Instinctive Designation of Energy and Attention.

In life, one way to ensure success is to learn how to apply the proper amount of energy and attention at a given moment, to match the “wave form” of focus to the task at hand. To be appropriate. To sleep when it’s time to sleep, dance when it’s time to dance, study when it’s time to study, drive when it’s time to drive. No more and no less. To be able to tune our energy and focus up and down as it is required, and be dead on. Better still, you need to do this automatically, without thinking. This, friends, is the road to mastery: to do instantly, instinctively, what you would do if you sat and thought about it for an hour. This is not just something lofty and unattainable, you can place yourself on the road to such power and strength and precision. How do you develop this? By setting balanced goals in the three major areas.

1) Relationships. Take responsibility for your relationship history. Heal yourself until you are able to attract and sustain a healthy relationship with a significant other, then make that relationship as honest and passionate and healthy as you can make it. If you’re not in a relationship, work on your “internal family”, your relationship within, between yourself and God. Our inner and outer relationships are mirrors.

2) Career and education. You should do what you love, or love what you do. Life is an intelligence test, folks. Even a worm will move away from pain and toward pleasure. Set a goal of making a living doing that which you would do for free, something you love. Or of learning to truly, deeply love the thing that you do. All you have is the days of your life: they should be filled with passion, contribution, learning, pleasure, knowledge, and honor. Anything less is a waste of life.

3) Health and Fitness. When you strip, do you like what you see in the mirror? Would you want to jump your own bones? If not, you are not in alignment with your own values. Got plenty of energy? Wake up rested? Can you work hard all week and still party on the weekend? No? Then you have work to do.

ALL THREE MUST BE ADDRESSED SIMULTANEOUSLY. This is awesomely important. By addressing all three, I promise that every excuse, every lame reason you’ve ever had for not being who you want to be will rise up. But by taking responsibility for all three, and the results you have gotten, for the first time, you will have an accurate life map. You’ll know where you are, and where you want to go. Without both, a map is useless. With both, you develop a feedback loop both simple and profound. You will begin to develop your instinct. This is the very core of what I’ve been teaching. It is, in my opinion, the very best thing you can do for yourself… get a good I.D.E.A.!

-Steve Barnes



Birthday thoughts

Today is my sixty-sixth birthday.   I never know what will trigger one of my essays–its always about what you, my friends, discuss on the Facebook feed, or emails sent to me.


I saw a note with someone saying they were about to take an IQ test, and that if the results came in low, his life would make sense.  If they came in “high” then he would declare the universe dead and meaningless. The issue seemed to be…money.  He wants more money, doesn’t understand why he doesn’t have it, and is under the illusion that if he is smart, he should be rich…or the universe doesn’t work.


Ummm,…might I say that this  notion, that Smart = Successful, is pernicious.  It ONLY equals “successful” if you are asking the right questions.  Like: “how do I become successful?”


Well…remember the story of the man who is walking down the street at night, and encounters a second man on his hands and knees under a streetlamp.   “What are you looking for?”   he asks.


“My keys,” the guy says.  So the first guy gets down and looks with him. After fifteen fruitless minutes, he says “are you sure you dropped them here?”


“Oh, no,” the second guy answers.  “I dropped them across the street.   But this is where the light is.”




Frankly, this is precisely what smart, unhappy, unsuccessful people do: they are looking where the light is, rather than where they dropped their keys.


They are thinking that they can “figure out” their emotions, and because of that, never see the degree to which emotional programming rammed into them prior to their mental awakening and adult development is creating tunnel vision.  Literally prevents them from solving the real problem, be it fitness/weight control, love, or financial success.



Intelligence is problem solving. WISDOM is knowing which problems to solve.

Let’s apply this to one issue, and one potential route to solving it.  Money is a big one, one I’ve sure as hell struggled with.


  1. Core goal: TO BE HAPPY. That’s it.  Everything you’ve ever done has been to move away from pain toward pleasure.  Children will only do this short-term. Adults must learn the long-term implication of their actions, or cannot learn the “discipline” necessary to finish long projects. They are eternal sprinters, not realizing that most real success goes to those who can sprint, jog, walk, and sit silently.  WHAT IS YOUR BELIEF ABOUT YOUR RIGHT TO BE HAPPY? Where did you get it?  Do you agree?  Would you want your own most beloved child to feel this way?  IN MY OWN LIFE,  my mother loved me, and I knew it even when things were sometimes stressful.  And she supplied me with the resources to love myself, even if that was not the specific intent–it was the indirect result.   I actually never heard “the meaning of life is to find happiness” until reading a quote from the Dalai Lama, about three years ago.  Brilliant in its simplicity.  Never heard better.
  2. Take a step back.  To be happy, you need to remove pain.   While money has a real ceiling on providing happiness (up to about 75k.  After that, its ability to provide joy drops.) it DOES remove a lot of pain.  Hunger, homelessness and lack of medical care are not fun.  So you need to have enough resources for this.   Barter doesn’t cut it: try bartering for your water bill.   Money is just abstracted barter, a symbol of trust between human beings.  WHAT IS YOUR BELIEF ABOUT WHAT MONEY IS?  Where did you get it?  If it is anything other than the result of hunting, gathering, and trading…what is it?  IN MY LIFE:   I was happy connecting with my friends, and happy writing stories.  But how to make MONEY from this? To even understand the question, I had to move into the adult world, to grasp that ONLY money provides the things my mother used to provide.   I needed it.
  3. Take another step back. Money results from trading.   One person expends their effort and focus to create or gather a product or service, that another human being finds valuable. They trade.    It is one of the core foundations of society.  Only within your family will you be supported just because you’re cute and give warm hugs.  WHAT IS YOUR BELIEF ABOUT YOUR OBLIGATION TO PROVIDE VALUE TO YOUR COMMUNITY?   Where did you get it?   Is it true? How do you know?  IN MY OWN LIFE, this meant marketing my stories, risking rejection every time.  Ugh. But also working other jobs while I developed my writing skills.  Ugh.   Knowing that I had to keep those jobs until and unless I made enough money from writing to compensate for the lost paychecks. Otherwise, the ADULT thing is to work a day job, so that my  “kid” could have fun writing at night.
  4. Take another step back.  Have you found role models of adult human beings who exchange goods and services (preferably in your arena, something that brings you satisfaction) who trade with others to make the kind of money you desire with integrity and joy?  Remove “luck” from the equation.   Go with statistics.  You cannot wait for someone to discover you and say “what a genius!” If you are hunting for your family, you have to be ACTIVE, and cannot just wait for an animal to wander by…or you will starve.  What you CAN do is put out passive fishing lines or traps…but LOTS of them. In other words, be ACTIVE about your “passive” hunting.   Until you’ve calculated the number of hours you have to work to get a given unit of return.  Then…how many of those units you need to survive, and thrive.    Put in that time daily, and strive to increase your efficiency and effectiveness.  IN MY LIFE I needed to find role models of success, and preferably get them to sit down with me and explain how they did it.  Why? Because only a cook can teach you how to cook.  Not interested in the opinions of amateurs and wanna-bes.  I was an amateur wanna-be myself.  Only someone who has traveled across the mountain can guide you through the mountains. The rest is opinion.  I won’t embarrass myself by telling you the names of the writers who turned me down. We all know the name of the one who finally said “yes.” Larry Niven.  God bless him, forever.
  5. Take another step back.   Being “good” at something in the modern world only lead most people to “success” if someone, somewhere, is doing the marketing and sales for you.   This is “oogie” to so many people, especially artists.   “I hate the way sales makes me feel” is a common reaction.  Really?  If you are sick, and someone offers you medicine that works, you resent them?   Yes? No?  I suspect that what you dislike is when someone tries to sell you something you DON’ T need or want.   What’s the answer?    Provide a valuable product or service, and find the people who need it.  Simple, really.  And if you don’t believe you have anything valuable to offer, that is only true if you have never focused your energy and mind to develop those skills.  How long does it take to get good at something?  A thousand hours? Ten thousand?    Most people  reading this had spent more time a thousand hours  watching movies and television…every year or two.  IN MY OWN LIFE: I got an agent, Lurton Blassingame, as my salesman.   This became Eleanor Wood when Lurton retired.     Working with Larry provided serious marketing: I got to piggy-back on his fame.  But I also had to separate myself from him, or I’d always be scared to speak in my own voice. So…SF conventions were a good place for this.   The point? To find the people who needed MY voice, who were attracted to what I had to offer.  Interviews, articles, booksignings…all of this is marketing, short or long term.   BUT I NEVER SPECIFICALLY STUDIED MARKETING AND SALES.  This was an error.  No single role model is likely to give you everything you need.
  6. Take another step back. If I wanted to make a living as a writer, there were really only two ways to do it: books and visual media.   New York and Hollywood. And in Hollywood, agents don’t really get you jobs until you have proven yourself…and you have to keep proving yourself.  Jonathan Westover, the first Hollywood agent I really connected with emotionally, told me point blank: its all about the marketing, in the form of relationships.   I didn’t hear him, but what he was saying was that I had to get out there, meet people, go to parties, make friends, and THEN when the opportunities arose, they might think of me.   I got Marvin Moss,  my first Hollywood agent by getting a job with Disney and then asking Marvin if he would negotiate the deal for me.  Free money.   He then knew I was a hustler.  I wasn’t enough of one…but I had my foot in the door.
  7. Take another step back.    And this is clearly in the adult world: you need not only to MAKE money, but manage it properly.  THIS WAS MY GREATEST ERROR, ARGUABLY THE SINGLE GREATEST ERROR OF MY ENTIRE LIFE.  I knew how to create goods and services, how to market and sell (somewhat) and put in the 10k hours of focused time to be an expert.  Money was flowing in.   BUT I WASN’T SAVING IT.  If I had simply followed the advice in one of my mom’s books, “The Richest Man In Babylon” and saved 10% of everything I earned, I’d have been fine, able to ride out the deepest dips, learned to budget and live within my means, and really been an adult instead of a big kid.   I didn’t.  And it wasn’t until the whole Atlanta situation, moving away from Hollywood for the second time, that I really understood I had screwed up royally, for decades, and needed to fix it.


So what would the proper use of my intelligence have been?

  1. I knew how to create a product or service.  Good at that.
  2. I should have studied marketing and sales until reaching EXPERTISE.    A good sales/Marketing person is never out of work, can always make money, and can apply those skills to ANYTHING.   The most successful  self-published authors aren’t the best authors, they are often branching out from sales and marketing. They understand that game.  They’ve put 10k hours into the “money making”.   Then, 1K of time invested in writing, “creating product” and they blow away the people who are ignorant of marketing. How do you know if you’re ignorant of marketing?  If 1% of your books aren’t on this subject…it is reasonable to conclude that you don’t consider it important. And if you are complaining about lack of money, IMO you are ignorant.
  3. I should have invested/saved 10% of everything I earned.   That would have created a safety net.   Could have had a real downturn and still walked into Hollywood meeting without the stink of desperation floating around me.


WISDOM is looking at the patterns of life: hunt and gather, trade, store and protect.

INTELLIGENCE is looking for specific methods that increase efficiency and effectiveness of hunting and gathering, marketing and sales, protection of assets.  You might well decide to outsource aspects of this to others, but how will you even know if they are any good, if you don’t understand the psychology and syntax of excellence, marketing, investing?


You are blind. In Ancient Child parlance, you are trying to stay a “genius child”, dancing in the living room to the applause of parents and cousins. Not realizing that in the adult world, you are SURROUNDED by genius children, every one of them screaming for attention. Why should they pay attention to YOU?


  1. Because you have developed unique value, by putting in your 10k hours.
  2. Because you have identified the people who need and WANT what YOU have.  1000 “true fans” will do it, if you can figure out how to provide fifty bucks in value to them every year, and have the self-respect to demand what you are worth.    Again, problem solving.
  3. Because you know how to reach them, to communicate your value to them, and have the nerve to ask for the sale.


Yeah, there are artists who surround themselves with “adults” who do parts 2 and 3.  Managers, agents, PR flacks, shills, salespeople, marketing experts.  But the most successful understand EVERYTHING they are hiring others to do, so that they know how to support them.   Guide them. To do that, you need to be able to do it yourself. To do that you have to know HOW to do it, WHY to do it, and have the emotional JUICE to do it: have to feel that it is good and right and even FUN to communicate that value to the people who need your product or service.

Otherwise, what are you saying? That sales and marketing is corrupt, ugly, bad…so I’ll let YOU do it!   How incredibly disrespectful.  And how contemptuous of your own efforts. Do you really believe that what you have is not of value?  Do you not believe that there is someone who would be happier if they knew of that value, and could trade their own efforts for it?


WHAT WERE THE BELIEFS I HAD about money, excellence, “talent”, sales, marketing, and investing?  My mother struggled horribly with money: no slightest question that some of my conflicts came from that lovely, brilliant and troubled woman, whose emotions were knotted by social and personal loss.


And it took a family disaster before I “woke up” from the dream that I could simply be “good enough” with my art that I could avoid the adult responsibilities: to create, market, sell to other adults, to communicate value to them so that it is in THEIR interests to give me their money, and then protect that money for the lean times.  Ant and grasshopper.


I was a grasshopper most of my life.  And am now grafting ant DNA in there.  The process is frightening, and painful, and embarrassing…and necessary.


That little genius kid inside me, who saw the big broad world and wondered how he would find love, and success, and happiness has been dancing as hard as he can for sixty-six years, today.

He deserves my very best, don’t you think?




Is Anger really Fear?


“Make things as simple as possible, but no simpler”–(often attributed to Albert Einstein, but actually much older)


A fox and a cat met in the forest, both hunted by dogs.    “Don’t worry,” the fox said.  “I know a hundred ways to escape those dogs.”


“Really?” the cat said, impressed.   “I only know one.”


The dogs appeared and attacked. The fox was so confused trying to figure out which of his hundred techniques to use that the dogs tore him apart.   The cat ran up the tree.





I remember beginning training in Filipino Kali.  The particular system said there were “five angles of attack” that we practiced thousands of times.   Imagine a clock-face, and the “angles” swooped in from 2, and then 10, and then “up” at five, and then up at seven, and then right down the center.    There were other systems that said there were eight, or twelve, or fifteen. Others that said there were only two.    Each level of complication or simplicity revealed different options with different levels of granularity.  All were true.  But I’ve always liked “five”.   The idea was that no matter what of the infinite possibilities of attacks came at you, there were really a limited number of directions it could come from. The simpler the choices, the faster the reaction.




Violence stems from anger, anger from fear.   To understand this, grasp that words about emotions are handles on slippery things that no two people experience in the same way, and even a single person rarely experiences twice in the same way.


Men, especially, seem to have a hard time with this concept.    “I’m not afraid. I’m pissed off.” Or “What about righteous anger?”  or “What about being angry about the way someone I’ve never met is treated?”


Of course it is possible to argue with the notion that anger is just fear.  But I suggest that if untrue, it is what might be called one of the most useful lies in the world.  I have never, ever seen it fail to explain anger, and usually gives a potential solution.   Let’s try a few.


  1. Someone cuts you off on the freeway, triggering rage.    Potential fears: Of being in an accident.  off being late to appointment.  Of yet another idiot impacting your life with their bad decisions (symbolic of other problems, personified as a human being).
  2. Your kid doesn’t clean his room as promised, triggering anger.   Potential fears: of being disrespected in your own home.   Of your kid not keeping his promises, which will lead to problems later in life. Of not being a good parent.
  3. A new story about a slaughter in a distant country triggers anger.  Potential fears: empathy with the victims projects your own emotions into their situation.  Fear that  cruelty could reach out to your own family.  Feeling helpless to cope with the chaos of existence.
  4. A politician is caught lying or cheating, triggering anger.   All large groups have some kind of organizing structure trusted to represent the needs of the group.  If they do not do this honorably, we feel betrayed and cut off from the decision making. Our tax dollars are wasted or stolen, our family less safe.
  5. A writer suggests that anger is fear, triggering anger.   If fear is considered weakness, while anger is equated with strength and force, then suggesting that the emotion you feel is less than “manly” can attack the ego.
  6. A mass shooter kills.  This gets tricky, unless you have a record of their thoughts and impressions. But it is certainly easy to create a theoretical structure: they feel disempowered, have few healthy relationships.  Every human being wants to feel loved and connected, and they feel that SOMETHING cuts them off from this.  Could be the increasing power and autonomy of women. The increasing power and presence of POC.  Financial instability symbolizing a loss of The American Dream.   On and on.  Combined with a fragile self-image and an act of violence might be seen as “taking your power back” or “attacking your enemies” or “putting them back in their place” or other such notions.


What is the answer?   Well, in most human interactions, I’ve found that simply asking the question “what are they afraid of?” will yield dividends.

  1. Respect.  Be polite at all times.   You may need to hurt someone, but there is rarely  a need to be impolite.
  2. Be strong.   A frightened person looking for someone to humble is deterred by strength, especially when accompanied by politeness.
  3. Be loving.   If you genuinely love people, if accompanied by strength this often triggers an open heart, or a child-like “Mommy Daddy” response. They are looking for connection, remember.
  4. Start by giving these gifts to yourself. The first principle: Love yourself. Enough to be protective.
  5. If you are stressed, you see fewer solutions, develop conceptual inflexibility.   If you are relaxed, you will see more options. And if you are relaxed…others become more relaxed in your presence.
  6. Remember that there are people so irrational, with such a delusional architecture, that from the outside you simply cannot figure out what they might be afraid of. Be careful–not all human conflicts can be settled peacefully.
  7. We cannot remove all the possible reasons for fear or a perception of injustice. But we can be kind, and do what we can to remove the obvious problems.  No matter what you do, however, someone will believe it is not enough.
  8. Remember that some people feel entitled and superior. Even a “fair” situation will then feel unfair to them, because they believe they deserve more than others…because they are better. Beware of these, because they will rarely state this directly.


Yes, there are other ways to look at the issue of violence and anger.   And because language is always incomplete, no single statement can possibly be of ultimate value.   I have never found a better, simpler, more generative  way of looking at this problem.


If you have one, I’d love to hear it.






Don’t Look Back

I have a pitch meeting coming up soon, and really looking forward to it.    Some of you will have this chance: to go into a room full of people who are decision makers, and try to convince them to gamble a serious chunk of money on you.  It isn’t just the money spent on the script, it is the entire production: bad scripts have sunk 100 million plus productions more than once.


When I started in this business, I just wanted to see my work on the big screen, but I also remember feeling that I wanted to be honest and true to myself.   Remember having a conversation with my agent Joel Gotler, and saying to him with heartfelt emotion:   “I don’t know what will happen to me in Hollywood.  But I know one thing: when I leave this town, I’m leaving with my sense of honor intact.”


Joel looked at me, smile with a certain cynical wisdom, and said: “you’ll be the only one.”




I don’t think this is true, but I understand how it was close enough that he was trying to help me understand the cost of operating in this odd realm that joins business and art in a patchwork hobgoblin that can steal souls…but also make artists insanely wealthy.


The first time I ran into this was on one of my earliest pitch meetings.   I went in there with about five ideas, and they liked three of them. Everyone was all smiles. And then I said the truth: I was VERY confident in my ability as a writer, but not totally confident in the specifics of script writing.  I would need a little assistance making that leap.


Man, the temperature dropped about forty degrees in that room. I had revealed insecurity.

Vulnerability.   Suddenly, they were no longer confident in me.  Not just my future potential…but my common sense in SAYING something like that.   They thanked me, and showed me the door.




So what do you do, when you need to project confidence, but lack experience, or have a nagging sense of incapacity?  “Pretender voices”?  To get that job, do you have to be dishonest about your insecurity?


I say no.  I remember Nichelle Nichols giving me an excellent piece of advice, long ago. “Your fans don’t want to know who you really are,” she said. “They have an image of you. THAT is what they need from you, to present that image.   It isn’t dishonest. It is just…incomplete.”


That’s what you do.   You find the part of yourself that believes, that has confidence. That remembers a thousand times in the past that you learned, achieved, won, accomplished. Times when you felt the fear and did it anyway.


When I hit the street after that disastrous meeting, I swore I’d never make that mistake again. And the very next meeting,  was for The Twilight Zone.  We met at a hotel in North Hollywood, and Phil DeGuere, Jim Crocker, and D.C. Fontana were there, along with my hero, Harlan Ellison.   He recognized me from a few interactions we’d had, and asked: “what are you doing here, Steve?”


I told him my Agent was De Guerre’s agent, and that’s how it was set up.   He nodded, doubtless seeing how scared I was, and said:   “Just don’t look back.”


And when I pitched ideas and the producers turned the focus on me, and I heard the snakes starting to hiss in my head, I pointed at the wonderful show we could do together.   I wasn’t important. The SHOW was important.   They weren’t looking at me.  They were looking at the future we could create.


And as long as I kept their attention there…the snakes quieted.   I felt confidence.  And I got the job.


Don’t look back.    Focus on where you are going, not your fear.  It isn’t dishonest, or unethical. It is what the producers need to be confident in trusting you with a million dollars of their capital.  You OWE them your best.  You owe yourself your best.


When running forward, don’t look back.   As Satchel Paige once said, something might be gaining on you.






Is BP better than Star Wars?

Saw a comment today, someone saying that Black Panther was better than all the Star Wars movies combined.   Let’s not dive into a discussion of trying to quantify subjective evaluations, shall we?   Let’s just leave it that this person ENJOYED BP more than they enjoyed all the Star Wars movies combined, or at least so much that they were moved to say that.


What I thought would be more interesting is asking: what makes a movement?  Because that’s what Star Wars was.  It motivated people to camp out overnight, buy tickets months in advance, cosplay, generated endless merchandise, and united generations of geeks in a celebration of space fantasy.


Harry Potter triggered some similar reactions. As did Star Trek.  I believe that movies like Gone With The Wind and Titanic seem to have hit the same buttons, and to a degree Avatar, and maybe even Enter The Dragon.


I remember having a meeting at my house when I lived over near LACC. Wish I could remember what the point of it was, but two ladies showed up who said they were from the “Vulcan Embassy.”  Called themselves T’Plea and T’Qua.  Vulcan ears, dress, everything.  I was very weirded out, I can remember.  And tried talking to them wanting to get some sense of what motivated them to behave this way, but didn’t get a clue.


What else does this kind of fandom remind me of?   Religious movies, the kind where churches send busloads of worshippers to see some (usually) low-rent version of the Passion play, or the trials of the Israelites or something.  There have been tons of them, and some were actually  pretty good (I remember enjoying the heck out of a revival of 1949’s  SAMSON AND DELILAH.  Probably that jawbone fight.  Bringing down the temple sort of rocked too. And of course all the thinly-veiled sexual tension twixt Victor Mature and Hedy Lemar.  All that post-coital lounging…


What is it that creates that kind of connection?


When I was in my 30’s, I was looking for magic.  Had a standing offer to the universe that I would go anywhere, at any time, at any cost, to see the equivalent of a cigarette ash burning backwards to make a Lucky Strike.  Something that just couldn’t be explained with the laws of physics.  It was amazing how weak the evidence for such thing was, while still managing to trigger human reactions of awe and suspension of logic.   Cold spots in houses.   déjà vu.  Lucid dreaming. Slight-of-hand magic.  Cold reading (“mediums” using psychological tricks to “read minds”).   Cute martial arts tricks of alignment or tendon strength.  And on and on.


I’ll say that eventually I experienced something that made me withdraw my little offer from the universe, but that’s another story.  But what is pertinent is that my endless afternoons at the Bodhi Tree bookstore  in West Hollywood led me to a man named Sri Chinmoy.  Now…Chinmoy was fascinating.  An Indian holy man who taught meditation and encouraged his followers to engage in ultra-marathons to raise their energy and purify their bodies, he wrote thousands of poems, hundreds of books, “played” dozens of instruments (except for some decent flute, I could never determine any actual skill in his piano playing…but I have to admit there was a strange power in his compositions), a million brushstroke paintings of birds, and more.


He had celebrity followers like Roberta Flack and Carlos Santana, and “meditation centers” in college campuses across the country, and the U.N. building.  All of this was interesting, but the thing that really caught my eye was the fact that when he injured himself in the ultra-marathons he switched to weight lifting.


Using special rigs, he lifted other human beings with one arm, airplanes and cars, and weights totalling over seven thousand pounds.   I wasn’t sure what I was looking at when he did this, but world-class bodybuilder Bill Pearl had a store in southern Oregon, and was one of Chinmoy’s friends.    HE said that he had seen this little man perform feats of strength no one he knew of could match.   Had he lifted 7,063 pounds? Really?   Well…Pearl said that from where he was, the massive barbell, in an overhead sling, MIGHT have lifted an inch.  But the only thing he could be sure of was that the bar, as thick as a man’s arm, had actually BENT with the force applied against it.


Ummm….apparent total control of flow state (all that art!), vast aerobic capacity?   The comparative strength of an insect?   That suggested someone who had serious ability to override the governors that inhibit human performance.  A cigarette ash burning backwards?  No.  But the most impressive human performance I’d ever heard of.


There was more.    At a private meeting of his students, I saw his aura.  That was an entire story in itself.  I didn’t know what to think about it at the time.  Now,  I believe is was a projection of my mind…but a very specific one, indicating some very specific things.  Another time.




Anyway, I became his student, and studied with other students learning meditation techniques and spiritual perspectives I use to this day.  Nice people.  A little strange and…bland.  That’s not a bad term for it.  A little “flat” tonally.  More on this in a little bit.  The guys had no sharp edges. The women weren’t particularly warm and cuddly.   Some “polarity” missing.


I should have known what was coming.


Some years later, I found myself up in Vancouver Washington, my marriage in tatters and needing to find my spiritual center.  Realizing that I had stopped meditating, I decided to re-connect with Chinmoy’s people, and located a meditation center in Seattle, calling them and getting permission to join them for a Sunday afternoon. They owned a restaurant up there, and after a fun day of meditating, playing vollyball and working in the restaurant we had a lovely vegetarian dinner.  I was stoked.  I felt so at home.


Except for that odd “flatness” I’d sensed.  But what the heck, right.  Anyway, we were all talking, and I mentioned at one point that on my way home to Vancouver, I was going to stop off at a ladyfriend’s house for…well, I think “a little late night all-right” about covers it.


And…the room went quiet.  They looked at me rather oddly, and then slowly began to speak again.  But it felt like they’d edged away from me a little. I was confused.  What had I done?


About fifteen minutes later one of the guys came up to me and asked me if I’d step outside for a moment.  I did.  He fum-fuh’d, toe’d the ground and then blurted out: “Didn’t you know that Guru wants us to be celebate?”


WTF?   I’d read dozens of his books, and maybe a hundred articles on him, been involved in their community for about five years, and NO ONE had said this.   EVERYONE seemed to think that someone else had laid that out for me.    I was shocked, and appalled, and remembered driving home down the I-5 kinda shattered.    It all made sense.  That explained the kinda “flat” energy I’d felt from them: neither the men or women were “displaying” for each other.  They were edging toward asexuality, or “neuterism” or whatever you’d call it.


And I knew that if Chinmoy was the best chance I’d ever encountered to enter a different realm of existence, his path was also not for me.    I mean, if God wants me to stop having sex, there’s a pretty simple change he could make in me, and let’s just say he ain’t never made it.


Sigh.   To be honest, that was my last try, the last time I attempted to find a spiritual community.  I realized that my path was within me, that all the teachers in my life had pointed where I needed to go, and I couldn’t pretend I didn’t know.  Not taking responsibility for my own growth was being a spiritual child.  I didn’t need that.   But…it still hurt.


We all seek something. Some sense of connection to love, the divine, the mysterious.  Something bigger than us.  And some of us find it in religious activities, others in relationships, or politics, or cheering sports teams…or enjoying movies.


The entertainments that trigger that response seem to speak of another world, something lost and far away…or off in the future, of in a galaxy far, far away.   They appeal to our hearts, our sense of our own potential, that perhaps we are actually part of a powerful dynasty with Force powers.  Or we are on a mission to explore the galaxy in a time when humans have grown past our divisions.   Or we are celebrating a lost, noble civilizations of ladies and cavaliers, masters and slaves, a gracious time now gone with the wind.


How about a time when love was more important than life (“Titanic”)?  Or a totally alien world in which we can transform into something beyond our human limitations (“Avatar”).


Take us somewhere we’ve never been.  Give us a missing piece of our soul. Show us a cigarette ash burning backwards to make a Lucky Strike.   In real life?   You get there and find out it was an illusion, that you always had what you needed anyway, you just didn’t trust yourself.


But those who have found it, if they are wise, don’t mock those still searching. And even if you have it, there is nothing wrong with enjoying entertainments that take us out of ourselves, remind us of our dreams and hopes.  We need them.


I needed to believe in something more than myself.  If I hadn’t, I wouldn’t have found the truth behind the magical metaphors in every sacred tradition.   I am happy for the stories, but the truth is even better.


But still, I was miserable on that drive home.   It can be hard to realize no one, and nothing, is coming to rescue us.  Hard to be an adult some times.  It is fun to be a kid again, to connect with a simpler time, simpler emotions, simpler realities.  And sometimes we need to take a break from the endless struggle life can be, and simply sit in a darkened movie theater, and remember what it was to believe our potential was without limit.


And those who have had endless such images…if they don’t realize the bounty they were given, and mock those who are starving…I feel sorry for them.   They don’t realize that in that sense they were born into Fort Knox and think all they have is the gold in their teeth.




Run, Girl, Run

“For the writers here, are there any contemporary writers who make you feel like a pretender?”


The kids in our “Author’s Club” at Sandburg Jr. High are just so cute.  We teach it every other Friday at Jason’s school.   After Career Day, Tananarive and I were approached by several kids who said they wanted to be writers.  I remember wanting desperately to be a writer,and how much it would have meant to have a real professional sharing tips…so we set it up.


We’ve decided to publish a little e-collection  of short stories, and pay every one of them five dollars. That makes them a paid, published writers.  If we put it up on Amazon for a buck or so, their friends and relatives can buy it. If the money goes to their teacher, she can disburse it to each of them, and now they get a tiny trickle of cash that reinforces their “writer” personality.


Let me tell you–the first time you buy so much as a hamburger or paperback book with the money you make from your writing, you enter a new world.    These kids are  eager.  I suspect they think that if they get across that line, it’s smooth sailing.


They are wrong.


Just yesterday, I saw a writer post the following question:  “For the writers here, are there any contemporary writers who make you feel like a pretender?”


And writer after writer posted the names of the writers who were better than them, and how they felt like “pretenders” in comparison.

That’s fine, and in some ways those voices never go away.  No matter how good you get.  Why?  Because every expert knows a thousand components that make up their craft. And the ALWAYS know people who are better at those individual components, so they ALWAYS know people “better than them.”   Doesn’t matter what field you are in.  Always better people.  You might have the best specific COMBINATION of attributes if that’s where you’ve put your emphasis.  I consider any human being to be better at me at something.  But what saves me is that I’m the best Steven Barnes in the world.  I’m who I wanted to be when I was a kid.   Might I have chosen better?  Sure, and working on it.  But no one is better at doing me than me, and considering that I really dig me, that’s a pretty cool thing to be.


But it wasn’t always like that.  I remember when a Famous Writer read the galleys on  my first solo book, STREETLETHAL…or to put it more bluntly, read the first two chapters and put it down.  “Its not ready to be published, kid.  Needs work,” he said.


It was already at the publisher.  And here was one of my favorite writers, a man at the top of his game, who I admired as I did few living human beings, telling me I sucked.  Disaster. The “Impostor voice” in my head was screaming at me: I sucked.  I had nothing.   I’d never have my dreams.  Larry Niven had only worked with me because of Affirmative Action

I was a pretender.


It was raining that night, and I lived alone so no one saw me curl up in a corner and cry. I was lost.


But…in the depths of my misery, I remembered something I’d learned while running on the track at Pepperdine University, forty years ago. My distance was five miles, and at the two mile mark, every time, the voices in my head said: STOP.  My body hurt.  I was tired.  Everything was working wrong.  YOU ARE HURTING YOURSELF.  The voice said.   YOU WILL DIE, it said.  But if I kept struggling on…I hit a rhythm, and it was like a third lobe of lung opened in my chest, and there was the energy I needed.


And I realized that THE VOICES IN MY HEAD WERE LIARS.   They told me I would die, and all they really wanted was to stop me.  And finally, after it happened a dozen times, I got the joke.  And the next time I was on the track, when the voice said “you are going to die” I answered “well, then die, dammit.  I’m going to live doing what I want, being who I am.  And if I’d die running on the track, I’d probably die by the end of the day anyway.  So…screw you.


And the voice in my head would mumble, and give up.  And I would run like the wind.


I remember that, running around and around the track at Pepperdine, sailing. And there was an old black man, gray-haired and bent,  who had stopped his laborious walk  to watch me.  Around and around the quarter-mile.  And he smiled, and called out to me:   “You keep running boy!   Ain’t no telling what a young black man can do!” And we waved to each other, and he went on his way, and I never saw him again. And never forgot him.




I was curled in the living room, staring at the telephone that had just bit me, crying.  And something inside me got mad.

So Famous Writer  thinks my book  sucks.   Not everyone will agree.  I’ll get feedback.  Keep learning and growing.   I don’t have the obligation to live up to Famous Author’s standards.  I have an obligation to be the best I can be.  The best Steven Barnes I can be.   Because really?  That’s enough.




Remember “Rocky”?  The first one?   He trained like a maniac, pounding sides of beef into tartar and drinking enough raw eggs to fuel an Ihop, but the night before the Big Fight realized that he was a joke, a laughing stock, a publicity stunt.  That he had no chance. Adrienne asked him “what are we going to do?”  (Note the beauty of the “we”?  Masculine and feminine energies, together.)


And at that moment Rocky says the thing that made my eyes open wide, that raised that movie to the status of Truth.    “No one has ever gone the distance with Apollo Creed,” he said.    “All my life, I’ve been just another bum from the neighborhood. But if I can go that distance. If when the bell at the end of the fifteenth round ends, and I’m still on my feet, for the first time in my life I’ll know I’m not a bum.  That I really am  somebody.”

Now…Rocky already WAS somebody to Adrienne.  He was the man she loved.   Given that strength, he didn’t need the rest of the world to give him a victory.  He WANTED their acclaim, but didn’t NEED it.  He already had what he needed, get it? What he needed, what ANY of us ever need, is a sense of love and connection.       He was then able to describe a path to victory that was dependent upon his actions, not Apollo’s, not the judges.


I’m gonna be on my feet. No matter what.  And because of that inner direction, he almost beat the greatest boxer who ever lived.


You keep running, boy.  Ain’t no telling what a young black man can do!   A man of one generation, who had done as much as he could, run as far and as fast as he could…handing the torch to the next runner.


I sat in my living room and realized I didn’t have to write  a best-seller.  Didn’t have to win awards or acclaim. What I had to do was be true to myself, no matter what.  No matter what it costs.  That there will ALWAYS be criticism, from others and from the voices in my head.


Many years passed. Famous Writer and I became friends in time.  And one day he saw my “A Stitch In Time” episode of the Outer Limits, and told me he loved it.   I glowed, because I knew I could trust him with the truth.


And even more years later he grew older and  fell sick, and I was at his house, at his sickbed, and he spoke of regrets. And this man who I had adored for so long told me that he didn’t know if anything he had done matters, if he had ever created anything of worth.     And I smiled, and told him that he was, quite possibly, the most “himself” writer I had ever met.   He was, quite authentically, Famous Writer.  And there was nothing more any of us can do. The fame, the money, the awards come if they come. But the real reward, if you have chosen your goals in alignment with both your childhood dreams and deathbed values, BEING WHO YOU ARE.

I told him I had dealt with fear, that that was the reason that drove me into the martial arts. “How did you defeat it?” he asked.

You don’t.   You make your peace with it. It’s there for a reason…to keep you running.




So…yesterday I asked the kids how many of them had negative voices in their heads.  80% of them raised their hands.    I laughed.  “Very good,” I said.  “The rest of you are lying.”


They laughed.  “Here’s  secret,” I said.  “One of the most important secrets in the world.  Are you redy to hear it?” They nodded eagerly.


“Then who am I?”  A little Asian girl asked.

“You are the one listening to the voices.”

“Well…who is that?”  She asked, eyes shining and wide.  Empty cup.  They are the blessed.

“That is what you must discover,” I said.  “And the answer won’t quite fit into words. But if you are a writer, you will do the best you can to answer that question, with every character you create.”

Write your million words.   Speak your truth.  Do your best.  Enjoy every day, for the simple pleasure of being yourself, separating your is-ness from the voices of the crowd.


Run, girl, run.  Ain’t no telling what a young Asian woman can do.






Words, Actions, and Faith

What is more important? Words or actions?


Lifewriting is an opportunity to apply the same tools we have in life to our fiction, and the same wisdom gleaned from exposure to countless millions of stories to our lives.  For instance:


In the debates about “Team Killmonger” and “Team Panther” one thing that happens is a prioritizing of what is said above what is done.    He speaks revolutionary rhetoric, and has some VERY good points, no question about it: the most natural thing in the world is to want “your tribe” on the top.


But without paying PRIMARY attention to behaviors, it is easy to be manipulated by a good salesman. What does a good demagogue do?


Identifies a problem that causes pain in his potential followers

Intensifies that pain.  Tells them why and how he empathizes with them (“I feel your pain…”)

Gives them reason to feel he is real, often by having testimonials, or having others vouch for him.

Makes them an offer, painting a picture of the rosy future they can have if they follow him.

And gives marching orders (“follow me!”)



And once he has them hooked, they will bend over backwards to justify his actions.  If you remember that everyone starts life just wanting to be loved and happy, and then see people in abusive relationships with their partners, their own bodies and emotions, or their political choices.


Appeal to your values, bait-and-switch to their own agenda. The words can be so sweet.  How can you know?


  1. Watch what they do.
  2. Listen to what they say
  3. Do their behaviors match their words?  If so, and their words are in alignment with your values, and you have determined that your values are in alignment with both love and strength…fantastic.




My first girlfriend Sandy had a friend who was in an abusive relationship. He actually went to jail for beating her up, and while he was gone, she took up with a new boyfriend. When the first one got out of jail, he came straight to her house and found her with the new guy, beat him up and then…well, I don’t want to trigger anyone, but it was ugly.


And…after she recovered, she took him back.  When I asked her “why?” she replied:  “you just don’t know what love is.”


I guess I don’t.    But I know we all start life experiencing love and nurturance, or we die.  And we spend our entire lives trying to duplicate that sense of blissful connection to the mother (at least) and father (hopefully).


Love and strenght.   Hopefully, you got both from both.  But if they are role-playing, you can at least get what you need from the team.  Sandy herself had grown up without her father…who was notorious (a story for another time) but I remember that she believed strength WAS love, and didn’t feel safe with a man who wouldn’t push back.  In fact, on a couple of occassions she tried to manipulate me into hitting her.


Let’s say I saw where she and her friend were on the same continuum.   We WANT love, but we NEED survival.   And strength seems a direct connection to survival.  So if we have to choose between love and softness, or  brutality accompanied by the strength that would enable survival in the crunch, we’ll take the strength.


This is why a very simple set of rules can really help here:   Would you want your son or daughter treated the way this person treats people?


That question works so damned well.     Sandy and I broke up, and it was many, many years before I saw her again. It was in a supermarket, and I almost didn’t recognize her. She seemed softer, sweeter.  She recognized me first: “Barnesy!” she said, and we hugged.


She told me that she had been married, and become very much a church lady, and her heart was happy. She apologized to me for having been so hard and critical, and realized that she had been a lonely, frightened girl looking for a Daddy to make things right.


Look at the Hero’s Journey, please:


For Sandy to have a healthy relationship, she needed to connect to the love within herself, demand to be treated the way she would want her daughter to be treated, and feel strong enough to protect herself.


Faith.  In her strength, in her worthiness for love, in the notion that she was as beautiful as the night and  (to paraphrase Tanith Lee) as precious as the stars therein.


What are the three components of Faith?

  1. Faith in yourself (your innate value)
  2. In your companions (that there WILL be someone who can love her, if she can love herself.
  3. In a higher power (she found this in Church.  A sense of love and protection, giving her a route to finding human love in alignment with the divine.)


How wonderful for her.  I have no idea what ever happened to her friend.   Many people in abusive relationships with others…or themselves…find their way out of the maze.  Many do not.



Never let yourself be treated worse than you’d want your children treated.  Never prioritize a person’s words above their actions.


The life…the heart…you save may be your own.






What does the Killmonger tragedy teach us?

(Warning: Black Panther spoilers ahead.   When we look at movies LIFEWRITING style, that happens!)


Lifewriting says that our fantasies and myths reflect our inner world. And our inner worlds are shaped by the fantasies and myths and stories.  The best are touching us on a deep level. Let’s take a look at a story thread people have debated, not from “this is truth” but “this is a way to connect the fiction we love with the lives we lead.

Is Eric Killmonger hero or villain?

Make no mistake: a case can be made for either position.    On the one hand is his revolutionary rhetoric: why NOT switch the power structure? What possible reason would he have not to want to be on top? On the other hand is his behavior, which clearly suggests we are looking at a baby tyrant, that when they say “power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely” they were talking about HIM, and if you aren’t careful, you’d end up being one of those “gee, I thought we’d be able to control him.  Gee. I thought he’d settle down.  Gee, he SAID he would change…” enablers.


You are a good man. With a good heart.  And it is hard for a good man to be king“–there’s your theme!   King T’Chaka killed his brother.  Why?   Ego perhaps (he was angry.  Also possible: he didn’t’ want the disgrace of his brother’s trial).   It was NOT a measured action.  Once done, those eggs were broken, and couldn’t be unbroken.   He had a horrible dilemma: IMO, if you are watching a story about a man who kills another man, who has a son…aren’t you waiting for the other shoe to drop?  WHEN WILL THE CRIME BE KNOWN?  When will the son take revenge, and how juicy is it going to be?  “Black Panther” is a Hamlet and broken-eggs omelet.

I mean, think about it: if so much as a single whisper, look, action, clue EVER came to light, that boy would move heaven and earth to kill his way to the throne.  So…T’Chaka abandoned him in America.  If he’d been more ruthless, frankly…he would have killed him. Too much risk to his own bloodline.

How about if ANYONE ever learned, they’d realize how valuable and dangerous that boy was, and would either want to kill him or use him to topple the throne.  IMO, the best choice T’Chaka had would be (if Wakandan tech allowed it) to wipe Erik’s memory and have him adopted by a good American home, anonymous, far away from Wakanda.

Even that might not have worked (the level of coincidence and synchronicity in comic books is off the chain. Do you REALLY believe this wrong would never have come to light?  Really?)

But by abandoning him, T’Chaka created a monster.  A sociopath with revolutionary ideals, who (as far as we know) grew up on the streets, fought his way to excellence powered by a dream of vengeance.  Killmonger never knew love or softness–demonstrated by the casual way he killed his girlfriend.  With no safe home, he needed control.   And used seduction, lies, violence, strategy…anything and everything to get to what he really wanted:


Home.  Love.   He talks about his “Auntie” “princess” (cousin), “Uncle”.  This is personal stuff.  All he really wanted…all ANY of ever really want…love and peace.  And he was prepared to kill his way to it.

What would a good king/good man do?   We saw T’Challa willing to see truth (in the 21st Century, Wakanda must forgo isolation.   In our world, to rectify wrongs and become one people.  In the Marvel universe, to stand against Thanos with the rest of humanity.  The power of a simple metaphor. “Thanos” which means “noble” in Hindi and “Immortal” in Greek, is a cool name for a cosmic villain.   In the comics, he is enamored of the Goddess of Death.  Get that? Immortality and Death, together again?   Yin and Yang, anyone?).  But T’Challa was also willing to come from love (extend help to enemies.   Offer of life to Killmonger.  Earth must pull together.  We must see the humanity within each other, or die as a species).  Incidentally, he was also strong enough to stand against tyranny.  Not alone–alone,   he was defeated.  When his family and his people connected to him, he went to his ancestors, rejected them AND THEREBY PROVED HIMSELF WORTHY TO JOIN THEM.  He was his own man. A good man. And a good king.


Killmonger had the right idea, but a broken heart.  Moses couldn’t enter the promised land.  MLK couldn’t make it to the new world with us, although from the mountain-top, he could see the gates.


This is cost of corrupting our children: the healing is multigenerational, and takes either time, or an epiphany.     We all have a Killmonger within us, have abandoned our hopes and dreams and values for expediency.   The answer is STRENGTH, LOVE,  AND TRUTH.

We need the wisdom of the Elders, and the dreams of a child.  Otherwise, those poisoned fruits come back to haunt us.  We cannot disown our own inner children.

Or ignore the lessons of the past




Got an email today, from “Andrew”, who said:

“One of the biggest issues I’ve encountered in myself was the NEED to have an editor go through my story before submitting.  I can’t tell you how bogged down I would get because I needed to have someone proofread it and then find an editor to go through my short story. In reality it was just my own fear of being rejected.  As of now, I’ve been submitting the stories after I make a cursory check to make sure there aren’t any obvious issues or typos.  Otherwise, it’s in the (e)mail and will stay there.  If an editor gives me feedback then I’ll take that into consideration and apply it to my next story.


“I figure time is short and the faster I get to a hundred short stories the faster I’ll be published.   I’ve been writing so many stories back to back I seriously don’t even remember writing the earlier ones.  I have to read a few paragraphs before I even know what it’s about and I outlined and wrote the damn thing.  My thoughts are consumed with the current story and the next one in the pipeline.

“I know I’ll use editors eventually but for now I need to just concentrate on volume.  I’ve held myself back for too long.

“I’m finally learning to trust myself.  I can’t thank you enough.”–Andrew


How does the care and maintenance of your child fit here?

  1. The child is frightened of rejection. But the more love he gets from YOU the easier it is to move forward.
  2. If you are committed to protecting the child, you stay on your discipline.  You do the “work” so that the child can “play”.  Stay on task: write one #$%% sentence a day, no matter what.
  3. Trust that you are an endless fountain of ideas. And if your “child” feels safe, you will be.  And I doubt you can come up with a hundred ideas without one of them being good.
  4. If your child trusts you, and you trust her, you have the connection you need for endless creativity. So long as you are heading in the right direction, you cannot lose.


Trust.  Love.  Faith.  Truth.    Constant work, motivated by love and guided by truth.  Strong enough to resist fear, from within (insecurity)  or without (aggression).


T’Challa was strong, and unafraid,  so he earned Killmonger’s respect (“that was a move”)  and was t and was clear enough to hear the truth (“we are one”) beneath the fear (“I must control”)

If only both of them had had that connection sooner…it would have been a very different film.  And in some ways, I’m sorry we’ll never see that one.  Erik Killmonger…known as N’Jadaka, son of N’Jobu, nephew of T’Chaka and cousin of T’Challa…deserved better.

So do we all.





I think that people become addicted to arguing.  Why?  Well, sometimes it does work. But they forget their actual outcome: to solve a problem or determine “what is true.”  To experience more pleasure than pain in life.


Why then do people so often get exhausted, express frustration, anger and fear because of conducting or witnessing apparently endless argument?   Because they have forgotten their ultimate goal.


ULTIMATE GOAL: To be happy

LONG TERM GOAL: to remove an obstruction to happiness

SHORT TERM GOAL: To create alliances to achieve something that cannot be done alone

IMMEDIATE GOAL: To determine “what is true?” in the “who, what, why, where, how” categories.


And since SOMETIMES, arguments can lead to clarity, and that to creating alliances, solving problems and achieving happiness…arguments can seem like a good idea.  Oh, I’m sorry: “debates.”


But you can also become addicted to debate. Just as “combativeness” is a positive quality in some arenas, people engage in it inappropriately.  Sometimes referred to as a component of “toxic masculinity.”  (A question: would aversion to conflict, a positive quality in some arenas, if engaged in inappropriately be a component of “toxic femininity”?)


Another discussion. Anyway I think it is important to know when battles are not worth fighting.


I recently  watched something fascinating happen.  I asked:  “who has ever changed the mind of someone who believes X?” (A controversial and polarizing political discussion).


Not a single person indicated that anything they said ever had changed a single mind.    Not one.   But, amusingly, people started arguing the subject right there and then.


Excuse me.  What part of “apparently this doesn’t work” wasn’t understood?    I say because people mistake the process for the goal.  If the process leads to the goal, fine. But when it leads to frustration, fear, exhaustion, shouldn’t we consider that argumentation is the wrong tool?  Aren’t we being toxic?


Let’s apply Lifewriting  to  problem solving on a social level, shall we?


CHALLENGE: To solve problem X

REJECT: There is no apparent answer

ACCEPT: to take the position that because we cannot see an answer doesn’t mean one doesn’t exist (otherwise, you slide into despair and destructive rage)

ROAD OF TRIALS: to keep trying DIFFERENT approaches, modeling successful approaches in a variety of contexts until an answer is found.

ALLIES AND POWERS:   Whatever teachers, role models, comrades, friends and family you can enlist in the effort. Brain storming is a good thing!   Try this question: “a hundred years from now, this problem will be solved, no matter how it looks now.  What was the process?”    It is nothing but ego to assume that if YOU can’t find an answer, an answer cannot be found.

CONFRONT EVIL, DEFEAT:  you are gridlocked in argument, and the problem recurs again and again.

DARK NIGHT OF THE SOUL: Exhausted, you fall into the ego state of “If I can’t find an answer, there is not answer.”  Let alone the “all is lost” thingie, considering that people have this need to believe that somehow, their generation is so important that they have front row center to Armageddon.  Every generation seems to think this.  So far, they’ve all been wrong.

LEAP OF FAITH: Remember that every generation creates answers the previous generation hadn’t thought of.  Of course, they also create new problems.  That’s another story.  Over and over again, the adults of one generation have insisted that they are the shit, that they have all the answers, and that if they have failure of imagination or will, That’s All Folks. They are almost always wrong.

CONFRONT EVIL–VICTORIOUS.  You keep trying, and either find the answer yourself or  inspire others to find it.

STUDENT BECOMES THE TEACHER:   You share the answer you have found.


This is a way the “Hero’s Journey” can work. If there IS no answer, it doesn’t hurt to keep trying.  If there could have been an answer, and you stopped trying, you have betrayed your grandchildren.



Now, that said, there are distinctions along the way. Role models will demonstrate the proper logic patterns (first: is it true?) or tactical approaches (“nurture your tribe.  Don’t argue with sleepers or snakes”) and so forth.   But the overall pattern is pretty solid.




MODEL SUCCESS.  If other people, groups, or countries have solved the problem…look there.  What were their belief systems, emotions, tactics and strategies?   If opponents disbelieve these things would work for us, are they assuming we are more basically different as human beings?  Is their basic view that of human equality (“their answers won’t work for us!”  Could that be true if human beings are basically equal? Yes? No?   If not, does that match YOUR core belief?  Remember, no matter what they say, their ULIMATE belief in equality/inequality is faith-based.    Ultimately, if what you are saying challenges that faith, they will reject it regardless of the logic used, until or unless their belief changes.  It is best to consider them “asleep” in this arena, remembering that you are asleep in others, and may actually be wrong now.  “Asleep” is probably the kindest way to attribute “wrongness” about such a core issue, as it relates to universal humanity, and doesn’t require you to consider them “evil” or “stupid”.  Just…asleep, and may awaken at some future point.)



  1. Love yourself
  2. Love one other person
  3. Study history, embrace humanity without guilt, blame, or shame
  4. Support your Tribe, avoid sleepers and snakes.
  5. Win with integrity.


In combination with a belief in Equality, and the Hero’s Journey, you have a syntax for success, if success is possible.


Frankly, I always believe it is possible to win.  But sometimes you have to define the terms for yourself.

Like…not having your time wasted.





I’m not really going to review this film.  I love it.   If you want to know more about my reactions and thoughts, check out the FB Live video T and I did yesterday: BlackPantherAfterAction   or:



SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS   Do NOT read unless you’ve already seen the movie PLEASE!!!





When I say that this may be the most important “Popular entertainment” film I’ve ever seen, I mean it.  Myth matters, at least partially because it embeds the patterns of life at a deep unconscious level, where all wisdom must reside to be useful.


Let’s look at the pattern of the Hero’s Journey  applied here:


  1. HERO CONFRONTED WITH A CHALLENGE: T’Challa wishes to be a good king…and a good man as well.
  2. REJECTS THE CHALLENGE.  He believes he can do this by simply following in his father’s footsteps.
  3. ACCEPTS THE CHALLENGE: Tradition and his own heart puts him on the path, although his father’s ghost warns him:  “it is hard for a good man to be king”
  4. ROAD OF TRIALS: Return to Wakanda, the kinghood ceremony, travel to Korea to capture an enemy, return to Wakanda empty-handed, challenged for the throne by a cousin he never knew.
  5. ALLIES AND POWERS: His family, his country, his ancestors, his friends.    Courage, intelligence, martial prowess, and deep emotional reserves of wisdom: he knows who he is, even if he still hasn’t fully awakened.
  6. CONFRONT EVIL–DEFEATED.  He discovers that his father killed his own brother and abandoned his nephew Eric “Killmonger” in America. This breaks his heart: he no longer has the strength of his ancestors.  He fights his cousin, and is defeated (but does not submit).
  7. DARK NIGHT OF THE SOUL: Thrown into the abyss, he suffers a near-death experience.
  8. LEAP OF FAITH:   He rejects worship of his ancestors to become his own man.  Ironically, this is precisely what must be done to honor them.  His father had made an error. Accepting his father’s humanity allows him to take the positive without being limited by the negative.  And even more: to embrace the spirit of the Black Panther without being limited by the flawed human beings who represent her.  Compare to the “if you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him” notion.  To become a king, he must kill his IMAGE of the king.  Reject father-worship to be a worthy son.
  9. CONFRONT EVIL–VICTORIOUS.  He defeats Killmonger, and offers him mercy.
  10. STUDENT BECOMES THE TEACHER:  His mercy offers Killmonger enlightment or awakening at the very end of his life: he sees the waste he has made of his life.  That he was consumed by vengeance and hatred when he could have found family. Became the evil he sought to fight. But dies with defiance on his lips–teaching T’Challa in turn.  And T’Challa unifies the goals of his ancestors (to protect their people) with a 21st Century obligation to help build a better worldfor all.


Was that goal valid?  We can argue about the “real” world, but in the MCU–absolutely. Remember why Tony Stark built Ultron? Because in Avengers, he saw a vast alien armada, a force before which humanity is, in Nick Fury’s words, “hopelessly, hilariously outgunned.”


Fury built the Avengers.   Stark built Ultron.    Isolation from humans makes sense if your enemies are humans. But if your enemies are off-planet, countless SF movies have posited that we will need to pull together.


ONLY A UNITED EARTH CAN SOLVE THE ULTIMATE WORLD PROBLEMS. The history of mankind is one of growing complexity and connection.  T’Challa sees the bigger picture, and must find a way to step into it. That is HIS fate as king.


Killmonger, then, was correct in his vision but poisoned by the dragon he had fought, a broken-hearted orphan who only “awakened” in time to save his soul…but not his body.


T’Chaka stained his soul making a choice to protect his crown…but an act motivated by love (for his children, because make no mistake: Patricide is NOT forgiven. It is entirely reasonable to fear Killmonger would have arranged an “accident” for T’Challa and T’Chaka and taken the throne.  Presumably, his father was all he had.   The best thing T’Chaka could have done is wiped the boy’s memory and found him a good family to raise him as their own) and anger (rage at betrayal) and arguably shame (the humiliation of a public trial for his brother would have created vast problems. I don’t know if Wakanda uses the death penalty, but if they did, he might have considered killing his brother to be Royal Justice.  Its messy) created a Shakespearean nightmare. Black Panther is a  Hamlet and broken eggs omelet.

T’Challa had to find a way to the future, while respecting the past. A path for his people, and all mankind. This requires forgiveness. Is it reasonable he could do this?


Did he kill Zemo in “Civil War”?  No?  Do you have the slightest empathy with Tony Stark’s “I don’t care. He killed my Mom” pursuit of Bucky, even at the cost of killing Captain America? Even thought Bucky had no control?


If you can buy that T’Challa had more emotional mastery in a week than the brilliant Stark had after 30 years and half a billion dollars of therapy, you are believing in a human being who can also move beyond racial and national conflicts to see the larger picture.  T’Challa is such a Magical Negro that if he weren’t balanced by an entire country, he’d be Harry Potter singing “Mammy”.

But he IS balanced by Wakanda. He has mother, sister, father (deceased), friends, counselors, subjects, lover (ex and future), and alliances. He is probably the most fully realized character in all the MCU, with the possible exception of  Thor and Spider-Man.


Now, Killmonger, T’Chaka, Suri, and Nakia all had their own lovely arcs weaving in and out. I leave it as an exercise for the reader to plot them out, and see Coogler’s beautifully woven braid.  THIS is fine storytelling, world-class, and totally deserving of its success.


This is the power of myth.





(If you would like to learn more about Afrofuturism, please accept the gift of a free lesson from our DREAMS TO BANISH NIGHTMARES course, available at: www.WAKANDALIVES.COM)

Healing Your Heart

How to Get Rid of Loneliness, Emotional Pain and Regret


My name is Steven Barnes, a NY Times bestselling author, master hypnotist and and martial artist, creator of the “Lifewriting” system of personal development.  And after working with thousands of clients for three decades, I have something wonderful to offer you.


If you suffer from depression, fear and emotional isolationif you feel unworthy of loveif you are frustrated with life, believe you will never find love, and can’t motivate yourself to strive for your dreams… then this message is just for you. Heres why


    No one ever taught you that the purpose of life is happiness. And that the door to happiness, success and healthy relationships is to LOVE YOURSELF FIRST.


    And you need to realize, there is a cost to not dealing with this


If You Ignore That Hole in your heart,  It Just Gets Worse


    What most people do when facing loneliness and anxiety is believe it is their natural state. They try to salve it with  external accomplishment, meaningless sex, compulsive eating, drugs or alcohol.  Does this sound like someone you know?  Maybe someone you see in the mirror every morning?   If so you know an ugly truth: None of that works.  

      • Every meaningless action simply sinks them deeper
      • Relationships fail because desperation is the un-sexiest thing in the world
      • If success doesn’t lead to pleasure, their motivation to even TRY dissolves, so that they spiral into failure after failure until their despair is clear for all to see.


    And what happens if you just do nothing? If you just keep doing  what youve been doing?

Let me tell you the moment I hit “threshold.”

I remember teaching at a kid’s summer camp about twenty years ago.  There, one of the other counselors, a young martial artist named Uli asked me: “when will I stop being afraid?”

To my regret, he took me by such surprise that I had no answer for him.  And within six months, Uli  had taken his own life.

How I learned to help people learn to love themselves.

When I heard what had happened, I swore never to be without an answer again.  NEVER.   Haunted, I searched exhaustively, until I finally found an answer that works.

Searching through martial arts, NLP, Eriksonian Hypnosis, Transcultural Shamanism and more, I  learned some terrific techniques for dealing with fear, and experimented with them on wealthy clients as a stress and movement counselor at the prestigious Moonview Clinic in Santa Monica.   It rapidly became clear that removing fear wasn’t enough: unless my clients loved themselves, removing fear could just leave them feeling “numb.”  Feeling nothing at all.

In fact, if they could learn to love themselves, instead of fear, what they got was ENERGY, the power to protect those you love from threat. They became DYNAMOS.

So…I went more deeply, and combining methods from a yogic, Western psychological and Shamanic traditions I created a process I called the ANCIENT CHILD, and taught it to clients paying FIVE THOUSAND DOLLARS A DAY and up.  They were floored.

Experienced healings they called “magical” and “amazing.”  That’s well and good: rich people have a LOT of options.  I wanted to create something that ANYONE could use.

And did.  

It Worked For Me, and My Clients, and It Will Work For You

Heres what it did for me…I use this technique every morning to prepare myself for a day of writing, healing, working out, and being the best husband and father I can be.


But more importantly, this discovery has enabled me to help others, even when separated by thousands of miles:  Daniel Christopher Riewe, a student of mine in Europe said:


Thank you Steven Barnes. Strange. After living in a state of “sleep” including depression, anxiety and panic (and much more) for 44 YEARS (!!) a door opened. It happened after an incredible painful separation from  a woman I loved deeply. But despite the expectation of even more desperation HAPPINESS came.   I feel profoundly whole and integrated (more than “healed” as I never was sick/wounded but just not “whole”). I don’t understand the “logic” of this process, but maybe that IS the point: there is no logic. It’s about having the balls to confront suppressed negative emotions without any drama…. and giving yourself attention as long as they persist…   Let´s see where this leads to!”

That’s great, Daniel!

And La Veda Mason said:  “Thank you Steven Barnes. You more than changed my life. You SAVED my life.”


THAT’S what a healer wants to hear. That somehow, after thousands of hours of practice and research, desperately wishing to help those who trust me…that I found something that works.


Finally, Its Your Turn

When you get the  ANCIENT CHILD THIRTY DAY CHALLENGE, youll get the key to


      • Healing childhood trauma
      • Loving yourself enough to fight for your dreams
      • The key to living every day at the top of your game.


It all comes as part of this downloadable collection of visualizations and PDF lessons.    Imagine spending a few minutes a week listening to an MP3…then doing a few simple, pleasant things every morning to “anchor” your new emotions in…and being  on your way to a new life, one where love replaces fear in your life, and your feet are on the path to real happiness, emotional health, and success.    

“Winning” every day, for the rest of your life!

And you are 100% safe to try this out. Thats all Im suggesting. Just try it for 30 days to see if it works for you. If it does, youll be delighted – and I think thats exactly whats about to happen. If for some reason youre not delighted with the kind of joy, peace and self-love you deserve,  then just let me know – and you get all your money back.


Its Decision Time


You have a choice to make: Do what youve been doing (or worse, do nothing at all). You know where that can lead. Is that really where you want to go? Take a new action, and get a new result. Finally get a new life, the life you deserve, one of love, and possibility, and the abundant natural energy you deserve.  


Answer this one question: what would you do to protect and nurture your own most beloved child?  If you would do one ounce less for yourself, right now, YOU NEED THIS AMAZING COURSE!


Which do you really want for yourself? Heres what to do now… JUST GO TO:   WWW.THEANCIENTCHILD.COM


I’ve sold this originally for $99.00.  Then after I’d made a ton of money, dropped the price to $49.95.   Now you can have my Valentine’s Day Special for only $39.95!


Please, do yourself a favor.  You only have one life, one heart.  


Live it.  Heal it.


Yours in love…

Steven Barnes