Martial Arts

Parable of the Shmoos: Violence in America




This is a very strong article on gun violence in the United States read it.


Because of the thousands of hours of research and thought I’ve put into racism, always careful to relate EVERYTHING to universal human traits, it feels as if some of those conclusions can help to peek beyond the “Matrix” of illusions driving human behavior, the “emergent strategies”, simple commands that lead to complex results.


I could be twice as smart as I am, working with a team of a thousand people even smarter than me for a decade with a billion-dollar budget, and still not get to the end of this. I don’t pretend that I have.  I cannot imagine a simple statement of such a complex subject that won’t be argued with. It is knowing that I could write a library of footnoted textbooks and still not cover my ass that allows me to say what I’m about to say. I APOLOGIZE IN ADVANCE.  MEA CULPA.


But I do think that it is worthwhile for me to risk making a fool of myself and say what I think I see here.  Why?  Well, I’ll probably put that below.


(A “Matrix  notion ‘ is a lie or fabrication so deeply engrained into our consciousness that it seems to be self-evident truth.)


And here are the core “Matrix” ideas that seem relevant.

  1. Men and women are basically of equal worth and value
  2. They are  complementary, based on different biological/genetic functions and priorities
  3. Anger is fear
  4. Neither men nor women have ever been in control in the world–our genes have been. The real emergent instruction is: “get the maximum number of grandchildren into the next generation.”
  5. These instructions prevented extermination over the 250k+ years of our history, and have been deeply encoded in social principles, religions, and more, and explain much of the rigidity of social roles and principles about sexism, racism (tribal warfare), homophobia.
  6. There are two different basic human motivations: avoid pain, and gain pleasure.  Most of our behavior, for most of our history, has been “avoid pain.”
  7. We have new options.  But we have to forgive the past to embrace the future.



So…the best way to try to say this is to imagine a fantasy story.  Imagine a world in which “humans”   used to be a somewhat  different being, call it a “Shmoo”, undifferentiated into gender or race.   Each of these Shmoos was capable of reproducing, fighting enemies and animals, or living anywhere on the planet…more or less.


But just as a single Shmoo who made all his own clothes will own a single suit and a single pair of shoes, assembly-line specialization allows us to own a DOZEN complete outfits.   Similarly, the Shmoos discovered that specializing into baby-makers and hunter/fighters was more efficient.   The sexual dimorphism was relatively slight on a biological level, but social rules and fantasies reinforced and exaggerated the differences. Religions and laws evolved over time separated them even further.


The “males” and “females” were really pretty similar, except “females” could carry babies in their bodies, and “males” were more disposable on an individual (not a reproductive) level, which made it possible to kill off 90% of them without crashing the population.    We could send them off to die fighting Lions and Mammoths, or march them into cannon fire.  Over time, this dimorphism produced the maximum number of grandchildren, a situation that worked for everyone.


A problem, however: females and males selected each other for secondary sexual characteristics and willingness to play roles: nurturance, aggression, power…all sorts of things.    As males grew larger (due to breeding) and more capable of aggression and repelling aggression, they would naturally begin to ask: “why the hell should we be the ones to go off and die?

(And here allow me to step out of the storyteller voice. If you Google “have men always had shorter life spans than women?” you will get about ten times more agreement than disagreement.  As this notion, that due to both natural, social, and behavioral factors male primates have shorter lifespans on average than females, makes sense to me on every level.   You are of course welcome to believe the opposite contention: that women living longer is a relatively recent phenomenon. I believe you have to employ more epicycles to explain that one, but if it makes sense to you, so be it. This speculation simply won’t make sense to you.

So what happened?  What became convenient?  For males to consider themselves primary.  More important.  “We’re more important so its our obligation to die” is the really interesting contradictory set of instructions.   Literally “we’re more important so we’re less important” is the functional  result.)


I digress.



The rule that produced the maximum grandchildren is “men’s lives and women’s dreams are disposable.”  Both kept in their boxes, in a rather nasty game that really benefitted neither.  One of the results is that the measures of racism and tribal domination include life span–the dominated group lives a shorter life, and dies more often due to violence.


That’s men.

On the other hand, the dominated group also has less access to power, earns less, and so forth.


That’s women.


What are YOUR priorities?  I cannot tell you what they are.  But if life is more important than money, I suggest that the claim that men are in control doesn’t wash.  But neither does the notion that women are in control.


But it make perfect sense if NEITHER is in control, but we are designed to see direct rather than indirect power. Karate makes more sense than Aikido.    “Positive Space” in art is easier to perceive than negative space. “Jazz is what happens between the notes.”  We can’t see the Yin aspect with our eyes and intellects. We have to feel the pauses in our bodies.  Our HEARTS can “feel” both.


Back to the story of Mankind.  Created by Shmoos to make more Shmoo grandchildren, and damn the results to the “men” and “women” caught in the machine.




For a ten thousand generations, men and women, bifurcated versions of the Shmoos,  built up civilization.  Living, dying, having children, loving, fighting.   Concentrating on the DIFFERENCES between them, even though babies and old people are pretty much Shmoos.    Vive La Difference!


And we spread around the world, developed different phenotypes, and different cultures, each of which developed mythologies that they were the best.  Just as men think they are the best. And women think that THEY are the best.   It’s a big joke, and it keeps us asleep, and at odds.  And serves our genes, but not us.




But there are two basic drives, remember?   “Avoid Pain” and “Gain Pleasure”.   Most of our history has been about avoiding pain…survival.   Alcohol was a great co-evolved technology, because it serves both.   Jewish culture has a great, really GREAT saying about this “Drink to be happier, not to be happy” is the basic rule. In other words, it is healthy to drink when you are already happy. But if you are in pain, WORK your way out of that pain, don’t drink your way out.  Pain is important.  It is a signal to do something different.   If you take a drug to numb that pain, you won’t take the proper actions, and that will catch up with you one day.


The above is germane: we have rules that say that work is sacred.  Necessary.  Vital.  Because it is related to survival.  The tribe will starve if we stop hunting, freeze if we stop chopping wood.  So we evolved rules that said idleness is EVIL.   That’s the avoiding pain stuff, right?


But once we moved beyond hunter-gatherers to agriculturalists, we had whole seasons where humanity could pause after the harvest, and as a group ask an important question: what is it all about?  Oh, we probably always asked that question, but about thirty thousand years ago, human beings started putting themselves into their cave paintings, and I kinda think that might represent a sea-change in our thought patterns.


The “I am” woke up. Who am I?  What is true?


As these bifurcated Shmoos, programmed with useful lies, began to build sustained colonies and begin trade, those most directly on those trade routes began to exchange memes and genes most rapidly, develop the greatest complexity.  And of course, because that’s how humans roll, they also claimed that complexity is superiority. No, it is complexity, that is all.  Cultural bigotry was born.


But the questions about “who am I?” and “what is true?” were codified, written down, debated across cultures. As some members of those cultures became more specialized, philosophers and artists became separate classes, and could spend all their time asking these questions…and the notions of freedom, and democracy, the notion of human dignity and so forth became very real things.   Power had originated from the root, humans selecting leaders. But in time the leaders became their own class, and like all other human beings began to believe their own bullshit, and claimed divine privilege.


Why were so many of these leaders men?   Perhaps because those who organized most efficiently for hunting and war survived better, and the traditional way men choose leaders on the most basic level is “Who can kick my ass?  I’ll follow him”  (the more cynical would say that was actually “I can kick your ass.  Follow me or else.”   Because everyone has to sleep, and throats are easily cut, I choose to belief that there HAS to be collusion between leaders and led, or it simply doesn’t work.)     The wrestling circle is one of the most universal human institutions.  And the village’s best wrestler either became the leader or helped choose him/her.   That’s just basic stuff.


But as the notion of human freedom began being debated, lurking just offstage was the fact that much of this world-spanning complex of human societies was based on lies: “men and women are vastly different.   Different tribes are vastly different.  God loves MY group best.”


Useful for the grandchildren, horrible for individuals.




Once upon a time there was a country called the United States.   It represented one of the last major human migrations, to one of the last major chunks of fertile land, with such a difference in technology between the new and old immigrants that the natives were crushed.  Of course, the new immigrants ascribed this to genetic superiority and “God loves us best” rather than the fractal nature of progress and innovation.

Humans are like that.


And these new immigrants felt they needed labor, and stole human beings from one of those “technology differential” areas, and hauled them in chains and misery to the new land, and declared them sub-human.


Setting up a basic conflict.   Because this country was based on the mythology of human liberty, freedom, and equality.  Oops.   And the gap between the illusion and the reality blossomed into an incredibly violent and bloody war.

Waking up is hard to do.

The problem is that change effected through force doesn’t change the heart. The “losers” were able to continue to project their mythologies on the racial level.  Why couldn’t these illusions be maintained for as long as the gender-based illusions?

Because “Gender Lies” benefit both males and females with their most basic programming of genetic and/or  personal survival.  Tribal or Racial lies do not.   Men and women CANNOT exterminate each other.  In fact, I would maintain that the actual drive is to connect, to once again become that undifferentiated creature with both attributes, and that explains both the energy of sex and the power of love.


But tribes?  Can tribes actually exterminate each other?   Ummm…have you seen any Neanderthals lately?


So racially, there was fantastic motivation to destroy those lies. It was survival. And it has been horrifically difficult, fought against at every turn.


But lies are interwoven.   And once you begin to ask “what is true?” about one aspect of this, you either stimulate or join forces with other  questions, questioners and questionings.


  1. Must women stay in their social boxes?  Why or why not?
  2. Is homosexuality an ‘evil’ or merely labeled that way because of reproductive and social/psychological imperatives?
  3. Do we even need every female to make babies?  If not, how does that change what we are and have been?
  4. Do we need every human being to work?  What happens when our technology reaches the point where fewer people are needed to till the fields and work the factories?
  5. Does the notion of nations even make sense in a world with instant communication?  Wasn’t that notion just a geopolitical convenience?


And if you start with a country that speaks of human equality, and we start telling ourselves that limiting human options is evil, but people have associated their identity with particular roles…what happens when that starts falling apart?  Who am I?  What is true?


The ego thinks it is us.  If the ego is a construct, then when it begins to crack it responds as if it is dying.  That triggers fear.   We fear fear, so we mobilize and disguise it as anger.  Anger leads to violence.  Even the NOTION that anger is fear causes fear. The next time you are in a political discussion, and some politicized person says: “Those X’s are full of anger!” Ask:

“What are they afraid of?”   And watch the most politicized refuse to accept the possibility. They cannot. Because the instant they do that they have to humanize their opponents.   And acknowledge their own anger might be…ummm…that four-letter word that dare not speak its name.


See where this is all going?




Male violence. That was the subject. For tens of thousands of years, men have operated under the illusion that they were in control.  It blinded them to the fact that they were programmed for self-destruction…and that women were complicit in that programming.  Oh, yes.


Women aren’t more peaceful.  Look up the domestic violence statistics in lesbian relationships.  Or when women are larger than their male partners.

Nope, Shmoos are Shmoos.

Remember that pesky “equality” thing?   That means you can’t take yourselves off the hook, ladies. You can’t say you weren’t involved in the decisions and actions.  White people couldn’t keep black people in chains for more than 400 years before the lie broke down, even though they had a 10-fold power advantage.

Do you really think males could keep females in chains for THOUSANDS of years with a mere 30% upper-body strength advantage?   Really?  When men are just as afraid of death as you?  Really? Remember that thing about people having to sleep, and throats being easy to cut?

The real rule is that we’ve been playing a game: women have pretended to be weaker than they really were. Males pretended to be stronger and braver than they really were. 


It wasn’t good for either men or women. Great for the grandkids, though.




In almost  ANY boxing match, equally matched contestant will trade winning rounds. If you ignore all the other rounds, you can say “We’re the best!!!” because you’re living in round 8, ignoring that you lost half the previous rounds and are likely to lose half the rounds to come.   For hundreds of years, a blink in human history, Europeans were able to think themselves superior.   Ding Ding!

Here comes round nine.

Yea, Team!   Now…the largest single motivation of the Civil War was the gap between dream and reality, a dream that had existed for only a few centuries.


Guess what, lads and lasses…we are now dealing with a much, much larger illusion.  One all tied together in a rotten bow. One that worked GREAT until now…but is coming to an end.


It’s that dream of male superiority.  Of the primacy of the Working Man as the epitome of power, the exemplar.   Of America as the ultimate nation, the richest, best, most Beloved of God.

Get that dollar, attract that female with impressive secondary characteristics (Melania Trump was asked if she would be with Donald were he not rich.  She responded “would he be with me if I weren’t beautiful?”    That’s more honesty that some people can handle, right there)




If I was a white, heterosexual male tied to what has worked in the past I’d think the sky was falling.  All the rules that kept my ancestors alive are being challenged.  If women are my equal, and can compete with me for jobs, and get those jobs, I just became less attractive. Less able to convince an attractive female to mate with me.  Or, you know, come home, have a few drinks, and bump uglies.


If blacks are my equal, then they are going to want payback.  So I have DESPERATE motivation to

  1. Believe they are not equal.
  2. Keep them in a position where they can never retaliate.


If we no longer need all human beings to reproduce, then those pesky homosexual impulses I’ve fought my entire life can come bobbing closer to the surface, triggering guilt and fear and questions about who and what I really am.


If not every worker is needed (globalization and automation)…but we still guilt-trip people for not having jobs…and that leads to people insisting that things like welfare and UHC and a social safety net are actually BAD for people…then what happens when America is the last country to implement a medical safety net for its citizens?

Could there, in other words, be a clue in that very fact? That “Lack of Safety Net” X “Income inequality” X “social upheaval” X “lots of Guns” might equal a problem?

Just maybe?

Not all people will become violent, but…violence is caused by anger.  Anger is a mask over fear.  What “stuff” connected to basic shifts in our world could cause America to have an epidemic of violence, then…?


  1. The belief on both gun and anti-gun people that their position makes them safer (every shooting, “second amendment” people scream “the victims should have been armed!” and the gun control people scream “there should be fewer guns!”)  Core disconnect, and they end up screaming at each other.  Both afraid.  That fear masking as anger.  Tragic.
  2. The shifting role of women, destroying the balance of power/sex that has existed since…well, forever.
  3. The shifting role of minorities.  Not the lip service about equality, but the implications of the reality.  Whether you think “the monkeys are taking over the zoo” or “payback’s a bitch” if you have fear in your heart, it isn’t a pretty picture.
  4. The shifting role of workers as there are literally fewer jobs, while net wealth remains constant…but more collected at the top.
  5. The shifting role of reproduction in human survival.   Rational arguments against homosexuality are just…well IMO non-existent.


Fear.  Survival fear.  Genetic fear.  Sexual pleasure fear. Power fear.  Ego fear.  On every level, plus the utter terror that all you believe may be a lie.   Surrounded by enemies who take from you everything you thought you were. Combine that with the availability of firearms, and America is in a uniquely bad position.



That’s where we are.  Is there an answer?  Of course there is, unless you are so egotistical you think you are important enough that you happen to have a front-seat at the end of the world.  Oh, please.

From a billionth of a second after the “big bang” the history of the universe has been connection and complexity, with bumps along the way.

So it is easy for me to envision  a world on the other side of ALL these current problems. One with gender and racial parity, one in which both men and women are functioning not “moving away from fear and pain” but “moving toward love and pleasure.”   A world in which mankind, humankind is moving out of its adolescence and toward an intellectual and spiritual maturity.


All we have to do is love ourselves enough to admit to our flaws. Forgive ourselves for being driven by fear, however it masks. Forgive our ancestors, who were doing the best they could with the resources they had.  For man and women, black and white, gay and straight…to love each other…while remaining strong enough to resist the violence of frightened people.

There is an amazing future out there waiting for us.  If this generation of black folks is “the hope and the dream of the slave” then this generation of human beings is the hope and the dream of every ancient Shmoo  terrified by the natural world, fearful of diseases and predators and weather, bifurcating into a separated being to fight back more efficiently, misunderstanding the gender opposite just as we rarely understand the Yin and Yang of our own personalities.  Driven to work from fear rather than drawn by joy: the War of Art between management and artist.


America is in the Dark Night of the Soul. The way through is, as always, the Leap of Faith: Faith in ourselves, faith in our companions, and faith in whatever higher power or patterned universe you choose to hold sacred.


Faith that, if this is correct, freedom for women means freedom for men as well.    There is nothing to fear, once we throw off the chains that bind our thoughts.  It is possible that everyone born before effective birth control will have to die before we are relatively free of sexism. That everyone born prior to 1970 will have to die before racial equality is the real, dominant principle. Everyone born before a wide acceptance that the planet has reached peak population die before homosexuality is no longer stigmatized. Everyone born before Buckminster Fuller proposed that we accept a new paradigm for work and life before a Universal Basic Income becomes a human right.

Racism, sexism, homophobia, and the “Protestant Work Ethic” all make sense if they INCREASE survival.  But the instant they DECREASE it, lead to more pain than pleasure our brains will “flip the switch” and the new possibility will seem less and less crazy.


I submit to you that that switch has flipped.   But if you were born before the “flip” you may not be able to see it, feel it.  But…I trust those grandchildren. The Shmoos always knew it was about the grandchildren, remember?  And I think they’ll be just fine.


After more ugliness.  Oh, yes.   There will be more violence. Because people are angry. Because they are afraid. The world is changing.

Waking up is hard to do.

I see it, so clearly.  And hope that however flawed these thoughts might be, they’ve served their purpose…and you see just a little more clearly as well.





“Naigung” and the inner art of Sijo Antwione Alferos

I realized at a very early age–perhaps seven–that the reality I was offered by family, society and church organizations was not the real world.  That realization caused me endless grief, and probably was the origin of my interest in fantasy, the stories that we tell ourselves, and others, to define, empower, control, or destroy.


I knew that if I accepted the stories others gave me, I’d be limited by their concepts and goals.  Deciding to find my own, I asked “where can I find the role models and knowledge to create a different path?”


I was raised by my mother and sister. The question “what is it to be a man?” was paramount: without that, I couldn’t get the kind of reactions I craved from either men OR women.


The answer I came up with was that those lessons were most fully encoded in the disciplines traditionally operating in the male sphere: martial arts and similar “protect the community” disciplines.  And the men who I encountered who were most fully “male”, who got that “male” response from men and women, were most often fighters, police officers, veterans, martial artists.  So I went in that direction.  As time went on, I realized that most American martial arts wasn’t like Kwai Chang Kane’s experience in the Shaolin Temple: a congruent mix of culture, philosophy, meditative,  health advice, fitness, and self defense.


In fact, that would have been IMPOSSIBLE in 70’s America.  I’m not sure its possible now…but maybe.  Just maybe.


So what I did was seek a school that had the “fighting” aspect, and then find the health, meditation, philosophical and other aspects in other places.  Man oh man, did that require I look far and wide into Yoga, Meditation, hypnosis, NLP, and other disciplines.   I did gain martial skills, but they were a shell around my fear, and that fear kept breaking through to the surface.


I remember a fine young black belt who once asked me: “Steve…when will I stop being afraid?” and I had no answer for him.   A few months later he committed suicide.  I’m not saying I could have saved him, but I swore I’d never be without an answer again.


My doorway to that inner world came when I met Terry Letteau, Shorei-Shito-Ryu instructor who taught me a meditation that helped me gain clarity, to see that the fear was just a natural response, and not a sign that there was something wrong with me.  That took me to Swiftdeer, who taught me to connect the physical and spiritual realms, so that Yoga and martial arts and meditation all started becoming the same thing.  Later, Scott Sonnon’s “Flow State Performance Spiral” gave me Western analytical terms to understand these eastern mystical concepts, and the whole world changed.


Now, I simply practice the arts for the fun of it, and because your body needs a discipline. Self defense?  I’ll either talk my way out of it or pick up something and hit you with it.   But what I love, and I mean LOVE, are the men and women who have the “Warrior” aspect of the arts (often they have martial skill, have served in the military, train military and police officers) but also exemplify the philosophical aspects, are gentle souls who teach lethal arts.


I met Sijo Antwione Alferos of the Whipping Willow Association through Steve Muhammad.  He is an easygoing man who teaches largely Filipino arts, usually weapons-based.  His knife work is particularly impressive.  But he also treats his students like family, generous to a fault with his knowledge, and just a good and decent human being.


Having realized that I am unlikely to  attend a formal school with regularity again, the idea to seek out a  seminars every month seems like a good substitute.  Sijo Alferos’s “Whipping Willow Association” meets at least four times a year, and Saturday morning  I drove down to Buena Park to his house to join a group of twenty students gathering in his back yard for training.  I take such pleasure in that, the simple pleasure of being a student among other students, just learning.


One of his black belts, a lady named Gigi I’ve seen in his circle for ten years, taught us the use of the Sarong as a flexible weapon. That was fun–Danny Inosanto taught that same tool early this year, so I felt less of a complete Klutz.  When they broke for lunch, I knew I had to head home (the last AFROFUTURISM webinar was yesterday at 3pm) but before I did, I engaged in conversation with  Sijo about different subject…and the question of what it takes to age gracefully in the martial arts (hey!  I’m sure that subject will be of interest to me one distant day.  Ahem).  He said that he knew many serious badasses in the arts who had not been able to handle the loss of their strictly physical abilities.  I suspect that because his emphasis is on blade and weapon work rather than how strong his body is, this particular issue was not as much of a problem for him.


Specifically, he refers to the spiritual path within his discipline as “Naigung”, to be considered differently from “Chi Gung”.


Roughly, Naigung means “No one knows who I am better than myself.” This is definitely what I sought as a child.  The “Who am I?” I speak of.  As a child, you get your definitions of self from your environment.   By the time you marry and have children, your search to be self-sufficient forces you into the “what is true?” and by the time your parents die, most of us are dealing with the “who am I?”


The sooner you start engaging, the better off you are.  While life itself provides you with the lessons you need, the Sufis and other spiritual groups seek to “die before you die”, to face and examine these realities before they are thrust into our faces.  Perhaps while your brains have more neuralplasticity.  Eventually, almost all of us “get there” but there is definitely advantage to buying your ticket before showtime.


Sijo Alferos spoke of a core philosophy of Naigung: the “Three phases of Consciousness”.  I recently acquired a Boocosa digital recorder keychain (I found that the “steath” USB recorders didn’t seem to function cleanly with my computer: they didn’t always show up as disks when I plugged them in) and have the intention to capture more of these Pathways to Power when wonderful people like Sijo share with me. With his permission, I captured the following statement, and share it with you:


“There are  phases of consciousness: the Awakening, the Treatment, and the Dispersement.    The awakening is like the first time you are first introduced to a thought. The first time a thought is introduced to you.  The first time a concept is introduced. It is an Awakening.


“Now as you start to think about it, and you start to speculate, on different ideas from that, that becomes the “treatment”.  Its what  you do with it. What your mind does with it, your body does with it. I showed you a technique,  and you’re saying “what if I did it this way?  What if I did it that way?”   If I stepped back a little, or if I stepped forward?  All that is the awakening, because you’re coming into understanding of what it is.


“The Dispersement is when it becomes YOU, and it is fluid.   You disperse it and so now you can teach it.  Now you’re the end conclusion of it.  The first time that you experience the treatment, that’s the awakening to the treatment.  So there’s an Awakening that results from the treatment,   but the first time you experience the Treatment that’s also an Awakening.  And the   the first time you experience the Dispersement that’s an Awakening.”


So awakening, treatment and dispersement  are not a straight-line or a vector, but a triangle, with each pointing at the others and feeding into them.


He also said that “At first, you serve the art.  Then, the art serves you.”  Meaning that at first, you enter a discipline and simply “serve” it by doing precisely what your teachers say.   Later, you internalize, and “the art serves you”–informs your actions without conscious thought.


See how this relates to the Competence Continuum:

  1. UNCONSCIOUS INCOMPETENCE ( you don’t know a bicycle exists)
  2. CONSCIOUS INCOMPETENCE (you know they exist, but cannot ride one)
  3. CONSCIOUS COMPETENCE (you can ride one if you concentrate)
  4. UNCONSCIOUS COMPETENCE (“look ma!  No hands!)


Art is self expression.  CRAFT is self expression plus the specific technique that represents the language of dance, or pottery, or writing, or martial disciplines.   Craft must be integrated to the level of “unconscious competence” before you can really express yourself, in the same way that you cannot dance as long as you’re saying “one two three one two three” in your mind.


The path to master, right there.  Moreover, the path to self-discovery.  You can and should apply this to a movement art, an intellectual art, AND the path of interpersonal relationships.   Do that, and you maximize your chances of genuine personal evolution.






Hidden Figures, Ancient Secrets 6/2

I am working on the “STEM for Women” project, and central to the free webinar we’ll be doing is analysis of the movie “Hidden Figures” using principles from Sun Tzu’s ‘The Art of War” to create a framework to understand the emotions and behaviors exhibited by three exemplary women.   Here is what I wrote today:



“Generally in war, the best policy is to take a state intact; to ruin it is inferior to this….For to win one hundred victories in one hundred battles is not the acme of skill. To subdue the enemy without fighting is the acme of skill.”  Sun Tzu


“Let your plans be dark and impenetrable as night, and when you move, fall like a thunderbolt.”  –Sun Tzu


Dorothy Vaughn was an unofficial supervisor who seized an opportunity to display her programming skills on an IBM mainframe. In other words, she “captured” her castle by educing flawless performance from her employees, knowing that an opportunity would arise eventually.  Crisis appeared: a new computer what would replace hundreds of women. But instead of being consumed by fear, she saw an opportunity: someone would have to operate the machine. Why not her?


A quote from Wikipedia:

“During her 28-year career, Vaughan prepared for the introduction of machine computers in the early 1960s by teaching herself and her staff the programming language of FORTRAN



(WARNING:  I am perfectly aware that the film was not totally historically accurate. But the major players agree that the SPIRIT was correct, and we will take them at their word.  No film is, or ever can be, perfectly accurate, and I have to suspect that people who nit-pick obsessively are specifically attempting to destroy the value of the metaphor, for personal reasons.)


Dorothy Vaughn grew up in a time of segregation and racial terror, when the old system fought to maintain control over the descendants of slaves. Both the mythologies (inferiority) and fears of social upheaval and retaliation were a part of this.


Combine this with the insistence that women remain within carefully defined social boxes, and you have a nightmare scenario for an ambitious black woman.   One barrier was the dishonesty of the controlling system.   The rule of the day was “separate but equal”, but she knew:

Separate and equal are two different things. Just ’cause it’s the way, doesn’t make it right, understand?”

So she had motivations that ran up and down the scale, from the personal (self expression)  to the social (uplift the race)  to the cosmic (conquer space).  That left no room for excuses or resentment: she had to Win.


Have enough “whys” and the “hows” will present themselves.


OUTCOME: to operate as an equal, and to LEAD within NASA.

EMOTIONAL MOTIVATIONS: everything, from the personal to the cosmic.

ACTIONS: to do her job impeccably, never letting herself rise to the “bait” of anger and resentment (which would be briefly satisfying but destroy her career), and wait for the right opportunity to “pounce”.


The ability to care enough to shatter your ego scars (known colloquially as “butthurt”) was essential.   She was fighting for her heart, her family, her mind, her people, her country, the world.  She was COMMITTED TO A CAUSE BIGGER THAN SHE WAS.


And she saw that the people around her were, as well.  This is one of the reasons that war is such a leveler. When you fight the larger cause, if you PROVE you can help the person to your right and left survive, THEY will fight for you, unless they are insane.

Most people, even gender or racial bigots, are NOT insane.

They are programmed, asleep, willing to go along with society’s rules.  But they generally obey those rules because they think those rules protect them. The instant they stop believing that, they will no longer protect the rules.


By being impeccable on a personal level, as well as providing unique resources on the project level, Dorothy Vaughn’s her PERSONAL characteristics trumped her racial or gender characteristics.



  • The project was the most important thing
  • The computer was necessary to complete the project
  • She was the only one who knew how to use the computer.
  • Therefore, they could not stop her unless they wanted the project to fail.



All she had to do was find the people more interested in the PROJECT than maintaining the racial/gender order.   Remember: prior to women or blacks entering NASA,  advancement was based on who the people within the project believed would best serve the project.  They had to have VASTLY greater than average investment in reaching the stars.  On the other hand, on average, they would likely have only an average amount of bigotry. As you go up in the organization, you are more and more likely to find people whose commitment to mission outweighs their bigotry. Because most of excellence at anything is obsessive focus, over time.  the instant you find someone who is an “8”in focus on the task, but only a “7” in focus on race and gender, you have someone you can enroll on your side–IF YOU ARE READY.


Look at that again: the better people are at a particular thing, the more likely they are to care more about the thing than about oppressing YOU.   You just aren’t that important to them. What they care about is their OWN advancement, their own pleasures and pains. The instant you become an asset to them, they will start protecting you.  But they have to believe that they gain MORE by protecting you than they get by maintaining social order or personal prejudices. Again…aim high in the organization. That’s where the more obsessive people are.   Love what they love, and they will love you.


THESE PEOPLE ARE YOUR POTENTIAL ALLIES because for their own naked self-interest they will overlook the fact that you belong to a group they are uncomfortable with.


In my own career, I noticed that pitching in Hollywood had an odd twist to it. All the people I pitched to were white.  If race came up in the conversation, I almost never got the job.  I had to keep their attention OFF race, and used the Aikido technique of redirecting their energy: I got them to think about the wonderful project we were going to do, together.  And got the job.


Every time I felt the discussion drifting toward “him and me” (a possible point of racial enmity) I metaphorically took them by their shoulder and turned them to look at the mountain we were both trying to climb. If you’re climbing a mountain, and slip, and someone throws you a rope, do you care what color they are?  What gender, so long as you believe they are strong enough to anchor the other end of the rope?  If you do, you will die.


Simply choose the people who want to live. Find the things more important to them than their bigotry.  Remain impeccable while you look for the chance to pounce.


Then…fall on them like a thunderbolt, and they’ll never know what hit them.


Dorothy Vaughn had a clear outcome. She had enough reasons to keep her going, no matter what the indignity.   And when the opportunity came…she pounced.

WHAT do you intend to accomplish?

WHY do you want it?

Only then, bother with “how”.  “How” is just details.

Be like Dorothy Vaughn.





Hidden Figures, Ancient Secrets


Know your enemy and know yourself, and one can go through one hundred battles without danger.”–Sun Tzu

My dear friend Victoria Whitlock, a project manager at a major technology firm with a Masters in Information Security and a third degree black belt in Judo, is my partner in creating what we’re currently calling THE ART OF SCIENCE: the application of ancient and martial wisdoms to women’s success in STEM fields.

Chief among the researches is one might guess, Sun Tzu’s THE ART OF WAR, arguably the most ancient and respected book of military discipline and business tactics.

All that is required is to see life through the metaphor of conflict, and all of its wisdom becomes available to the modern mind.   Heck, I’ve seen it applied to raising teenagers and cooking banquets.  Very flexible stuff.

As of about twenty years ago, Lifewriting is a dynamic sphere with  known X and Y axis (The Hero’s Journey, The Chakras) and an unknown Z axis.  I no longer try to “figure that out”. It will either pop into my mind one day, or it is supposed to remain a cipher. Or perhaps variable.

Variable allows me to ask “what happens if I make The Art of War the Z axis today, and replace it with some other ancient wisdom tomorrow.”   But…the HJ and the Chakras seem to remain constant, as the former  asks “what is the path of life?” and the latter says “what is the path of evolution within a human being?”

The Art of War, then, presents a way of winning when losing is not an option.

Let’s just take a look at an amazing and inspiring film about three women who succeeded in STEM despite both gender AND race: HIDDEN FIGURES.  (NOTE: like all films, HIDDEN FIGURES condenses history so that an infinitely complex situation [life] can be understood within the context of a two-hour film.  All of the events happened…but not always literally, with that timing, to those people, at that place.   I understand that it is necessary to create dramatic unity.  The larger lessons still hold.)


Engineer Mary Jackson started in an all-female, all black  “computer” pool, doing mathematical calculations.  She proved herself useful at practical applications (detecting a flaw in a heat shield) and leveraged this to gain entrance to a formerly segregated school, arguably a step toward general integration.

Now apply Sun Tzu’s words, and let’s see what we can yield:

Know your enemy and know yourself, and one can go through one hundred battles without danger.”–Sun Tzu

Jackson knew WHAT she wanted: to advance in her career, to get to “play with the cool stuff” as Vic says, and also to open the door to blacks and women to have these opportunities in the future.

She knew WHY she wanted it: for personal satisfaction/self expression.  For safety for her family (the jobs she aimed at had excellent pay). For advancement of “the Race”, which was a major emphasis for “the talented tenth” in the mid-20th Century. That was hammered into black people: the need to “uplift the race”.

To benefit her country: the space race was considered critical for national defense.

To benefit the human race: she saw space as the future of humanity.

That is one HELL of a list of motivations, don’t you think?

HOW to do it comes after the “what” and the “why”.   The specific tactics.  She had to

  1. Be ready with the skills to perform
  2. Position herself so that when the opportunity arose, she would be ready.
  3. Be impeccable in behavior, so as to give the “opponents” no room to cut her down for trivial reasons.
  4. Control her emotions. Keep her ego out of it.   This was not just a personal matter–it was about her family, her race, her country, the future of humanity.
  5. Be clear on her ultimate intentions: advancement.  Keeping your eyes on the ultimate goal makes the efforts and indignities along the way less onorous.

She KNEW she was smart enough, strong enough, and ready for the “battle.”   What WAS the “battle”?

To advance through the ranks to a position where she could use her intelligence and energy, get the rewards, play with “the cool stuff” and be of benefit to herself, her family, her race, her gender, her nation, the world.  The conflict would be with an entrenched cultural assumption of racial and gender inferiority.

Who was her opponent?  (“Know her enemy”).   One might think it was the white people  who were making decisions about her, “keeping her down.” That is possible, in which case she would have to either destroy, capture, convert or avoid them.

Another perspective would be that her “enemy” was the meme that said “women and black people cannot and should not engage in these activities” in which case her task was not to destroy people, or an institution, but the “enemy” of a false meme.

From THIS perspective, if science is a philosophy dedicated to asking “what is true?” then if she can replace a FALSE belief (“blacks and women cannot/should not”) with a TRUE belief (“blacks and women are just human beings, and as capable as anyone”) then she has actually been of positive use to the apparent opponents, who were never real enemies to begin with–they simply were asleep to truth, or operating off out-dated information.  Truth increases THEIR chance to survive, and in 99% of cases survival overrides all other values.  (Instances of life-risking heroism or destructive habit patterns can be discussed another time.)

In other words, she had a single thing to prove: that “blacks and women are just human beings and as capable as anyone.”   Every move she made, every step she took, every word she said, every frustration she bore could be considered aimed toward this single goal.  Why?  Because if she could achieve this she would avoid pain and gain pleasure, the point of all living things.

But how do you awaken those “sleeping” potential allies?  You identify the values conflict.   Theory:  illusion gives one set of rewards (social stability, personal ego, etc.) but truth must always give even greater benefits, or it is not truth.  In other words, she will destroy their illusions (causing pain) but ultimately give THEM greater avoidance of pain/gaining of pleasure as well.  You can appeal to almost ANYONE if you can convince them that your new path (tolerance and fair play) will give them greater joy and less pain than their old path.  This comes from “knowing yourself” and realizing that your motivations, followed deeply enough, are universal.

Conflicting goals of her “opponents”:

  1. To maintain social order.
  2. To win the space race

Both are considered survival drives.  But if one is based on a lie (“blacks and women are inferior”) then the short-term benefits are illusions, even if temporarily useful illusions.

But what if we add another theory: “Optimal usage of every human resource will be necessary to win the space race, which is necessary to survive.”

In this case, IF it is true, then it is more important to win the space race than to maintain a lie, even if that lie is comfortable.

If she could identify the deeper, more powerful motivation, and ally herself with that, then the shared overt “mission” (the space race) will override the covert and non-optimal “mission” (to maintain a racist/sexist social order) because it is more carefully aligned with survival needs, and therefor pleasure.

Remember what the Dalai Lama said: “the purpose of life is happiness.”  Show someone how helping YOU will make THEM happy, and you win.

The people “waking up” will feel discomfort as their beliefs are shattered.  That is the war: they will fight to remain asleep.   Mary Jackson therefore had to be willing to experience discomfort to achieve her goal.

Battling against human illusion is a mortal affair.   “People will love you if you can make them think they are waking up. But they will hate you if you actually awaken them.”

Prepare for battle.

She knew herself. She knew that her “opponent” was not people, but bad ideas that actually, ultimately, prevented those people from achieving maximum success.   The “battle” was going to war with the illusions.  Her weapons were emotional endurance, brilliance, wisdom, emotional control, and alliances with her friends, the other two amazing women of “Hidden Figures.”    Her ability to maintain a healthy home life (married with two children) and community service (she was a Girl Scout leader for thirty years) means she had the EMOTIONAL POWER (the “why”) and the clarity of purpose (the “what”) to endure the struggle with an unjust system…and change the world.

Know your enemy and know yourself, and one can go through one hundred battles without danger.”–Sun Tzu

How can we apply this to our own daily struggles?  What is the Five Step process?

  1. Love yourself. This gives you the courage to know yourself.
  2. Love another person. This is the foundation of EXTERNAL motivation as opposed to internal.
  3. Understand History without guilt, blame, or shame.  This allows us to understand both the “opponent’ and the “battle.”  Most racists or sexists are not evil–they are human beings doing the best they can with the resources they have.  YOUR BATTLE IS TO GIVE THEM NEW RESOURCES, SO THEY CAN SEE THEIR PREVIOUS BEHAVIORS ARE BAD FOR THEM.
  4. Support your tribe. Who is your “Tribe”?  For Mary, it was blacks, women, white allies, her nation, the human race. That is a HUGE tribe.  And it allowed her to isolate bigots too closed-minded to be flexible under any circumstances.  That percentage is, I suggest, actually rather small. FIGHT FOR YOUR TRIBE.  Pick the battles so important that the child voice, the “it’s not fair!” voice is drowned out by the “I MUST!” adult voice.  Life isn’t fair.   Get over it.   Fight as hard as you would for your own most beloved child, or your dreams will die.   Pick fights that are important enough for you to be willing to go all-out…or don’t fight at all.
  5. Win.   Commit to a goal that is to the benefit of ALL.  Note that her victory hurt no one, helped everyone. Truth and love are like that.

Know your enemy and know yourself, and one can go through one hundred battles without danger.”–Sun Tzu.  Hidden Figures, Ancient Secrets.

The truth has either been here all along, or it is nothing at all. There is no new truth.



The War of Art

Today a reader, friend and BKF brother posted the following:

Bilal Al’amin “accomplishment is a continual thing, it is reaping the rewards that elude us. For all my prowess in martial arts, I’ve accomplished a lot, yet have never reaped the  rewards. One can say it doesn’t matter but it does matter, for it gives you a feeling of doubt and second guessing. That is where laws of attraction must be applied in earnest. Yesterday I wrote myself a bestselling review, which I posted on my refrigerator. So that everyday I look at it, I also wrote myself a check in the amount that I am worth, in regards to my writing, posted that as well. What I lacked was applying that concept to my successes. For if you desire to grow from one level to the next you must not limit your vision to just saying I want to be a writer, but to I want to be a successful bestselling author, I want grow financially enough to make a difference in the world, that was what I lacked and now I see so clearly. Works and the law of attraction it works, I was just using it on a minimal scale through limitations of my vision for the future.”


Back in about 1988 when Nicki was about two years old, my agent called me and told me I had a pitch meeting at Paramount for the “Friday the 13th” television series. The premise was simple: there was a haunted curio shop, and if you purchased an item, it forced you to murder people. The stars of the show had inherited the shop, and had to trace the items down and get them back before disaster occurred.  The question was: could I come up with an idea for this series?


I was a fan of the movies (hey, who doesn’t want to watch teenagers get hacked up?) and thought: “sure.”   I devised an idea I thought would work, and went in to pitch.  Drove onto the Paramount lot, filled with optimism, and into the bungalow where they had their offices. There were three or four guys in there, and we chatted a bit (they were “big fans” of my work. They always are.) and after a few minutes I pitched my story.


It was called “Purple Heart.”


It started in Viet Nam.  There is a unit being led by an incompetent young officer, the kind of idiot who would send you to retrieve a live grenade in a mine field under heavy machine gun fire.  The squad’s NCO is beloved of the men, and due to the officer’s asininity, is killed. The men respond by fragging the officer. Realizing what they did, and that they will be tried and convicted of the murder, they frame the dead sergeant for the crime.  There is only one problem: the sergeant isn’t quite dead.  He is medivac’d out and taken to the hospital, where he loses both legs, an arm, and an eye…but survives.


The brass is certain that he killed the officer, but realize they could never convict him–he would look too pitiable. An embarrassment. Instead, they find ways to screw him out of his benefits and discharge him dishonorably.


He is mentally confused, and can’t quite understand what has happened to him. Years later, as a squad reunion on his birthday, someone accidentally drops the dime about what really happened.   He is shocked, heartbroken.  “How could you do this to me?  I loved you guys.  I would have died for you..”


The party dissolves into acrimony, and he leaves, returning to his cold-water walk-up flat.   His landlady pities this poor young man, knows he has nothing, and that it is his birthday.   On the way home that day she passed a certain curio shop, where she saw, in the window…a Purple Heart medal someone’s grandfather won in WW2.  She bought it, and gives it to the sergeant.   She pins it to his chest. “Here’s the medal you should have won…” she says.


And a single tear rolls out of his single eye.  He goes up to his room, pulls himself up onto his lonely bed, and goes to sleep. But as he sleep…the medal begins to GLOW.   And BEAT.  Boom-boom.  Boom-boom. Boom-boom.   And metal VEINS  extrude from the sides of the medal and PLUNGE into his chest.  And his empty eye socket begins to glow, and the eye grows back. And the stumps of his legs begin to glow, and his legs grow back. And the stump of his arm begins to glow, and the arm grows back.


And he levers himself up out of the bed, reborn as a creature of vengeance, and goes after the men who framed him, killing them off one at a time, Commando style.  Karate chops, barbed wire garrot, pungi stakes dipped in human feces…




You get the picture.  I pitched that story, and after I finished, the room was silent.  The guys looked at each other, and then one of them said: “we can’t do that story.  Because if we did that story people would think that this show was about something. And our only excuse for doing a mass murder every week is that this is pure entertainment.”


I sat, thunderstruck.  Realized that my very quest for quality and meaning had sabotaged my efforts to support my family.  I NEEDED these men to say “yes”. With a wave of a pen, a single phone call to the finance office, these men could pay me TWENTY THOUSAND DOLLARS of desperately needed money.


“What else have you got?” they asked.   And…I began to babble out ideas, as their eyes turned to glass and they assumed attitudes of mild pity.


“Well, come back any time,” they said, ushering me out.  And I left, saddened, confused, and afraid.


But something odd happened. As soon as I stood in the parking lot, it was as if I’d walked out of an opium den, and the toxic lure of money began to lose its pull on me.  I breathed more deeply.  And I heard a voice in my head. Clearly. It was a child’s voice. And it said:


“Daddy, why did you have me talking to those terrible men?”


That was the voice of my inner child. The little eight-year old boy who first looked out at the world and wanted to be a storyteller. He was crushed. Because his father had tried to pimp him out for money.


For the next months something terrible happened. The natural flow of creativity, the endless fountain of ideas I had always enjoyed just…dried up.    I slogged on, but it was painful.  Where writing had always been a refuge from the world, now it was pure horror. Torture. I had betrayed my own creativity, and was paying the price for it.   I could not go on like this.  I remembered seeing the business card of an older writer:  “Freelance Hack and Literary Mechanic” it said.


Within a year he was dead of alcoholism.  I now understood how it had happened.  Somehow, he had betrayed the child within him, and he was a dead writer typing.


I had to heal myself, or die.



I began a daily meditation regimen. Every day I would visualize a place I loved as a child.  Santa Monica beach.   When I went there, there was no Little Stevie to be seen, but I brought toys and treats anyway, would sit quietly looking out over the ocean, then leave the toys and food and go away.


The next day I’d return, bringing new toys.  For weeks, months, nothing happened. In that dream logic way, the previous day’s stuff was usually gone, but it was as if I’d never brought them.  But one day…they had been disturbed.


Little Stevie had been there when I was gone. I continued, day after day, sitting for from 20 minutes to an hour, bringing him treats, and more and more often when I arrived the next day it was clear he’d played with the toys, or even eaten the snacks.


And one day, maybe eight months later…I saw, distant on the horizon, the figure of a tiny boy-child.  Day after day I kept coming, and noticed that, as weeks passed, he came closer and closer.   A sad, lonely little boy, terrified to trust.


And then one day I rose. Just stood there. And he was close enough for me to see his frightened, angry expression.  He turned and walked away.


The next day I did the same thing. And that day he stood facing me, but came no closer.


The next week he took a step toward me.  And the next day another step. And then I took a step toward him. He flinched, but didn’t run.


And over the next weeks we came closer and closer, until one day he broke, and ran to me, and jumped into my arms, and we hugged each other and cried.  “Oh daddy,” he sobbed.  “I’ve been so lonely. Where have you been?”


And I swore to him that I would never leave him again, that I would never EVER force him to do the work it was MY job to do.  That I would die first.


I’ve never broken that promise. And he has been within me always.


The job of the creative child is to dance, and be told he is wonderful and precious. The job of the adult is to build a safe space for that child to play.  To build the walls high, prune thorns off the flowers, and keep the pumas at bay.  The child dances. The ADULT works.




In the arts, the creative impulse is the child self.   It is the ADULT’s responsibility to market and sell and exert discipline and handle the rejection.  What should I have done at Paramount?  I should have had back-up stories before ever walking in the room. Or told them I’d be back. But NEVER exposed my creative heart to those men.  Never. It was child abuse.




The creative heart doesn’t understand money.   Children have NO idea how the parents suffer to protect him from the reality.  The children play while the father goes down into the coal mines to work. The child sleeps and dreams while the mother stays up all night mending cloths. The child eats while the adults pretend not to be hungry because there is no food.


The adult understands the world of exchange and symbols like money.   To the child, putting a price, a value on the dance, the song, the story is like putting a price on a kiss.  They are priceless, or nothing at all.


If you are to thrive as an artist, if you are to survive, you have to disabuse yourself of the notion that quality in art is tied to money.  It is not. It never has been, any more than the fact that McDonald’s is the largest and most profitable food organization is tied to the quality of their hamburgers.


If you want your creative “child” to thrive, your “adult” has to do HIS job.


“If you have mastered anything, you know how to master anything else.”


Jerry Pournelle said this to me a long time ago.  The implication is that YOU ALREADY KNOW how to succeed at anything, if you really look at what you know, and how you learned it.   Bilal is a wonderful martial artist. I so miss playing with him!  And he has struggled to make money with it, or with his art.


That means his “child” is not safe.   What are the lessons from his arena of mastery (martial arts) that he can apply to being successful in writing?   Let’s take a look at a belief chain implied by his note (there are others, but these are common among artists):


  1. Thinking “if I’m good, I’ll make money/ get rich” in the arts.
  2. “Talent” determines success.
  3. Since it doesn’t work that way, the “game” must be corrupt.
  4. Marketing and sales are bad, wrong, painful.


Let’s take a look at the Martial arts, an arena both Bilal and I have refined over decades. A core text of martial theory is A BOOK OF FIVE RINGS by Musashi Miyamoto.  In it, he has a list of nine principles for warriors. They also work for writers.


  1. Do not think dishonestly.
  2. The Way is in training.
  3. Become acquainted with every art.
  4. Know the ways of all professions.
  5. Distinguish between gain and loss in worldly matters.
  6. Develop the ability to see the truth in all matters.
  7. Learn to perceive those things which are not obvious.
  8. Pay attention to even small things.
  9. Do nothing which is of no use.



I am going to get you started.  I would do more, but really, you need to engage with these ideas personally if you want to learn.  So I will take those first four beliefs and couple them with the first four principles.  I could have coupled them to any of the nine.     PLEASE DO THIS YOURSELF.


  1. “If I’m good, I’ll make money/get rich.”   Couple this with “Do not think dishonestly.”  Look around.  Is this true?  Do the best artists make the most money?  NO never happened.  Get over it.  IT IS NOT TRUE.
  2. “Talent” determines success” is coupled with “The Way is in training.”  Day in, day out.  10,000 hours before you can dare to consider yourself expert.   And that’s 10k hours of conscious, focused training preferably following a path laid out for you by a master.  And the next one is critical.
  3. “Since it isn’t true that quality=reward, the system must be corrupt.”  couple this with “Become acquainted with every art.”  There is the skill and craft of dance, music, painting, writing.  And then…there is the BUSINESS of selling them.   Look carefully.  THEY ARE DIFFERENT THINGS.   The apparatus of money-making is NOT the apparatus that develops pure skill.      They are very different aspects.  And that means that either you find someone willing to take the “adult” role (a lawyer/ agent/ manager) or you will have to do it yourself. And let me be brutally honest: those “adults” are easiest to find if you have already developed your own “adult” in that sense.  Sending your “child” out to tap every adult it meets on the arm and say “will you be my mommy?  Will you be my Daddy?” is abusive.  It is YOUR responsibility to do this.   No one else’s.  This is why so many artists teach school and do their art at night.
  4. “Marketing and sales are bad, wrong, painful.”  Couple this with “Know the Ways of all professions.”  In every money-making enterprise, you need three things:
    1. To develop a unique skill or talent.  Otherwise you are in a race to the bottom with pricing. If you can’t be the cheapest, you are screwed with this approach.  Be yourself.  Be WORLD CLASS at being yourself.
    2. Find the “hive” of people who need what YOU have.  It is said that an artist needs only 1000 raving fans to support them. You don’t need the world.
    3. Find the right MEDIA to reach those 1000 fans.


Message, market, medium.  THOSE are the three keys.  IF you believe you have something worth offering, you have an obligation to share it with the world.  A baker must believe in his cookies, be willing to give free samples, put up delicious pictures of cookies, let the smell of fresh-baked cookies waft from his shop. Put his shop where there is traffic, people whose mouths can be induced to water.


Message, Market, Media.

The child dances, the adult markets and sells.


And…sales and marketing are as much a skill as anything else.  Don’t you dare think you can master it by reading an article or two. If you have a thousand novels and books on writing, but two books on selling, don’t you DARE think you know enough.  That is the child self, who wants and needs to believe his kisses and hugs are of ultimate value.  Who will cry if she has to read rejection slips, who just wants to be told she is precious.


It is the adult who can handle a thousand rejections, who can go into meeting after meeting and stand up to the other adults, and walk away without feeling beaten: it’s just business.


This is why I created the “Ancient Child” program, to help you separate the two.  This is why I beg people to re-read THINK AND GROW RICH once a year.  Why I implore you to use “The Morning Ritual” to shift your energy so that you can take action day after day after damned day.


EVERYONE wants to make a living doing something they love.   Something that expresses their hearts.   If you want your child to dance, your adult must be stronger, tougher, more resiliant and ruthless, more protective and cunning, like a frontier family whose mother and father must deal with Indians and bears and locusts and every other damned thing…so that the children can play.


It’s worth it, I swear it is.   The reward is the sweetest smiles, the dearest kisses, the warmest hugs.  “Mommy.  Daddy.  You never left me alone. You never quit”


And you will be able to answer, honestly:  “And I never will.”





Flow and Impostor Syndrome

One cure for both “Impostor Syndrome ” and raging ego is to think not of yourself, but of the path you walk.   I am nothing as a writer or martial artist, but my teachers and role models have molded me well.  I express them, not my ego identity.


When I am in the maximum flow state, there is no awareness of “I”.  My attention isn’t on me.  How can “I” be an impostor, if “I” is not there?


No self-pity.  No self-acclimation. No “self” in the moments of deepest commitment to craft or action.


Like most kids, I used to love watching cartoons all day.  I’d just fall into the television screen.


The first book I ever read was called “The Five Chinese Brothers”.  I memorized the tale, read the pages, and began to associate the printed words with the sounds, with the feelings.


But the first REAL book, chapter book, was probably something called “Space Cat.”  And after about fifteen minutes, I would fall into the book the same way I did into those cartoons.


Later, I began to write stories. At first it was just letters and words.  But after about fifteen minutes of constant scribbling…it felt as if the page opened up, and I just fell in.  It was a wonderful place to be, a safe space for a small, sensitive kid.  This was harder than reading.  I had to EARN it, whereas “Space Cat” demanded less work…and television cartoons took even less.


But it was so satisfying.



I used to run the track at Pepperdine University.     Took me a few months to work my way up to five miles, but I noticed the same pattern every time.   I would run, and for the first mile or so, felt creaking and rusty. Then the next mile I’d feel discomfort, and my body might send me pain messages. Even panic.  “You’re gonna die!”  But I would answer: “if I’d die from running, I’d probably drop dead later on today anyway.  If I die, I’m going to die on my terms.”  Kept running…and reached a place where suddenly I was in rhythm with my body.  It felt as if I was standing still, and the rest of the world was moving around me.  Beautiful.  Like writing. Reading. Cartoons. Took even more work, but it was wonderful, and worth it.



Much later, I studied sexual magic.  And noticed that once I stopped chasing an orgasm (for either myself or my partner), there was a “gateway” where breath and motion and focus all started coming together, entering the same realm.  About fifteen minutes it took.




I’ve found this space physically, mentally, emotionally, sexually, spiritually.   At one point there are opposites, and pieces, and a collection of parts. Then there is a functioning machine. And then…something living and beautiful appears.  And then…even that disappears, and there is just…flowing.


And every time I’ve been through that progression, the outcome has been the very finest and most valuable interaction or performance of my life.  That road is the doorway to everything you’ve sought in life.


And the key is to find any thread of it in ALL THREE basic arenas: body, mind, and emotions.   And begin to wind them together.


Can you identify moments of flow in all three arenas?  In which do you find it easiest? Can you identify your breathing patterns? The qualities of mind? Can you transfer them from one arena to another?


Because if you can, it is like noticing that steam, ice, and flowing water are all the same thing.   And once you see that, feel that, KNOW that, you have touched something very difficult to teach.


But easy to learn, if you will actually move, and feel, and think, and ask: “what is true about these things? How are they all the same?”


So…what has been your experience with flow?





One of my favorite lies

I’m gonna tell you about one of my very favorite lies.  I tell it all the time.  Yes, I do.



I watched “Chicago” again recently, and was struck by the brilliant labors of lawyer Billy Flynn ( a tap-dancin’ Richard Gere.  I mean, has he got a John Travolta voodoo doll or something?  Do you realize that Travolta turned down AMERICAN GIGOLO and AN OFFICER AND A GENTLEMAN?).  Flynn had to get dim but clever, venomous little chippie Roxie Hart (a wonderful Renee Zellwegger) off on a charge of pumping three bullets into her lover.


He couldn’t change the core facts of the case, which had her dead to rights.  What he COULD do is control the narrative. Control the STORY.   He created a new back-story for her (“A convent girl!  A runaway marriage!”), said that she had indeed fallen into an affair but called it off when she found she was pregnant with her husband’s child (“don’t hurt the BABY!!”) that her lover attacked her (“she fought like a tiger”) and that they struggled over the fatal weapon (“they both reached for the gun”).  Later he rather flamboyantly suggests that the District Attorney fabricated evidence.  He deliberately creates a confusing circus (“give ’em the old razzle dazzle” as the song goes) that confuses the very clear facts, then uses force of personality to imprint his chosen narrative, while the hapless DA, far less charismatic, is unable to maintain the thread of his own story.   Verdict?  Not guilty.



Remember the O.J. case?   Get the joke yet?



Now. About that lie…

When I was a kid,  maybe 5th grade,  a bully followed me home from Alta Loma elementary school, punching me in the stomach as I walked.   If I tried to cover my stomach, he threatened to punch me in the face.  The shame of feeling unable to defend myself damaged my self-image for decades, made it difficult to practice marital arts, contributed to my sense of hopelessness and helplessness.  I would feel vulnerable, and attend class until I started making contact with my animal self, where I would automatically respond to threat with proper technique. But then that created another threat (“I am small and weak!  My skills are attracting the attention of stronger predators!  I must stop!”) and the fear would push me back out of the school…until my eroding skills created greater fear of the outside world, pushing me back to the school.  This toxic loop continued for SEVENTEEN YEARS.  It was so bad that I remember being afraid to go back to my school to reclaim a Levi jacket I’d left there, for terror that someone would ask me to spar with them (the sad thing? They wanted to spar with me BECAUSE I WAS GOOD.  Emotionally, seeing myself as the boy who got beaten up, unable to defend myself, I only saw that “they wanted to hurt me.”)


I’ve spoken of my major breakthrough here, the realization that fear was a universal human experience. But never talked about one of the individual tactics I used to clean up the mess.


I had to do something about that memory.  In the book A TASTE FOR DEATH, Peter O’Donnell created a monster villain, six and a half foot tall Simon Delicata, “built like a rhino and moves like a cat) who terrified Modesty Blaise’s right-hand man, Willie Garvin, who is depicted as one of the greatest martial artists in the world (I’ve read the entire 40-year run of the comic strips four times, and no one, NO ONE ever lays a finger on Garvin in fair combat.  Modesty does in practice, but the real thing? Never.  Not once.  In the books, yes.  I pointed this out to Peter once, and he was shocked, sort of the way Charles Schultz supposedly never realized that Charlie Brown had never kicked that damned football!). Why was he terrified, and have no hope of beating this man? Because when Willie was much much younger, he got into a fight with Delicata, hit him with everything he had, couldn’t hurt him, and was SLOWLY beaten   almost to death.  The memory went deep into his head “the old psychological domination” Willie said, tapping the back of his own head.


He literally wasn’t able to access his skill and speed and tactical cleverness, and would have died during the inevitable final confrontation…were it not for the fact that Modesty FORCES him to rise above his fear to save her life.  Fantastic scene.


I needed to break my own “Psychological domination”, which is kinda like driving with your brakes on.  But that bully was long gone. Can’t even remember his name any more. His face is a blur. I just remember the pounding as we walked along West Boulevard.  What could I do?


I could take control of the story.  I could block and scramble the memory. Would this be cheating? Who cared? They were MY friggin’ memories.   I’d noticed that healthy, successful people tended to remember their lives as BETTER, their own actions as more central to change than they’d really been. While depressed people tended to selectively edit THEIR memories: they’d never been loved or supported, never had a victory, never been happy, and so forth and so on.


As House M.D. says: “everybody lies.” The only question is: will you lie to support yourself or tear yourself down.  Yeah, I know…”do not think dishonestly.”


But…is it dishonest if you KNOW and ADMIT you’re doing it?  And would that be wrong..?


I decided no.   So…I  began a course of meditation. And would envision that incident.  And every time I envisioned it, I felt sick to my stomach.   Remembered the pain, and the rage, and the helplessness as the bully pounded me in the belly again and again, threatening to hit me in the face if I even defended myself.


I couldn’t even identify with the situation–it hurt too badly.  So I imagined myself sitting in a movie theater WATCHING the scene.  Had to bleach the color and sound out of it, make the image small and distant…then finally I could see it without wanting to vomit.


And then…I began to change the movie.  Re-edit it to my satisfaction.


I began to imagine that I could go back in the past, and coach my younger self, teach him how to whip that bully’s butt…


Another time I imagined that I was a full-grown adult who could laugh off the bully’s punches…


And yet another time that I was able to talk the bully into being my friend and protector…


But most of the time, I imagined kicking his ass. Throwing him on the ground.  Making him cry.


Over and over and over again.  Until the original memory was damaged–I no longer identified with it enough to cause the shame, pain, and nausea, like scratching a record until it no longer played.  Until, when I remembered it, I automatically selected a more empowering memory, a different interpretation (I was only PRETENDING to be hurt, so that he could feel like a big, strong guy to counter his own insecurity, you see…)


Scrambled that memory. Built a new one.  Imprinted it. Ran it forward and back and back and forth until I have no EMOTIONAL memory of what happened that day.   I could find it, reconnect with it…but why would I want to?




I changed the story.   Just like you can change yours.   And when you organize the events of your life, you get to organize them to that they empower you, or so that they tear you apart.  And you can do it for your children, or family, or readers–because every story you write or tell is only about one of two things: what human beings are, or what the world is.


We don’t ever REALLY remember things the way they were.  While we are obliged to search for truth, we also have the right to be happy, and healthy.   If I’d seen total truth, the memory would have given me no pain at all.  But as long as I was still lying to myself (“I’m still small and weak!”) I might as well tell an empowering lie.


That lie, no worse than the other lie, gave me power, eased the pain. And led me to being able to embrace truth.  Strange…but true.





“He bleeds too”


What is your empowering story?



Last Christmas, I gave myself the single best gift I’ve ever had: three hours of private instruction with a man who, for various cultural   and practical reasons, might well be the greatest martial arts instructor in history, Danny Inosanto. He was Steve Muhammad’s Kempo  instructor, Bruce Lee’s lead student, and considered the world’s greatest authority on the beautiful and devastating Filipino martial arts.  He’s eighty years old, travels the world teaching every weekend, and is still blur-fast and kinesthetically as perfect as a human body can be.  He moves more stiffly now than when I trained with him in the early 80’s, but when performing his beloved arts he moves like a teenager.  He is always training in something: currently Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Russian Systema, and Capoeira, I believe.


We worked sticks, knives, empty hands, push hands,  kicked the bags together, worked Capoeira footwork, talked Bruce Lee and training after fifty (a classic comment: “you can stay in shape as you get older, Steve…it just a little harder to motivate yourself every year”) and how I could continue to improve despite a busy life…specifically, daily training and taking frequent workshops.   He said that some of his very best students no longer attend weekly classes…but they work out at home, and come back to the school for intensive training a few times a year.




He is a master of masters.  No slightest question about it, and it is always fascinating to get close to such people.  In EVERY case, what I’ve seen is daily focused play, real love for the thing they’re doing, performed over decades combined with an encyclopedic knowledge of their field.   The only “talent” I see in common, ever, is the ability to maintain that focus and enthusiasm long after most people have given up and pretended they didn’t care.


This is why the concept of “talent” is such poison to me: I never see it lift people up.  Only to excuse why people quit: “I didn’t have the talent.”


But how do you do that?  Keep going over decades?  First, a clear outcome.  WHAT do you want.  Then, you have to have reasons to do it, and keep doing it, and keep doing it even after everyone else has gone home.   And that means you find something you LOVE and put everything you have into it. But…we are motivated by both PAIN and PLEASURE.  So the best of the best of the best will and do use both.


One of the things I do is to speak quietly and carefully to Masters, and discover what the core memories might be, the “Epiphany Bridges” that made the light bulb go off in their heads and realize that they had found a path to knowledge andpower which, pursued, would bring them joy in life.  “The purpose of life is to be happy” said the Dalai Lama.  Not just to “not hurt” or “not be afraid” but to be HAPPY.  FORGET “to do” lists until you are clear on your OUTCOMES and the emotional reasons you MUST have them.   Have enough “whys” and the “hows” take care of themselves.


So…what was I really about with Danny?  Why did I really want those three hours?  I wanted to know what motivated the master, that’s what.   (I’ve done this with Elon Musk and other ultra-performers, by the way.  Stories  for another time).


So…what is his core motivating memory?   He was in elementary school, and there was a bully who terrorized the playground.  Like everyone else, Danny was afraid of him. One day, this bully attacked a friend of his, and Danny jumped into it and got pounded.  The teachers pulled the two of them apart, and for a moment the bully was restrained and Danny was not.  Danny jumped in and punched him in the nose. Blood squirted and the bully howled.  As the teacher pulled Danny to the principle’s office, he thought to himself:  “he bleeds too!”


He bleeds too. That single image, of an apparently invulnerable bully who could be stopped, or hurt, by skill and courage and timing, has motivated Danny his entire life.    Wow.




Do you know the first time YOU got excited about the possibility of your chosen area of mastery? And if you insist you aren’t interested in mastery of anything…why not?   Why settle for “being good” or “being expert”?   Why not find the thing you love, put your energy behind it for a lifetime, and produce the results that would really make your “inner child” happy?  Because you can’t make money?  Money isn’t skill at your art…it is skill at marketing.  And a good marketer can market ANYTHING.   All that requires is 1) belief that you have something of value to offer the world and 2)lack of fear of rejection, 3) modeling successful marketers.  Develop these, and then decide what you want to do with your life, AND DO IT.



So…in your “Morning Ritual” you should have your “outcome” but also connect with the DRIVING EMOTIONS that give you power.    You can always tell when people do their job “for the money” as opposed to being fascinated and committed and passionate about the project.


If you want to make money, remember that money comes from sales and marketing, and sales is “a transfer of enthusiasm from one person to another.”  This is why people in business meetings so often say “we’re really excited about X…” because through practical experience they KNOW that they have to get excited in order to make things happen. Sometimes they’re just going through the motions, of course. But if YOU can be genuinely excited, you have a chance to infect THEM with that enthusiasm. And then there is no sales resistance, and the project can cook.




So…for me, three things are primary: family, writing, martial arts.  That means that the first thing when I wake up in the morning, I can remember the MOTIVATING FORCE OR IMAGE behind each of them. Tap into the emotions, the “why”.   Love and passion connect to the moment I realized that a lioness needs a lion.  T is a lioness.  If I want the fun and passion and contribution of being a worthy mate to her, I must be at my best.  I connect with yummy reasons to hold this energy.


Writing?  I remember the moment I realized I was born to be a writer, standing in front of an audience at Pepperdine University, having won a short story contest and reading it to the group, watching the Alumni smiling and applauding.


Martial Arts?   Remembering when I backed the worst bully I’d ever known down because I was willing to die and he wasn’t.  Stepping out into the middle of the street on Washington boulevard, inviting him to join me to continue the fight. And…he blinked.


The peace and power I felt, calm in the midst of danger, transformed my life.  The joy of holding the attention of these successful people transformed my life.  The memory of watching beautiful women walking with powerful men as hunting pairs transformed my life.


And there is another level.   If I rotate between these visions, these feelings, sometimes I can find a place inside me that resonates with all three.  I cannot quite tell you what it is–it is not a thing of words. But when I find that place IT IS HUGELY GENERATIVE.


THAT is the place I seek in morning meditation. In Tai Chi.  In writing. In connecting with my wife, or my son.


When I find THAT place I know I’ve hit something special, and when I tap that spring, it connects to everything else in my life.   It is amazing.


But it all starts with WHY DO YOU DO IT?


What is your “he bleeds too!”


Find that…and the door to mastery opens for you.





Writing The Kundalini Equation

When I was a kid, I loved the world of books.  Engaged with them, the outer world disappeared, and I became part of a thousand alien and magical worlds in which anything could happen.  I was the calm center of a spinning world of wonder.


Later, I began writing stories, and as I sat,  scribbling on paper,  after about fifteen minutes the page just…opened up.  I entered another world.  I was still, but was simultaneously part of a world of flowing wonder.


I never found this place in sports. That was a world of clumsiness, pain, and rejection.  Like many other nerds, I decided I was a brain in a box.


Bullies forced me to realize that that box could be damaged, so I began to seek safety in the midst of harm, studying the martial arts. It was all effort and sweat, and later pain and fear, but I continued to train because I was more afraid of the outside world than the controlled violence and humiliation inside the walls of the various dojos.


When I worked at Pepperdine University back in the 70’s, I took the opportunity to run on the track there, and worked my way up to five miles, my standard distance.   The first mile was getting the rust out, the next half mile or so was the beginning of hitting some kind of rhythm, but then a wave of fatigue would hit.  Pain. Doubt.   A voice in my head telling me that my heart couldn’t handle it, and I was going to die if I didn’t stop.


But…I told myself that if  my heart had a fatal flaw in it, I’d probably die later that day anyway, and I might as well die on my own terms.   The pain got worse…but then as if I shifted into a higher gear, suddenly the pain receded and my upper and lower body and breathing all came into a rhythm, and I felt like I was standing still, the rest of the world moving around me.  Strange.


Years later I studied Aikido.  Not enough to gain any level of expertise, but I was fascinated by the beauty of it, and also the apparent lack of combative efficacy.  Then one day I attended the black belt exams in Redwood City California, and witnessed a man named Julio Toribio performing his randori freestyle multiple attacker test.

Magic.  Just…magic.

I’d never seen that level of flow.  I SAW how he could throw a person without touching them (it had to do with faking the person out so that their  mind and upper body was going in one direction while their lower body was twisting/going in another. Wow.) as well as displaying power and precision that was at genius level.  After the test, I approached him.  I introduced myself, and asked him who he was and what other arts he had studied–it was glaringly obvious that Aikido was not his only art (he had thrown one man and SIDEKICKED him in mid-air!).  Turned out he had advanced belts in two other arts.  Something inside me relaxed.  I told him I’d always been concerned about the combat efficiency of Aikido, but that he had earned the right to have a respected opinion. What he said, I would believe.


Julio said something fascinating:   “Aikido is absolutely lethal,” he said. “But most people practicing it have no idea what they are doing.”


Years later, in practice, I had a moment, just a moment, when if felt as if I was standing still, and the universe was flexing around me like energetic origami.   I was STILL.  But moving more beautifully and efficiently than I ever had.   Just for a moment I glimpsed it, and then it was gone.



But that glimpse…of effortless effort, seemed oddly similar to the world of writing. Where, if I worked long enough, I could find movement in stillness.  Which was similar to that same sensation in reading…but reading was easier, because someone else had done the work of arranging the symbols for me. All I had to do was put them together for about…fifteen minutes. And I would slide into that other world.


The similarity between the world of reading, and the world of writing, and the flow of running, and the flow of Aikido puzzled me.  Could there be a real relationship between mind and body?  The “brain in a box” part of me certainly didn’t want to believe it.


There used to be a bookstore in West Hollywood called The Bodhi Tree.  My mom used to go there a lot. It was a cornucopia of metaphysical books, worlds of wonder from every imaginable tradition, and I spent countless hours in the cubby holes, drinking mint tea and reading stories as amazing as anything sold at A Change of Hobbit science fiction bookstore.


But amid the stories of immortal yogis and spinning energy wheels inside the human body, I noticed references to things I’d experienced…or glimpsed.


If poets seemed to hint that there were levels of creativity that BEGAN with the dissolved ego state and ended in the caverns measureless to man, beyond the shining sea…


If the world’s greatest athletes spoke of some union of mind, body and spirit that birthed Olympic-level performance…


If the most legendary martial artists spoke of love rather than fear leading to the place of most magical combative skills…


If the furthest edge of what things I had experienced was the NEAREST edge of these other disciplines…what would that mean?


What if?


What if the disciplines of mind, and body, and spirit were all using different words to describe the same phenomena?  What if there was a path through it all, one humans had been denied because no single culture sees the whole picture, and few  human lifetimes could encompass world-class performance in all three arenas…and even if they could, there would be no language that could communicate the reality, any more than you can describe a salad thoroughly enough to nourish a body…


That all you can do is point and say: there is the road.


Knowing that most will not walk it, will instead want to read travelogues written by those who have…


Then if I cross-referenced everything I knew, or thought I knew, and combed through every book and lecture and article I’d ever read, and tried to extract the 1% that seemed most grounded, or at least linked to things that were grounded…


What emerged was a transformative discipline of staggering power, a road to the next, voluntary level of human evolution. One which the masters warned was not only a Way to that elusive thing called “Enlightenment” but that, along the way, the aspirant would experience “Siddhis”, powers, apparent psychic and supernormal phenomena like extraordinary charisma, clairvoyance, precognition, and other things.  And ALL cultures had legends such as this.


My thought was that these legends were metaphors, trying to communicate something that doesn’t quite fit into words, both the positive and negative potential of the forms of meditation, dance, physical and mental yoga, martial arts, chi gung and other energy systems, prayer, ceremony, spirit journeys and much much more.


What if?  What if they were right about both the positive and negative aspects? And if that truth had been splintered around the world, such that no one could put it back together again?  And what if a single brilliant nerd put the whole things back together again, taking advantage of computers and the ability to gather printed and video data from around the world.  What might happen to this person?


The book THE KUNDALINI EQUATION was born.  I always considered it a sort of modern “Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde” novel, and I wrote it at the absolute edge of my abilities, combining everything I knew or had experienced or could glean from the words of masters further along the path.


And something odd happened.  People started appearing in my life after KUNDALINI EQUATION was practiced, asking me where I’d learned some of these things.   Who had taught me. And were surprised that I’d created it without specific teachers and mentors, by connecting everything to that sense within me that THIS thread and THIS thread, from different areas of life, FELT the same.


And…a few of them said: let me show you what comes next.

Over the next decades, I earned three black belts, studied NLP, Pancultural Shamanism, apprenticed to a medicine man, became a devotee of a genuine spiritual master, studied sexual magic, and wrote over two million words of fiction.  Lost both parents and had two children.


And at every step, kept connecting the things I learned with what I felt inside, the sense of standing still in the midst of chaos, of balancing effort and ease, going deeper and deeper, finding dead-ends but also open doors.


And at some point realized that I was no longer searching.   Knew where “X marks the spot” in terms of life’s deepest questions, and realized that my teachers had given me the shovels I needed to dig.  Digging, MUCH digging, remained to be done.  But maps and teachers had become irrelevant.  Now what remained was the work.


And at another point I picked up that book THE KUNDALINI EQUATION, and thought about that young man who had looked out at the world and wondered so much, and tried to put his thoughts into a story of science and magic…and wondered if I could do something anywhere near as good, at this stage of my life. What in the world could I do?  What would such a book look like? Feel like? Read like?  Could I do honor to my teachers and experience?   Present something entertaining but also honest?


I didn’t know.  But had to try.  TWELVE DAYS is the result of that effort.  I do not know if I succeeded.  It really isn’t my place to say.  But DAMN, am I going to be fascinating to see how people react to it…in just about a month.




“Excuse me, ma’am…may I borrow your baby?”

#Love is the ability and willingness to allow those that you care for to be what they choose for themselves, without any insistence that they satisfy you.” – Wayne Dyer


I have the makings of a monster. I really do.  I could have been one of the great, manipulative lying sons of bitches God ever let live.  Let me give you an example of how I know it.  And why I believe I’ve dodged that bullet.




When I first met Tananarive at the “African Fantastic Imagination” conference at Clark Atlanta University in 1997, I heard her tell a story about how she got Stephen King to give her a cover blurb for MY SOUL TO KEEP. She used her position on the Miami Herald to talk to humorist Dave Berry’s wife. Berry played in a band, “The Rock Bottom Remainders” with King.  They’re a bunch of writers who live out their fantasies by playing at book fairs, and T told Mrs. Berry that she’d like to play keyboards for them.   It turned out that their keyboard player was going to be singing instead of playing, and there was a position for her.  She used this (and the fact that she looked great in a leather skirt) to catch King’s attention, talked him into looking at her book, and the rest is history.


I sat in the audience and was transfixed.  We’d met two days before, and I’d been impressed by her energy and aliveness as well as her intelligence and writing skill, but hadn’t responded to her on a personal level.  Treated her like a little sister. But the instant I realized how calculating she was, how she had used a lifetime of preparation to CREATE an opportunity for herself (writing since the age of 4, keyboard skills, her Miami Herald column, personal courage. And looking great in a leather skirt, of course)  I said: “WOW!  She did a three-wall bank shot on him!  She’s REALLY smart.”   And then, as if noticing that gave me permission to notice something else, I thought: “and she’s REALLY cute, too.”   And a chill ran down my spine. A chill runs down my spine EVERY time I tell that story.


And I said to myself: “oh, Steve…you’re in trouble.”

I’d never felt anything like that before.  Something very special was happening here.  I knew that mentally, emotionally, and physically (she danced great, and had terrific shoulders and a tight little waist…ahem)  we shared the same values and were on a similar wave-length.  Could we actually be a couple?  I didn’t know. What I DID know was that she lived in Miami, and I lived in Vancouver, Washington. It would have been difficult to be further apart in the continental U.S.  Our trains were going in opposite directions, and just crossing at the station.  Pulling out the next day, in fact.


I had just hours to make some kind of a connection with her, or she might be gone forever.    I looked frantically around the room as T came down from the stage and started signing autographs.   What could I do..?


And sitting in the front row of the audience was a woman with a baby in her lap.  A light bulb went off in my head.  I walked over to her and said: “excuse me, ma’am…may I borrow your baby?”


She looked at me, startled. She knew who I was, of course, but my request was a little strange. “I don’t want to take her out of the room.  I’d just love to play with her a little. Right here in front of you.”  Still a little startled (I definitely got some side-eye, but after all, I was a Famous Author!) but she agreed. I got down on the floor right there between the mother and Tananarive and started playing with the baby.


Oh, that was dirty pool.  I KNEW that there was no way in hell a professional black woman in her 30’s could observe an available black man play with a baby without her hind-brain going “DING!”

It just wasn’t fair.  Totally bypassing her forebrain.   Twelve hours later we were sitting in Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta Airport holding hands, leaning our heads against each other like a couple of kids, talking about how we could build an empire together.


If I hadn’t been sincere, hadn’t been 100% open to an actual lifetime with Tananarive, what I’d done with that baby would have been horrific.  Actual evil.  I had nuked her reproductive circuitry.

Given something like that, how can I claim that I’d played fair? That I had HER interests at heart, and not just my own?




We courted via internet, telephone, and me flying down to Miami to see her.   Months later, she was on a book tour to San Francisco, and I met her there and we drove up to Vancouver together.   At the time I was living in a side-by-side duplex with my ex, Toni.  The reason was that we had a daughter to raise. When Nicki came home from school she came to my side. When Toni came home from work, Nicki would go there.


The very first thing I did was introduce T to Nicki, who ran up to her and hugged her (nope, I hadn’t bribed her.  She’s just that kind of kid)  Then I walked her into Toni’s house, sat the three of them down, said: “you guys talk about whatever you want” and left the house. Went over to my side for an hour.


I wanted T to have a chance to ask whatever she wanted to about me, talking to the people who knew me best.  Either Toni would say good things or bad things.  Let’s say she said bad things (probably after sending Nicki out of the room!)  That would mean one of only a couple of things:


  1. I was a bad person. She should not trust me.
  2. I was a STUPID person, a bad judge of character to have married Toni.   She should not bond with me.


But if Toni said good things?   Well…that would be a big vote in the “take this relationship to a whole ‘nother level” category.   I desperately wanted T to make a solid decision. To know what she was dealing with. To have ALL the information she needed to be as certain as possible.


Because I could see and feel that she had her own destiny.  She had, and has…force. She is a lioness, and a lioness needs a lion. Someone who would not be intimidated by her, not try to slow her down or stop her, not sabotage her efforts.  She deserved to have a wonderful life, and damned if I would stand between her and that destiny, no matter how much I wanted her.


Hell, Harlan Ellison thinks she’s a better writer than I am, and you can imagine how much THAT stings someone with my ego.   I have to deal with THAT, under my own roof.

And if I cannot…I don’t deserve her.  Period.

Yeah, I’m a manipulative bastard.  I go after what I want.  No slightest question about it.

But I also want people to make the  right decision for THEM.  THAT’S who I am.  And she needed to know both sides of that.  And if that was what she was looking for…


There I was, open heart and arms, saying: “let’s do this.”


I believe that selfishness is not a problem.  Defining “self” as ending at your skin is the problem.


I believe in love, but that you MUST start by loving yourself.


I believe in Soulmates, but you have to know your own soul to recognize them.


I believe that loving another person is the second step to changing the world, to living a wonderful life in alignment with your values, one of the Big Three things we must admit we crave to be in honest communication with our own hearts.


That’s MY story about love, and life, and how it fits together, and how Tananarive and I found each other.

Love, storytelling and martial arts  are the absolute core of my life and teaching.    If this path speaks to you, please join us at  Get your free copy of THE ANCIENT CHILD and start a journey that starts with healing your heart and ends with changing the world.


We’re all alone in this…together.