Like Any Good Halloween Monstrosity, this one won’t stay dead

Oh, it pops up about once a week in my stream, and about once a month someone says it directly.  So I’ll answer it directly:

A reader said:

I’ve read a lot of things you’ve had to say about race, and they seem to be well thought
out and balanced, even if I don’t always agree with everything. However, I can’t
remember hearing you speak on a specific topic related to current culture. I found the
following quote on someone else’s wall, and wondered if you would be willing to express
your thoughts on it.

“The Black family survived centuries of slavery and generations of Jim Crow, but it has

disintegrated in the wake of the liberals’ expansion of the welfare state.” — Thomas Sowell

I  think Sowell is entitled to his opinion. But he’s fallen into what I call the “Current
Southern Apologia”, the urgent desire by slavers and the descendants of slavers to avoid
responsibility for 350 years of rape, torture, murder, kidnapping and brainwashing by
blaming the damage on 50 years of free sandwiches.
It really does remind me of a pyromaniac blaming the damage in a burning house on the
firemen who axed down the door.  Or a child molester blaming the damage to his victims
on the neighborhood gossip that followed his arrest and conviction.

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:



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?





Shall I say more?

Three weeks ago, my life changed. My world changed. And it is possible that the next act in my drama began.  I need your help to determine if this true.  Please. No kidding.  Read this and vote.


Since preschool, the teachers have warned us that Jason cannot concentrate, causes problems in the classroom, and so on.   I didn’t realize it until three years ago, but this translates to an actual learning problem.  His grades, finally put in clear context, were dreadful.   My boy was in peril.

So I intensified a program begun about six years ago: a “Morning Ritual for ADD” where we sit, and focus, and I worked to implant basic habits of thought, emotional control, and strategy.  Hoped that he would love martial arts, and that I’d be able to use THAT to integrate his body-mind, but he struggled with the emotional aspect: losing simply beat him down too far.  Losing to a pair of girls devastated him.  I just couldn’t push him there without risking chaos in his academics and home behavior.  So…I limped on, banished my fear, and kept going.

Then about a month ago, Dr. John LaTourrette, a dear friend and a man to be modeled in the arenas of martial arts and success psychology, told me that his son Jack (who does most of the teaching at Doc’s Medford school) is also the head marketer, and won’t even talk with anyone who hasn’t read BREAKTHROUGH ADVERTISING by Eugene Schwartz.  Although I am BURYING myself in the theories of Russell “Clickfunnels” Brunson, I took a peek, and saw that B.A. was out of print, but the comments on Amazon were slavering.   Rapturous.    Schwartz had written something apparently sublime.    I was too busy, and the only copies for sale cost over 300.00, so I said: “ummm…maybe later.”

But…what caught my eye was that he had written other books too, and one of them was called “How to Double your Child’s Grades in School.”  It had at least 4 1/2 stars, and again, the comments were through the roof.  A glance at the description suggested that he had taken modern education theory and combined it with brilliant motivation insights, the same kind of practical psychology that had made him a top-level marketing genius, and created a program which could transform your child’s life in five minutes a day.

I could get a used copy for six bucks.  I mean…what the hell? At worst, I waste an hour or two (I can get my money back) and at best..?  At best..?

It hurt to hope. But…I did.   I got it, scanned the   table of contents, and the index and then the whole thing.  And then read the first two chapters.

Based on the idea of “Readin’ Ritin’, and Rithmatic” Schwarz had created a five minute “Daily Achievement Check” that SEEMS to be teaching outer stuff, but is actually organizing the child’s internal world for focus, structure, problem solving, understanding, self confidence, self-love, and associating learning with pleasure.   That was what I could see in the first hour of reading it.  There was also a 14-Point Study Habits test, where he invited you to evaluate your child’s performance, encouraging you to evaluate again in a week or 30 days to see the difference.

Wow. Real performance measurement?

Further, he said that his teachers might notice the difference so strongly that they would ask you what had changed.


Five minutes a day, he asked.  So…I said “what the hell?” and began.  I took the time we’d used for our “Morning Ritual”, transplanted the Hug aspect, and then began to ask him for total focus for just 300 seconds.  He made it to 90 seconds the first time. Then 120.  Then three minutes. And then…

Somewhere around the fourth day, I noticed he was having fun.  Starting to look forward to the sessions.  More, he was able to focus more.    Less tantrum behavior, less need to split his attention. And…well, let me make a list of the changes  I’ve seen in three weeks:

  1. Finishing his homework with much less stress
  2. Enjoying talking about his schoolwork.
  3. Spontaneously asking for help with organization
  4. Willingness to discuss what he’s learning, and even make connections between science and religion: the first steps toward episomology and cosmology and a personal philosophy
  5. Far less emotional upset, even under pressure
  6. Willingness to accept more responsibility for chores
  7. A perfect math test.
  8. Finishing more of his homework on his own, at school, before he even gets home
  9. He VOLUNTARILY wants to spend more time discussing how he answered problems, actually went “into flow” while talking about math and history, telling stories and extracting information and inference from them and relating them to current events…


And…a week ago we got a note from the teacher in Learning Center that he has been more focused, non-disruptive, and finishing his work.

Almost exactly on schedule, this note came.

Mind.  Blown.

I’d realized that the Morning Ritual for an adult (me) was perhaps the most valuable practice I had.   Had TRIED to create one for Jason, and maybe it was working, maybe not.  But this…

Oh…there is no PHYSICAL component to this, but he is playing more basketball in addition to his scootering.  That’s what healthy kids do. They play. They work their bodies. If they don’t…there is something wrong.

Something has changed here.

Now…what is the most basic building block of the Lifewriting system?   I mean other than the concept of the Hero’s Journey and the Chakras…?

The Ancient Child, that’s what. The Five Minute Miracle, that’s what.

Holy shit.  Are you seeing it?  Do you grasp the edge of what has happened here?

I want to say more, but I don’t want to blather on if you aren’t on board.  So…tell me, please…does this intrigue you?  Shall I say more?

If you want to hear more, I’ve got more. But I have to have your permission.

Yes or No?






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

Having a Happy Childhood

Parents, please be careful with your children. They only get one childhood, and damage that occurs therein lasts a lifetime. I recently spoke with a client who has had a confused personal history: broken relationships, distorted body image, an inability to meditate, career chaos that is confusing (given her brilliance), an oddly infantalized parental relationship, and other things that have troubled me for some time.

And just recently, during an intense session, several things clicked into place: she was prematurely sexual (horrifically young), was never able to tell her mother about it, and the guilt and shame, the resentment at not being protected in combination with a fear that, were the truth known it would deny maternal love, has lead to a lifetime of pain, lies, and finally last week the admission: “I hate myself.”

Oh, God. Where to begin? If you don’t start with love for yourself, you will spend your entire existence trying to get that love from outside yourself. If you must lie to others to protect some “dirty” secret, you lose the capacity to know what is true, and what is false. The map you navigate is distorted by your need to justify, and you swing from grandiose feelings of entitlement to deep and horrific despair.

I suspect that many of the religious organizations that offer healing change the names of their adherents to create a new identity–that it is possible to do such damage to ourselves that there is almost no way to heal it while clinging to the old. I don’t know. I know that damage that takes place on the sexual level is secondary ONLY to damage that involves mortality itself. The scars go so insanely deep. Fifteen years ago I dealt with an incident that involved sexual and emotional issues in my own life. The incident lasted only a couple of months, but it took almost a year of meditation to shovel out the shit in my mental basement. Someone who is damaged in childhood, who doesn’t become fully aware of it until adulthood might have DECADES of emotional filth to wade through to get to purity. Few have the patience to shovel for so long. Most wall the damage off (explaining a lot of emotion-based obesity) and pretend it isn’t there. Stay in denial, until the pain and poison builds to the point that their bodies break down, almost as if they’re playing a game: “Can I avoid dealing with this altogether? Can I arrange to die physically before I have to deal with the fact that I am a twisted, evil thing?”

Of course they are not, and never were, twisted evil things. They were beautiful children who should have been protected and guided and told every day that they were as precious as the stars. No one should have to spend a life shoveling shit out of their emotional basements, or denying they live atop a cesspool, until they die from the vermin crawling up to bite them. And their dreams. And their children.

Parents, shelter your children. And remember always that your most important child sleeps still within your own heart. And needs, more than roses need rain, to know that you love her. Or him. No matter what.

It’s never too late to have a sheltered childhood.

-Steve Barnes

Conceptual Trip Wires


I realized that I have some very specific tactics for arguing with, or evaluating the arguments of others, and some of them specifically evolved to deal with people  smarter than I am.

I commented that I have mental “trip wires”: when after long thought I consider something to be self-evidently true, a person who ignores that truth is automatically put into the category of people I cannot trust to represent reality clearly. THIS IS DANGEROUS, because, of course, what if I’m wrong?  But it is also powerful, allowing you to sort through a load of bullshit, even when that bullshit is offered by someone smarter and more educated than you (say, you have personal experience in something they only have theoretical knowledge of. They are convinced they are right:  “There is no mountain there!” they say to someone who lives on that mountain.  Hmmm.  This may be a “sleeper”.)

I was asked:   “What is your experience in pointing out blind spots to others, particularly if they hold it to be self-evidently true?”

Good question.

I will try to make this general, because I don’t want to trigger people, and I also know that my own biases HAVE TO enter into these observations.   That said, it is harder for them to see it if:


1) they would lose something. Say, they associate evolution with disbelief in God. If I can convince them that they are NOT necessarily linked, it is much easier to discuss Natural Selection.

  1. If they are highly politicized.  If seeing something would weaken the position of “their side” people will sometimes say or apparently believe shit that the same person wouldn’t believe if they weren’t as political.
  2. If they perceive the subject involves survival.   Note that people on either side of the gun debate believes their position enhances survival.  Unless they stop believing that softening their position decreases their chance for survival, they won’t budge.
  3. If the subject triggers a LOT of emotion.  Hard to be objective about people we love: spouses, children, etc.  Easy to distort our perceptions.
  4. If the basic components of the perception, the underlying beliefs, were implanted prior to puberty.  You have to blast that stuff out with dynamite.  Racial prejudice is like this.  It is very clear when you are dealing with someone who BASICALLY believes in equality, sorts for that, and has to very reluctantly agree that maybe a group really is problematic. And equally clear to see when someone fights against a deep belief in racial superiority or inferiority, and constantly seeks to make any counter-examples “exceptions.”
  5. Affiliated with the above is tribal affiliation.   Members of other groups are typically clustered homogeneously, while your own group is seen to have fantastic diversity.  So a bad behavior by “the other” is seen as typical of that group, while a member of your own group behaving badly is either excluded (“No true Scotsman”) or excused (“Lone crazy gunman” as opposed to “terrorist.”   “Kleptomaniac” as opposed to “thief”).
  6. To believe X would change their view of history, especially tribal history. Suddenly, their belief in the goodness of parents, friends, role models, society, country, whatever, are shaken.   If a stranger is accused of sexual abuse by three women, I’m probably going to shun them.  It took thirty women to shake my belief in Bill Cosby’s innocence.


There are others. But the underlying principle is the same: IF IT WOULD CAUSE MORE PAIN THAN PLEASURE TO ADMIT YOU ARE WRONG, it is harder than hell to get someone to shift.  So the first thing you have to do is see if there is fear freezing them in place, and if you can disarm that fear. If you cannot…you probably will have an argument rather than a discussion. And unless there is a neutral judge, all that will result is pain.


For instance, a devout Christian father with a gay son.  He believes homosexuality is a core sin, and is torn:  he loves his son, and hates his “sin.”    If  he believes  he “understands the Bible” you might run right into a real problem: to disbelieve even ONE piece of that “understanding” throws his entire cosmological archetecture out of balance. He  will doubt EVERYTHING.


It is pointless to discuss biology (“homosexuality is found in animals”), theology (“many religious faiths now accept homosexuality”), legality (“Marriage equality is the law of the land”), psychology (“homosexuality has not been categorized as a mental illness in decades”) or anything else if at a core level (probably implanted prior to puberty by home and church) they believe it a sin.


Even worse? If they struggle against urges themselves, and are afraid that if they didn’t have this absolute certainty, they might try it, thereby either sinning, violating their self-image, or opening themselves to social disapproval.   NOW you have a really frozen mental state, actual fear of death (ego death) associated with changing their feeling about something, or the beliefs that support it.


Hmmm…how about this, as a principle: if admitting something is true leads to ego death, the person will simply delete information that is counter to the beliefs they need to remain “alive.”  Only a massive amount of information from multiple sources over time will create that shift, and then they will go through Kubler-Ross’s stages of Grief:  denial, anger, bargaining, depression and finally acceptance.


By the way, this is one of the reasons that dealing with people with love is so powerful: if they lose themselves, or their tribe, what they want to know is: what will become of me?  I die!


If they can believe they will be loved, and protected, not shamed for their past errors, not have their noses rubbed in their shit, won’t be punched once they drop their guard…that they might “die” but will be reborn as something even better…it is far easier.


What I see is people who are angry (afraid) wanting to make a change but beating people over the head rather than loving them. It is as if they would rather just have a fight, and beat the hell out of someone, than actually gain their goal (joy). They associate “winning” with “the other guy has to lose.”


I see this on both sides. Right now, frankly, I see a lot of it on my “side” of the equation, perhaps because I believe in a number of their positions, and therefore see a lot of folks on “the other side” as clinging to articles of faith, rather than logic. Note that I’m not saying I’m right, just that this is what I see.


So when folks on “my side” beat them up, insult, threaten, and so forth, WITHOUT ALSO OFFERING LOVE AND THE HAND OF FRIENDSHIP, my reaction is: “wow. That’s human and understandable…and not the way to win. ” They don’t understand Sun Tzu, that you must offer your enemy a line of honorable retreat. That it is better to make alliances than destroy cities.


They don’t understand that their anger is their own fear.  Because if they understand that…then they have to see it in others. Harder to label them and then kill the labels.


That’s what I see.  The answer is to

  1. Love yourself.  Necessary to forgive yourself, and look deeply enough to see your own flaws, unafraid that you will find something ugly at the core.  I ALWAYS assume this is the basic issue with anyone who comes from anger, despises humanity, and so forth.
  2. Love one other person. At least. The door to expanding your ego shell to include others.  “Num”: seeing that there is one soul looking out through many eyes.
  3. Understand history without guilt, blame or shame. It is absurd for people to look at the heated arguments on Facebook and then blame “politicians” for gridlock. Are they kidding?   I can only figure that they are dishonest about their own culpability.
  4. Support your “Tribe” rather than wasting your time arguing with people who see the world a different way.  “Awake” people can ALWAYS find points of commonality. In reality, I can find points of commonality with anyone, even if in many ways I consider the other person asleep, a snake, or even a “monster.”  Yes, I can.   It may not be worth my time and effort, however. This is why a more efficient and effective tactic is simply care for those who speak your language, while offering love to those outside that circle. But it is critical to be aware that snakes may bite. And that monsterswill eat your children if you make the mistake of thinking they are only “asleep.”
  5. Win with integrity and compassion.   Remember that you might be wrong. An analogy is that I see my house burning, with my children trapped in the upper floor.  This is my attitude about BLM (the movement, not the organization).    The sleeping, snakes and monsters will ALL deny that there is a fire, but from different motivations: sleepers simply can’t believe America is like that. Snakes enjoy the privilege and want to keep it. Monsters enjoy the domination for its own sake.   So I must ignore all three as I seek to put the fire out. I no longer engage in debate about WHETHER history and current events test my view of reality: done that for almost forty years, and I’m done.  But…I have to remember that I MIGHT be wrong, and therefore must be careful to avoid water damage to the houses on either side. Make sense?


Fear freezes us in place. Love liberates. But it MUST be accompanied by the strength to protect your tribe, and the principles you hold dear.   And anyone willing to die for what they believe has about 80% of what there is to learn in the martial arts. The rest is fitness, techniques, and strategies.  But if you ONLY fight for things you deeply love, NEVER offer violence without offering the chance for peace, you are coming from the strongest place a human being can come from, and can only be defeated by a massively overwhelming opposition…or someone else as committed.


And frankly, when two such people meet, the tendency is for them to say: “we know we can kill each other.  How about we get a beer instead?”


That is so freaking cool it is hard to explain.  Even if, like me, you don’t drink beer.






Reminders to deal with the stress

Stress that exceeds our capacity to deal with it or grow from it creates “strain” and the “stress tunnels” that make our perceptions narrow and our reactions brittle.   In a danger situation, the ability to shift between wide and narrow focus on demand is critical.

Luckily, there is a way to prevent stress from becoming strain, and that is control of physiology. One of the few processes that is both voluntary AND autonomic (so is blinking) is breathing. If you breath as if you are in control and powerful, your brain will accept that evaluation.

This is the “Five Minute Miracle”–deep, slow, diaphragmatic “belly breaths” at least once every three hours, for sixty seconds.  FOCUS ON THE EXHALATION PART OF THE CYCLE.  If you exhale, you’ll automatically inhale. But if you inhale…you might “hold it”.


On days like today, I’d suggest doing this at the top of EVERY hour.  So much fear, and the anger that attends it.    IMO, 100% of the problem here is fed by people in this “strained” position, seeing the world through a fear filter, and letting that evolve into anger.

And of course, sometimes violence.

Don’t be part of the problem.   Exhale.