Steven Barnes

On one thread, the discussion swung around to those who feel that most human beings are stupid and venal.  The following conversation ensued:


I said:  “Just on general principle, I automatically assume that people who look down on the mass of humanity are really telling us their negative feelings about themselves.”


“Z”, the lady hosting the thread, replied:  “I was trying to avoid that. I have an awful lot of negative feelings about myself, and yet on the whole I look on humanity as mostly on a level with me, and I look up to quite a lot of it.”


S:  “I hope that you heal that wound in your heart and learn to love yourself completely. You deserve it, and the world looks much different from that place.”


Another reader, “P”, added:  “A World”, living in chaos, fear and subterfuge… Steve… It’s DIFFICULT… To: “Engage in… the ‘healing practice’… of: THE SELF! (Or, “others”)… At: The Moment”!!!

Let me unpack this, please.


The world is always chaotic, and it always has order.   Our emotions are controlled by the way we use our bodies, the language we use, and what we focus on.    We have problems, and what solves problems is effective thought and action.  Negative emotions lead to negative or ineffective action. So…the first step is to generate the positive emotions which break tunnel vision, leading to the ability to brainstorm solutions, and take actions.  Taking actions gives you the feedback to understand the situation better, and therefore take more effective actions, like a bat sending out squeaks in the dark.


WHAT you want is the outcome, the goal.

WHY you want it is the path to generating the emotions that can drive the HOW to achieve it.


First WHAT. Then WHY.  Then and only then HOW.


See problems in the world?  Want to make a difference?  Great! Understand how much human misery is created by fear. How much violence and pain.  Want to make a difference THERE?  Then show by example that problems are compulsory, but misery is optional.  LEAD BY EXAMPLE.


The WHAT might be to make a better world for all our children, and ourselves.

WHY?  Because the meaning of life is to seek joy.  Avoiding pain is just the first and most animal part of the equation.  Joy, peace, contribution, creativity, service, self-expression, passion freedom…whatever words you use, they are all on the road moving away from the negative emotions and actions.  All moving toward happiness.


HOW?  Know that when you are stressed, you cannot see answers that are right in front of you, and can’t take action even if you DO see an answer.  “Why bother?  Nothing works. The world is falling apart” said a segment of the population as far back as conscious thought has existed. And yet we continue.  YOU are not so important that the world has been waiting to fall apart until you got here.


WHAT can you do?  Seriously, the “Morning Ritual” covers it beautifully.   Move.  Think. Feel.


The more important the issues in your life, the more critical this is, to reverse the negative spiral.  If you are lying to yourself and saying “I don’t have time” then consider that you had the time to read this.   YOU ARE LYING TO YOURSELF.


Ask why.  DIG DEEP. Don’t stop with the surface answers. I promise it will come down to fear. Fear of caring. Fear of engaging with the world. Fear of failing…again.  Fear of the other members of your tribe calling you a dreamer or delusional.




There are two core emotions that drive us every day: fear and love.  Pain and pleasure.  At any moment you can decide to take the path of love and joy.  In a single breath you can change your destiny.


Five minutes. Got five minutes? Then five times a day, every three hours, stop and do deep, slow, diaphragmatic belly breaths for sixty seconds.  Set your watch.


If you don’t..?  Then why should anyone listen to you if you complain about being stressed?  If you spend time on social media, but won’t take the time to take control of your mind and heart, what are you doing except spreading misery when you could have been spreading joy? Do you know how much PAIN there is in the world?


Who are you?   Who are you going to be today?  The answer is in every thought, every action, every breath, every shift of attention.


This could be the best week of your life.  This could be the week when YOU decide to live from joy rather than fear.


How?  Move.  Think.  Focus. Speak the truth of your soul, aloud.  Yeah, there will be a voice in your head telling you it is useless.


That voice has lied to you before.


It is lying now.






Success and “Fuzzy” Thinking

I recently had a conversation with someone who has struggled with an issue (which I am deliberately obscuring).  She (call her “Tammy”) considers herself an exceptionally smart person (and brags about this frequently) which made the following exchange odd.   (Note: Tammy makes an extremely low income)


S: “Making more money is an important step in healing your finances.”

T: “Making more money doesn’t work.  Look at this article proving that making more money doesn’t decrease the amount of debt.  Decreasing expenditures is the ONLY path.  Making more money doesn’t work.

S:  “The article says that what happens is that as we make more money, we tend to SPEND more money as well. So the relation of making money to getting out of debt requires we go deeper: “IF your expenditures don’t rise, THEN if you raise your income it will help heal your finance.”  this isn’t unfair: your chosen path, “Reducing expenditures”, doesn’t work either, unless you make another IF/THEN:  “If your income does not decrease, THEN reducing your expenditures will help heal your finances.”

Or as Mr. Macawber said: “Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen [pounds] nineteen [shillings] and six [pence], result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds ought and six, result misery.”

If you don’t see the hidden “IF/Then” then NEITHER approach: decreasing expenditures OR increasing income, makes a bit of difference.


In other words, healing your finances isn’t a matter of lowing expenditures OR increasing income, it is a matter of the RELATIONSHIP between income and expenditures.   Anyone who focuses on one without acknowledging the power of the other is headed for disaster.


And if you have negative beliefs: “I CAN’T make more money.” then you will discard all evidence that suggests making more money will help.


“I don’t WANT to limit my expenditures!” means you will try to earn your way out of that hole.


“90% of people would die broke  without pensions, social security, or other social aid. Saving and working obviously doesn’t work.”


Now wait a minute: Tammy has told me countless times how superior her intellect is.  She clearly believes herself   smarter than 99% of people…and now her reason for not trying is that she are average?  What the hell stops her from focusing on  the 10% of successful people, rather than the 90% who fail?

I’d say fear.  That IF you focused there, Tammy would see that  these people do NOT see the world the way she does.   They have different beliefs, values, and emotional anchors.  They are willing to take different paths and do different things.


To decide: “I don’t want to do those things” is reasonable.  To let your own personal aversions warp your view of reality such that you default to black and white (it is one or the other) as opposed to fuzzy thinking that actually works in the real world (it is the relation between the two factors) is dangerous.


Dangerous because there is no way to have a psychological flaw or rigidity in just one area of your life. They will pop up everywhere you don’t have the vision to see them.


This kind of thinking can sabotage all four basic arenas of life: Career, finances, physicality, relationships.


How can  Tammy break this pattern?


There are probably countless ways, but it won’t be just “figuring it out.” Tammy lives in her head, and by not connecting to her body, she is robbed of a core feedback mechanism. She can hallucinate anything she wants, and rationalize it with that terrific mind of hers.

The Morning Ritual is my personal “Go-To” great, because Tammy’s pattern feeds on unprocessed fear.  By placing yourself in a positive state EVERY morning, you are creating just a little clear space where your ordinary fear-driven patterns loosen their hold, and you can see new possibilities.


And it takes a brief enough period of time, and costs NOTHING to do, such that if you declare it is important, perhaps critical, and don’t do it you have clearly defined a locus of damage in your life, and can focus there.


WHY might Tammy be afraid of making more money?  Here are some common destructive beliefs:


  1. It takes money to make money
  2. Money is the root of all evil.
  3. If I make more money, I won’t know who is a sincere friend.
  4. If I make more money, I’ll just have more problems.
  5. If I make more money, I will intimidate my reference group and lose intimacy
  6. I mustn’t earn more than my parents
  7. Marketing/sales is whoring/lying.
  8. I am just not the kind of person who can make money
  9. Money doesn’t matter to me: the best things in life are free


And so on.    There are equivalent poisonous beliefs in every arena.    If you have them, ask where they come from and if you believe them with your adult mind. If you don’t, and they do not serve you, then you need to research the means of CHANGING negative and limiting beliefs.


This is part of “being the hero in the Adventure of your lifetime.”  The hero believes she has X ability, and the solution requires X+Y ability. The entire story is then about gaining that “Y” (“Rocky”) or learning that “Y” was always within them (“The Wizard of Oz”) , or partnering with a “Y” to accomplish, together, what cannot be done alone ( “The Magnificent Seven”)


But it requires the ability to shift from one logic system to another, one form of reasoning to another, paying attention to the real world while simultaneously holding onto your dreams…and committing to doing WHATEVER IT TAKES to reach them with integrity.


She is not to blame for her programming–it probably happened in childhood. But she IS responsible for healing it. There is no one else who can.





The Power Is In The Process

A fine writer was recently complaining about a book he’d finished that was heavily criticized by an editor. Major revisions were requested, and he didn’t know whether to make them, or self-publish, or even give up his career.


There was real despair and discouragement there, and this is someone who has published over a dozen pieces of work, not a “Newbie.”   My suggestion was to remember that all writers, all experts in any field have failures, and also that a single editor’s opinion is NOT an absolute statement on the worth of a work…let alone the potential of a career.


So…stay on the path.  Keep writing.   There were specific issues that could be addressed, but the most important had nothing to do with the specific book. They had to do with the process followed to build a career.


There was no difference between this situation and a horrible sales cycle, or a bad print review. Both trigger discouragement and doubt.


Remember the Hero’s Journey? It says, CLEARLY, that if you are moving from one stage of your life to the next, you will fail, and enter the “Dark Night of the Soul”.  That the way through this is “The Leap of Faith”…faith in yourself, or a higher power, or your companions.  If you don’t take this leap, you fall back and repeat the cycle, only this time you might well have even less energy: your failure to go forward creates even more doubt, which syphons off the very energy you need to make the leap.


A descending spiral which leads many of us to abandon our dreams.

What is worse is that we have little demons that WANT us to fail.  Want to fail at the gym?  Constantly put more weight on the bar than you can lift.  Lift more often than you can recover from. You could have the potential to be the best in the world, and if you make this single mistake, you will screw yourself totally.


The answer?  Keep going.  Focus on your outcome. Model the behaviors of others who have made the journey (faith in your companions). Remember past accomplishments, and the fact that you felt doubt there as well (faith in yourself).  Notice your results without being attached to them, and maintain behavioral and conceptual flexibility.


Use “small cycle” thinking. Rather than spending years on a massive quarter-million word work that took years to complete, write short stories, where the investment of emotion, time, and energy is so small that if you fail you can laugh at it. This is exactly like a boxer who gets knocked out in the championship fight having a few “small fights” in the hinterlands to build confidence back up and try out new approaches.  Take the pressure off.


But the core of it is: keep your eyes on your outcome, tap into your most positive emotions, and work your butt off, doing TODAY what needs to be done TODAY and trusting (Faith) that one step at a time will take you up the mountain.


This is why a “Morning Ritual” of physical, mental, and emotional power is so essential. That triple braid creates a lifeline.  For just ten to twenty minutes a day you are totally connected.  And slowly, you will begin to notice how you have to move, think, speak, focus and behave to have the positive emotions that lead to the consistent actions along a defined path.

And…you’ll start getting different result. Better results.  And your faith will deepen. You’ll take more actions, leading to better results. An ascending spiral.


The failures, disappointments, betrayals and setbacks WILL happen.  There is ZERO question about this. Deal with that reality, or lose your dreams.


Better still…deal with it in advance.  Every morning. Every day.  Connect with your vision, your passion, your faith in your path.


Then…reap the results.



Write with Passion!


What are you offering the world?

I’ve mentioned that my friend Otis was homeless at one time, and living in an abandoned apartment behind my house.  He was lonely, and I remember one day he rather miserably said:

“I don’t understand why I can’t get a girlfriend.”

Such grief in his voice.  I said, “well, tell me what it is you feel you have to offer a woman.”

“I’m loyal, and honest, and warm. I listen, I’m supportive, and kind.”

I didn’t want to hurt him, but the words just tumbled out:  “she can get all of that from one of her girlfriends. What is the specifically MASCULINE quality that will motivate her to project her specifically FEMININE qualities? What is you demonstrable power?  Your ability to build a nest?”

He looked at me as if I was speaking Martian.

Otis knew something about everything, a wide-ranging, fine mind. But he had never, ever focused that mind and those emotions to produce any result a kid in high school couldn’t have done.  No power.

Nothing to trade for beauty.  And because he was physically unbeautiful himself, he had nothing to trade to find and hold a woman he would want, and it was painful to watch unfold, year after year, decade after decade, until in time his health collapsed, and he died.

Those are the only options: either trade power for beauty, or make an even-steven trade across the board.  What I very rarely see is HER power for HIS beauty. And what I’ve never ever seen is a total mis-match, where one has both and the other has neither.  Not even once, although people have told me of such unicorn relationships.


I use his name because I don’t want my friend to have died for nothing.  I see aspects of Otis’ story in so many otherwise intelligent and good people.   They never develop their power, and then wonder why they can’t get the results from life they crave.


Let me put this in the adult-child framework:   they never grew up. Never fully developed their adult selves.  Because if you do ANYTHING long enough, with emotion behind it, you will gain experience. And if you pay attention, you will travel. And if you ever had a specific outcome in mind, you’ll notice if you are getting closer or further away. If you learn to control your fear, you will overcome obstacle after obstacle, and eventually reach at least the short and medium-range versions of your goal. And then, all you have to do to earn a living is guide people along the path you’ve walked, so long as you have been heading somewhere someone wants to go.




If there is a single thing I’m trying to nail for Jason in our five-minute morning sessions, it is the concept of “Atomic” “Fractal” goal setting.  It is:


  1. Knowing your outcome clearly (“What”)
  2. Knowing your “Why”–the emotionalized reasons why you want this thing.
  3. Knowing the “How”, the specific steps to accomplish it, and what the most important thing you must do TODAY to accomplish it.


Today fits into your plan for this week, which fits into your plan for the month, which fits into the plan for the year, the decade, and your life.


If you can see the clear connection between the long-term overall life plan and the actions you take on a daily basis…you have it whipped.


Ultimate Outcome: Joy

Long Term Outcome: A life spent in blissful “Flow State” as much as possible


To do this, I must avoid pain as much as possible. That means fullfilling my obligations to family and society. This means I must make money doing something that brings me joy and puts me in flow state. Writing is a great example of this.


Long Term Outcome (clarified): To be a successful professional writer.

Ten year goal: Ten novels

Five year goal: Five novels

One year goal: One novel

Quarterly goal: First Draft of novel.


If I were unpublished, my one year goal might be:


One year goal: Selling a story.

Quarterly goal: 1-4 stories a month.  4-12 stories

Monthly goal: 1-4 stories finished and submitted

Weekly goal: 1 story.


The more important your goal is to you, the more critical it is to operate at the higher level of output and performance.  The question would be to clearly define the WHAT and the WHY.   Increase the WHY until you are burning with motivation. How?  By connecting your goal to every chakra. I can tell you why my writing relates to survival, sex, power, emotion, communication, intellect, and spirit.


If YOUR goals do this…nothing will stop you from kicking ass to get it done.




Get that? There is NO excuse not to do one sentence, every day, if it is something important. If you go to bed at night thinking about it, your dreaming mind will kick out at LEAST one sentence. Write it down.  You have just made the connection between the “atomic” level (smallest possible action) and the global lifetime ultimate intent (happiness, ultimate success)


WHAT: Write a sentence every day

WHY: The life you desire, on every level.

HOW: Think about your story last thing before you go to sleep.  First thing when you wake up.   Write or dictate and transcribe one sentence.



If you do that, then you will advance. Learn. Grow.  You will accomplish goals. The INSTANT you have sold a story, you have a skill you could turn around and sell. Hell, there are people teaching writing who have never published a thing.  You’ll be ahead of the curve.


Being the master means being the student. Others will call you the Master if you are far enough ahead that you are beyond a horizon. They cannot see where you are.


IF YOU CANNOT SEE WHAT YOU HAVE TO OFFER, you probably have an unrealistic expectation of yourself. Be where you are. The person you were last year could really, really, use your advice.  There’s your market.





The Power of the Enneagram

Some twenty-five years ago, studying Transcultural Shamanism with Mushtaq Ali Al Ansari, I was introduced to the mystic symbol called the “Enneagram”.   I was fascinated by its endless uses and the power to diagram complex and sometimes invisible processes, and puzzled that of all the myriad uses, no one outside our little study group seemed to understand anything about it other than its applications to personality.


For instance, when I diagrammed the Hero’s Journey on it, a fascinating thing happened: the EXTERNAL journey (plot) traveled around the outside edge, but if you looked at the internal connecting lines a completely different approach to story was revealed.


Just one example.    At position #1 (1:00)  is “the hero is confronted with the challenge.”  That’s pretty straight-forward: unless your lead character wants something he doesn’t currently possess (an external goal, relief from an external threat, an internal state of being, relief from a painful internal state) your character will take no actions.    Living systems crave homeostasis.


So…you have to design your character and ask what they want and need, deny them that thing, and force them to take actions to change or regain their status.  Simple, right?


But the Enneagram goes much further.  #1 connects with #4:  It also connects to #7.


Let’s focus in on just #4, the Road of Trials.   If we know that the next step after #1 is “Rejection of the challenge” then the question is: WHY does he reject it?   Why not take the action that will relieve pain or gain pleasure, once they see what must be done?


Because of the pain they must endure to get there.  Oh, yes. The greater the potential reward, the greater the obstacle or journey must be. Why? Because we are programmed to move away from pain and toward pleasure.


If it is a straight road, we are NEUROLOGICALLY programmed to move in that direction.  You can teach tapeworms to tap-dance if you get this Skinnerian aspect right.  But if you look into your own life, you might say “well, if this is true, why do I X? (smoke, overeat, procrastinate, etc).  Why? Simple.  You see more pain than pleasure associated with the actions.


  1. You might not have a clear idea of what must be done.
  2. You might see a path, but lack belief that you, personally, can and should do it.
  3. You might have a reference group (tribe) that tries to dissuade you from taking those positive actions (damaged sub-cultures often have this issue)
  4. You might have past experiences that create beliefs contrary to the actions you’d have to take.


It took me SEVENTEEN YEARS to earn my first black belt, because I was still carrying an image of myself as being small and weak from a bullied childhood.  I trashed my own college education for fear that I would absorb the negative habits of my writing instructors, and sabotaged my career because my mother had been terrified that I would be killed if I was too intelligent and aggressive.


My road of trials was one of finding clarity, courage, healing my self-image, and having the confidence to speak my truth and be who I was.  Finding a tribe that would support my dreams, developing flexible plans to go over, under, around and through my obstacles.


Anyone who knows me will see that the martial arts gave me confidence and strategy for my career and relationships, my relationship with my first wife Toni gave me the self-confidence and support to make my career moves, and my writing career gave me the connection with my child self that powered my “adult” through years of martial misery (protecting your child educes the maximal defensive/survival response). They were all intertwined. Which meant that progress in any of them fed into the others, in an ascending spiral.

People who are blocked by their own pain, fear and confusion, and have struggled with it, often say “well, I guess that’s just me.”  They then make the mistake of looking at others who are struggling, including entire social groups, and instead of seeing the knots they’ve been tied into, or the corrupted ground on which their seeds were sewn, just say “well, I guess that’s THEIR nature.”  You see it?  They can’t get out of THEIR box, so they define their box as “them” and then do the same to others. Worse is when they had advantage and privilege, don’t give thanks for it or even see it, and become one of those “born on third base and thought he hit a triple” types who look down their noses at “lesser” beings and “breeds.” If it weren’t so sad, it would be infuriating.  So much human damage has arisen from people who simply never understood themselves.  Who mistook confusion and damage for wisdom.  Ugh.


Whew.  That’s the power of the Enneagram.  The “Hero’s Journey” tells you what is coming…in advance. The Chakras tells you the path of balance and human maturation.  But the Enneagram is kinda like an internal map showing you how all these parts and processes RELATE to each other.  It is as if you have a secret way to pretend to be smarter and wiser than you really are.  Amazing, really, and with infinite uses once you understand it.


It’s been my secret weapon for decades. Why didn’t I share it?  I COULDN’T. I didn’t understand it well enough.   My mind just didn’t want to grasp its power, because if I did…I would integrate my life at higher and higher levels, smash my ego again and again, build sky-castles and move into them.


I so dearly wanted to understand it enough to share it.    But I needed Mushtaq to do that, and he wasn’t at all sure it could be done, outside the “small group” format.  It took me almost twenty years to convince him to give it a shot.


The result is the ULTIMATE ENNEAGRAM program, which is…well, it just rocks. There are hundreds of classes dealing with the “personality” stuff, which is like eating one bite from a banquet and hallucinating that you’ve had the entire meal.

Hell, that wasn’t even a balanced SNACK.

There is just so much more.


And what we’ve done is make this amazing secret available in a webinar format FOR THE VERY FIRST TIME. Much of this information has NEVER been revealed publicly.  From time to time  I’ll be plucking apples from the grove and sharing them with you. But…this is amazing. I’m so proud of it.  This is so powerful that the Fiverr lady who transcribed the sessions said her life had been changed JUST TRANSCRIBING THE SESSIONS.


That is power. That is THE ULTIMATE ENNEAGRAM.  We’re still building the class, taking feedback and adding features, which is why I’m happy to be offering such a  uniquely high value at such an absurdly low price.


More on this later. My head is still spinning. Can’t wait to share my secret weapon with you.





Just Do It

I’ve seen some great spoofs of the Nike campaign recently.  Some really are funny, but I suspect  that the people posting them fit into one of two categories:


  1. Don’t believe there is a mortal issue at stake.  Don’t believe there is disproportionate unjustified police violence toward black people. Or:
  2. Approve of the oppression and violence.


I don’t see a third major category, other than perhaps people with a sick sense of humor (some of my favorite people, in general) but most of it seems to sort into those first two..   Racists (those who believe in differential capacity or worth between racial groups)  if of good character (no, not a contradiction in terms. A perspective of differential worth is pretty common among human beings. Doesn’t make a direct statement about how you treat people)  tend not to believe there is a real issue.  Most fall into the first category (however, you do NOT have to be a racist to fit into this category. You do seem to need to be Conservative however, believing in a “level playing field.”   I know good and decent people who fit this category, so don’t hallucinate that they don’t exist, please.)


If they believe there is a problem, they will blame the black community itself.   If they are racists they will hem and haw around the subject, and have real problems speaking their real belief directly: blacks are targeted disproportionately because they are just innately less capable and more criminal.  Blame God.


Or, they blame “culture”.  It’s black “culture” you see.  Next stage: “Oh. So you’re saying that slavery and Jim Crow and Segregation were so violent and destructive that they damaged the ability of blacks to create a successful society? ”  Blame Slavery and its aftermath.


They will stutter here, because the   Current Southern Apologia is specifically designed to absolve the South for any responsibility for what they did.  If they DON’T blame slavery or its aftermath…precisely what do they blame for the dysfunctional “culture” they blame for black issues?


Next question: “Given the same history, would white people have been damaged as much or suffered as long?”


If they say “yes” then it is environment, not genetics, and you can move on to the next question: what do we do now?


Well, don’t expect a wound to heal until the knife is removed. That would mean the differential treatment, and the lies about history and current conditions.   Change both of those, and the healing is much more rapid.


But anyone who won’t say “yes, white people would have suffered as much and been damaged as long” is IMO hiding a racist agenda.  Disengage.  This is a Faith Based position, and arguing does nothing.


There are of course others.  Racists of venomous intent and low character. They actually approve of the violence: “Got to keep the monkeys in their cages.”  They would also approve of torturing suspected terrorists, of course. They are frightened, angry, petty people, and they hide behind the mask of “oh, it’s just culture” without explaining where the damage came from.  Kicking the can down the road for others to intuit that, yeah, it’s innate capacity.  Or maybe they don’t WANT to live, or be free, or make money, or for their children to survive. Because if they do…maybe they just…ahem…don’t have the capacity, poor devils…


Yeah, it really is that simple.  Logically let’s MODUS PONENS (If/Then proposition) this:


IF black people are equal in capacity to white people, THEN the playing field is unlevel.


IF the playing field is level, THEN black people are not equal to white people.


Take your pick, but I don’t believe there is a serious third choice.


Now there are dishonest people: “the playing field is unequal.  But government attempts to make things better will only make them worse. Therefore, I will deny they are unequal.”  This is cowardly. Much better to say:


“Yes, they are unequal, but I see no way to make them better without greater net damage.”


Or even: “Yes, they are unequal, but I’ve got mine and screw you.   I LIKE having an advantage.”


Hey, I may not think that second one is evolved, but I have to admit that it is common human thinking. And it leads to dishonesty:


“Yes, its unequal, but I’ve got mine and don’t want to give it up. But I don’t want to look like a selfish ass, so I will PRETEND to believe that things are equal, to protect my image.”


Here’s a worse one:  “Yes, its unequal, but I’ve got mine…and I want some of yours, too. So `tragedy of the commons’  be damned, I will pretend to believe in fair play because I want YOU to treat me fairly even if I don’t give a shit about you.  YOUR children can suffer, but I want you to keep a caring, watchful eye on mine.”


That is both dishonest and cowardly IMO.  These are snakes.


Interesting things happen when you simply start with the presumption of equality despite the (IMO) fact that you cannot ultimately “prove” equality or inequality, that everyone is ultimately making a faith-based assertion.  You then have to live with the results.  Equality means that I can’t assume whites are innately evil, either.  However much self-serving evidence I might amass, and however satisfying that might be.


No. I actually have to live in that space, or the whole thing falls apart.


Another time, we’ll discuss what happens when you apply this notion to gender.  THAT’S a doozy.





Sunday is weekly planning day!

So Sunday is the one day a week I don’t workout or really work. But I do joint mobility, and I plan, and I play.  Planning is the most important thing: to connect to my driving emotions, and connect those to my long-term outcomes and dreams. To see what I need do in the next week.


Most important things this week:

  1. Successful  Graphic Novel (“Eightfold Path” with Charles Johnson) intensive work in Seattle.
  2. Launch “Ultimate Enneagram” course with Mushtaq
  3. 35 pages on script.
  4. “Lifewriting Live” talk on Wednesday.
  5. Fly to Seattle, check into Air b’n’b.


I think that’s what’s needed. To do these things, I’ll need to take certain daily actions (break down current 8-Fold manuscript into Google Docs and/or Word Online.   Send emails to my lists, discuss on Facebook Live.  Five pages on script every day. Pack for Seattle.)  So that every day I know what I have to do:


  1. Wake up, meditate.
  2. Scan what needs to be done.
  3. Set daily RPM outcomes
  4. Morning MAGIC
  5. Five minutes with Jason
  6. Yoga or Workout (I have a new protocol I’m experimenting with.  I’ll tell you about it in six weeks)
  7. Mastery Plus business.
  8. Marketing study
  9. Five pages on Script
  10. Free work on other projects
  11. Evening OFF!  What movie do I watch..?



That’s the approximate day.  Using the Warrior Diet eating approach (food only between 4-8pm) to save time.  Looking forward to seeing friends and business folks up in Seattle!




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.





Starting From Nothing


I really like simple tests, actions and standards.  That means I’m willing to put in hundreds of hours studying and testing to determine if there is a better, simpler way to do something.    It is NOT that they are absolute.  But they form a starting place.


For instance, I have students who are struggling for money, and while MAKING money with my art is something that I got very good at, and I even created a business from scratch coaching while in Atlanta, I didn’t have an answer if people said: “I’m broke.  What do I do?”


Saying “Save 10% of your income” is a fine, simple standard for creating security, a simple instruction that demands a pre-existing income stream.  Ouch.  Back to square one.



So I can clearly, CLEARLY remember when we moved to Atlanta on family emergency, ripping me away from Hollywood at a time when I was struggling with the changes in the New York publishing industry.   I had no friends, no family, no business connections in Atlanta, and frankly, I collapsed psychologically.  Just couldn’t see a way out.  Literally ended up curled in a fetal position on the floor, wondering what in the HELL I was going to do, now that my life map had been destroyed.


I realized that I had a new opportunity here: to apply my own technologies to myself, starting from zero.  ZERO.


So…if I was the hero of my own story…if I KNEW that at the end of the story I got my greatest dreams…what would I do now?


  1. I would change my emotional state. If I didn’t, I’d be paralyzed.  Needed something simple and basic that I could do every day.  If I did it, I’d be building the emotional clarity and power.  If I didn’t, I’d be trapped in a “stress tunnel”, unable to see answers even if they were dangling in front of me.  I crawled back out of that hole by starting a Morning M.A.G.I.C. ritual ( and starting a coaching business, teaching people the steps I’d taken to build my career, and then after I was emotionally stable, helping them balance their bodies, minds, and relationships.
  2. I defined daily/weekly actions in each of my four major arenas: body, relationship, career, finances.   Then, all I needed to do was either DO IT or NOT.  Black and white. Did I?  If so, good.  If not, why not?   If there is a problem, either pump up the emotions, or make the “daily bite” a little smaller, until I CAN do it.  This approach to “minimums” is exemplified by the “Sentence a day to a book a year” approach at
  3. I needed money.  How could I make it?  What resources could I leverage?  All I had to do was ask what I knew that a younger Steve would pay for.  That would be finishing and publishing my writing, earning my martial skills, finding love.  I had a wound in finances, so it would have been bullshit to try to coach people THERE.  But I could honestly present myself as an expert at the other things.  I leveraged social media, but if I hadn’t had that, I could have used the approach in the “earn 100k in 25 hours a week” free talk at


And what happened?   One day at a time I climbed out of depression, and started filling my bank account. Success led to success in an ascending rather than descending spiral.  I started being happier in my life, and used the Morning MAGIC to connect with my blessings. And EVERYONE with the resources to read this message has resources.


Let’s take this back to “WHAT, WHY, HOW”.


WHAT I wanted was to be happy. Specifically, to get back to California with my family intact and healthy.


WHY was because my career, my friends, my life was in Cali.    My entire career skill set had been designed to balance between publishing and television/film.  This was security, self expression, sheer joy of creativity, and more.


WHAT was controlling my emotions, finding alternate means of making money to buttress my finances and provide healing room for my ego.  Morning MAGIC and coaching using a pattern like the “100k in 25 hours” program.


And…it worked. Back in Cali, working my butt off juggling six different writing projects, including the best movie idea I’ve ever had, Tananarive and I are fine, Jason is great, my martial arts are at a new level, and the finances are better than ever.  One step at a time.


I don’t do life coaching any more–don’t have the time, and I’d have to price myself out of reach to the people who most need my help. So…I’ve focused on creating low-cost and free tools that share this priceless information.




There you go. That’s what there is.   Dream.  Faith and Gratitude.   Follow an established path.  Chop Wood, Carry Water.


It is so  damned simple, really. So simple that people complicate it so that they have an excuse for failing. I don’t want excuses. I want to live the best life I can, and help my family and friends as much as I can, for as long as I can. To go where I want, when I want, with whom I want, whenever I want, and do what I want.


How about you?  What if you HAVE no skills?  If you genuinely look at your life and realize that you’ve somehow avoided becoming an adult, are a mediocre generalist with little to offer?

Then…offer your truth. Wake the @#$$ up. Realize that something happened to you early in your life that stopped you from maturing, refining, focusing.  AND COMMIT TO CHANGE.  Start a Morning MAGIC type program and commit to being an adult, perhaps for the first time in your  life.  JOURNAL YOUR RESULTS, ONE DAY AT A TIME, with blistering honesty. Then, know the WHAT and  WHY of this new life you are building.


Then…blog about it.  Podcast.  Get your truth out there.  Get conversations started on your Facebook page.  BE HONEST.  DON’T TRY TO BE THE “GURU”.  You will attract others with the same issues, looking for an honest path.   The MINUTE others say that your truth has inspired them…leverage that into the pattern in the “100k in 25 hours” talk.  Go out and talk about your struggles, being honest rather than “clever.”  Spend up to 25 hours a week doing this marketing, speaking multiple times a day to any group you can get in front of.   Then…design your own path out of hell, and work it.  Begin to share your path with others.  A second-grader can coach a first-grader, with integrity.

It doesn’t take “mastery”.  It takes honesty and a commitment to yourself.   If you have that…you can begin to heal.

Aren’t you worth it?




On Politics, Philosophy, and Lifewriting

I grew up feeling that society had laid traps for me everywhere, such that pursuing any life path was going to be like pogo-sticking through a mine field.   My answer: get the clearest, most accurate maps of the minefield (live, society, human nature) that I could, and plan accordingly.  “What is true?” was critical, and I made the mistake of thinking that everyone did this.


I still remember the day I realized I was wrong.  I was in a conversation with a very politicized gentleman  (call him “Fred”) who I greatly respected. Fred made a claim during an argument. I refuted the claim with a solid piece of data, a clear and irrefutable disproof of his position. He rolled with it, and began talking about why this instance was  an outlier, using specific information of his own


And I realized: “Huh.  He knew he was wrong when he said “X is never Y.”  Could have said “X is usually not Y” or “There are only a few exceptions to the rule that X is not Y.”  Instead, even though he KNEW that what he was saying was wrong…he made the statement.


I thought back over other conversations and suddenly realized something: this was a pattern.   A TACTIC.  In other words, he was betting that I didn’t have specific information to refute his assertion.


He was hoping I was ignorant.  Withholding information that invalidated his argument.


Remember the statement: “Philosophy is asking `what is true’.”  Politics is asking “how can I win.”


He wasn’t interested in truth.  He was interested in winning.  There’s a real difference, and it is essential to know it: “Am I dealing with a philosopher?  Or a politicized individual?”   Each has uses, there is no question.




Personally, I’m far more interested in the first question “what is true?” So I will actually offer opponents information they don’t currently have, if it helps their position.  Give people a chance to re-formulate a clumsy statement (there are few things more time-wasting than refuting a statement and then having someone claim: “well, I didn’t REALLY mean that. I meant THIS…”)  I’ve done that, often stating something informally, assuming that the person I’m talking with realizes that I’m speaking informally, and having them attack “people do X” with “not ALL people…”


It’s not unfair of them to do that. It’s just more formal.  I can play that game, and enjoy it, find it very valuable. But once you demand formal statements, you can’t then get lazy with your language, folks.  Sauce for the goose.




Politics is useful.  It is the art of compromise, but also swaying mass opinion to accomplish a goal.  Compromise is often “hold your nose and vote” for something because while it has things you don’t believe in, it also accomplishes something you care about.  Creating a “big tent” of people voting in the same direction, so that you can reach your goal.   The “Devil’s bargain” can often be necessary to do important things.


Swaying mass opinion often means manipulating emotions, simplifying concepts, deleting information, pushing “best case” or even “wishful thinking” scenarios.  People call this stuff “lying” and sometimes it is. But the line is fuzzy.


What was I supposed to do?  Consider Fred a liar?  He hadn’t lied, precisely.  Because in informal conversation “No X is Y” is understood to mean “X is rarely Y.”  He assumed I didn’t know…so in a sense he was taking advantage in order to win an argument, so he could move on to the next step in the logic chain: “And SINCE no X is Y, THIS is what we must do.”


This is toxic, because you’ve swallowed a poison pill, trusted that he is right, rather than examining “why is X rarely Y?” or even “is it TRUE that X is not Y?”  which might hare the conversation into a direction Fred didn’t want. Fred wanted to win.


When you see this: people changing the conversation, setting up Straw Men (changing your statement and then attacking their change), deleting information, broadening the conversation so that it includes data you’d have to have THEIR expertise to check, and so on…you can be pretty sure its time to ask: “are they interested in winning?  Or truth?”


I don’t get mad.  In fact, what I tend to do is silently thank them. They remind me that there is more than one way of looking at the world.


Note: being a philosopher who knows what is “true” but doesn’t know how to communicate it to affect change can be useless. But being politicized without having a means of sussing out what the truth is dangerous as hell.   How do you determine what is true?  Because another politicized person said so?   How do you know where you are on the reality map?  Or know when you are, at base, using a faith-based argument (untestable in the real world, so all you have is postulations or stacks of data, denying that you are weighting that data according to your world view, which is always ultimately emotionalized and faith-based, even if that faith is “my senses can be trusted. The integrity and wisdom of the people gathering and interpreting the data can be trusted” you are in trouble.


Different approaches, which when combined are precious.

This is rocky at times, because each sort of person can be convinced that theirs is the only approach, so I can piss off either side.  But when I REMEMBER this I save massive amounts of time. You recognize loaded questions and deliberate side-tracks.  Hell, if I had a CLIENT and I asked them a question, and they answered everything BUT that question?  Asked me questions that led in another direction?


Bingo. There is something powerful hidden under the original question, if only I’m smart and strong enough to keep focus.  Made me a better coach, and a better person.  Recognizing your OWN bullshit is more important than recognizing it in others.


Apply this to Lifewriting?  Well…in writing, how about crafting an argument or conflict between two people, one political and the other philosophical?  All you’d need to do to make that a comedy…or tragedy…is exaggerate their obsession with their individual approach.


And in life?   Note where and when in movies and books characters sort out one or the other way.  Those who never introspect, and those paralyzed by introspection.  And decide, for yourself, how you will error-check and influence.


What is true? What do we do about it?


Different questions with different results and processes.  Don’t confuse them.