Winning A Debate With A Racist

I was asked about a group I formed about “winning a debate with a racist”.


“as I recall one of the concepts was that while you may not win over the actual racist, you could win over the people observing the discussion or debate or argument, or am I misremembering?”


Slightly. The trick is that internet arguments are not “debates”. There are no formal rules, no neutral judges, and just engaging is usually wasting your time. You “win” if you remember that there are some battles not worth winning, or Sun Tzu’s admonition that “There is no instance of a nation benefitting from prolonged warfare”

Or, you could look at the Strategic Intervention Technology concept that you don’t engage unless there is a defined and achievable standard for success.  Don’t play a game unless it is possible to win. Remember that trolls win if they can get you to waste your time, because every moment you are wasting it with them, you are NOT moving toward your objectives.

And no, I’m not automatically equating racists with trolls. Racists are people who believe that human worth and capacity is distributed unequally between racial groups. It is just a belief, a perception, a faith. It doesn’t automatically determine character.

However….it is my observation that people who hold those beliefs have to delete far more reality than those who believe in basic equality. They struggle more to make the world fit into their box, and the need to fit reality to their maps can lead to actual emotional illness, anger, fear and retreat into their heads, the only place where the world makes sense any more. It is sad to watch, as they are often quite intelligent. This triggers Troll-behavior.

But back to the point.  I answered:

“Ah, yes! I did have a group that experimented with that. Once I learned what I needed I formulated a simple set of rules for “Social Justice Warriors”, a standard I proudly bear.

1) Love yourself. Self-care is critical.  Respect your time and energy.

2) Love One other person. The primary unit of human life is that mated pair. Deep and multiple reasons why this is so valuable

3) Understand history without guilt, blame or shame. Understanding humanity without blinking gives you the perspective to let today’s news roll off your shoulders.

4) Don’t argue with trolls. Instead, support the people who are already aligned with you. Love them, and let them support you.

5) Win with integrity. Remember that most people, even when wrong, are not snakes or monsters. They are just asleep. Also remember that you might be wrong, and act with integrity and compassion…but also with strength.”


I’ll stand by those five principles, which have served me well.  In fact, the only time they have failed is when my Troll-detection filters have failed me, often because I’m trying to be nice, or dealing with someone with whom I have a long-standing relationship, and I care about them enough to drop my guard a bit.


Its all right. We learn as we go.





The Macro and the Micro

There are, I think, a variety of situations facing humanity as a result of our SUCCESS as a species.


  1. Global Warming. The result of increased population and our search to control more and more of the biosphere’s energetic resources
  2. Overpopulation. The result of improved medical and food production and dominance over predators.
  3. Obesity. The result of severing the connection between calories expended and calories earned, industrialization and so forth.
  4. Gender Parity.  The result of effective birth control, having reached maximum population, industrialization and firearms leveling the playing field.
  5. Racial Parity.  The result of the death of racial mythologies due to actual contact between human groups: enhanced communications
  6. A.I.  The result of the endless human quest to extend our senses and physical capacities with our tools.
  7. Automation eliminating jobs.  The quest to accomplish more and more with less and less human involvement.  For individuals to do what used to require teams and groups.
  8. Pollution.  The result of increased population.


There are others, of course, but it is important to grasp that any or all of these COULD cause real problems, as every one of them upturns individual and social behavior patterns engrained for countless thousands of generation.   Every one of them.


What will happen depends on a couple of questions: what is true? And: Who am I?  They are related but not quite the same.


  1. “What is true” touches on questions of the structure of the universe.  Is it true that human beings are causing a rise in temperature?  That machines could actually behave as if conscious?  That there is a maximum healthy population for the planet?
  2. “Who am I?” is the “what is Man that Thou art mindful of him?” question.  What YOU are relates to what WE are.  Those who believe a “Universal Basic Income” would lead to a vast ocean of idle people either believe THEY, PERSONALLY would be idle, or that “they”, those “beneath” them, would.  Lots of racism and classism there.  Those who believe UBI would lead to a renaissance are the ones who think that THEY, PERSONALLY would take advantage of a “safety net” to learn, grow, explore, create.


Who is right?  Well, human beings have been arguing for a long time about what the basic nature of humanity is, just as we’ve been arguing about “what is true?”  That answer isn’t going to be found here.


But it is important to recognize the actual arguments being made when someone claims to know what is best for humanity. There is a REAL difference between the world views of someone who believes in basic human equality, and those who are tribal and hierarchical.


Note that I don’t say they are wrong. I disagree with them, but am aware you really can’t come to an absolute conclusion…ultimately there is an irreducible measure of faith involved.   You pays your money and you takes your chances.


But these issues are part of our future, and those who have a clear sense of those core answers AND are flexible enough to hear the perspective of the other side will be the most useful in deciding our actions.


Those who learn to recognize the beliefs underlying the political positions, and how people who believe in differential worth will almost NEVER say it out loud, will be useful.  Those who understand that it is possible to push “equality” into a cocked hat, creating a different sort of horror, will also be useful.


The answers will not be in the extremes.  Where are they? Well, again, this stuff has been argued for thousands of years. Your host has no absolute resolution.


I can say that I start…EVERYTHING that I believe starts with the assumption of basic equality of worth and capacity between most groups defined by birth. Not because I know it absolutely, but because I believe the potential for error is smaller, and has impacted my family and myself more than the opposite position.


But I don’t know. It is an ongoing investigation, and I have no reason to believe it can be resolved within my lifetime.


But I can live with myself much more by wasting resources if it turns out equality is NOT the reality than I could by withholding resources if it turns out people DID have equal potential. The level of evil seems to me much lower.


You will have to make your own decision. The only question is: will you make it consciously, and will you be honest once you’ve made it.


The choice is yours





The Power of Love…and Tribe

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

Hang around. You will.



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


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

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

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

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


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




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

Wow. Thanks for that news flash.

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

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


Sad, and dangerous.


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


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

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

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

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

Damned sure different result.

Are we understanding each other yet?

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

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


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




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


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



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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


They HATE that, don’t you know?






Millennial Woes

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





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


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



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


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


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

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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



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


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


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


Breathe. Love.


But protect yourself.






Happy Independence Day!




  “Good morning. In less than an hour, aircraft from here will join others from around the world. And you will be launching the largest aerial battle in this history of mankind.

Mankind — that word should have new meaning for all of us today.

We can’t be consumed by our petty differences anymore.

We will be united in our common interests.

Perhaps its fate that today is the 4th of July, and you will once again be fighting for our freedom, not from tyranny, oppression, or persecution — but from annihilation.

We’re fighting for our right to live, to exist.

And should we win the day, the 4th of July will no longer be known as an American holiday, but as the day when the world declared in one voice:

“We will not go quietly into the night!

We will not vanish without a fight!

We’re going to live on!

We’re going to survive!”

Today, we celebrate our Independence Day!”


I flat-out LOVE ID4.  It is the epitome of cheese, but announces its intent when it plays “It’s the end of the world as we know it” over the initial scenes.  In some senses it isn’t a movie as much as a checklist of tropes, a “greatest hits” of all the things we’ve ever loved from alien invasion movies.


But…if you think it isn’t SF, I think you’re missing something. One of the most consistent tropes in science fiction is the notion that “If the aliens attacked, all mankind would drop their differences and pull together to defend Earth.” I submit to you that ID4 is the first movie or depiction of this idea that actually believed it.


I find that a fine notion. That most of our differences are petty tribal squabbles, only important if there are no higher values on the table.


Well…we have higher values on the table. Our survival as a nation, as a planet, as moral and ethical beings capable of rising above basic animal concerns.  Our ability to rise to the heights of possibility, embrace freedom, live up to the dreams our ancestors dared to dream…even though they often could not live up to them themselves.


Today, remember the sacrifices of those who came before.

Today, honor the men and women who fought, and loved hard, and prayed their children would enjoy a world in which poverty is measured by obesity rather than starvation.

Today, hold those who are dear to you, and take some time to just…relax. Be.

Grill those burgers, watch those movies, play on that beach, kiss your sweetie, watch the sunset and relish the explosions, the bombs bursting in air that symbolize the destruction we were willing to risk to create a world worth passing to our grandchildren.


The struggle is real. And so are the rewards.  Tomorrow, it is back to the fray. Today, relax and renew.


“We will not go quietly into the night!

We will not vanish without a fight!

We’re going to live on!

We’re going to survive!”

Today, we celebrate our Independence Day!”



Steven Barnes


The Danger of “Woker Than Thou”

I had a friend. White guy.   Brilliant writer, Liberal activist.  Nominated for high awards in his field, but certain that he knew what was right.   In a discussion of black voters, he was certain that they were voting against their own intents in a particular sense.   When I suggested that he ask them what they wanted, he was so certain he knew what was right that the very suggestion seemed to agitate him.

This happened quite a bit. How dare I not accept he knew what was good for black people better than they did?  Or I did?   He just felt he knew, to the point that he denigrated black people who disagreed with him.   He actually stalked me around Facebook, arguing with me about everything I said, until one day I challenged his “wokeness” and reminded him that our first conversation had been about his decision to “whitewash” a character in a  literary work he wanted to adapt.   I’d understood his position, but it was hardly earning a certificate of Honorary Negritude.  He blocked me pretty fast, and that was the end of that friendship.

Oh, well.  Toxic is as toxic does.


A couple of days ago I questioned a   meme about how Democrats don’t care about the safety of immigrant children, suggesting that the children themselves, and their parents, would be the best people to ask to determine what they want IF their welfare is the question.


Just today, in a conversation about arranged marriages in Islamic cultures, amid a bit of hand-wringing I suggested the same thing: talk to the women and see their opinions about it.


Oddly (to me) there was resistance to both notions.   I’m afraid that I don’t trust people who think they know what is good for you better than you do.  Sure, sometimes they are right, but some really ugly shit happens when people think they can torture you to death for the sake of your soul, enslave you to civilize you, rape you to teach you love, throw you in a re-education camp to make you a happier citizen.


Tell you that your culture is wrong.


Is “Stockholm Syndrome” a real thing?  Sure.  But slaves were taught they were subhuman, and they still ran away often enough that slave owners had to create “Draptomania” to explain why those pesky, unappreciative Negroes kept running away. Needed Night Riders and Fugitive Slave Laws and whipping runaways to death to stop it.  And former slaves joined the Union Army in droves to free their cousins and get payback.  And clearly documented the horrors they had suffered.


Talk to them.  Be sure you’re away from the thumb of the oppressor when you do it, and you might need to actually respect them, gain their trust and rapport.  But trust that people know what is good for them.


Otherwise, you risk playing the precise same game as someone who abuses you for your own good.  And that…is the road to monstrosity.




People ask why I dialogue with snakes and monsters.  Can you really wonder when even my “allies” think they’re better than me?   Who the #$%% was I supposed to talk to, when I’ve always been  surrounded by this crap?

Also… I am committed to survival, and if tigers talked, it would be wise to speak to them.  Behind bars or with your rifle handy, of course.


Is there anything going on with immigration that hit me harder than, say, Trayvon Martin?  Nope.  Or a thousand other insults I heard about half the country excusing or even praising?  Nope.


So…I was supposed to spend my life in a sense of burning outrage?  Anyone want to guess what that would do to my blood pressure?  My sense of joy in life?   And unless I am applying those emotions directly to an action, would I be accomplishing anything other than killing myself young, as countless black men have for centuries?


Sorry, I won’t collaborate in my own destruction.   I’m sure that disappoints some of you, but that’s the biz.


If you are in a war…if the situation is real, life-threatening, not some bullshit game…


You stay calm. Gather information.  Know your opponents.  Train and nurture your troops.  Define victory. Built alliances.  Pick your battles.


And…love your family. Raise your children well.


Frankly, sometimes I watch people run around screaming, and wonder why they weren’t paying attention before. Precisely when was life great for everyone?   Where was this magical land and time?


If you are just waking up, congratulations and welcome to the real world.  But I woke up in first grade, when the white teachers sorted us into reading groups based on race.   A horrible thing for a child to realize, that young, that the people you are supposed to trust think you are sub-human because of your skin.  And these really were NICE people.  Just trying to help.   People have tried to get me to go back to sleep many many times. I won’t.   Now, I’m quite sure I’m oblivious about many topics.  I’d have to be.  But on this one…I’m pretty sure I’ve been paying attention.

But if you just woke up, please don’t assume I’m still dreaming.  I haven’t had that luxury since I was seven years old.










There is a story about a game preserve in Kenya. The young bull elephants were running amok, attacking the females, tearing down buildings, and threatening humans.  One set of administrators advocated shooting them.  But a game warden had a radical notion: there were no older bulls, and without them, the young bulls had no guidance for their behavior.    They trucked in older bull elephants from another preserve.  And in short order the older bulls had dominated the young ones, corrected their behavior and gentled them down. All was well, the natural order restored.




The link above leads to vileness.   I can understand why it would be easy to consider these men inhuman.  Frankly, I’ve had the precise same thoughts when strolling through racist forums, where men and women (disproportionately but not exclusively men) say even worse things about blacks.  And IMO the vileness comes from the same space: fear.


The answer is the same, as well: strength and love.


There are things to be said about this being a “human” problem, and it is.  But MORE of this problem is about male-male transactions, especially laying out road maps for navigating the maze to get the relational cheese.  Fathers, grandfathers, and men who have “solved the maze” of healthy, passionate, lasting relationships need to speak up and stand up.    These Incel guys are clueless, and frightened of the degree to which the world is changing/has changed/will continue to change. No going back.




I would say that 80% of the real problem is in 20% of these guys.  The other 80% can be reached.   EVERY human being is motivated by pain and pleasure.  Every human behavior, no matter how terrible, is ultimately a cry for connection with a deep wellspring that some call “God” and others might simply call “peace.”  Yes, I suggest understanding, and compassion.  Always have about racism, and can see even less reason to consider sexists outside the human species.


Yeah, I’m bundling them: want me to consider men evil?  I’ll raise you drawing the same conclusion about Caucasians.   Don’t start nothin’, won’t be nothin’.


We are what we are, as a species. We want the same things.  What we’re seeing is the cost of upsetting an order that has existed for generations, and in all probability, EVERY time you get a sea-change like this, there is push-back, and panic, and anger, and the potential for violence.


The solution is love.  But…FIRST the solution is strength.   Be safe.   And then, come love, to love yourself enough to hear what people are saying without accepting guilt, blame or shame. That’s their shit.  But you’d better understand your opponents, or you are helpless to affect their behavior.   Even if you thought they were animals, hunters understand the psychology of their prey if they want to eat. Soldiers must understand the psychology of the enemy if they want to survive.


Know your enemy and know yourself, one can go through a hundred battles without danger.  Know not the other, yet know yourself, the chance of victory is only half.  Know not your enemy, and know not yourself, every battle is certainly a defeat.”–Sun Tzu


This is human stuff, things we’ve dealt with since the beginning of time: violence stemming from anger stemming from fear.  Those who need to demonize the broken souls will not be a part of the answer. The answer will be implemented by those who see the abnormal as on a continuity with “normal” ranges of human thought and action, who can see where these young men have gone wrong, what they are really saying behind the bravado and venom.  If you can’t see that, then I don’t blame you for simply consigning them to another species.


I don’t have that luxury.  Never did.  And cannot do it now.







A Letter To My Younger Self

I’m finally creating my full Morning Ritual program.  Part of what I need to do is unpack it so that I can really understand why so many of my teachers insisted on a Daily Ritual of physical motion, emotion, and mental focus across a balanced set of goals.  The Morning Ritual is magic, a body-mind sigil of transformative power.  It doesn’t care if you believe it works, only that you do it. If you do, you will change.

This morning’s thoughts deal with a tiny piece of that puzzle that transformed me.



I’ve talked about the fact that it took me seventeen years to earn my first black belt, due to bullying in my childhood.  And that it was a simple visualization exercise performed for a couple of months (visualize a glass tube filled with water. Glitter is suspended in the water, swirling. Watch until it all settles) that set me free.


And what I saw was that fear wasn’t the problem, it was (as Terry Letteau had said) lack of clarity.  I thought that the fear MEANT something.  That I was small, or weak, or cowardly. That I couldn’t, or shouldn’t, or mustn’t.  I had experienced not just fear, but guilt, and shame, and confusion, and other secondary emotions, each of which drained away the energy I needed.


If I’d had the resources THEN that I have NOW?  Simple.

  1. I would have realized that what I was experiencing was an emotional storm designed by my ego to protect itself.
  2. I would have used “the Spider Technique” in my heavy-bag workouts.  Basically, spend ten minutes imagining the toughest guys at my school cleaning my clock, beating the hell out of me.  And then…work on the bag, working myself into a lather for 15 minutes until I entered second wind.


Just do these two things, and I’m using my fear to power my practice, raising my game. That is what fear is SUPPOSED to do–“Fight or Flight”, remember?  Aid in your survival by making you more prepared for combat, or fleet in escape.


Depression, from this perspective, is fear with no one to fight and no where to run.




I was in an emotional knot for SEVENTEEN YEARS because none of the therapists, gurus, biofeedback specialists, coaches, or instructors understood the body-mind as deeply as I needed.  There were answers…I just hadn’t found them. And once I did, it was obvious I’d been pushing a door marked “pull.”  There really are answers.  You just need to believe that, and keep asking until you find someone who can help you.



But there is another question: WHY COULDN’T I QUIT?  Why?  If I believe that we seek pleasure over pain (and I do, totally) then wouldn’t the sensible thing to  have done is just stop spending time, energy, sweat blood and money to practice odd Asian arts of…well, of hurting people?  WHY DID I KEEP AT IT?


I remember CLEARLY driving down La Brea avenue in Los Angeles, tears streaming down my cheeks, totally miserable, and praying “God, will you either take away my urge to practice these arts, or just let me do it???  Please??”


I couldn’t stop.   I couldn’t go forward.   WHY COULDN’T I STOP?


I know now.  I didn’t then. Man, I wish I could send a note back to myself when I was about twenty-five.  This is what I would say:


Steve, this is your future self.  I know you feel emotionally trapped.  Let be explain what is happening to you.  When you were a kid, your Dad wasn’t in the home, and you had no brothers or uncles to explain male hierarchical behavior to you. Those bullies? They don’t hate you.  They’re just looking for where they sit on the hierarchy of power, which will influence the money they earn and the women they can attract.    THEY ARE AFRAID they will be low. May have been told that at home, or by society. So they will step on you if they can, just to raise themselves up.  If you’d kicked their ass back behind the gym?  Most of them would actually relax, knowing where they are, and make their peace with it.  A very few would keep coming at you. An even smaller percentage would try to snake you when your back was turned…but that can be dealt with, too.


What is important for you to know is that it wasn’t your fault.  You took it the wrong way. In some ways, the negative attention was a complement.  They KNEW there was something special about you, and had to try to take you down. What they sensed, but could not understand, is that you won’t be stopped.  Won’t quit.   Ever.   They hungered for that, and I promise you that if you encounter ANY of those guys twenty years after high school, not one of them will have kept the dreams they had in school. 


You, on the other hand, will.   That’s who you are.


Why?  Because at some point in your life, you made a decision: “I want an authentic life.  Not an easy one.”


Understand that?  Your entire experience of existence is built around answering two questions: “who am I?” and “what is true?”


And you understood long ago that the kinds of men you respect, and the kinds of women you desire, will not be attracted to you if you cannot be authentic. And you have identified an area where you lack authenticity.   You are an intellectual head case with scrambled emotions that prevent you from having a direct, simple connection to your animal survival drives.   SOMETHING HAPPENED TO YOU along the way: you had pain, fear, shame and a warped, twisted view of yourself hammered into your nervous system.  You found out that if you put your head up, you became a target.  You are very very smart, but afraid to really shine: your Mom, bless her heart, helped to imprint that self-doubt on you as an attempt to protect you from a racist world.  DON’T BE TOO EXCELLENT. “THEY” WILL KILL YOU.   When people mock the ‘don’t achieve’ meme in some inner cities, they never ever ask why that belief exists. How it protects from pain.


How is it protective?  Because there really are people that would threaten your life if they could.  Some are white, afraid of your mind. Some are black, who have internalized racist standards, are afraid to even try to achieve, and are intimidated by anyone who shakes off those chains.


But here is the truth: you MUST be the best you can be.  You must grow up, wake up.   Because otherwise the forces of evil win.


And you cannot allow that.   You could write and be a great writer.  You could marry and be a decent husband and loving father.  But if you never make your body alive, never reclaim that part of your psyche that is pure primal male animal…first of all you will NEVER attract and hold a primal female animal (and you know damned well that’s what you want) because you will never know who you are.


You will never have access to all your emotional and physical energy: you will have access to PART of it, but skitter back from the full “white light” of human experience, the balance of human and animal, male and female that actually drives excellence, creativity, sexuality…everything.


You were programmed by your society to be a partial human being.  But the other thing your Mom gave you was a connection to Spirit.  You sense that you were born to be more…we ALL were.  That anything less than the best we can be is a denial of life.  You crave an answer. When you see masterful martial artists, you know you hunger for that kind of confidence and power. For the way others, male and female, respond to such men.  And if you don’t discover how close to it you can come, you will have cheated yourself.


When faced by a choice of ‘should I try?” “Should I have goals that large?” Ask yourself one simple question:


How long am I going to be dead?

And…armed with the answer to that question, dare to pursue your dreams. ANY dream that anyone else has ever accomplished with roughly your resources and origin point is possible.  You cannot live a life small enough that death will not notice you.


You wonder if the struggle can possibly be worth it.   The answer is: yes. There is NOTHING more important than knowing who you are.  Completing yourself as much as possible in the one life you have to live.


There’s this thing called the Spider Exercise I want you to try…


And know that when you are on the other side of this problem, you will understand yourself, and human beings, in a way few do. Because most people turn back from the challenge of shedding their skin and being reborn. They identify with their histories, or their emotional storms, rather than their true Self.


Do this thing, and what you learn along the way will be able to help people in a way, with a clarity and power you cannot dream of.  YOU WILL KNOW things that theorists can’t dream of.  Because because of your past, martial arts are a cauldron for you, a forge that tests your heart in ways that no one who can practice it easily and simply could ever do.  You may not be the “fighter” they will be…but you will learn to fight for the things that are most important to you: honor, dignity, truth, love…and be as lethal IF THOSE THINGS ARE AT STAKE as any of them can be.  But most of them will never learn this, because they are blinded by the prizes along the way, the trophies, titles, and money, which are fine as long as you don’t lose your perspective on what is really important:


The Two Questions: ‘Who am I?” and “What is true?”


Who are you, Steve? 

A damned fine answer:   You are a human being, standing in the center of a wheel of archetypes, all the potentials of life. Healer. Artist. Lover. Teacher. 




 What is true?  That you like all animals was born with an innate instinct to preserve personal and genetic life.   And that ANYTHING scrambling that signal is an interruption of a billion years of evolution, millions of generations of creatures who could hunt, fight, or evade predators surviving to have sex and reproduce. It is your heritage, your terrible birthright, just as is the tenderness with which you hold a newborn child. 

The two are linked. The children are not safe, unless someone can face the wolves.


 Keep going, Steve.   What you feel, what you are, is part of that authentic journey.  Keep asking your questions: you will find the teachers you need.  Keep loving, and hoping and striving, and at the end of life, either you will have missed your goals but had an amazing ride…or you will realize that your life has been more than a blessing to yourself and others, it has paid respect to the uncounted generations of men and women who came before you.


 You stand on their shoulders, and can therefore see further.


You have no right to quit.  You have an obligation to discover everything you can be and have, and do in the world if it is in alignment with your values and ethics.


 Go for it, young man.  The world is yours.


 And that primal woman you seek?  She’s looking for you. How can she find you if you do not shine?






Cliff Stewart Day

“Our very dear friend and martial arts icon, Maha Guru Clifford Stewart is going to be honored at the Martial Arts History Museum in Burbank next Saturday, June 2nd from 4:00-6:00pm.

If you’ve never been to the museum, this is the perfect opportunity to check it out and enjoy an afternoon of honoring a true giant among men.”



I will be there.  Let me tell you why.  Sit back a while: this will take some time.




Let me tell you a little about what I owe Cliff Stewart.  First, let’s get it out of the way: he is a genuine martial arts master, with FIFTEEN advanced black belts, as well as real-world experience as the bodyguard to Muhammad Ali, Wesley Snipes, Joan Collins, and Mr. T.  As Peter O’Donnell (“Modesty Blaise”) said about the most dangerous villain in the entire series, Simon Delicata: “Built like a rhino and moves like a cat.”


Can we move on?  No? How about the time he was mugged by three armed men at two o’clock in the morning outside a 7-11?    Mas Ayoob, one of the greatest combat pistol shooting instructors in the world, wrote the forward to Cliff’s book on bodyguard tactics, and describes the incident as   “a critical failure of the victim selection process.”  When the police arrived, so much damage had been done to the three men that they refused to believe a single unarmed man could have done it. Fortunately, Cliff’s brother was a police sargent on duty at the time. They called him and told him that Cliff had been attacked by three men. All the brother said was: “how badly did he hurt them?”


Yes, Virginia, there really are human beings that dangerous.  And in my experience, they are also some of the sweetest, warmest people in the world. Because when you have made peace with your fear, all that remains is love.   Cliff has that Buddha Baby nature, a wisdom and calm that must be earned, cannot be assumed.  While a phenomenal technician (you should see him explain how to destroy a body’s structure.   Just genius) the only time I’ve ever seen that “killing flare” in his eyes was on two occassions.  On one, someone mentioned a man who had hurt a child.  In the other, someone mentioned someone who had hurt a woman.


Dear God in heaven.   Something SHIFTED in the back of his head. Suddenly, a 240 pound PREDATOR was in the room, and it was terrifying. Just for a moment.  Then…it was gone.




I don’t remember when I first met Cliff, but he was one of the founding members of the Black Karate Federation, formed in the 60’s to push back against racist judges who would refuse to call points on black competitors.  (On one notorious occasion, Chuck Norris was present at a fight where Steve (Sanders) Muhammad scored on the “Champion” again and again and the judges ignored it until Norris, bless his heart, stood up and screamed “give that man his God Damned points!”


Yes, I know Chuck is a little problematic these days. But I loved him for that.


Anyway, yes, things were that bad, and “Big Cliff” Stewart was one of the young men who got sick of it and did something about it. The sight of a hundred young men and women marching into a tournament in military synchrony singing “I don’t know but I been told, BKF fights mighty bold!” changed the California martial arts scene in the early 70’s. Oddly, we started getting our points called.  Strange how that happens.


Anyway, he was a big dog, I was a newbie, but when I ran into him twenty years later in Pendekar Paul De Thour’s Penjak Silat school in Arcadia, he remembered me.  I saw him move with uncanny power and precision there. The man was terrifying…but so funny it was impossible to be intimidated.


I moved away from California up to Washington for almost ten years, and while I was there studied with Stevan Plinck (another giant.   Nothing but love and respect for him and his family), and by the time I came back to California I wasn’t sure I would continue to practice the arts. I felt…oddly stalled.   As if perhaps I’d gotten everything I was going to get from them.  I had two black belts, a brown belt, twenty years of Tai Chi, ten years of Silat and three years at the Inosanto Academy under my belt…but didn’t know what to do next. Maybe nothing.


That changed when I taught a   writing workshop at the Screenwriting Expo in L.A.  A very attractive young black woman was sitting in the packed room, and next to her was a large black man who seemed familiar, but I couldn’t place.    She was Karen Dean, California State Women’s Judo champion (and a hell of a belly dancer!) and beside her was…Cliff Stewart.   He re-introduced himself, and we hit it off instantly.


In life, they say, from time to time you get a “cubic inch” of opportunity. You either grab it…or it is gone forever.  This was one of about ten such moments I’ve had. The creation of “Lifewriting” was one.  Meeting Tananarive was one. This was on that level.


I asked them to dinner, and Cliff accepted.    When they came to the house, man, it felt so wonderful, so natural.   I showed him around (I was so happy.  He looked at my office with the kettlebells and clubbells right next to my and he said: “this looks like a MAN’S office.”  Damn, I didn’t realize how badly I needed that validation) and when he asked about my martial arts practice, and how I felt stalled, he thought carefully and said:  “Steven, I am going to complete your training.”


And…damned if he didn’t make good on that.  For the next couple of years I drove out to his house, where he conducted what he called his “master class” for a few chosen students.  And there, he continued teaching me Pentjak Silat, with a touch of Within Arms Reach, his bodyguard art.   Wonderful stuff, designed to deal with a threat in front of you if you cannot use footwork and lateral movement: your client is cowering behind you.


So much what I call “good,  evil fun.”




There was stuff going on inside me, though.  I remember being in a kempo karate school, and seeing a wall chart of the various black belts descended from Master Ed Parker.  Branching off from Chuck Sullivan and Danny Inosanto (Danny taught for Parker before meeting Bruce Lee) was…Steve Sanders.  I looked at the list of formidable black belts (what a school!  At one point in the late 70’s/early 80’s SEVEN out of the top ten competitors in the California-Nevada-Arizona tri-state area were all this one man’s students!!!) and realized what was wrong.


Despite everything I’d done, and how much I’d changed myself from the little four-eyed pot-bellied nerd who had so prayed to be strong…I felt like a failure.  I had never gotten more than a green belt from Steve, the greatest karate man I’d ever known.   I realized that despite the wonderful martial artists I had known since, HE was the standard in my heart.  And I didn’t measure up.


No offense meant to the other instructors, who were wonderful and helped me along the path, but I realized that I would give up all my rank to be so much as a brown belt in Steve’s system.  I found myself speaking that painful truth to Cliff one day when we were alone.


Why hadn’t I earned higher rank with Steve, he asked.


I sighed, and told the truth.  “I was just too intimidated by the young warriors in that school.”  They were too fast, too tough, too aggressive.   I just couldn’t handle it.


And…Cliff laughed in my face.  “Oh, Steve,” he said.  “They weren’t warriors. They were ATHLETES, playing warrior games.  They would have been good at anything: hula hoops, basketball, or break-dancing. They just happened to be doing karate.  A warrior is someone whose word is good. Who stands for his community. Who raises his own damned children.”


And…just like that, my heart healed. For the first time in my life, I understood why Steve Sanders had always welcomed me back to the school after I dropped out. Again and again.  Why so many wonderful martial artists had been kind to me, had accepted me in their circles. I hadn’t been one of their great fighters.


What I HAD been is sincere. I had never, ever been able to just have fun practicing. Every time, every class, it had felt like dying.   Like crawling across broken glass to get something I desperately needed.  I remember driving down La Brea avenue, tears streaming down my face with shame and guilt about being unable to return to the school to get a jacket I’d left in absolute terror someone would ask me to spar with them.  Why did they want to spar with me?  BECAUSE I WAS GOOD.   But I couldn’t see that. Too much pain and fear.


And through my tears I asked God “Please. Please.  Either let me just practice this art…or take away my urge to practice it.  I’m dying.”


I knew that if I didn’t keep going, I’d never be complete.  Never be the kind of man I wanted to be. But Lord…it hurt so much.


And my instructors had seen it.  They knew was I was. That unlike the “athletes” for whom this was entertainment, or self defense…this was life and death for me.  That every time I came to class, I was laying it ALL on the line.  I was offering everything I had.  And ultimately, all it takes to get everything you need…is everything you’ve got.




So Cliff asked me what I wanted, and I told him: to be part of Steve’s lineage.  Whatever that might mean.  I know that champions had come to Steve for rank, and he had turned them down if they were unworthy. Whatever he said about my ability, I knew would be true.  So Cliff said that Steve, who had retired to Atlanta, would be in town to conduct a workshop for the Whipping Willow Association, and suggested that I go to him and plead my case.


So…swallowing my heart, that’s what I did. Just about ten years ago, it was.  I had seen Steve a few times over the decades, and he’d always been friendly and warm to me.  But when I explained what I wanted: for him to evaluate my skills and tell me where I stood, I was so scared I wanted to vomit.


He was an older man, but still a lion tamer, and conducted a BKF meeting with the kind of power and authority he had held thirty years ago.  After the meeting, he said that at some point in the weekend, we would go off someplace quiet, and he would evaluate me.


Cool.   His workshop was brilliant (of course) but there was something interesting about the Whipping Willow association’s gatherings. There would be a dozen masters there, teaching in rotation.  When not teaching, most of them would hang out outside talking to each other, smoking, or whatever.  Not Steve. He would attend whatever other workshops were being taught.   I watched people pair up in one of these, and NO ONE wanted to work with him.  Too intimidating.


So…I asked him if he’d like me as a partner.  He readily agreed, and for the next two hours or so…we played.  Oh, it was glorious.  I was able to watch the way he integrated new information, and make it his.   Wow.   THAT is a nervous system. THAT is a warrior’s mind.  And yeah, he’s a warrior in any definition you choose, from being Force Recon in Viet Nam to the Sheriff’s department, to being a pioneering karate champion to transforming generations of boys and girls into men and women, to transforming street gang toughs into solid citizens with nothing but the force of his will.  The man is just…extraordinary.


We PLAYED.  And I was so happy I forgot why I was there, and just enjoyed the fact that my martial journey had taken me places his had not, and I was able to show him some things he hadn’t seen. Was able to dance with Fred Astaire, who, it is said, was performing with Barrie Chase on a television special and when they hit “The Zone” together was whispering under his breath:   “NOW you’re dancin’!”


We were dancing.




I saw Cliff a few weeks later, and he asked me how things had gone. Embarrassed, I realized that my ego had tricked me: I had never asked Steve what he thought of me.  Cliff just about put me over his lap.   “Will you CALL the man?”


Sheepishly, I did.   And boy, my heart was in my mouth. Again.  I stumbled out what I wanted: some kind of evaluation of what I was.  I had no idea, didn’t know where I was on the map. And humbled myself, praying that the news wasn’t too bad.


So…what did he think?


“That is so interesting, Steve,” he said over the phone.   “I was talking to Brian Hudley, who runs the school out here with me.  And told him that while I was in California I encountered a former student, Steven Barnes. And that in the intervening years…he has become…proficient.   And I was wondering if you would accept a fourth degree black belt from us.”


I was thunderstruck. I had no words, no slightest way to respond, except to whisper…”yes.”


Which is how, six weeks later, I knelt in Steve’s home dojo and received the single greatest honor of my life. I still carry that black belt with me in my backpack, everywhere I go.   To remind me of what it cost to become who I am, and to never, ever, ever go backwards, and to never allow my fear and doubt to stop me. And never, ever forget the kindness of the men and women who SAW me, who looked past the weakness to the strength, and helped me bring it forward into the light.


Whenever people wonder why I care so much, why I take time to help whenever I can, this is why.  Because of people like Steve Muhammad.


And like Cliff, who long ago said a few simple words: “I will complete your education.”  And kept his word.


What a human being. What a man.  I am so proud to be his little brother. And will always try to measure up.


Big shoes to fill.






Escaping an ego trap

I noticed that yesterday I commented on a political thread when someone got their facts wrong, and he responded with insult.  Immediately, I felt a “flash” of emotion, and began to engage.


I noticed myself looking for all the usual things: his underlying beliefs, any logical inconsistencies, assumptions, and so on.  But there was something lurking in the back of my head.  On some level, I was thinking Sun Tzu: there are battles it is not worth fighting.  It was as if someone had called me a bad name, and I’d gotten into a fight with them when I was supposed to be on my way to a parent-teacher meeting at Jason’s school.   Yeah, I might win the fight…but wasn’t I really losing just by participating?  Hadn’t I allowed an “emotional flash” to short-circuit my logic, taking me away from my goal?


Welll…let’s take a look at that.  How can I figure out when I’ve gotten off track?


Remember the RPM system:   WHAT you want, WHY you want it.  Only then does HOW to do it have the slightest meaning.


So…what is my long term goal?  Medium (5 year and 1 year) and short term (monthly) and daily goals?  Remember that they all have to be in alignment with my values, and plausibly be steps in that direction, and BANG.  I have the enthusiasm and clarity to accomplish them.


Facebook communications are ways to speak to my tribe, as well as learn to identify arguments and conversations that are positive and productive.    What works? What doesn’t work?  It is also a way to identify arguments that lead to negative outcomes.  For instance, the “Irish Slaves” comment never ever leads to anything positive: you are dealing with someone who is using an overly broad definition of a term, as well as being ignorant of history.  They may be innocent but misinformed (“asleep”)–but they are also running the ball down the field so that snakes can try to get it across the goal line (“see, white people did fine with slavery. Something must be wrong with black people.”)  As IMO this is not a logical but an emotional/faith-based position, it is virtually impossible to get someone to “change their mind” and any argument intending to do this is 99% wasted time and energy.  If you identify the argumentation chain early, you save a LOT of time and energy.


There are lots of clues like this related to highly politicized subjects, where underlying beliefs masquerade as logical positions.   AVOID THEM.


There are also people who simply see the world differently.   Again, unless they are willing to discuss politely to build bridges of communication…WHY are you engaging with them?


Critical questions.   This person saw the world differently, AND was rude.  So…there was little chance that there was going to be a positive outcome there.  If I have finite time during the day, and a definite goal for the day that furthers my long-term outcomes, does this conversation move me in that direction…SQUIRREL!!!!!


In other words, no.  But it is IMPERATIVE RATHER THAN IMPORTANT.  It hit my emotions (the insult) and tripped my competitive sense without offering any positive outcome.  Is there ANY chance something positive would come out of it?  Sure.   But that’s like saying playing slot machines sometimes pay off, so why not spend the day at the casino rather than going to work?


WHAT is the most important thing you want from today? What is the most important thing you can achieve today?


You should know this.  Spend time defining your long-term outcomes so that you can ask yourself, every day, what the most critical thing to do TODAY might be.    The WHAT and the WHY.


Then…be sure that everything you do, or at the very least everything that requires more than X minutes, is a step in that direction.   No?  Then why are you doing it?  Ego?   Competitive nature?  Anger? Fear?


Put that anger and fear in the right place.  In sports, you have people on a team who are high and low value. The low-value players will sometimes insult and provoke high-value players on the opposing team, to see if they can get them to violate rules and get them kicked out of the game.   Sure, the low-value players might get kicked out too, but it is trading pawns for knights.  Good trade.


The same with people who get you upset, get you to waste your time and energy.  If the conversation is pointless, they win simply by getting you to engage.   You lose simply by engaging beyond your threshold.


So…wow.  Easy to get distracted.   How do you avoid this trap?


  1. Be clear on your long-term outcomes
  2. Be clear on what you need to do today to bring them into existence.
  3. With everything you do, know WHY you are doing it.
  4. If you are motivated by ego or negative emotions, refine your “executive function” so that you recognize it.
  5. CHANGE YOUR STATE.  If you are getting sucked in, change your physical posture and movement (stand up, stretch, change your breathing, walk around the room), change your focus, change your internal language (check in. If you are thinking “I’ll get that S.O.B.” or what not, RECOGNIZE that yo u are in an ego trap, and change your state)
  6. Keep track of the time it takes you to get back on track.   The techniques you use to do it. The clues that you are “caught” in that limbic/ego anger/fear trap.  Anger is fear. What are you afraid of?   Do something POSITIVE to affect it, rather than getting down in the mud and wrestling with a pig. Did I say that out loud?



  1. Love yourself
  2. Love one other person
  3. Understand history without guilt, blame, or shame
  4. Support your tribe AVOID ARGUING WITH TROLLS
  5. Win with integrity.



Love yourself enough to avoid unnecessary stress and stay on track. Love your family enough to focus your time and energy and stay healthy–you WILL poison yourself if you aren’t careful. And those closest to you will feel it.   Be able to see that there are different ways to see reality, and that it is possible for good, smart people to disagree with you.  Identify the pointless arguments. And define what “winning” is and is not, and NEVER let your “opponent” define the terms of victory if they are contrary to your interests.



Do that…and if you can take just one small step toward your ultimate outcomes every day, YOU WIN.