Martial Arts

It’s never too late to be true to your heart

The M.A.G.I.C. formula is designed to take a frustration and turn it into a power.   I’ve noticed that almost NO major positive events have ever occurred in my life through direct action.   I didn’t meet Tananarive when looking for a partner.  I didn’t achieve my major martial breakthroughs in a martial arts school.  I didn’t get my best writing opportunities through pounding on doors, and didn’t have any idea which projects were going to hit hardest.  None.


It’s all a crap shoot.  But…if you let the apparent randomness dissuade you from acting, you are making a HUGE mistake.


This is the way it seems to go.  This is an analogy ONLY.


Imagine your life like a  mathematical plane drawing describing physical reality.  Every focused action you take increases your “mass”.    As your “mass” increases, the plane distends.  You create a gravity well.  Passing opportunities get sucked in.  The greater the mass, the more opportunities.


But…there is another model in Yoga.  It discusses the “Siddhi” phenomenon in yoga.   That if you meditate upon the true nature of reality, or God, or your own deep identity, you gain power, and will begin to experience extranormal phenomena.   Charisma, sexual attraction, precognitive flashes, ESP, and so forth.


The trick is that these things are like gold nuggets sprinkled along a “path” you are traveling if you are meditating and living correctly. You might be able to scoop them up as you move forward, but if you chase after them they turn into fool’s gold.  If you chase them long enough, you will look back and realize you’ve lost sight of the path.


An example: you are a writer who writes from your heart. You struggle with finances, but win awards.  One day, you write a book that becomes a bestseller. Your agent, publisher, and fans scream “write more of THAT!”  You do, and enjoy great success…at first.  But you are no longer writing from your heart you are writing to the audience.  IF you are not also writing from your heart, you will lose the very thing that made you special, and your fire burns out.


Many years ago, I had lunch in Greenwich Village with Leo and Diane Dillon, two artists of supreme flow. They created as a single mind. Where one ended a line, the other would begin. And while I THOUGHT I was having the meeting to discuss my wife’s art, once I was in the presence of these lovely people, I realized I was really concerned for my own artistic soul.  Frankly, in order to survive I had made many artistic choices that were more in alignment with my bank book than my heart.


Was I lost?  Had I destroyed myself?  Before I knew it I was gushing tears at the table.   Was it too late for me?


With an expression of infinite kindness and understanding, Diane reached across the table and took my hands in hers.  “Steve,” she said.   “If you can even ask that question…its not too late.”



Back to M.A.G.I.C.:
“Magic” equals Action times Gratitude times Intention times Conviction.


If the things you desire are going to come indirectly, but direct action is the key to making them possible, then every day you have to:

Take Action

Feel Gratitude (gratitude is the antidote for fear)

Have clear Intention (you have to know what you want) and

Have Conviction you can and should have it.


Every day you take actions toward your goal, knowing that most of your plans will come to nothing, and that the person, the opportunities, the results you desire will often, perhaps usually, come out of your peripheral vision.


Damn, this is frustrating. So much urge to chase after the gold.So much to give up and say nothing matters.


So hard to stay on the middle course.


But…everything I’ve gotten in my life has happened when I stayed on the path, did my work, clarified my goals, made myself happy just to be alive, and took one step after another. Everything.


It’s worth it, because even if I DON’T get the externals, I’ve been true to myself. And nothing in the universe is worth abandoning your heart.






The Morning Ritual, revisited

Here are the basic points of the Morning Ritual, which is one of the three most important pieces of the puzzle, the others being the “Five Minute Miracle” and “The Ancient Child”.  It can be done for 5-30 minutes, but let’s say you’re doing it for 20 minutes.  Scale the times up or down as you wish.


  1. WHILE MOVING (Tai Chi is my own.   Walking, running, Tibetans, Rebounding…lots of possibilities) do the following.  Speak, move, and hold your posture to project confidence and joy:
  2. CHANT  ALOUD AND FOCUS on Your basic faith in your own capacity (I use “Every day in every way I’m getting better and better”)  FIVE MINUTES
  3. CHANT ALOUD AND FOCUS on things from your past and in your present that you feel GRATEFUL for (I am grateful for the trust and love of my family, my mentors and students, a strong healthy body, etc.). Focus on things that make you feel strong, loved, confident.  FIVE MINUTES
  4. CHANT ALOUD AND FOCUS on your future goals, using the SAME confident body language you used talking about past accomplishments.  Visualize what you must do TODAY to make them happen, and see yourself doing these things with joy.  FIVE MINUTES
  5. CHANT ALOUD AND FOCUS again on your confidence in your capacities (“All I need is within me now. All the strength I need is within me now…” etc.) FIVE MINUTES


The point is to FLOOD YOURSELF WITH confidence, joy, gratitude for a few minutes every day. To do this while performing an exercise is fantastically powerful. The voices in your head, the demons in your heart will excoriate you (“who do you think you are?  This is bullshit!”)


The beauty of it is that if you choose the physical activity properly, just the act of doing it is fulfilling one of your goal areas!   The “voice in your head” will be saying “this is meaningless” at the same time that you are doing something meaningful. In other words, you will have LOGICAL CONSCIOUS PROOF that the voices are lying.   Are not you.


I could teach for a year about this.  But at this moment, I don’t believe anyone could do this for 30 days without having a powerful effect.  I DOUBT anyone could do it for even seven days…but I suppose it is possible.   IMO if you have demons that resistant, they will force you to break your word to yourself.And then you will have the opportunity to see, in real time, the very negative patterns that have plagued your life.  For 30 year old Steve, my daily minimums would be:

  1. Sentence a day, 1-4 stories a month
  2. Morning ritual with martial arts and “Zero Net Time” exercise program
  3. Approx  5% of checking account into retirement account weekly.
  4. Five minute daily relationship check-in with closest family.


That would pretty much cover it.   I would know what I need to do on a daily/weekly/monthly basis AND DO IT.  If I fell off one of my daily practices, I’d see the disaster coming a mile away (“I can’t get myself to save!   I’m missing my sentence a day!  I’m not checking in with my wife/girlfriend/family”)   It is a beautiful thing to have a daily practice you can control in a minimum of 5 minutes, that will give you long-term benefits like this.    I’ll answer any questions you have…but this is the basic structure.



(don’t miss the special 66% off holiday sale!)

What was the last movie that taught you something?

“All That Jazz”  may be the last film that ever taught me.   Perhaps.   The story of a man addicted to sex, drugs, and musical theater (line stolen from the great Robert McKee) I walked out of the movie stunned, realizing that that could be my story if I was not very careful.  I decided that very day that the secret to success was obsession, but obsession creates imbalance, and imbalance destroys and denies you the chance to enjoy your success.


So I decided to become obsessive about being balanced.  Ka-ching.  One of those “cubic inches of opportunity” I’ve had in my life. Everyone gets them.   The challenge is recognizing and implementing their implications.



The Way that can be named is not the true Way.  But…by looking at some of the structures and vectors discovered or designed by some of the best, wisest and most successful human beings who have ever walked the planet, as well as the combined wisdom of the tribal elders, we can glimpse it.  Cannot put it into words, no–that would be asking too much of language.  It will not bear the weight.


I like to look at a story from multiple directions.  Each new perspective teaches something different about the story, but the story is not the perspectives or structures.   I can look at it from plot, character, poetics, thematics.  In my head, on index cards, in an outline, as a synopsis, written, oral, visualized, played in my head like music, as a short story, a novel, a movie script.   Every different perspective tells me something different. But the story is always the story. It is like looking in on a fireplace from different windows, through a keyhole, through an open door.   Each perspective is different. The fire is the same, and you have to actually burn to understand its essence.


The martial arts are the same way.  I can discuss them culturally, psychologically, philosophically.  In terms of anatomy, physics, strategy, tactics, integrative lifestyle, practical application, sport, fitness, self-defense, all-out combat, mathematics, and more. Each perspective offers up different information.  But the thing is the thing.


The experience of life is the same.    You have to burn to understand it. And when you do, “you” are not there. “The thing” is there.  This is much the same as sex.  If you can remember your name while you’re orgasming, it wasn’t good sex.  The subject-object relationship must break down, labels disappear.    People who think that labeling things is the same as understanding them are missing it.


But if I break my life down into those components: Body, Mind, Spirit.  Child, parent, grandparent.  Male and female.  Black and white.   Each tells me something different. And while my monkey mind is busy thinking about it, the Truth can slip through the cracks.     They are useful tools, useful distractions, useful lies.


I think the problems of life are like rocks in a white-water rafting trip. They obstruct and constrict the flow of water, and make the ride wild.


The truth always lies between.    People get stuck in the rocks.   Fear the rocks.    Shrink your ego and float past the obstructions.


Come on in: the water’s fine.






(P.S.–what was the last movie that really taught you something, and what did it teach?)


Politics, Facebook, and “Awakening the Kundalini backward”

(Those who admire  the way I think seem to enjoy my explanations of how it works. Those who find my thinking flawed might be interested in the origin of those flaws.  In either case, as Rod Serling used to say, “submitted for your approval…”)



One of my greatest teachers warned of “awakening the kundalini backwards”.    I’ve spoken on this before, but it has an interesting political and philosophical aspect worth unpacking (yeah, I like that word. Sue me).


The “Kundalini” is said to be the intrinsic human energy (similar to but more specific than “ki” or “chi”) which arises when certain conditions are met.  Generally, this involves clearing away fears and blockages on different “chakra” levels, and can be interpreted as resolving issues related to survival, sex, power, emotions, and communication.  It isn’t necessary to consider this something spiritual or esoteric–it is also a nice model of a fully functional human being.  Of the path to using more of your human potential through balanced growth.


The full statement is: “you can awaken the kundalini from the root up, or the heart out, but never EVER from the head down.”


I interpret this as follows: as infants, we start with immediate experience of our environment, learn what causes us pleasure and pain, learn to manipulate and navigate the world, form emotional connections. The emotional connections mature from pure “give me what I want” to, at some point, a sense that the Other–generally Mommy and Daddy, initially, have their own feelings and needs.  Often we do this for our friends BEFORE we do with Mom and Dad, leading to disillusionment when we discover Mom and Dad are ‘just” human.  It is a sign of wisdom when you transition from seeing them as Gods to Humans early in life, with compassion and appreciation.


So…you can begin the process of growth by asking “what is true?” about the world, and learning directly, later forming ideas about what exists, and then comparing your observations and experiences with those of others–study. The mental level. But it is GROUNDED in your actual experience of life.


That’s one way to go. The other is “from the heart out”.  This is to start with an emotional connection with the world, slowly expanding through self-expression and learning to navigate and control your environment.  Coming from love.  The first approach is often coming from fear, however.  There is nothing wrong with coming from fear, as long as you learn to resolve it and see that the other half of the equation is love. And nothing wrong with coming from love, so long as you understand that there are genuinely things to fear.  For instance: starting with the assumption that all human beings are connected, all groups basically equal, but having different experiences that trigger different behaviors.


Both work.


What then does “from the top down” mean?  It means to build a map of reality before you have actually experienced it, and think your concepts trump actual experience.    It is said that the origin of frustration, and the thing that angers people most, is when reality doesn’t match their expectations.   Boy oh boy, is that a risk for people like this!


This is not to criticize intelligence. Intelligence is problem-solving, and great. But WISDOM is knowing what problems to solve, and frankly  one of the most important problems is “how do I get out of my intellectual box and experience life?”


Some of the absolute worst human errors seem to come from this tendency.  Communism, for instance, strikes me as a system that works great if everyone knows each other and volunteers to play the game. But the amount of social engineering necessary to FORCE people into that box?  Ghastly.   It seems to totally ignore actual human psychology:   the average human being simply won’t work as hard for strangers as they will for their own children.


How did such a mistake happen?   I don’t know for sure, but when I studied Karl Marx and learned that from one perspective, his children seem to have suffered hugely while he was spending his days in London evolving a complex philosophy, that  suggested that he and I had little in common on some basic levels.   That from MY perspective, he was disconnected from basic human drives, trying to create a model of the world rather than actually engaging with it.


That he was more connected to his head than his heart.  To his theories than the actual physical realities. And that led him to make a key mistake that, IMO, has led to a vast amount of misery.


He mistook his map for the territory.  His ideals for reality. He tried to re-shape the world based on his beliefs about the way it SHOULD be, rather than asking what it was.


He awakened his kundalini backwards.




There is here a divergence of philosophies.   There are those who believe they can “figure it out.” That their understanding of facts and data trumps the experience of the people who actually experience the life in question.  That might be true if there is a vast difference in intellectual capacity…or might not be true even then, depending on what one considers “knowing.”    A single bite of cake allows you to “know” the cake in a totally different way from absorbing an entire library of information about the history, chemistry, culture, process, or design of cakes.


There is no amount of information about salad I can give you that is as nourishing as actually eating the salad.    Totally different domains of knowledge and understanding.    Absent some huge difference in capacity, I find no practical reason for assuming that an intellectual understanding of something trumps actual experience. And even WITH that huge gap, only a specific selection of values I cannot support would prioritize data over actual being.




Philosophy is primary:  “what is true?”.  Politics secondary “how shall we proceed?”  I dislike politics because I’ve seen it as a corruptive, where people prioritize winning over “what is true?”  Hide information that your “opponent” needs to make their argument effectively.  That’s not something you do if you are interested in truth.  Only “winning” as your highest good explains that.


But there are arenas of my life where I am impacted by politics enough to involve myself. Race is one of them.  And I remember years ago where someone  who was strongly (STRONGLY) politicized tried to tell me that certain perceptions I had of black people were incorrect.   This person knew maybe 5% of the number of black people I did, which meant that he had to consider himself FAR more intelligent than I for him to crunch so much less data but come to better conclusions.   He has the right to that opinion, of course.    But when he actually insisted that my experience was wrong, that I didn’t know what I knew, it was as if you live on a mountain, and someone in the valley insists that there is no mountain.  They KNOW that there is no mountain.


If they know that they are incorrect, this is called “gaslighting.” But I think he was sincere. In which case he was simply deluded.


Much later, I ran across this same phenomenon related to BLM.    When protesters marched or created disturbances, it would in my mind be reasonable for someone to believe they were  behaving badly.   (I don’t necessarily agree, but it is REASONABLE).    It would be reasonable to say that they were even mistaken about the perceived stimulus.


But what I heard was something different: I saw highly politicized people on the Right claiming that it was mere political theater.   Violence stems from anger, anger from fear.   To say “there is really nothing to fear, they are deluded” is one thing.   That can be discussed.


But when you say “they are faking it” you are simply saying they are all lying. And if I happen to AGREE that the protestors are correct that there is an issue…if my wife and her family agree, and my friends, and hundreds of thousands of people connected to me via social media are spontaneously agreeing before the media ever got ahold of it…


You can still argue that we are wrong, that there is no real reason to think there is an injustice. That is a conversation. That can be debated.


But if your position is that we don’t even FEEL there is a problem?   That my perception that there is a BELIEF there is a problem is incorrect..?


Friend, you had better the hell know a LOT of black people to even BEGIN to get me to take you seriously. You’d better have a VAST storehouse of data.   Lots of black friends, in-laws. Grew up in a black neighborhood.  Now you can say: “based upon a huge amount of personal information from people who trusted me, long observation, plus study of surveys across a wide swath of economic and geographical territory, I have formed an opinion I believe informed: that this is political theater.”


Even if your opinion on this conflicts with my own, I’m going to be willing to listen to you. A woman who was raised by her father and brothers, has worked with men, and been married to one for thirty years has, in my mind, the right to argue with me about what men are like, even though she is not a man.   But if she was raised by her mother and sisters, or nuns in a convent, and has barely ever met one?   She can tell me what women think about men, but her opinion about what men are is likely to be more mythology than truth.  And if she is politicized, or immature, or wounded? It will be a very self-serving mythology.


Same with race.  You want to tell me what black people FEEL and THINK about something?   And you’re white?   Welll…if you aren’t surrounded by black people who love and trust you enough to share their real feelings, you might know something about the statistics gathered around their lives, but you don’t know much about how they FEEL about it.  In other words, you can’t tell me that they don’t believe there is a threat.  That they are not afraid.


You might have an informed opinion about whether the threat exists, yes.  But not how they feel about it.


Not one that can compare to mine, if I am actually in a web of association, and that association matches my own experience.


I can understand why you would want me to consider your OPINIONS as important as my EXPERIENCE, but frankly, you are either deluded, or gaslighting.    Or, you think that you are so much smarter or wiser or clearer than me that even with a bare fraction of my data, you are capable of drawing equivalent or superior  conclusions.  IMO…that’s delusion.   I know some very very smart people, far smarter than I.  Not one of them comes close to having THAT much brain-power.


Again, I might understand why you would want to believe that about yourself, but cannot imagine why you would expect me to agree.




Now…to Facebook,  just for fun.  I believe the statistics suggesting that Facebook friend groups tend to be more diverse than real-world friend groups.   Makes logical sense, and matches experience: I can leaf through friend lists of people I know, when I know their web of association, and see that their FB lists are more diverse.  Done this hundreds of times across lines of politics, gender, race, economics.    Countless people have said the same thing about their experience of life.  Logic, experience, and statistics all agree.


Are there going to be cases where this is not true?  Sure.


But you know what?   Every time I’ve had an argument about race, where the person’s perspective on the subjective experience of black people differs from mine, if I look at their friends list..almost nada.  Nothing.    The number of black friends is WAY below statistical probability.


If I point this out, they get testy. Well, that would be easy to understand, from the perspective of that original model: they have formed opinions based on data, not experience.  With their heads, not their hearts or bodies.     If that data is filtered through a political lens, it will be very slanted.  They have constructed their house with warped planks.  And are uncomfortable when they encounter the reality of experience.


That’s not necessarily “true” but it does explain the reaction, and have some predictive capacity.

Posited: if someone disagrees with me on the experience, perspectives and emotions of black people, that person will not know many black people.


Tests out in real life, tests out on Facebook. Not 100% true, but close enough for government work.


Let’s generalize: people who have an interest in something, but no data, will form opinions anyway.  If the issues are emotionalized or politicized they will treat those opinions like truth, and fight to protect them.


Is this exclusive to “the Right”?  Hell no. My teachers said nothing about “Conservatives tend to wake their kundalini from the top down.”  In fact, I’d say that Conservatives tend to do this “from the root up” and Liberals “from the heart out.”  Both work.


What kind of person takes the path I’m considering an error? Very intellectual people.  People who learned early in life not to trust their emotions or even perceptions.


The sad thing is that they cannot hide in the safety of data, because that data was ALSO filtered through emotions and perceptions.  They can run, but they cannot hide.  In a world of infinite data, what you choose to look at and prioritize is influenced by your emotional filters and political beliefs.  And the more painful and powerful those emotions are, the more likely you are to believe they aren’t there.


By the way, if it isn’t obvious, this exact same approach works for gender issues. Harder to do it with LGBT issues, but any issues where familarity with a group is important, and that group is identifiable by sight, it is damned useful and will save you days of pointless arguing with people who “know not that they know not.”



Could I be wrong? Of course!  My error check is that if I’m correct, if my “reality map” is accurate, I’ll tend to reach my goals. Specifically, happy relationships, healthy body, successful career.  Hey, if I get all three, precisely how can my perceptions be so wrong? And even if somehow they are…I win anyway.


So if you think you can “figure out the world” and your mental computations trump my actual experience, please be my guest.   In a few years we’ll meet again, and I’ll ask how your relationships, physical health, and career are doing.   If they are better results than I get, I’ll assume your approach was superior, and be eager to learn your path.


If not?  Ehhhh…not so much.  Goot luck with that, though.


Results matter. Anyone can talk a good game. Anyone can agree with themselves, or create an argument that sounds great.


Unpublished writers lecture bestselling authors on how to write.

Armchair martial artists know just what that fighter did wrong.

People who have been divorced seven times know the “truth” about men or women.


Really, they aren’t worth arguing with on the subject. Might be perfectly nice people, but why would I listen to a virgin talking about sex when there is a hot lady waiting for me in the next room?  Enjoy your theories and data.   I like life a LOT better.







(if this approach to thought appeals to you, you would probably enjoy the free “Seven Day Emotional Diet” available at

Seize every cubic inch of happiness


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




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


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


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

Remember the proper syntax or action:

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


Today, pluck a rose.  And share it.


Happy Thanksgiving!



The “What” and “Why” of Tribe


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


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



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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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

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



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



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


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


Easy Peasy.


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


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


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


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


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


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



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


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

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


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


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





Would you fight harder to protect your “Child” than yourself?

(Note: I realize more every day that there are just a few basic things I learned from my wonderful teachers, that recur over and over.  Attempts to language things that cannot quite be put into words. The “Ancient Child” is one of those.  In a sense, the entire “Five Minute Life Hacks” system is just giving you different diagnostics for the integrity of the Child-Adult-Elder connection.   The following note deals with one of the moments I realized how critical this is.  I think it is pertinent to certain   discussions we are having at this time, as a culture.)

My tribe are the loving, open hearted conscious adult s human beings on this planet.  I don’t care about race, gender, religion, politics or nationality.  If you embrace the universality of humanity, you are my tribe.


100% of my interest is my tribe being safe.  I don’t care what you think about me, so my commitment is to speak the truth, not what is politically correct or emotionally “safe.”   I speak to the ladies and gentlemen who can hear me, and trust that my heart is breaking for all the pain I see. There is an answer.  Many will not want to hear me.   I speak to those who can, and will.




Once upon a time I had a neighbor whose daughter was close friends with Nicki.   This neighbor, call him “Bill”, had a problem with me, one I’m not sure of.  He was trying to push me into a fight.  Called the police on my dog, and then bragged about it, and actually got into a boxing stance and called me out.


Sheesh.  I tried to figure out  what to do.  We were friendly with his family (he mostly got pugnacious when drinking) and while I was at his house one day he mentioned his back was hurting.  Seeing a chance to make nice, I invited him to use my hot tub.   He gratefully accepted.


When he came over to the house an hour later he had an object wrapped in a towel.  It was a hand gun.   He asked me to hold it for him.  He said that he had it because of stress with his boss at work (!)  He then said that I reminded him of his boss…and his boss was “so ugly.”


Oh, my.   Well, THAT was fascinating.  I was in trouble.  I spoke to Swift Deer, who was teaching me Jiu Jitsu at the time, and said that I was stumped.  He was ramping himself up to attack me.   I was having real problems with this, despite all my training, because “I didn’t want to hurt (Nicki’s friend.  Call her Shannon) Shannon’s daddy.


Swift looked at me with pity.  “That’s what he’s counting on, Steve,” he said.  “That’s why he’s going to hurt you.”


I was stunned, and realized he was correct.  This, was serious.    I went home that night in a funk.  I was going to get hurt. Because I didn’t have my emotions behind me.




That night I was in a funk.   I thought for HOURS trying to work through this.  I was going to be hurt.  Why? Because I couldn’t hurt Shannon’s Dad.    Damn!


Then…something happened.  I asked a different question, opened a different door.  I thought:


“He’s trying to hurt NICKI’S Dad.”  And suddenly, something shifted inside me.  I felt something bare its teeth.   “He’s trying to make my daughter an orphan.” That led to: “He’s trying to make my wife a widow.”


And suddenly I had the clarity I sought.   I couldn’t do it for myself.  I COULD do it for my family.   Hell, yes.


Once you connect with that core survival place, all that remains is technique.




I have a friend and teacher who is an amazing martial arts instructor.  He told me a story but didn’t give me the right to use his name in connection with it, so I won’t.  Call him “Doctor Mack”


While Mack is a man of lethal skills, he is more than a teacher of physical techniques, he understands the “mind game” that makes it all work.  And he told me a story once.  He said he was sitting in his office and heard a gruff voice from out in his foyer:  “I wanna talk to the DOC!”


Ego-driven, male-posturing bullshit.   The kind of hierarchical behavior that gets people killed every damned day.


Mack looked at the door, and then at his desk.  He opened his desk drawer and pulled out a gun.  Placed it on his desk.   Imagined the visitor storming into his office, and imagined himself shooting the man right through the head.  Watched his brains splash against the wall and slide down in a mess.


Mack smiled.   Put the gun away.  Then went out to the foyer and had a pleasant conversation with the man, who, surprise surprise, had gentled right down.


The man left, Mack returned to his office, and got on with his day.


Perfect.  How might I apply this?


I imagined him attacking me, with my helpless daughter cowering behind me.  Pure “Daddy” circuitry.  For the first time in my life, I imagined that rabid wolf in my heart, the thing that thrives on martial arts and violent films and imagery, coming all the way out of its cave.


Imagined myself crippling him.  Stomping him.  Enjoying it.


Yes, it sure as hell did.


I luxuriated in that sense for a few minutes, then came out of my office, hugged my daughter, kissed my wife, and walked across the street.   Shannon’s mom opened the door.  “Hello,” I said.  “Is Bill at home?”   Yes, she said, he was in his office.  “May I see him?”


Yes, she said.  And I walked back. Bill was on his computer.   I asked him what he was doing, made polite inquiries into his life, and then after a few minutes said “well, I just wanted to say hello.”


He walked me to the front door, and we said goodbye.


A few weeks later in casual conversation with his wife, she said that after I left Bill turned to her, said “You know?  That Steve Barnes is really a nice guy.”




Do you understand what happened here?  The reason why the “Ancient Child” model of connecting the child, the adult, and the elder is so critical?  How you can use it for self-defense, success, creativity, love?


Does this make sense?


The entire “Five Minute Life Hack” system is just a way to give you hundreds of different “mini-hacks” to work on your mind, your career, your emotions, your sense of love or fear.   You start with a “daily ritual” of action and emotion, see where you stop yourself, and relate it to your child, your adult, or your elder selves.   One of the three, or some combination, ALWAYS has the answer you seek, if you go deep enough. Always.  NO exceptions.


This is why I spend an hour every day communicating about these things.  It isn’t just success, it is also life and death.


You are my tribe.  I want you to live.





Strike Like a Scorpion

For various reasons, I’ve said that LION’S BLOOD might well be the best book I’ll ever write. I wasn’t sure I’d ever be willing to invest that much of myself in a project again. That’s the old “more pain than pleasure” associated with an activity–you cannot do it. But…over the last couple of years I’ve noticed myself consciously thinking and lazily “researching” a restructuring and retelling and re-imagining my Emmy winning Outer Limits episode “A Stitch In Time.” Wondering what I would do with it now. Wondering what I’d have done with it if I’d had a free hand at the time. Knowing that that particular story is owned by the production company, but that there are thematic aspects no one controls but my own heart. And…I’m getting close. I have an eleven-page treatment for a story called “Traveler” which isn’t totally worked out yet, but is one of those “story Steve Barnes was born to write and was born writing” feels about it. Not ready to start writing it yet.


But working.  The “magic” happens when you are totally engaged in the work you CAN do.  Don’t worry about how the world responds, or which ideas you don’t have yet.  If there is a possibility that this idea would be wonderful, I have to orient myself to have the best possible chance to make that happen.


I have to work backwards from the idea: “what if this is the best book I’ve ever written?”


Scary thought. Hard to care that much.   I don’t want to get hurt.


But…if I’m not willing to be hurt, I’ll never feel joy.  You can’t get to “yes” if you are afraid to hear “no.”


So…let me apply the M.A.G.I.C. formula to this.  Remember?


Magic = Action X Gratitude X Intention X Conviction.


I want magic.


Action would be the daily behaviors I would need to take to optimize my chance to create a great book.   That means writing, dreaming, researching, testing, talking.   Coming up with HUNDREDS of creative notions, and knowing when and how to throw them away if they don’t fit.   Reading work that has the texture of the prose I believe would work best for a novel like this.   I’m thinking a combination of Ray Bradbury with more grit, and Chip Delaney without the overwhelming intellectual force.   That might do it.


Gratitude.  To access my creativity, to get beyond any wounds, scars, fears, resentments, fatigue or doubt I have to focus on my “wins” career-wise. I’ve had a ton of them. It is sometimes hard to remember, because I focus on what is missing, what can be improved, and sometimes forget the positives. It is the downside of being an achiever.  I can’t “turn off” the pretender voices, but I can ignore them if I keep my eyes on all the wonderful moments of my career.  I have so much to be grateful for: wonderful reviews and sales and awards and moments with writers I adore who praised my work or told me they believed in me.   So much.  I have to absolutely wash myself in those emotions, allow the little boy inside me to luxuriate in that positive emotion.  You done good, kid!   And the universe has been kind.   Because…if I can feel grateful for what has happened, it gets EASY to find faith in what is to come!


Intention.  This is my desired outcome.  And here…what I want is Legacy. I want to ask myself the question: if there was a book , a story I was born to write, what would it be?  It would be exciting, sexy, thoughtful, intense, action-packed, twisty, contemporary, futuristic, historical.  Would deal with big ideas and broad philosophical positions, with race and gender and identity, with concepts spiritual and mundane.  I have no interest in writing a book unless it has the potential to be the best thing I’ve ever done.  Why bother?


Conviction.  Faith. I have to believe that I CAN and SHOULD set my sights so high. That there really is potential for such a book in me.   That if I bring everything I have, leave NOTHING in the locker room, leave 100% of what I’ve got in the ring…then I can do this.   An all-out, ego-shattering, heart-breaking, gasping, clawing, glorious, bone-cracking head-busting effort. All-out sprint with every drop of heart and head and body I have, as if it is the last thing I’ll ever write.



Can you see how those four things: Action, Gratitude, Intention, and Conviction TOGETHER open the door to the best performance I’m capable of?  How “lucky” you become if you ask the universe for nothing but the opportunity to turn yourself inside-out giving everything you’ve got for a worthy goal? A goal that will destroy who you are, and open the door to what you might become?


THAT is a project worth investing in.    Eleven pages I have right now.   I am going over and over and over it, every day.    One day I will look at it, read it, and every twist and turn, every character, every extrapolation, every notion and emotion will build one upon the other in a cascade, and when I finish reading it I will be shaken.  DAMN, WHAT A RIDE!


Then I will recruit a very very select circle of readers.  People who I trust with the little boy in my heart, and have them read that outline.  They will be writers, experts in specific arenas, friends, family.  Trusted and needed.  I’m thinking possibly two different editors: one to work with me closely, another to take it to a publisher eventually.


And if it passes their smell tests….


I will write a script.  That will allow me to test all structure and character and plot without worrying about the poetry of the interstitial linguistics.   And if it works as a script (which takes much less time to write, word-count wise) then I’ll expand it to a novel.


And if it worked at the outline level, and the script level…it will work at the novel level.  It will be grueling, and terrifying, and exhilarating, and when I’m done I’ll know I did everything I could to bring everything I’ve got.


And if I did it right? The reader will never realize how hard I sweated and bled. It will all seem to flow effortlessly.  Art conceals craft.  You see the Rabbit disappear, not the thousands of hours the magician spent practicing his craft. You see the perfectly timed and focused punch, not the tens of thousands of repetitions that got the master there.


And the ignorant and self-deceiving will say: “ah, talent!”

And the wise will know that I was up early and up late and shivered with fear that I wasn’t good enough have never been good enough, but somehow took another step, another step, another step, another sentence every day…until one day I emerged back into the light, and all was well.


Why?  Because I had faith. How?  By having so much gratitude for what the little boy inside me has accomplished that he was willing to get back out there and give it another shot. Just one more.


Because he knows Daddy loves him no matter what.




I remember when Jason was going to his first Judo tournament.  So long ago.  I think he was seven.   “What if I lose?” he asked me.


I held him and said: “if you do your best.  If you fight fair and hard, and keep your cool no matter what happens…then win or lose, buddy, we’re going for ice cream.”


And he went away, and came back a few minutes later with a fierce little smile.   “I’ve decided,” he said, “that I’m gonna  be very still, but when the moment comes I’m gonna strike like a scorpion!”


He did. He tore the mat up. Kids never knew what hit them.


He had taken action: countless hours of practice.  He had Gratitude for his daddy’s support and for a recent promotion.   He had intention: to act with decisive clarity when the moment came.  And he had 100% Conviction that no matter what, his daddy loved him.




I’m gonna write TRAVELER.


I’m going to strike like a scorpion.







(I’m focusing on the SEVEN DAY MENTAL DIET and M.A.G.I.C. in these talks for a while. If I can communicate their power, I think I can help anyone.   Please join me today at 6pm for another dive into the cauldren!   6pm Pacific,

“Brawl In Cell Block 99” (20017)


The American film that comes the closest to “The Raid” might well be “Brawl on Cell Block 99” starring Vince Vaughn (!) as Bradley Thomas, a small-time criminal and former boxer who has to commit an impossible assassination of a man in a maximum security prison or his wife (Jennifer Carpenter) and unborn child will suffer horribly.   The movie, by “Bone Tomahawk” director S. Craig Zahler, is a slow-burning stick of dynamite, a genuinely nasty piece of work that is beyond “R” level in terms of violence, but a genuinely terrific piece of Grindhouse cinema.  NOT for the faint of heart, as Vaughn plays a man willing to do anything, and I mean anything, to keep his family safe.   Be warned. But…for those looking for the kind of ultra-macho film (with a bit of genuine heart) that Charles Bronson used to make, this is in the same category. The fights look as if they were all done by the actors, and they are more than well choreographed: the face-smashing (and in one notable sequence, scraping), arm-breaking and skull-cracking is…well, it is as revelatory of character and perspective as any Sammo Hung/Jackie Chan work.  Not at the same level of coordination or skill, but Vaughn sells the physicality, handles the choreography just fine, and is doing some career-best acting here.   Sells it like crazy.


Bradley “Don’t Call me Brad” Thomas is a man driven to desperation, a man who is NOT what the people manipulating him think he is, and the gap between what they think and what he is…is the meat of the film.  Dark, violent, oddly touching, and exciting as hell if you have a strong stomach..”Brawl on Cell Block 99″ is the real deal.  An “A” for fans of such things, but the rest of ya’ll?   Stay away.  You’ve been warned.


Available Video On Demand, and on Amazon.



What Can I do?

When I was a kid, (almost) everyone told me that EVERYTHING I wanted was out of reach.

My parents were divorced: I wanted love.

I was small and weak: I wanted to be a martial artist.

My father had failed in his artistic career.  There WERE no black people in SF (so far as I could see).  I wanted to be a writer.

No hope. No role models.   No support.

But my mom played “Think and Grow Rich” and “The Power of Positive Thinking” and “Psycho Cybernetics” and on and on in endless loops and it got into my head.   And I realized that I could never ever quit, or I would lose my dreams and become one of the Walking Dead.

And I learned, and searched, and experimented, and implemented, and taught…and figured it out.  And now it is my turn to share what my teachers shared with me.  That’s what’s left to do, and it feels good, and right.

This is how life is supposed to work.


The  most basic piece of my “Five Minute Life Hacks” system  are:

  1. The establishment of a daily ritual of movement, emotion, and focus, from 1-20 minutes in length.
  2. The commitment to five minutes a day of this AT THE MINIMUM.


If you are in a killer stress tunnel, be sure you take five minutes ONE MINUTE AT A TIME during the day.  If you had the time to read this, but say you don’t have those five minutes: YOU ARE LYING to yourself.


Simple as that.   This is why I break it down as simply as this.  Sixty seconds.

Five minutes.   In one week, six days, you can feel the results from this.


Sixty seconds at a time

Five minutes a day

Thirty minutes a week



You can add more time, more modules. Can decide: “I want to put more focus on my body, my relationships, my writing, my X” and find efficient and effective means to expand. THAT is what the “Five Minute Life Hacks” program is about.


The writer who is full of excuses, with no time, who begins to write just one sentence a day, is part of this.

The parent who begins to spend a focused “Five Minute Achievement Check” is part of this.

The obese person who uses the “Smart Phone Diet” is a part of this.

The person who begins the “Ancient Secret of the Fountain of Youth” does this.


No matter what your concern is, focused on being balanced, and then take the minimum steps to walk that balanced path.  But you must start with committing to helping yourself, and committing to five minutes a day.  That’s the buy in.

It’s part of the trick.  By committing to five minutes, it stops being about how much time you have, or resources you have. It becomes about: WHO ARE YOU?  Do you keep your promises to yourself, or not? Do you tell the truth, or not?

If you don’t…all you have to do is commit to doing so, seek new resources, and try again. And again. You’d do it for your child.  Do it for the kid inside you.


That’s it!  That’s the trick!

You can start with one minute, just to get yourself going.  But the effect starts kicking in at the five minute mark.


I believe you can have the thing you desire most: happiness.   It is not your fault if you don’t have it: the people who taught you didn’t have it, and you were told to spend your intelligence solving the wrong problem. How to be “good at stuff” is only important if that stuff makes you happy.  And the worst of it is that the unhappy people want you to roll over, go back to sleep, and join them in their slow-motion nightmare.


WAKE UP, dammit!!


If you have a reason not to…PLEASE tell me what it is, so I can help you.  TELL ME WHY YOU HAVE THE TIME TO READ THIS, but don’t have five minutes to get focused, fit, stress-free, loving.  Tell me.  And if you have it, and want help creating that basic program, ASK ME.  Or heck, sign up for the free seven-day course at


If you want to go further, if you are really ready, please look at what I have for you at


If you can think of ANYTHING I can do to make things simpler, easier, please let me know.  If I can, I will.


This is about your life, and the fact that it is NOT a dress rehearsal.



It’s Showtime, people!