this shit still happens?  Damn!”) and snakes are forced back into their holes (moving away from pain).  The monsters will try to sound reasonable and wise and try to convince the ignorant that words are just words, and that there should be no difference in what things mean no matter who says them, something that simply is not true in human communication…and never has been.    We won. He lost.  IF Whitman’s regret is genuine, he will learn.  I certainly hope he manages to put his life back together. But it is good for society to draw a line: these actions (and make no mistake: talk is an action) will not be tolerated.



So the gentleman who PM’d me asked me what El Verboto means, and why it is so powerful. I gave him a short answer.  He asked for more, and I suggested he do his research. He said that clearly this was sensitive to me, so he would stop.


Nah.  It isn’t sensitive.  I have no fear about it, because I know myself.  If he is a sleeper, trying to awaken, it is best to sit up and do his own research. I’m not going to whisper bedtime stories to him, but I will point the direction of truth.  Shown him where “X” marks the spot.  If he buys a shovel and digs, he’ll be fine.


But if he is a snake, trying to suck up my time…I have no interest in indulging him.  If he doesn’t research it himself, he’s either too sleepy to learn…or doesn’t really care. And if he doesn’t care, why is he asking…?


Well, trying to tag-team me of course.  Lots of snakes out there, and they do focus on draining the energy of those they consider “SJWs”, a badge I proudly wear.


Unfortunately for them, if you give me shit, I’ll fertilize my lawn with it.    I LOVE this.  I was born and bred for it, and this is the time of my life when I can be just the hell who I am, and no one can do a damned thing about it.


It all starts with loving yourself.  And your family. And humanity.  And finding your tribe. And choosing to win–with integrity.


How do you win?   By knowing WHAT victory is, WHY you want it, and then devising a strategy to follow.


What is that strategy?   Programming myself EVERY DAMNED DAY with the basic principles I live by, reminding myself who I am and how far I’ve come, and what I need to do this day, this week, this month to bring Heaven to Earth.


My Morning MAGIC program, people.  Keeps me sane and balanced and focused.  Please…if all the current bullshit is buffeting you like a hurricane, remember that there is an eye of the storm, and if you learn to connect with yourself properly and regularly, you can spend your life there in that calm, shelter your family there, even though the winds howl.


And when you’re there, you can beckon to others of your tribe and show them the way. Protect your family. And nurture the child in your heart and keep her safe enough to remain centered when snakes scream insults.


They HATE that, don’t you know?






What will this week be for YOU?

Every Sunday, my primary “work” is to figure out the most important thing to accomplish in the next seven days.  Last week:


WHAT:  The most important thing I had to accomplish last week was a fabulous 20th anniversary celebration with Tananarive.

WHY: Because I adore her, and thank God every day that this fabulous, beautiful, brilliant, exceptional woman chose ME as her life partner.  And I never, ever want to take her or my life for granted, or let time pass without celebration.

HOW: An Air B’nB beach house in Malibu while Jason was off for a week of camp.


Get that?  Clear goal, clear reasons so passionate I vibrate when I think about it, and only then figuring the “how.”  Now…this week.


WHAT: Launch the “Your First 100k” course I’ve been working on for the last three years.   Rewrite the “Danakil” story for the blockchain “Celarius” project.


WHY: To provide a clearer road-map to my friends and students of how to take their passion to help people and turn it into the ability to support their own families and fulfill their dreams.   To finish a terrific shared-universe story


HOW:   By consulting with my tech guy Michael to be sure all the pieces of the marketing funnel are in place, all the contracts handled, the sales pages designed and executed, all the pieces of the course ready for download.  By editing five-ten pages of story a day.


WHAT then WHY then HOW.  Clear?




Once upon a time, I was a kid from a financially challenged, broken home, filled with fear about a world I had been told would destroy me if I was weak…or if I was too strong.  No role models, no one who believed in my dreams, and a mother who loved me but was destroying herself with stress and fear and toil.  But…she gave me a fantastic gift: the notion that our minds control our destiny.


And even if she was so rigid and wounded that she wasn’t able to take this notion to its logical conclusion SHE INFECTED ME WITH THE MEME.  And I spent my entire young life studying, searching, training…trying to find mentors, gurus, therapists, coaches, ANYONE who could help me achieve the things I needed to avoid catastrophe.  And…although Mom was limited by the rigidity of her traditional belief systems, I started seeing that all of these people, all these religions, all these philosophies were saying the same things in different ways, and slowly began to put it together.


Gaining success as a writer by writing every day.

Gaining success as a martial artist by training every day.

Building a beautiful family by being there as a husband and father every day.


I made mistakes.  Failed many times.  And deeply regret some of the choices I made along the way.  But…kept learning.   And growing.  Until one day I looked up, and realized that I’d literally achieved every goal I’d ever had as a kid.


Time for new goals.




The most evolved “Master” of any discipline I’ve had a chance to sit down and speak with one human being to another is probably Danny Inosanto, arguably the world’s greatest expert on Filipino and Indonesian martial arts, a walking encyclopedia, warrior, and gentleman.   At 82 years old he still teaches and trains every day, traveling the world every weekend to share his knowledge.


He is complex, not “complicated”.   In many ways a simple man of true genius, who teaches the history of his people as much as sharing their martial wisdom, which is phenomenal, music and mathematics on the kinesthetic level.  And all that makes him what he is is a clear goal:


WHAT:   to   be the best he can be.  To learn and grow and go as far as he can in his lifetime.

WHY: Because the weak deserve a chance to be strong.  Because bullies bleed too.  To fulfill a sacred promise to the great teacher of his life, Bruce Lee.

HOW: To train and teach every day.


That’s it.  A clear “What”.   An empowering “Why.”  and the “How” is simply doing it daily.


As the lady said, parenthood isn’t hard. Its just daily.  The same with ANYTHING else you want to master.


Know what your lifetime intentions are.   What your yearly outcomes need to be to reach them, and have a raft of kickass reasons to GO FOR IT.   What you have to accomplish this month to stay on track. What you need to do THIS WEEK to continue to refine your life physically, mentally, emotionally, financially, spiritually.


Know those things…and then know the minimum you have to do TODAY to make it happen.


Then…raise your energy by engaging with your body physically while visualizing your outcomes, chanting your gratitudes, and clarifying the ONE THING you MUST do today to take another step.


That’s all it is, people.   Mastery is a verb, not a noun. A vector, not a position.  It is being on the road, and learning and giving a little more every day.  Every.  Damned.  Day.


And, of course, celebrating your victories so that the little kid inside you, the sprite that generates all the energy and creativity, knows it is all worth while.


Do that, and the rest of life takes care of itself.  One day you’ll look up and have been married to your soulmate for two decades, have published three million words, and hold three black belts…


Or whatever the equivalent of those things is for YOU.   Or let’s put it more simply:


You’ll be happy to have been here on this planet, taking this journey.  One step at a time.






Millennial Woes

“While everyone else was telling these young white men to check their privilege, the alt-right was speaking powerfully to their Millennial woes.”





I honestly believe that our culture, perhaps our species,  is on an evolutionary cusp. A few of the core questions are:


  1. UHC and “Universal Income”.   As automation keeps the net wealth constant while reducing the number of jobs, our concept of what is “right” and “wrong” in terms of individual action, industry  and occupation HAS to shift, or the society dies. You simply cannot tell millions of unemployed people they are “bad” to be unemployed…unless there are jobs that will actually allow them to pay the bills.
  2. Global Warming.    Most of human history, we could be defined as the animals who use more and more of the biosphere’s energy per capita every few generations.    If you don’t think that a combination of this tendency combined with increased population wouldn’t affect the planet, you won’t be able to hear what I’m saying here.  This is not for you.
  3. Male-female relations.  Shifting drastically, due to birth control, industrialization, firearms, and post-optimal population levels.    It only makes sense that the sexual dimorphism the human race adapted to maximize the number of grandchildren would start to be less important, that the “walls” between the genders would grow more porous.   Those rigidly committed to those roles will be terrified, but the truth is that there is real freedom and power on the other side of this: both sides have suffered, and only those who can see that can lead the way to the future.  Men who blame women, or women who blame men, are each others’ natural partners, and the family gatherings won’t be fun at all.
  4. Racial demographics.  Tougher than male-female relations in some ways, because men and women are two sides of the exact same creature, whereas different races can easily be seen as competing tribes in a zero-sum game.   One tribe really CAN wipe out another…and thrive.   I believe this is one reason why the Civil Rights movement had such a spiritual component.  Why should I give up power, when direct material benefits are so difficult to see?  It requires a spiritual perspective, a deep dive into the question “who are we?” to produce a clear answer.
  5. There are others: alcohol vrs Pot, Obesity vrs. Lean bodies, etc.   Evolution, change, awakening, awareness.    We are in a challenging time.



The Alt Right boys strike me as males caught up in #3 and #4.   If you don’t think white males have good reason to wonder if their grandfathers were luckier than they are, you aren’t looking carefully.   Both men AND women fail to factor that the most basic human desire is NOT to have power or make money or be famous. It is to live. Life itself.  And men have been conned, tweaked, bred and programmed to accept their own lives as less important.  No, it isn’t women who controlled this, although they are certainly complicit: we co-evolved biologically and socially.   Our genetics and memetics are in control.  This arrangement got the maximum number of grandchildren onto the game board. All else was secondary.


Hapless “Incels” don’t understand the new dynamics of relationships, which aren’t really different from animal mating patterns, but ARE different from the prior social rules arising from them.  I will leave it as an exercise for the reader what the female equivalent of this might be.  Its a different discussion.


These young white males fear that shifting demographics will place them in a weakened position, or even lead to extinction.  If they don’t think they have advantage, then they MUST consider that the relative statistics of POC and white performance in America is due to innate differences.  (A great irony isn’t it? The belief that racism is not a powerful and damaging factor in American life is itself racist.  Wow. That’s kinda bizarre.)

They are, in other words, racist without being willing to speak that racism clearly.  Sometimes without realizing it.     The problem is that their fear is a real thing whether racism (the belief that one group is superior or more worthy than another, based on race or ethnicity) is a valid theory or not!


  1. The groups are NOT equal.  Oops!  Then “them durn SJWs” will destroy the system by lifting up inferior peoples. The monkeys will take over the zoo.
  2. The groups ARE equal.  In which case you have stupendous, mind-boggling guilt and fear.  Guilt over what was done in the past, and fear for possible revenge in the future. After all, THEY would want to kill anyone who oppressed them as those groups have been repressed. Projecting that naked fear onto others assumes that they are angry, and will take violent action the first chance they get.


For people like this, the future looks horrifying. There is literally no way out.   Worse, they can’t even see themselves forming healthy relationships with women, leaving them out of the reproductive stakes.


Death, on the personal and genetic level. Loss of power. Increase of pain.  Stress crippling perception, leaving them unable to grasp some basic realities:


Men and women are the same creature, and what is healthy for one will inevitably be healthy for the other.  The world as we see it was created by both.


The different “races” of human beings are more social constructs than anything else, and the gathering of the tribes is actually as natural and beautiful as the unfolding of the universe as a whole, a simple increase in connection and complexity.


Sigh.   The danger is fear, of course.   The answer is love.


  1. Love yourself.  Respect and care for yourself. Learn to nurture yourself with proper rest, proper physical and emotional nutrition, and calculated stress.
  2. Love one other person.   The process of unshielding your heart and soul to love another, ESPECIALLY if the union creates children, is one of the most powerful forces of awakening on the planet.
  3. Understand history without guilt, blame, or shame.  Human beings are just animals reaching for the stars.   Understand both the root and the flowering. Note what we’ve done to each other from fear and greed…but also the fact that violence has DECREASED over the centuries.   We really are learning and growing.  Have faith…but be cautious.
  4. Don’t argue with trolls.  Fear-driven people: black or white, male or female, will try to polarize this game.   Under the words is a belief that they are the superior ones.  Don’t fall for the comforting delusions.   We’re just people.  Instead, find the tribe of people who believe we are equal and complementary, and hew to that belief even when it is terribly hard.  You will be attacked by BOTH radical Right and Left.   Everybody wants to rule the world.  Until they realize they ARE the world…and the game changes.
  5. Win…with integrity.   Be kind, but take no shit.    Don’t drop your guard if you aren’t totally certain you can protect yourself (remember rule #1).   Be CLEAR on what your ultimate outcomes are, and why you want them, and never step away from your values and morality.   Moral strength, clarity of emotional and spiritual purpose is one of the most powerful forces in the world.  It is damned hard to stop someone willing to die for what they believe in.   But remember that most of your opponents are not snakes or monsters…they are afraid. Terrified. Don’t understand that their map is warped, that the cheese is no longer in the maze.



You will probably not be able to hear what I’m saying if you haven’t taken care of step #1–you will be in fear, and anger, and pain, and wish to strike out.  There is a time to strike out, there is no doubt, no slightest question.  I am not a pacifist.  I AM a lover of humanity. There is a difference.


But first…love yourself. That’s where it all begins.  If you are stressed out, set the countdown timer on your watch for three hours, and every time it goes off BREATHE deeply and slowly for sixty seconds, and then set your watch for another three hours.  That will get you started.


You deserve to have the best week of your life. Hard to get that, when you are filled with pain and fear.


Breathe. Love.


But protect yourself.






OMG…That’s Jason!




Oh My God. That’s my baby boy on the extreme right.   Getting ready for his first game.   Its one thing to no longer be able to just pick him up in one arm.  Its another to realize that he is so close to being a man.


I figured I had one job with my kids: to help them safely to their adulthood.   And all I can do there is to teach them the very best things I’ve learned over the course of my life.   Over the summer, Jason has really matured–I’m hoping the pressures of high school don’t crack him.


I have to take everything he needs to do and connect it to a long-term goal of his. As he hasn’t really gelled his adult outcomes, I have to be more general, and use Milton Erickson’s pattern, unless and until I get a clear indication of a refinement or healthy aversion.


On a basic biological/social level he needs to learn to care for his body, hunt and gather, satisfy his sexual needs with integrity, create goods and services he can enjoy creating and exchange with his community to support himself and two other people, understand his values and beliefs clearly enough to be a good father and husband, become a contributing member of society on the level of charity and pure giving, age with dignity, and die at peace.


Infinite refinements on that process, but those are good basic safety rails.   The single most important thing I’m doing, the “atomic” minimum dose, the mountain I’m prepared to die on, is that five minutes every morning. Checking in, evaluating the previous day’s work, clarifying what needs to be done today.  Being sure he knows WHAT to do, WHY he is doing it–in a way that aligns with his own personal goals, and only then turning him loose into the chaos of a school day.


WHAT does he have to do? WHY does he want to do it?  Only then going to the HOW.


I wish I could get him in a full-fledged “Morning M.A.G.I.C.” program, moving and chanting at the same time, but he’s not ready for that yet.  I’ll be happy with what I can do, slowly asking him to remember all he has to feel grateful for, what his clear intentions today and for a lifetime might be, the strength of his conviction that he can and should accomplish it, and what ACTIONS he is going to take to make it happen.


That’s enough. But one day…one day he will have a goal, and come to me and ask what he can do to maximize his chances of reaching it. This is where Football is hugely more happy-making than Skate Park. The kids at Skate Park tend to be somewhat counter-culture. The smell of pot wafts from the benches nearby.   And skating is fun, but dead end for all but a tiny few.


Football is a team sport, so he is associating with young men who are focused on winning as a team, being strong. They have to keep their grades up to play.  There is a route to college scholarships for athletes in some sports, and Football is his first introduction to the level of discipline and focus it requires.   Those coaches are screaming postive messages while the kids sweat and strain and push–(hey!  That’s like the missing piece of the Morning MAGIC program!)


He will experience the focus of a crowd’s attention. Learn to deal with the girls who are attracted to that power, and ask himself what he wants for a life partner, not just a dance partner for a night (ahem).   What was the single strongest step I took toward maturation?


Wanting the respect of the men I respected

Wanting to attract the kind of women I was attracted to.


Choose those men and women carefully, and life gets very simple.


This is a good step for my boy. There are downsides, of course, but I’ll keep my eyes open for them. Meanwhile…Summer 2018 goes down in my book as a dividing line between a big boy and a young man.  He is on the other side of that divide now.  The risks get bigger.


So do the rewards. Time to roll up my sleeves: the work is about to get harder. And a lot more fun.





(if you want to create your own “Morning MAGIC” program, go to:


Tom Cruise weirds me out a bit…

Leaving Malibu today to drive down to San Diego, where we’ll connect with Nicki.  Probably see “Mission Impossible” tonight.


Of course, one motivation is to watch Tom Cruise’s insanity manifesting onscreen. Since Douglas Fairbanks (at least) we’ve been fascinated by stars who “do all their own stunts” and yes, it DOES add to the enjoyment of the film itself. Hard to say “that’s impossible!” when you know a stuntman actually did it, that it isn’t green-screen.


And it is hard to say: “no one person could do all those things” when you know that, yes, one human being really did do all (or MOST…even Jackie “all his own stunts!” Chan used stuntmen for certain stunts, at least as far back as “Rumble In The Bronx.”)


When you have a star vehicle like “MI”, clearly tailored to one actor’s personality…well, that’s when you start seeing the difference between a “star” and an “actor”.  A “star” is someone whose personal charisma  brings people to the theater.  They may or may not be fine actors, and fine actors are rarely stars. When you get both in the same human being (say, Meryl Streep), you have something special.


Cruise’s personal picadillos never bothered me much. Really.  So I could just watch his movies and enjoy his performances without worrying about Xenu or whatever. He DID weird me out in MI-2, however.   In that movie, he suddenly began doing acrobatic martial arts moves.  He was about 40 at the time, and NO ONE starts doing moves like that at 40. They just…don’t.  Either you have been doing them prior to that time, or you just don’t learn them. That is a rule that is easy to support.


But he did.

I remember thinking that if other Scientologists demonstrated similar capacities, I’d have signed up for an e-meter session the next day.  (Well…ANOTHER e-meter session.   I’ve had one, of course, and found the experience like working with a low-level therapist who has you wired to a galvanic skin response monitor while asking you personal questions.  Not a bad set up at all, but nothing I cared to go more deeply into).


Since that time, he has demonstrated other high-level body-mind skills that suggest some things to me about him.


  1. He has VERY high integration with his fear response.  Especially around heights.
  2. Very high pain tolerance. No way to learn all those things, or push himself that way, without de-inhibiting the emergency brakes that reserve our life-and-death energies for…well, for emergencies.
  3. Very “clear” motivations, leading to bizarrely high discipline.  And here Dianetics might come into it–if he removes the distractions and complications, so that he can just “be”. But he is also, by all accounts, insanely driven, and an adrenaline junkie.   Makes for a hyper-active, hyper competent solo human being. Not much of a marriage partner or parent, however.


What we’re looking at is a human being who has near total permission to go all-out every day.  I’d bet he gets about 4 hours sleep a night, has a satyr’s sex drive, and a phenomenal memory.   In other words, he is fully actualized in a narrow and probably imbalanced range of being.


Remember that thing about relationships.  The truth is that most human beings have about the same amount of “stuff”.  Human clay.  There are certainly people who seem to just have “more” to begin with. But most of the real excellence you see is people who form and shape their basic clay into attractive forms.  Most of the REALLY excellent people are excellent in one arena, average or less than average in others.  They have pushed all their “stuff” into one corner, and stand atop that heap. Its like those houses at Universal City…look great from one direction, but have no back walls, and are empty.  It may be a house, but it ain’t no home.


Easy to have the best body in the gym if you sleep in your van, and do nothing but train, sleep, and eat tuna fish.  That’s not a life.

Not saying that about Tom.   I hope he’s having a great life, with stupendous fun, and is being who he wants and needs to be in life. But…if he was my Dad, I’d wish he was more…present.


Cruise really does fascinate me, and I’d love to have an hour of his time one day. But then, so would millions of others.  I doubt they’d ask the questions that puzzle ME, however.  Oh, well…I guess I’ll just sit back and watch the fun.  Damn, I love movies.






(P.S.–just for fun, here’s an article about his workout routine.   https://workoutinfoguru.com/tom-cruise-workout/)

Today’s Morning program


So what I brought with me to exercise on the deck overlooking the Pacific is a yoga board, and two 36 lb kettlebells.  So the schedule today will be:

  1. Tai Chi with morning ritual.  Primary focus today?  Rewriting the story “Danakil” and having a GREAT time with Tananarive.  That party, if its any of your business, has already started.  Ahem.
  2. Martial Arts.  Basics of Silat, Kali, WAR, and Kenpo.   I paid blood and sweat for those skills, and damned if I’m gonna give ’em up in THIS lifetime.
  3. Kettlebells.   Now…I’m experimenting with an adaptation of a double KB complex designed by Steve Maxwell.  I’m gonna do a “ladder” ( 1 rep, then 2, then three, then four then five) resting as necessary, continuing up the ladder as high as I can go in 12 minutes.  Here are the techniques:
    1. Double Clean and Jerk
    2. Double Clean
    3. Double Jerk
    4. Double front squat.
    5. Double Dead Lift and Burpee
  4. Get that?  One of each, rest, two of each, rest, etc.  It is BRUTAL.
  5. YOGA.  One rep of each of the 24 (?) poses of the Bikram series.   Yoga is no longer optional in my life. It is mandatory.  If I don’t do it, my body remembers my  birthday, and the presents it has for me ain’t to my liking.


Total Time investment: about an hour.


So that’s getting started.  It is all built around the notion of focusing myself with my Morning M.A.G.I.C. program, then building energy with exercise and cooling it down with Yoga, re-integrating my structure.


Then…launch into my day and KICK BUTT on that story (which is already cooking, but needs to be strengthened in the second half).  Then…more fun with T. She’s working on a short film script, and her novel, THE REFORMATORY, which is going to blow minds.


Anyway…I know it will be a great day because everything is hooked into my easiest access to my own passions: love of my family.  Work, meditation, Morning M.A.G.I.C., martial arts, kettlebells, yoga…all are about raising the energy, aligning it, and protecting my body from its own dynamic flow.  Connect that physical drive to my emotional, in the same way that if your house is burning you will FIND the energy to save your family.   I’ve got every reason in the world to kick ass today: survival, sex, power, love, contribution, discovery, pure fun.


You can’t stop someone who aligns themselves like this. You can kill ’em.  But you can’t stop them as long as they have a breath in their body.


THAT is my commitment.    Now…hey…it’s time to buckle down and kick ass.  Later






Celebrating Your Life

Drove back from San Diego last night, where I attended the Comic Con memorial panel for Harlan Ellison.   Remarkable man.    I might post part of the audio for that later.




Taking the week off to celebrate my 20th anniversary with Tananarive. I’ll have more thoughts about that later–so many to think about.   Eulogizing a dear friend, celebrating the love of my life.  We went to see EQUALIZER last night, which was a little disjointed in terms of tone, but very satisfying, with a last act that came out of nowhere, but still worked.


Basically, an ex-intelligence agent named McCall (Denzel Washington) seeks redemption through using his special skills to aid ordinary people.  When one of his closest friends is killed, he is set on a mission of personal revenge.    Mixed with this story is his attempt to save the soul of a street kid balanced between art school and selling drugs.  We’ve seen all of this before, but Denzel and director Antoine Fuqua make it fun.


In a LIFEWRITING sense, what can we extract from this?  Well, he’s a hero seeking healing, expiating guilt for the terrible things he did for the government by helping the helpless. Saving his own soul.   One can sense that this man is a fingernail away from damnation, and like John Wick, only his relationships, his clinging to a code of honor, provides salvation. One might almost ask why a man capable of such violence would risk his heart by caring for ANYONE.


Well…why indeed. Why love our friends, when we will only lose them? Why fall in love at all, when it makes you hostage to fortune?


Because that’s what makes life worth while.   If you could live forever sitting in a cave eating raw rice, alone, for eternity?   I would not.   My experiences, my loves, my friends make existence worth while.


But because loss is inevitable, it is CRITICAL that we celebrate as well.  Not to just wait for deaths or anniversaries or special occasions positive or negative to stand up and proclaim our gratitude for existence.


Each of us must wrestle with this, and the best way to deal with the inevitable pain, and loss, and sense of incompletion is to tell the people we love that we love them EVERY DAY.  Be grateful for our blessings EVERY DAY.   Celebrate the health and strength of our bodies while we have them EVERY DAY.


So…What is the most important thing for you to accomplish this week?  Why do you want it?  How will it empower your life?   What are you grateful for RIGHT NOW that can help you believe that if you give this outcome, this relationship, this “push” 100%, throw off your brakes, you will get more pleasure than pain?


Because…if you do, if you BELIEVE that doing this thing will creat more pleasure than pain, you will move in that direction. The MORE pleasure you will gain, and the MORE pain you will avoid, the more you will WANT to do it, the more pulled toward it.


I was tired after traveling to Carolina…but happy to drive to San Diego to help people say goodbye to my friend.   It fed my heart.


Now…I don’t need much motivation to want to take this week with Tananarive to remember how blessed I am, and all the joy we’ve shared for two decades.  Jason is safe at camp, and all is well in the world.


It took money, and work, and shuffling the schedule to get this time…but the motivation to do it was clear, and strong.


It isn’t always so clear.  EVERY day we have to take steps, and only if we remember how finite life is, how precious our loves and enthusiasms and contributions are, can we get up in the morning, deal with our tasks, create our dreams, and go to bed at night remembering how fortunate we are.


Every morning…think of the most important thing you must do this day, this week, this month. Every morning, remember WHY this special thing (or things) will bring you health, passion, power, love, expression, knowledge, and contribution. If you can…the amount of enthusiasm and focus you experience will be extraordinary.


Don’t you deserve that?  One day, those you love will be eulogizing YOU.  What do you want them to say?  How do you want to be remembered?


Don’t you want to live life TODAY, while you can?


So..take your first few minutes of the day.   Remember your blessings.  Visualize your goals.  Take deep breaths, and move to anchor yourself into your body with your MORNING RITUAL.   And then…celebrate another 24 hours of existence.


If you don’t…who will?