Steven Barnes is a New York Times bestselling, award-winning novelist and screenwriter who is the creator of the Lifewriting™ writing course, which he has taught nationwide. He recently won an NAACP Image Award as co-author of the Tennyson Hardwick mystery series with actor Blair Underwood and his wife, Tananarive Due. Nominated for Hugo, Nebula, and Cable Ace awards, writer of the Emmy-winning “A Stitch In Time” episode of The Outer Limits, winner of the Endeavor and the NAACP Image Awards, NY Times Bestselling author, Steven has written comic books, animation, newspaper copy, magazine articles, television scripts and three million words of published fiction published in seven languages, making him one of the world’s most honored, diverse and popular writers.

Wedges and Webs

Tananarive boggles me, really. She just does what she does, and it can often look like nothing is happening, and then BANG, everyone from Entertainment Weekly and TMZ and BET are talking about her UCLA class, and opportunities are coming from unexpected directions.   Powerful.    Unpredictable.   It fits into the M.A.G.I.C. formula, but because its coming from my peripheral vision, it just stuns me.  I think there is a primary difference between “male” and “female” energies in this sense, and I talked to her about “wedges” and “webs” this morning.  I need to think about this more, but there may be something important.


The “RPM” “Rapid Planning Method” also calls itself a “Results focused, Purpose driven, Massive Action plan”.    And it is in the “Five Minute Life Hacks” system because I think we can produce an adult version of the “Five Minute Achievement Plan” for students.


What can I see happening in that program for Jason?



This morning, he woke up early, took his shower,and got dressed. All perfection. Then…he “crashed” just before we were starting our Five Minute ritual at 8:00.  Why? I don’t know, but it is reasonable to assume that he is dealing with massive fear, inertia, doubt.   And this isn’t even factoring the reality that some days you just regress.


It is simply impossible to progress toward a life-changing goal in a straight line.  There are ALWAYS set-backs.


But what I had to do was keep my own fear (for his future, for his “flaunting my authority”) and keep my voice mild, my expression pleasant, my words loving even as he curled up on the couch and refused to come to the table.    Fear. Fatigue.  Confusion.


If he had defined himself partially as someone with behaviors and capacities “X” (bad student, independent and blasé), and I am asking him to be “Y” (open, honest, good student, trusting) there will be chaos. Fear.   He KNOWS who he is now. But…who is this other person? And if he starts to care, and fails, won’t that hurt more?


I see the precise same thing with any number of other human issues: poverty, ignorance, obesity, loneliness, personal safety, and more.   “If I take personal responsibility, won’t it just hurt more if I fail?”


Yeah, it will. But if you DON’T  care you are 100% certain to fail.  Your only hope is to take action, and for that, you have to have more POSITVE emotions associated with action than NEGATIVE emotions.  Otherwise you won’t act.


You have to have…faith.


CHALLENGE: To be a good student.

CONFLICT: He looks at his past, and it says he is not.

ACCEPTANCE:  He is presented with a challenge: for five minutes a day, to have hope. To trust.

THE ROAD OF TRIALS: Five days a week, he spends this five minutes.

ALLIES AND POWERS: His own intelligence and energy. His parents. Teachers.  Any co-students with ambition and clarity.

CONFRONT EVIL-FAIL: Bad test results reinforce the negative self-image.  He falls back on “I need to do it my way!” even if “my way” doesn’t work, because anything else is mysterious and dangerous.

DARK NIGHT OF THE SOUL: Curling up on the couch.  Not wanting to face the negative test.

LEAP OF FAITH: Loving parents gently encourage him to spend just five minutes looking at the test.

CONFRONT EVIL-SUCCEED: He needed to split his attention between an Iphone  game and the morning work, but came to see that he had made a consistent mistake, and once identified, he could solve any of the problems.

STUDENT BECOMES THE TEACHER:  He MUST become his own teacher.  One day, he will be able to teach others. But right now, the development of “executive function”, things like syntax, and emotional control, and realistic expectations.


This will take many, many repetitions of the basic program.    I’d say that he shouldn’t expect any visible change for 6 weeks, any real change for 100 days, or any lasting imprinted results for a year.   So WE have to be the “Executive Function” for him. We have to have the faith that he don’t have.


And that, of course, is assuming that we’re on the right track. If not, we’ll try something else, and then something else, and then something else…until we succeed.


His greatest danger, then, is EXCESSIVE OPTIMISM.  Such that when something goes wrong (bad test results) he then crashes into despair.  This is EXACTLY like the obese, or poor, or lonely person who tries a “quick fix” for a lifelong problem.  “I TRIED a diet.  It didn’t work!”  “I TRIED to get a job/save money.  It didn’t work.”  “I TRIED a date.  It didn’t work!”


All of these issues yield to slow, careful movement over time. But the part of you that doesn’t want to change will trick you: you can lose because you have NO faith, or because you are OVERLY OPTIMISTIC, setting yourself up for failure, which then “proves” that you can’t do it…


Man, our egos are sneaky.


The point of the “101 Five Minute Life Hacks” is to take very simple steps like the “Five Minute Achievement Check”, and “The Five Minute Miracle” and “A sentence a day” and “The Ancient Child” and say…wait a #$%% minute.  Can it really be boiled down that far?  What if it can?


What is the shortest period that might actually help?    I say…a week.  6-7 days.  Thirty minutes minimum.    If I’m right (and I’m betting I am, based on ten years of research) then anyone who is willing to trust me for just 30 minutes CAN LEARN FOR THEMSELVES if I’m bluffing.


And if I’m not…if the hundreds of people who have tried this approach are correct…then all that has happened is that fifty years of research has finally opened a new door.  I can’t push you through it.


With Jason, I need to take all the love, all the trust, all the faith that he has and get him to give me just five minutes every morning.  He WILL backslide. It is inevitable. But I believe in him.


As I believe in you.  In US. That there really are small secrets and investments of time that can make massive differences.


Can you spend just thirty minutes to find out if I’m for real?  Pretty please?   I’ve made the first step as easy as I can: A free seven-day version of the 101 day program.   Free, guys.





The next step is yours.






Need Permission to thrive? Here it @#$$ is.

There is nothing, no reward, not sex or money or fame or fitness…that is worth losing
yourself for. Giving up who you are. That is your real power in life, to shed your mask
and just…be who you are. You’ll know you’ve shed the mask when you feel lighter, more
energetic and spontaneous and like “you could do this all day.” Creativity, aliveness, joy
all streaming out, and while you take shit from no one, you feel love for all. All you have
to do it commit to being yourself, and then spend your life discovering and expressing
that wonderful thing. Contributing all you can to the world, giving others permission to
do the same.
So…just in case you need it, today, and for the rest of your life, I give YOU
permission to be yourself.
You are enough. If no one ever told you that…and you needed someone to say it, I just
did. And if  your demons and pretender voices wanna fight, I got three black belts, I’m
sixty-five year old, and I ain’t gonna be sixty-four next year.   Life is not a dress rehearsal,
and I’ve got no more fucks  to give.
Bring it on.
Let’s all go to the next level. Together.

Five Minute Life Hacks: Goal setting SUCKS (unless you do THIS first…)

Every time I write a book, and I mean EVERY time, I reach a point about half way in when it all looks like its falling apart.   The idea now sounds stupid, the characters aren’t working, the prose blows chunks,  the images and impressions make no sense.   In Lifewriting terms, this is the “Dark Night of the Soul” of the process.  I have lost all perspective on WHY I want to do it.  And for years, I would talk to Nicki’s mom Toni, and say the following: “Sweetie…do I always reach a point where every project feels like it’s turning into puree of bat shit?”


And she would laugh, and answer “Yes, babe.  Every single time.”  And because I have faith that she wouldn’t lie to me, faith that my own memory that she is right means that I WILL get on the other side, I remember WHY I wanted to write that AMAZING idea, and keep slogging forward another step, and another step, taking pleasure in knowing I’m keeping my word, doing what I said, being who I am committed to be…until one day I look up and OH MY GOD…IT’S A BOOK!!




A friend who works at a major technology firm manages hundreds of millions of dollars in contracts.  It is hard, sometimes exhausting, but she is committed to being the best she can be, rising up through the ranks, and mentoring those around her.    Recently she noticed that her team members seemed to be running out of gas. They snapped at each other, dragged their feet, couldn’t engage in brain storming sessions, and in general seemed to have lost the “oomph” they had when she hired them


She was mystified, before she asked herself why SHE rarely ran out of gas, and wondered if the process she went through daily might have an answer. She asked her team members “what are your goals?”  and was surprised to learn that…they didn’t really have them. They were simply doing their work, looking forward to their paychecks.   Their goal wasn’t to make a safer America. Or colonize space. Or even “play with the cool toys.”  Let alone change the world.  Those were HER goals.


Theirs were “get my damned check.”   That’s how the joy drains out of life, one day at a time.


So she taught them the processes I’m about to teach you (today, and in subsequent days) and according to her records they DOUBLED their efficiency, transforming the department.


I mean, heck…you might not even LIVE to see the end of a long project.   You need to enjoy EVERY day, and RIGHT NOW!


They had fallen prey to a common human disease called”not seeing the forest for the trees.”  Getting so caught up in the chopping down of trees that you are so caught up in the fatigue, the disappointment, the monotony of the effort that you forget that the PURPOSE is to keep your family warm.    So busy re-writing and polishing a stubborn line or researching an obscure fact that you forget the PURPOSE is to bring a vibrant world to life, filled with wonderful characters doing amazing things to thrill an audience.  So busy fighting with your kids to do their homework that you forget that the PURPOSE is to deliver them safely, strongly and happily  to their adulthood, so that you can gloat as they get pissed off struggling with THEIR kids.

Heh heh.


The most important piece of the Five Minute Life Hacks system is that you actually DO it.  Five minutes.   So far we’ve looked at:

  1. The “Five Minute Miracle”, which is belly-breathing for 60 seconds  every three hour, gives you a way to keep stress from becoming strain, opening the door to managing higher and higher levels of life stress without crumbling.  Remember: in life, they pay you for how much stress you can take without breaking.  DO NOT NEGLECT THIS PIECE.  IT IS NOT CONCEPTUAL, OR EMOTIONAL. “UNDERSTANDING IT WILL NOT  GET THE EFFECT ANY MORE THAN “UNDERSTANDING” A SANDWICH NOURISHES YOUR BODY.
  2. The “Five Minute Achievement Check” for children implants a very specific set of structured problem-solving tools into your relationship with your children.  If you’re aware, you’ll understand that strengthening the CONNECTION between child and parent is as important as any other part of the process.  You can also glimpse the power of the “Ancient Child” exercise, or the “Morning Ritual” for adults, both of which are deep parts of the 101.  It is like opening a vein between yourself and your child, so that communication is flowing on all levels simultaneously. Add love, and you have something amazing.
  3. Once you have this loving but strict connection wired up, the next question is: what is it that you are going to communicate to your kid? Now that you have his attention?


The thing to remember is that   what you ARE communicates more powerfully than what you KNOW.  In other words, the best you can hope for is that your child will walk your path. Asking them to do better is hoping for a small miracle.   Children ARE miracles, of course…but it may be best not to take that for granted.

Be the change you want to see.

(Gee.  Think maybe this also applies to other aspects of life?  Let me think…)


So the next “Five Minute Life Hack” has to do with learning to accomplish more of ANYTHING you want, with more fun and “juice” in the process.  And here, we’ll tap into Tony Robbins’ “Rapid Planning Method” system.  It asks you NOT to create a “To Do” list for what you have to do today.  Not just shuffle through an endless slough of despair, doing trivial things for other people’s reasons, until all the joy that brought you to the job originally is…gone.


The point is that you don’t really care about a “To Do” list, all of the “Stuff” you need to do to get through the day.  You care about the RESULTS or OUTCOMES you believe you’ll get from doing them.  In other words, you don’t care about buying a vacuum cleaner, moving furniture and spending an hour cleaning…you care about having a sparkling house, healthy children and a successful party and/or happy spouse.


What happens (for instance) if you realize that you could spend that time more efficiently and effectively working on a paying project, and HIRING someone to clean your house?  If so, then you are fulfilling your OUTCOME more efficiently, even without the actions you THOUGHT you had to take.



Or if you think you have to spend FIVE HOURS every week exercising, driving to the gym, shopping for exercise clothes and so forth…when the same level of fitness can be created by ONE HOUR of very carefully chosen exercises at home?  If the outcome is “fitness” then the rest were just means to an end, yes?


But even deeper, how do you MOTIVATE yourself to take an action, day after day after day?  You can accomplish almost anything you can make yourself do continuously, regularly, day after day, for 1-3 years.  Why is it so hard to do that, then?

I don’t believe in “talent”.  I believe that the world belongs to people who can focus over time.

Look back over your life.  At the things you are best at.  Didn’t every one of them require that you focus over time?  Didn’t you see “talented” people who couldn’t focus or commit crashing and burning all around you?

Lots of reasons, and we’ll go into them later, but the word “motivation” is easy to understand.  Or to put it another way: WHY.  Your REASONS to do it.   If you have enough REASONS to do something, you can make yourself do almost anything.


So RPM is Robbin’s mental syntax for developing the MOTIVATION to accomplish the desired OUTCOME, not just tick off a “to do” list. “RPM” stands for “Rapid planning, Purpose-driven,  Massive action” system.


It is fast, fun, and super effective.  This can be done on a daily, weekly, monthly, yearly, or 5-year basis.  In fact, if you REALLY want to increase efficiency, you will go far beyond the “Five Minute” level, and spend a day, just one precious day, mapping out your “RPM” in each of these time frames, making sure you have goals in all four basic arenas: Body, Career, Relationships, Finances.  Don’t neglect one, because trust me: if you try to improve your life, the pressure will explode out of your weak link, like steam gushing out of a weak spot in a pipe once you increase pressure.


Here’s the process:


  1. Swiftly  list the OUTCOMES you want.  For instance, let’s say I wanted to WRITE A BOOK.  That’s the outcome, o.k?
  2. Now list or remember the REASONS you want this outcome.   Satisfaction, creative expression, financial freedom, fulfilling a promise, whatever. The point here is that you want to FEEL the reasons, especially the POSITIVE reasons, you want to do something.  If you have one major goal in each of the four areas, it may take some time before you can re-connect with WHY you originally wanted to do them.  IF YOU HAVE MORE POWERFUL REASONS TO DO SOMETHING THAN NOT TO DO IT, YOU WILL DO IT.  IF YOU AREN’T DOING SOMETHING, IT IS BECAUSE YOUR “DON’TS” OUTWEIGH YOUR “DO’S”.   Simple. If there is more pain associated with doing something than pleasure, YOU WON’T DO IT.  If there is more pleasure associated with something than pain, YOU WILL DO IT.   Simple as that.  ALL you have to do is get clear on WHY you want it, and you’ll start moving in that direction.  If you aren’t moving…you don’t have enough reasons yet.
  3. NOW AND ONLY NOW ask yourself what you have to do TODAY, or THIS WEEK to get your outcome. NOW you think about the “whats”. The “To do’s” of your life.  Working BACKWARDS from “what do I want to ultimately accomplish” and “why do I want to do it” the “To Do” list will suddenly take on far more meaning.   You’ll be driving your actions with EMOTION. “A sentence a day” is my absolute minimum. The optimal is about 1000 words a day.



The OUTCOME needs to be clear (“Sailing around the world!”). The EMOTIONAL “WHY” needs to be strong (“Romance and Adventure!”). Then the “to dos” are the nuts and bolts (“building   the damned boat…”) or (“working at this job to earn the money to buy the boat so that I can sail around the world…”)


There is NO task devoid of meaning unless you abdicate your responsibility to GIVE it meaning.   This process, rapidly going through your four major arenas, your OUTCOMES, your REASONS and then “WHAT am I doing today to create this outcome?” Can take just a few seconds each. The longest part is FEELING THE EMOTIONS. To do this, you have to slow down a little, luxuriate, wash yourself in the emotions.


Visualize the results, hear the praise, feel the sensory impact of tropic winds on your face, sun on your skin. The hugs of your loved ones, the deep sense of satisfaction from fitting in those new pants.  FEEL IT.   There will inevitably be discomfort as you discipline yourself to accomplish your daily tasks.


LEARNING TO TO THIS IS NOT ONLY CRITICAL TO YOU, IT WILL BE CRITICAL TO TEACHING YOUR CHILDREN TO DISCIPLINE THEMSELVES.  Being able to visualize or emotionalize the better grades, the rewarding trip to Disney World, the graduation ceremony, the successful recital and roar of the crowd, the black belt tied around your waist by a proud sensei, the hand raised in victory…


If you can’t FEEL it, you won’t DO it.


WHAT is your outcome?

WHY do you want it?

HOW to you take steps today, this week, this month?


Can you see how easy this is?  How valuable it will be?


Go through this process rapidly during your “morning ritual”, or even better, your “weekly ritual” as you plan your next seven days…and you will start giving meaning to your life you may not have felt in years.


Five Minutes.


Get to work!


Be the hero in the adventure  of your lifetime!




STARTING TODAY you can sign up for the FREE Five/Seven program (Five Minutes a day, Seven Days) at: www.fiveminutelifehacks.com.



P.P.S.  By the way: want to see the results of focusing on what YOU can do for yourself, rather than trying to change the world, or waiting for the world to change?  Here’s a note I got today from Daniel R., who has spent YEARS with therapists trying to understand his pain in a relationship with a woman who constantly reminds him of her past lovers.   Daniel was DESTROYING himself worrying about this. I gave him one instruction: STOP TALKING ABOUT HER.  Focus on the things he can change: his own behavior, his relationship to finances. Every time he mentioned “her” we set the clock back to zero.  It only took him about a week to “get the right focus” and a month later he said:


“For the first time in my whole life I at least believe a LITTLE BIT in becoming successfull financially and sexually… It was like unachievable deep down….There is not much to heal though… It is more keeping focus… on my dream!!!!! (instead of shit and/or past or other peoples lives and/or (perceived) faults… Let`s go!”


That’s it!  That’s the power of the 101 LIFE HACKS SYSTEM.   You figure out what you want  (to be happy) and the externals that will create the space for that happiness, and THEN take daily steps to get there.


I believe in you.

Remember: your five minute/seven day program is totally FREE!


Climbing out of the Dark Night, five minutes at a time

(Note: There has been a massive “Yes!” response to my question: shall I refine and present the “Five Minute Life Hacks” concept?   Almost ten years ago I created the 101 Program, and mostly gave it away to hundreds of people, who then shared their experiences. Now I’m revising it into an integrated program. My daily notes will address this, adding to the material already there. The first week’s material is already in place, to be offered FREE very soon.)


When Tananarive needed to move the family to Atlanta, I agonized, but didn’t hesitate. The life plan I’d developed from childhood had been shattered, but I knew that the most important thing to me, by far, was my family.  They needed me.  That was more important than my pain. And that love savedme.


LOVE was a reality higher and deeper than everything else combined, so I went.But I was swimming in fear, anger, resentment…knocked totally off balance, without a clear vision of how I’d accomplish anything. Anything at all.


My writing career felt in tatters after almost 20 years of side-trips (Ten years in the NW, a 6-year period back in L.A. struggling to put the Hollywood stuff back together, and just when I finally was getting work, and scored an agent…Atlanta).  All felt lost.


I kept up as brave a front as I could, but nothing was working.  My contacts faded, opportunities died, I felt as if I had no friends to connect to, there was real pain in my marriage, and that dream of conquering Hollywood, of building my career to something stable and wonderful just…died.


I remember the day I was curled up on the floor in fetal position, crying, unable to see how I was even going to survive. My ego was shattered.


But I knew something: this seemed to happen to me about every seven years.  The entire structure of my life, which had once protected me, became a prison, and when the walls started to crack it felt like death.  Hadn’t Swift Deer warned me about those seven year cycles..?


Clinging desperately to the possibility that this was the beginning of something GOOD, that on the other side of this agony was something worth the pain, I began to look at it all in terms of the Hero’s Journey.


This was the Dark Night of the Soul, step “Seven” of the path.  I knew this place.  I’d been in this place. And I knew the way through this place.


GIVE UP HOPE THAT I’M SMART ENOUGH TO “FIGURE IT OUT.” Give up the utter egotism of believing that if I can’t see the answer there IS no answer.


Find faith.  In myself (“I’ve been here before”), in my companions (“My teachers had faith in me. My family needs me.  Tananarive is a good and righteous woman who loves me.”) and in the Divine (“God would not give me a dream I can hold continuously in my heart unless there is a way to accomplish it.)


Faith.   I HAVE NEVER BEEN FAILED BY ALL THREE.  Never.  So long as I took continuous action, one step at a time, I had always found my way through the fog.   How long did it take..?


Well, it took me seventeen years to earn my first black belt, so much pain and fear was I working through.  That’s a LOT of faith.   THAT’S how strong I am, dammit.


You can kill me, but you cannot stop me.


All right…but how did I make it real?  What do I DO?




The “M.A.G.I.C.” formula came out of this abject desperation.   I searched and searched for an answer, finally looking into that popular piece of fluff-philosophy “The Secret”.  Yeah, right: if you want something enough, think about it enough, it will come to you.


You can sit on the couch “wanting” a bucket of chicken but you’ll starve waiting for it unless you at least pick up the damned phone.

Book irritated the hell out of me.


But…there was a speck of truth in there.   I’d sensed it and experienced it, but couldn’t quite wrap my mind around how it worked.    Somehow, sometimes, things DID just happen. Coincidence?  NO.   I sensed a pattern, but I couldn’t quite grip it.  There was something there.


And in my desperation, I sought out the book “The Science of Getting Rich” by Wallace D. Wattles, said to be one of the sources of ‘The Secret” and read it….


It was only about 80 pages long, and I read it in an hour.  And then I read it again.  And again.


And…I was stunned.




The contents just…disappeared into some black hole in my brain, and I was TERRIFIED. What the hell was going on?


Then I remembered something that had happened to me back when I went through the “est” training. You know, the two weekends where they don’t let you go to the bathroom?  Yeah, that one, back in the 1970s.


So…it’s about midnight,  and I’m packed in a hotel ballroom with hundreds of exhausted people. The trainer, irritatingly chipper and alert, brings up a topic: “Money.”  And I watched a whole chunk of the room fall asleep.  Don’t blame ’em, I thought.


Then at about 1am, he changed the subject: “Sex”. And a whole chunk of the audience woke up…and another chunk went to sleep.  I could see it, like a wave washing through the group.  And I was suddenly wide awake in a new way. I wasn’t listening to the conversation.  I was watching the audience. And something hit me. A question: “what if the people `dropping out’ were people who were uncomfortable with that subject?  What if we avoid, delete, the information we aren’t ready for?”




If that was true…then I wouldn’t let myself absorb the information, especially if it conflicted with some core belief I was clinging to.


I HAD to understand what was in that book.  So…I used a technique I learned from Miss Nowacki, my high school biology teacher.  Read a page, and synopsize it.   Do that through the entire selection.  Then…synopsize the synopsizes.  And synopsize that. And that.  Until you boil it down to its minimum structured meaning.


Somewhere along the way, you’ll drill the meaning into your head.


So I did that.  It took me a couple of days, but I finally had it boiled down to just five words.    After experimenting with those five words for a few years, my dear friend and Tai Chi assistant instructor KinShan suggested that I phrase them as follows:




Magic = Action X Gratitude X Intention X Conviction.


And when I looked at this, and my intuition told me that I had indeed extracted the meaning from this little book that had inspired so many millions, I understood two things:


  1. Why I hadn’t been able to absorb and understand that book.
  2. Where “The Secret” had gone wrong.


Do you see it?   If not, let me ask you a question: what was the significance of this being a multiplicative as opposed to an additive equation?


Think about it before you move forward.  See it?   If not, I’ll give you a hint:


Give each term (Action, Gratitude, Intention, Conviction) a numerical value from 0-9, representing your level of each.

Get it yet?





Take no action?  Zero.

Feel no gratitude for your life?  Zero.

Have no Faith you CAN and SHOULD do it, that the efforts will bring you more pleasure than pain..?


Holy crap.  If I was right, then “The Secret” blew it because it was cool on intention, positive vibes and focus…but had no emphasis on ACTION.




In other words, by the most perverse twist imaginable, if I wanted to get OUT of Atlanta (after our obligations there were fulfilled) I had to be GRATEFUL TO BE THERE.


No.   NOOOOOOO!  It couldn’t be. And yet…and yet…


What the hell did I have to lose except my self-righteousness and anger?   So I decided to try it. And the first step was “Action.” What action could I take, every day, that would lead me one step at a time to my destination?


I remembered my plan to “write a story a week, or every other week.”  And even though I hadn’t formalized that, I was writing a minimum of about a page a day.  And knew that writing ANYTHING every day was keeping a tiny vent open in my mind, connecting conscious and unconscious minds in a way that kept me on track no matter what.  That is the origin of the “One Sentence A Day” notion.


What was the minimum, the absolute minimum, action I could take on a daily basis?


THAT question led to the discovery of The Daily Ritual.


What was the minimum? there were dozens of different books, articles, websites and such talking about “Daily Rituals” of body, mind, spirit, or emotions.   People said “10-20 minutes” but over time I realized that just five minutes made a massive difference IF YOU ACTUALLY DID IT.  Five minutes done regularly was better than an hour you did once a month.   That if I got smart, I could fold so many things into that five minutes that I couldn’t say, even on my worst days, that I wasn’t making progress.


I believe it was Earl Nightengale who said that “Success is the progressive realization of a worthy goal.”


All right.  I could do five minutes.  On my most depressed and desperate days I could do five minutes.  The Tony Robbins version of the “Daily Ritual” was:


  1. Move your body dynamically and positively
  2. Focus your mind on your long and short-term goals
  3. Use Affirmations to SPEAK ALOUD your positive commitment, gratitude, and goals AS IF the future goals are as “real” as past accomplishments.


I chose Tai Chi for my movement.   I clarified my goals, and remembered all I had to feel grateful for.


And was certain that Action, Gratitude, Intention, and Conviction (Faith) were all part of the process.  EVERY DAY, at least six days a week, for at least five minutes. Usually ten.


I simply committed to doing it.    No matter what.


And…it saved my marriage, my career, and my life.  So long as I did Morning Ritual,  I impacted the other 23 hours and 55 minutes of the day.  It was amazing:


  1. I got more done
  2. I had more fun doing it, because I saw how today’s actions, no matter how small, fit into my lifetime goals
  3. I was working on my Tai Chi, which deepened my body-mind connection beautifully
  4. When I integrated the “Five minute miracle” breathing patterns (sixty seconds of diaphragmatic breathing every three hours) it referenced back to the Tai Chi, so that they reinforced each other.
  5. By associating with past positive emotions, I put the lie to the voices in my head saying “all is lost” because I knew something: I COULD FEEL GOOD ANYTIME I WANTED.  If I “felt bad”?  I was being self-indulgent. I was being a needy, wounded, abandoned Child (as Swift Deer used to say)  rather than a warrior.
  6. I was answering the question: Who Am I?  What is True?  What was true was that I could feel good WHENEVER I WANTED TO. Who I was was someone committed to being happy, and healthy, and a good father to my son and a good husband to the wonderful woman who trusted that I understood her desperate, honorable need to hospice her mother.  THAT man.   Not the man-baby curled on the ground.   An adult of the species, dammit.  If you’re having sex, you’d better be a ##$%% adult.  That’s my rule.
  7. And I could be that man, if I could beg, borrow, or steal five minutes a day.
  8. How long would it take? I said I’d do this, daily, for three months.  Three months where I committed to spending five minutes a day.
  9. And it worked, dammit.  It just flat WORKED.
  10. So that’s what I’m asking for you.  A minimum of five minutes a day for 101 days.  As much more time as you can. But five minutes.  101 Days.   I say that your life is worth it.


What do you say?






Should I go Forward? Part Deux

So…earlier/yesterday I laid down the foundation for believing I have a breakthrough in my lifetime’s work.  It is the fact that marketing genius Eugene M. Schwartz’s HOW TO DOUBLE YOUR CHILD’S GRADES IN SCHOOL seems to be making a phenomenal difference in Jason’s life in only five minutes a day.  No bullshit.

(in a spirit of total disclosure, his basic program is that you spend five minutes every day, in a totally positive frame of mind, focusing all that positivity and love on your child while doing the following, in the following order:

  1. “Examine the work he or she is going to turn in the next morning. See that handwritten work is neat and has no misspellings.”
  2. “See that work done on a word processor has been spell-checked and proofread.”
  3. Question what is not clear to you, and have your child explain it to you until you are sure he or she understands it.
  4. “Hear memory work.”
  5. Check Mathematics work for obvious errors
  6. Check the assignment book to be sure the student has completed all work
  7. Now check the work received back from teachers.  If it has errors on it, turn the paper over and ask your child to rework the problems on its back until he or she gets the correct answers. Every error must be redone correctly the same day it is handed back.


As I’ve mentioned, the changes in three weeks have been amazing. Should I wait another 80 days before I speak?  Would that be more responsible?

Or should I trust that you can judge for yourselves, and move forward.  I’m choosing the latter.


My realization that the core of my Lifewriting teaching, the most basic applications, are the “Ancient Child” and the “Five Minute Miracle”.   Coincidence?  Synchronicity?     What if, I whispered to myself this morning, I assumed that I now had everything I need to accomplish my most important lifetime goal:


Creating ONE MILLION AWAKE, AWARE, ADULT human beings


What if it was even possible..?


Oh my God, did the “pretender voices” in my head ever try to tell me to shut up.


But…here I go.




Today is a stunningly important day. For thirty years I’ve been testing LIFEWRITING.   This is the notion that the Hero’s Journey and the Chakras contain all the information you need to evolve and succeed as a balanced, awake, aware, happy human being.  Thousands of students later, I’m more convinced than ever that this is a valid approach.


But the HJ was both a technique, a perspective, and a means of organizing other technologies.   A SYNTAX.  You could take ANY success principles you loved, and organize them on this pattern to achieve ANY definable goal with greater efficiency and effectiveness.  The first “Lifewriting” workshops I clustered techniques about increasing energy, finding aliveness and creativity, focus, healing, and love.


Dear God, I’d traveled a lot of roads and collected that stack of stuff. Useful stuff.  Stuff that helped me find the love of my life, build a successful writing career, and earn three black belts.   Master fear and focus. Create an unshakably powerful positive attitude toward life, what the late Saint Ed Bryant called “Obnoxiously Exuberant”.

I can own that.


How could I winnow the thousands of ideas learned from the best, strongest, most successful and interesting, evolved and creative human beings it has been my honor to meet?  From Ray Bradbury  and Elon Musk to Sijo Steve Muhammad and Sri Chinmoy?

Back in 2008 I did this with the best  101 notions, and that was the 101 PROGRAM.  101 Days to personal excellence was the goal.


I gave it away FREE to hundreds of people, then sat back and watched. What did they use? How did they use it?  What did they ignore?  What worked? What failed?


About nine years ago, Scott Sonnon’s “Flow State Performance Spiral” combined with Pavel Tsatsouline’s “Grease the Groove” to suggest that just a “Five Minute Miracle” could evolve your body/minds reactions to stress.  Dr. Steven Sideroff was so impressed by the concept that he invited me to practice these techniques at the ultra high-end Moonview stress clinic, where for years I was paid absurdly well to help wealthy, powerful, no b.s. ultra-high performers who had access to the best of the best coaches and doctors.   And…on the sly, the man who scheduled the sessions told me that the clients preferred me to any other expert at the clinic.  Most of whom had Doctorates or formal degrees in psychology, psychiatry, stress physiology, or more.

That little old Life-Hacker, me.

What in the hell was I doing, he asked..? Hell, all I did was walk in, teach them to breathe, and share an hour or two of honest time with them. Moving, laughing, talking, having fun, sometimes crying together.  Just honest time, being healthy animals together.

I wish I could spend an hour like that with each and every one of the hundreds of thousands of people I want to help.  I can’t.  What the hell CAN I do..?


About six years ago I finally nailed down a useful definition of “Mastery”.


Five years ago the concept of Spiritual Autolysis by “Jed Mckenna” simplified a library of books on spiritual evolution until the core could fit onto a post card.


Four years ago, a comment from the Dalai Lama in a printed interview opened my eyes. To a simple, workable Meaning of Life.


For the last three years, the Ancient Child and Daily Ritual emerged as the most basic steps.


And for the last year, been looking at what can be accomplished in just five minutes. The recent breakthrough with Jason convinces me that the RIGHT five minutes can transform a child…and that means you can transform an adult as well.


This morning I realized that this just might be,  for all practical purposes, the point where my entire life’s work just came together.


How simple can it get? What is the seed? What is the MINIMUM I can offer?   It has seemed like an impossible task, but it’s what I’ve been doing for my entire life.  I’m now 65.  Not going to be 64 next year.  If I’m ever going to put it all together…this is the time.


I woke up this morning, and Little Stevie told me I was ready.



  • The Goal:   One million awake, aware, adult human beings
  • The Method: a 101 day/Five minutes a day program
  • Time investment:  One week (sample) 90- days  to One Year (core program)
  • Venue: Internet: email, web-based.  Home study, on their own schedule.  Add a web-based mastermind if possible, and a social media group.
  • Intent: physical, mental, emotional mastery for adults and their children.



Is this possible?  Depends on definitions.  If the greatest masters of life I’ve ever known seem to agree on the following statement (primary synthesis: Steve Muhammad and George Leonard):


Mastery is a verb, not a noun. A vector, not a position.  Once you have the basics committed to unconscious competence, and have committed to a daily path for a lifetime, you are on the Path of Mastery as much as anyone else on that path, even those horizons ahead.”


Then the question of

  1. Commitment for 5 minutes for 7 days, mastering some small piece of the puzzle to convince your inner and outer selves that the method works.  OFFER THIS PIECE FREE, TO ANYONE, AS A WAY OF SAYING “THANK YOU” TO THE UNIVERSE.


Then for those who wish more guidance:


  1. Commitment to balance
  2. Daily practice of at least five minutes for at least 101 Days
  3. Develop the intuition to self-guide from that point onward.


Does that make sense? Who is this going to be for?  There is only one answer that can be made with 100% integrity:


My Avatar, my perfect student, is ME, from childhood onward.   THAT guy. That kid who once stood crying in the street knowing he’d rather die than let others define him, beat him, break him, even if he saw no way to accomplish his dreams.

That means it has to be PERFECT for people who want  mastery in:


Martial Arts




In other words, anyone who  wants to be a black belt married to his/her soulmate and enjoy a successful writing career.  Does that make sense? PERFECT for him.


But it also had to be  EXCELLENT AND INVALUABLE for a woman who wants those things.  Or  anyone who wants any one  of them.

And if it is, it would also be WONDERFUL for anyone who wants one or all of:

Body: Health and fitness

Mind: How to make a living doing something that gives you pleasure.  How to help yourself or a loved one  succeed in just 5 minutes a day

Spirit: How to be at peace within yourself, love yourself, love others.  Be HAPPY.


The rest is just specific application.


Five Minutes.   101 Days.  The path to mastery.


I have my own “pretender voices” screaming at me.  How DARE I think I can do this? Who the hell do I think I am?


And yet…


If not me, who?

If not now, when?

And why should I indulge the weakest, palest, most frightened and angry voices in my head?


How about I  let YOU guys be the judge, tell ME if this is of value, and not let either the positive or negative ego voices twist my tail?  What about that?


I tell you what…if YOU guys tell me that what I’ve been doing is worth while…that this sounds like coolness…that  you would like me to move forward, and clearly deleniate this path, to stop dancing around it and go right to the heart…I will.  But if you don’t think I’ve been saying anything of value over the last years…I won’t.  Honestly.  It’s up to you.


Would this be a good thing?


FIRST LAW:   The most basic information will be given FREE.  Say, a “Seven Day” Jumpstart” program.  Totally free.   Covering, say, the Daily Ritual applied to adults and children.  Body, Mind, Spirit.


Does that sound fair?  Would you be interested?





Give your dreams some breathing room

When I was trying to break in as a writer, I got scads of rejection slips, and every one of them hit me like a sledgehammer to the stomach.  The voices in my head were screaming monsters, filled with doubt, fear, pain, guilt, anger, and an increasingly hollow sense of futility.


Give up.  I’m wasting my life.  There is no hope.


Every night when I went to bed. Every morning when I woke up.  This was before I had a formal structure of “the Machine” but I had read Bradbury’s advice to “write a story a week, or every other week”


For how long, though?   What was a reasonable time to keep banging my head against the wall?   And sometimes in about 1976 I decided: 100 Stories.  Why? Because actual logic (as opposed to fear) told me I could probably do it in about 50. Maybe less. But what if I got close, ran into walls, and the nausea and doubt caused me to bail on my dreams when they were right on the other side of my efforts?


There is a story told in a motivation book whose name I no longer remember, about a guy digging a gold mine.  He was very successful at first…and then the gold died out. Just gone.  So he sold out for the cost of the machinery, and left the country.  The man who bought the machinery brought in a mining engineer who mapped the strata and theorized that there was another vein just a few feet from one of the tunnels where the first man had stopped.  The second man dug as directed…and struck one of the deepest,richest veins in the history of the state.


The first guy had stopped digging too soon.  I didn’t want to stop digging too soon…but I also didn’t want to kill myself chasing an impossible dream.


So…100.   If I committed to 100 stories STARTING FROM WHERE I WAS, I could do that in two years. Then, if I still didn’t get there, I could quit and do something else with my life. But I’d know I’d really given it my best shot.




What I ask from a student is to commit for one year.  Twelve months. To go through every holiday, birthday, emotional anchor on the calendar. To read hundreds of stories, and write at least 12, minimum.   Then, if they haven’t sold a story at the end of that time, they’ve given it an honest shot, and can leave the field with honor.


If you can sell ONE story, the second one is easier. And the next, and the next. And when you’ve sold 30k of short work, you’re ready to write a 30k novella. And when you’ve sold 100k  of shorter work, you’re ready for that novel.


Simple, direct, measurable, paced, proportioned.  One step and then another, and another.


THAT is the Lifewriting Premium program. It is for people who are ready to commit to spending a year of their lives.  If you don’t think MY program is the one you want to follow for a year, just cancel at any time.  But please, please….give yourself a year, STARTING NOW.  100 stories STARTING NOW.   100k of work STARTING NOW.


Give your dreams some breathing room.  Please.


You’re worth it.


Write with passion, live with purpose!

Steven Barnes


The Vegas Shooting: a loose thread in the Gordian Knot


I awakened almost a year ago with insight about a solution to the race problem, a five-step solution I’ve discussed many times since then:

  1. Love yourself
  2. Love one other person (leading to  the notion of “Num”, that there is one soul looking out through many eyes)
  3. Understand history without guilt, blame, or shame
  4. Support your tribe.  Don’t engage with sleepers or snakes. Be strong enough to fight monsters.
  5. Win with integrity and compassion.


I’ve also discussed The Hero’s Journey,  Musashi (especially “Do not think dishonestly”), Sun Tzu, and the notion that anger is fear…and where these ideas go.   I’ve explored these, expanded them, given endless examples. And applied them to other arenas like gender, sexual orientation, and politics.  But I’ve never tried to apply them to the gun issue. Because, frankly, I’m pretty ignorant about the subject.   Had to wait for an inspiration. And this morning I awakened with one.




For the men of Wu and the men of Yueh are enemies; yet if they are crossing a river in the same boat and are caught by a storm, they will come to each other’s assistance just as the left hand helps the right.“–Sun Tzu, “The Nine Situations” chapter 11



What is more important?  For you to win, or for your opponent to lose?    I hope you realize that if you focus on your opponent “losing” you can lose too, like the scorpion that stings the frog.

Focus on winning.  And if possible, if at ALL possible, help your opponent to win as well.  But the trick is: each of you may need to shift your definition of “winning”, go deeper than the surface issues, to do so.


On a basic level, you can start with the assumption of equality.     I fight for it, whether the subject is race, gender, or politics.  I will slowly, gradually, at great cost, be hauled away from that position.  Get attacked from both sides, which is fine by me.

I see many who start from the assumption of INEQUALITY. They too can be moved away from that position…but painfully, gradually, at great cost…and they snap back to those earlier assumptions first chance they get.  And yes, oppressed peoples (or those who consider themselves oppressed) are just as likely to consider themselves superior as oppressors, make no mistake.  Black people about white people, women about men, gay about straight, atheists about the religious.

It’s human stuff. Miss this, get politicized, and you might not notice when your allies slowly turn on you, until they manipulate you into a “heads I win tails you lose” situation, using fear or guilt to disarm and control.  Its fascinating to watch, really.

What’s even more fun is when they think I don’t notice.

To focus on the common ground is a tactic of phenomenal import, EXPECIALLY if you are deadlocked.  If one side is stronger than the other, there is the potential to simply strike and crush.    But if not?  Time to think differently.  Maybe not judo, which, while gentle, is still about “I win, you lose.”  Maybe Aikido, which asks us to find common ground.  We can both win.  If I must hurt you, we both lose.

You lose with broken bones of course.  Ahem.  But my spirit has been damaged because Num.



The Las Vegas shooting is a perfect example of a situation of common peril.  A stormy sea which endangers both “armies”.  If they can step back from their hatred and fear and selfishness and tribalism, they can grasp the core of the problem, and find common ground.

There are a few things about the Gun Control debate that I think all sane people can admit if they will take a deep breath.  I don’t think any of these points require much more than assuming shared humanity, and a little logic. For the sake of simplicity, we’ll say “Right” as “second amendment advocates”, and “Left” as “gun control advocates” without any pejoratives attached to either. Can we do that?

(BTW:   sorry, but I’m not calling this man a “terrorist”.   I think there has been a corruption of language.  A terrorist in my mind isn’t someone who inspires terror or causes violence.  It is a person who USES violence to cause terror with the intent of manipulating the minds, emotions, and actions of a population thereby. You can also cause mass death as a saboteur: a simple urge to damage the infrastructure of your opponent.  OR: you might simply wish to create a tableau,  and have no real caring about how your victims FEEL  about it. The victims aren’t human. Have no “inwardness”  They are just material to paint your canvas.  Of course, you may also simply enjoy killing, for the sheer pleasure.  Many of these seem to have increased joy if their victims are afraid.  But without a political will to leverage that fear to create some larger effect…not “terrorism.”

Such people are more dangerous than “terrorists” by the way.  They have stepped away from their humanity.   Be very, very careful. They have embraced their monstrosity.

Yeah, I’ve heard that the CIA changed the definitions. But if you don’t think intelligence agencies manipulate language to control populations, you might want to pay closer attention.

Anyway, as Rod Serling used to say, “Submitted for your approval”:


  1. Both Left and Right believe their position enhances chances of survival. For different reasons, yes.  But they do. You don’t have to agree with them, but you’d better believe they aren’t just engaging in political theater.
  2. The event in Vegas is a nightmare to both sides.  The Left because it is a primary nightmare of a killing machine leveraging the power of modern firearms and efficient tactics to slaughter the innocent.
  3. The Right because the “a bad man with a gun can only be stopped by a good man with a gun” idea about armed citizens simply doesn’t work in this situation. He had high ground, a massed group that could be devastated by unaimed fire, and a distance that negated hand-guns. Bim, bam, boom.   Horror show.     If the crowd had been armed with automatic rifles it wouldn’t have helped much, let alone handguns. Imagine hundreds of terrified people “returning fire” against a hotel wall of hundreds of rooms.  The death toll would have doubled.   And let’s not forget an unfortunately politicized reality…the identification.  Its not unreasonable to think Country Western fans skew more Right.  And if you are Right, you are more likely to see yourself, your neighbors, your children there than some other sorts of concerts.  You know perfectly well what I mean, and don’t pretend you don’t.  When the affected group is like you, it is Harder to “other.”  YOU could have been in that group.  Easily.  Helpless.
  4.  This is, in other words, a nuclear event, where the “the answer is an armed population” doesn’t work IN THIS INSTANCE for anyone sane. But that doesn’t mean that a person who admits that is interested in “giving up their guns.”
  5. Don’t be dishonest and say “no one wants to take your guns.”  Bullshit.  “No one”?  Are you kidding? All you have to do is scan FB feeds, and you’ll see people who are in favor of total gun confiscation.   THAT is the truth. Now…”there is no major political movement to take all guns” is probably true.    THAT can be defended and discussed. For God’s sake don’t pretent that there isn’t a difference.  If you lie, you lose the right to expect your opponent to tell the truth.
  6. And here is where the opening is.   Those willing to speak the truth, on Left or Right, who are willing to see the common humanity (“we both want to live. We both love our children”) who are willing to look into their own hearts (“we are both angry, because we are both afraid”) have the chance to put down their rhetorical weapons and look at the shared reality:
  7. BOTH WANT TO STOP MASS MURDERS.    And the safeguards currently in place, whether seen as “gun regulation” or “gun availability” both failed. In THIS instance, it is not, I believe, unreasonable to say that more guns in the hands of “good guys”  wouldn’t have helped a damned bit.  But if you don’t grasp that the “opposite side”  is listening and reading your threads, just as YOU are reading their threads and listening to THEIR threads, and they KNOW what some of your people are thinking…then lying about it is not only dishonest, it destroys the slender thread of trust that can lead to the future we want.
  8. What do we all want?  Happiness.  To have that, we all need some combination of security and freedom.  We ALL want our children to grow up and live happy lives.    Imagine a world with far more happiness, say two generations from now.   It is the result of decisions and actions taken by our children.  We don’t need to know what they are, as long as it leads to that Happiness, that balance of security and freedom.    Take your mind, for just a moment, off the fixed picture you have of what that balance might be. Or the need to be so egotistical that if YOU can’t think of an answer, or an answer hasn’t been found in your lifetime, there IS no answer.  Multi-generational problems can require multi-generational solutions.     Let our children work that out, if that’s what it takes.
  1. What WE can do is stop lying. Stop acting as if the people on the other side are our enemies. Why?  BECAUSE IT HASN’T WORKED.   Simple.  It.  Hasn’t. Worked.  Because it was based on politics (“How can we win?”) as opposed to philosophy (“what is true?”)  Stray from the path of truth, just one foot, and you lose the right to complain that your efforts don’t work.   If you decide to run east, you give up your right to see a sunset.   The truth is that you DO have extremists on each side who exemplify what the other side fears the most.  IF you’re one of ’em, you may be a good person. You may even be “right.”  But if you lie about it, I submit that I do not trust you, or anyone who lies about the fact that you are there.    The truth is that both sides think their approach leads to greater safety.  The truth is that we have a clear example of ONE SITUATION in which the theories on the Right don’t work.  One situation. Try to generalize from that and you had better qualify your words, and be VERY careful not to make “universal” statements which are great politically (your “side” will love that) but lead right back into gridlock.  Want more gridlock?   Just keep that shit up.
  2. So here is the answer:
    1. TELL THE TRUTH.   There are extremists on each side.  Admit it.  People who would take all guns. People who think they have the right to own a Nuke.    Yes, there really are.
    2. FIND COMMON GROUND.  What are the things we all can agree on?  We all want to live, and for our children to live.  Each side is afraid of the other’s approach, each interprets the same document to support their own position. 
    3. GET OUT OF YOUR EGO.  Because YOU don’t see the answer doesn’t mean there isn’t an answer.  It means that we may be too time-bound, culture-bound, politic-bound, history-bound and ego-bound to see it. Or simply not smart enough.  No one person, time, or culture has all the answers.  If this is the “Dark Night of the Soul” then the way through is the “Leap of Faith.” ONLY those with faith in themselves, their fellow citizens or a larger, greater pattern will guide us through.  The rest will fall back in an endlessly repeated, exhausting, and defeating “Road of Trials.”
    4. START WITH THE PIECE WE CAN SOLVE.  Find the loose thread in the Gordion Knot. Unravel as much as we can see, and trust tomorrow, and the next generation if necessary. That loose thread is: we are both afraid, we have common interests.
    1. Love yourself enough to agree that you’d rather live and be happy than be “right” according to yesterday’s definitions.  Get out of your ego.
    2. Love another human being enough to imagine horror happening to your child, your spouse, your brothers and sisters.    Now ask if counting coup on your “opponents” is worth the blood of those you love.
    3. Understand history without guilt, blame, or shame.   Also, grasp the Long View.  Human beings have resolved countless apparently insoluable problems.  Sometimes, often, usually, not within a single human lifetime.   Get over yourself. Your miserable little lifespan ain’t all that important.  Don’t sacrifice the future because you want it to happen NOW, immediately, before you take the dirt nap.   Maybe it can happen fast…but if so, those who facilitate that will be the ones who can see beyond their @#$$ ego-need to be “right.”
    4. Support your tribe.  In THIS instance, your “Tribe” is people who want that healthier, happier future, and is willing to focus on the future (happiness, security, freedom) rather than some particular opinion about the tools and strategies that can get us there.  People willing to speak the truth:  “I am afraid.  I want to live, and for my children to live.”   “On both sides there are extremists.  Because I tilt more toward them doesn’t mean they aren’t there, and I won’t lie about it any longer.”   “I can admit that the other side has valid concerns” and “it is possible for intelligent people of good will to interpret a 200 year old document differently” and “we must find a way to live together, and build a world that works for our children.”  People willing to come from love, and see their own soul looking out from the eyes of those they disagree with.
    5. Win.  With integrity and compassion.  Winning is reaching that future of greater happiness, freedom, and security.  I feel safe in saying that NEITHER OF US IS SMART ENOUGH TO DESCRIBE THE FULL PATH TO THAT FUTURE. But I believe I’ve detected the first step.  Just the first.  And if you take one step, you’ll see a little more clearly. And ONLY those who can take that step will mark the path that enables someone stronger, smarter, more honest to take two more. So that someone else can take three steps further. Musashi’s Thousand Mile Road.
  1. This won’t happen fast, because I don’t believe many people can do as I suggest. But just for a moment, imagine a world in which people could do as I’m suggesting.  Don’t you think they could, brainstorming among millions, find an answer?   Do you really think this is the worst problem humanity has faced?  If so, you never took Step #3.
  2. And what are the immediate advanages?  A decrease in the net amount of fear and anger in our culture. Which diminishes the amount of cause-based violence, and increases communication.  Which leads to brainstorming, which leads to answers undreamed of.   The “Tribe” of people willing to communicate honestly gets to grow.   I think they will make good neighbors for each other, even if they disagree.


That’s my answer.  The first step.   Meet each other with love, and honesty. Don’t give each other reason to INCREASE their fear or shame or guilt or anger.  That causes them to shut down.  You may feel better, but you have accomplished NOTHING.  But man, have you ever been “virtue signaling” to your side of the aisle.  “Showed ’em good!!”  Yeah.  Real good.


Those who lie, or scream, or cannot see the common humanity CANNOT be part of the discussion.  Let them sleep, or slither away. The monsters are crouching in hotel rooms, grinning down on the crowd.


Steven Barnes


What was your moment?

First, know what your outcome is. Then, WHY you want it. Only then start thinking of the “hows”, the “To Do” list.


It is important to grasp this when wondering what use art has.  Art is “Self” expression, a communication of the artist’s deep sense of humanity and reality.   The technical aspects are the “language” used to transfer that emotion.


I felt so isolated as a kid.  No male role model, dealing with racial preconceptions, and being a four-eyed, pot-bellied little geek created a level of loneliness I had no way to deal with.  I went deeply into fiction, especially fantasy and SF, looking for a place to feel safe, and noticed that kids like me weren’t represented there either.


“Don’t you see me?  Don’t you love me?” I asked the world, and would cry myself to sleep.  The fear that there would never be a place for me was overwhelming.    I started telling stories partially because I saw I got a positive reaction from people when I did.  And partially because I wanted to create stories that reflected…me.


It wasn’t until high school that something really clicked. I was in drama class, and representatives of the Leadership class came and said they wanted to do a “Clean up the campus” assembly, and asked if anyone could write skits for them.


I volunteered, and they liked what I did and invited me to participate in the assembly.  I wrote a poem modeled on Henry Gibson from “Laugh In”.  Every week he would recite a poem while holding a big artifical flower, and it was a funny bit.  So I created a “flower” made from shredded newspaper, walked out on the stage.  I was blinded by the lights, but people laughed.  I squared my shoulders and said:


“A poem.  By Henry Gibson:


`I like to look at trash heaps tall and tow’ring to the sky.

They’re beautiful, yes one and all, and made by you and I.

Perhaps one day these glorious things to which we’ve given birth

Will take to flight on orange peel wings, and conquer all the earth.

Thank you.”


And took a bow to thunderous applause.


I was stunned.  For the rest of the week, guys slapped me on the back and told me how funny they thought I was.   Girls were smiling and seemed to be noticing me for the first time.


I wasn’t invisible any more.  Now…I had written before this point. And there were major touchstones that followed. But this moment, on that stage, with the lights on me, making people laugh, and the revelation that followed: “I’m not invisible any more!” was a sea-change in my life.


Can you remember a moment that you decided on the arts? That they could change your life?  Or even change the world?


This was one of mine. What was yours?



Write with passion, live with purpose!



Five Minute Miracles

Again, here are the seven steps to be done every morning in the “Five Minute Achievement Check”





  • “Examine the work he or she is going to turn in the next morning. See that handwritten work is neat and has no misspellings.”
  • “See that work done on a word processor has been spell-checked and proofread.”
  • Question what is not clear to you, and have your child explain it to you until you are sure he or she understands it.
  • “Hear memory work.”
  • Check Mathematics work for obvious errors
  • Check the assignment book to be sure the student has completed all work
  • Now check the work received back from teachers.  If it has errors on it, turn the paper over and ask your child to rework the problems on its back until he or she gets the correct answers. Every error must be redone correctly the same day it is handed back.




Working backwards from the assumption that the “How to Double Your Child’s Grades” book by E.M. Schwartz is a valid approach (I am going on that assumption for 100 days) then if these seven steps are fundamental, they

  1. Improve the connection between parent and child
  2. Implant the basics for success in organized thought.
  3. Insure that the basics of reading, writing, and math are integrated.
  4. Teach short-cuts to learning (learning the vocabulary of your subject)
  5. Teach focus and flow.
  6. Associate PLEASURE with performance, rather than pain.
  7. Learn HOW to think, rather than just “what” because you can apply this syntax to learning anything.


Probably other stuff too, but man, if you have these things…don’t you have the foundation for a lifetime of learning?  THIS IS THE FIRST 20 PAGES OF A 322 PAGE BOOK.   I’ve spoken of the results we’ve seen.  But here is a note we got from his Learning Center teacher, where he is supposed to be doing homework, and generally goofs and distracts and gets nothing done:



Just wanted to say that I have definitely seen a large improvement in Jason’s focus during LC.  Although he still has some missing assignments from earlier this year,  he has been doing much better at turning in the assignments on time lately.  Please tell him that I appreciate his efforts, keep going!!  Have a nice weekend! 



If you were me, wouldn’t you be shaking your head and saying: WOW???




So I’d love a conversation about what is happening here, and why you might think it is working (we’re making that assumption for the 100 days.  Emptying my cup, as it were).   What’s going on here?


The reason I ask is that this ties into the “Five Minute Miracles” theme that winds through much of my work.  “Minimum steps” (jn time or simplicity_ that create maximal results.  Others are:


  1. BODY
    1. The Five Tibetans
    2. Yoga
    3. Intermittent Fasting
    4. Joint mobility
    5. Abdominal work
    6. Turkish Get-Ups
  2. MIND
    1. Saving 10% of income
    2. Writing a sentence a day
    3. Reading a short story a day
    4. Reading a poem a day
    5. Writing/re-reading goals
    6. “RPM” planning: What, Why, THEN “How.”
    7. Five Minute Achievement
    1. Heartbeat meditation
    2. Ancient Child
    3. Morning Ritual
    4. Talking Stick
    5. “Five Minute Miracle” anti-stress breathing.


There are others. But I’m realizing that there are even greater implications in such small steps, if taken carefully and deliberately.  What other ULTRA short duration activities have great potential?


So I’m asking you to answer one of three questions:

  1. What do you think about what is happening in the “Five Minute Achievement” process?
  2. What other short-duration technologies do you know of?
  3. What on these subjects would you like me to dive into more deeply?


Write with Passion, Live with Purpose!



Got Five Minutes to help your child succeed?

If farm boy Luke Skywalker had gone to sleep in his bed and awakened flying an X-Wing attacking the Death Star, he would have been killed instantly.  Then entire movie “A New Hope”, then, is bridging the “gap” between where Luke began, and the major task he would be challenged with at the end.


He was challenged to step into a larger world: “Come with me, Luke…learn the ways of the Force”, traveled great distances, met new people who expanded his world, learned the power of the Force, how to use a light saber, how to be a leader, think tactically, fight, and deal with loss.    Then during the attack on the Death Star, when all is lost, he has a choice: let all his friends die and the Rebellion fail, or kill his ego and allow his true nature to emerge.  As a result, he evades death, makes the “impossible” shot, and wins the day.


Absent ANY of those earlier steps, Luke is toast.



The basic rule of Eugene M. Schwartz’s “How to Double Your Child’s Grades In School”:




  • “Examine the work he or she is going to turn in the next morning. See that handwritten work is neat and has no misspellings.”
  • “See that work done on a word processor has been spell-checked and proofread.”
  • Question what is not clear to you, and have your child explain it to you until you are sure he or she understands it.
  • “Hear memory work.”
  • Check Mathematics work for obvious errors
  • Check the assignment book to be sure the student has completed all work
  • Now check the work received back from teachers.  If it has errors on it, turn the paper over and ask your child to rework the problems on its back until he or she gets the correct answers. Every error must be redone correctly the same day it is handed back.



How does this compare?   Well…it looks to me as if there is a complete education compressed in these step.

  1. Readin’, Ritin’, Rithmatic.
  2. Ability to memorize
  3. Ability to understand and follow directions
  4. Ability to handle failure and learn from it.
  5. Ability to extract meaning from a mass of data
  6. “Do not neglect little things” like neatness and precision
  7. Feedback loops within feedback loops
  8. The ability to FOCUS totally
  9. Anchoring positive emotions to learning.
  10. Positive self-image due to success at goals.
  11. Understanding the relationship between focus, learning, and results.
  12. Tighter parent-child bonds leading to greater faith in self


I don’t know about you, but that sounds like everything we want to teach our children, pretty much. Am I missing anything?



How about the adult “Morning Ritual”:  For 5-20 minutes every day:

  1. Move your body with power (I use Tai Chi.  Joint mobility, walking, running, rebounding all work)
  2. Use affirmations to implant positive emotions and beliefs in self.
  3. Focus on long and short term goals. What needs to be done TODAY?


What you get is

  1. ability to keep your promises to yourself
  2. Ability to shift your mood at will (emotions are created by focus, internal dialogue, and motion)
  3. Connecting today’s actions to long term outcomes
  4. Generating the emotions necessary to perform at the highest levels


More as well, of course. If you choose your goals carefully (body, career, emotions, finances)  you will learn about everything you need to learn about yourself and the world around you.   Not bad for ten minutes a day, right???


Now…how about the “Lifewriting Premium” system?


  1. A sentence a day
  2. 1-4 stories a month
  3. Submit, keep submitting until sold
  4. Don’t rewrite except to editorial request.
  5. Read 10X what you write
  6. Repeat 100 times


O.K., what do we get for our five minutes HERE?

  1. Crushing writer’s block
  2. Imprinting story pattern at unconscious competence
  3. Huge market research
  4. Abundant research and reading
  5. Long and short term focus
  6. Ability to go through the “Dark Night” dozens of times, until you are desensitized and gain faith in yourself…


Can you see the underlying similarity in the patterns? I hope so, because EVERYONE wants the things these strategies offer.  For a minimum investment of  five minutes a day, you can change your child’s life, change your life, or create the writing career you crave.


ANYONE CAN DO FIVE MINUTES. So you are left with the lies you tell yourself.   Musashi’s first principle is “do not think dishonestly” because as soon as you start lying, especially to yourself, you are stepping off the only safety any of us have: accurate assessment of our skills, the territory, our companions, and our destination and the cost of reaching it.



This really is fascinating.  I have NO idea if there is anything “long term” going on with Jason, but I will tell you that the first two weeks have been amazing.

  1. He’s finished his homework almost every day.
  2. His mood has been more stable
  3. I’ve watched him come CLOSE to “brainfart” without tipping over.
  4. He is saying “I love you” more often, smiling more.
  5. Dealing with going to bed without flipping out.
  6. Overall a little more polite
  7. More focus
  8. Starting to engage with problem-solving situations as puzzles rather than threats.


Look…I don’t know where this will go.  Don’t want to exaggerate or live in false hope. But in all honesty, I’ve never seen anything affect him so powerfully so quickly.   This is real “WTF?” territory. But…if I look back on things like Musashi, the Morning Ritual, or the Lifewriting Program…its all pointing in the same direction.


Here’s my promise: I will keep you posted as we progress.  If you want to brainstorm about this stuff, for God’s sake let me know. NOTHING is more important than our children. I think we can agree on that, and if you can’t you’re reading the wrong page.  I don’t compromise on that, at all, ever.


To find a “five minute” solution that has THIS kind of promise?  My mind is boggling.



Write with Passion…Live with Purpose!