Brainstorming Part One


“Life is `trying things to see if they work”–Ray Bradbury


I recently wrote an article on the “Ten commandments of Brainstorming” (And a few extras) for Creative Screenwriting Magazine.   But I thought I’d rewrite it and  share a preview of its contents with you, Constant Reader.


Creativity is a matter of both self-expression and problem solving.   In both arenas, the ability to generate vast quantities of ideas is essential: “the only way to have a good idea is by coming up with a LOT of bad ideas!”


One way of approaching this is the process known as “brainstorming,” where two or more people work together to generate solutions for a given problem.  Few things can be more practical, not only as a direct means of solving issues or creating ideas, but as a pure exercise in contacting creative “flow.”


There are countless approaches to this, but lets explore a few of them over the next few days, shall we?




We never lack ideas. What we lack is confidence that those ideas are good enough. Everyone goes quietly insane every night.  Creativity is tapping into that infinite flow of possibilities.  EXERCISE: Keep a digital recorder by the side of your bed.  When you wake up after a dream, record its content. In the morning, transcribe.  Obviously, you can also use a simple pen and paper.


The trick with this dream-journaling is that dreams are often fragile tissues.   We can awaken in the morning with a clear sense of our dreams, and just sitting up can make them dissolve.  So…keeping a recorder on your bedside or under your pillow can allow you to wake up in the middle of the night, whisper your dream into the recorder, then roll over and go back to sleep.  This recording then becomes a “prompt” to help you remember that dream in the morning, when you transcribe it into a journal.


This exercise helps you to make a connection between your conscious and unconscious minds, critical to the creative process.


Try this and let us know what kind of madness you come up with!



p.s.–and please remember that the “Make Your Own Movie” webinar is tonight, January 22, at 6pm pst.  Our goal is to give $2001 in value in this FREE educational experience. Join us, or please pass this information to a creative friend!  WWW.HOLLYWOODLOOPHOLE.COM

Tears streamed down my face. Was it too late?

About thirty years ago, I was sitting in a Greenwich Village restaurant speaking to Leo and Diane Dillon about art.   These were REAL artists, fabulous graphic geniuses (the inset image is from their cover to Harlan Ellison’s DEATHBIRD STORIES), and a husband-wife team who performed as a single mind.  When she started a line, he finished, and vice versa.  In the presence of such greatness, all my pretense of wanting to interview them to help an artist friend just…dissolved.   



Tears streamed down my face, all my bullshit stripped away in the face of such artistic purity.  I realized that in trying to maintain a career, to support my family, I had often written things purely for the money, sometimes scrabbling to please people with corrupt values and petty creative minds.  “We can’t do that story” I remember being told once.  “If we did that story, people would think this show is about something, and our only excuse for putting on a mass murder every week is that this is pure entertainment.”


Name of God.   And…I needed the money.  Instead of excusing myself and using up a bobbin of mental floss, I stayed and pitched madly, desperate to get that check.   Frankly, honestly, it took me a year to recover.  


That’s another story.


I explained my situation to Leo and Diane, and choked out the words: “is it too late for me?   Can I still find my way to my art?”


They looked at me not with scorn or mocking, but pure compassion.  Diane reached across the table and took my hand.  Through a film of tears I heard her say words that changed my life: “if you can even ask that question, it’s not too late.”


Bless her.  I’ve lost my way at times. We all have.  If you have ever wanted to work in Hollywood, you have been tempted to sell out, to change your words, to write what’s “hot” instead of what’s true.   It’s the war between heart and head, child and adult, and it is eternal.


In prose writing, the answer is often to write short stories, which cleanse the palate, give you a chance to study your craft for its own sake, and to play with nutty ideas for the sheer joy of it.


But what if you want to make movies?  In the process of chasing that dream, is it possible to create a path that takes you CLOSER to your creative impulse, while satisfying your heart, and simultaneously learning the skills you need to succeed in the money game?


Tananarive and I believe there is.  And it lies in making short films.  We’ve done it for nothing, for 30k, and I’ve done it in writing for television’s The Twilight Zone.   There you have it: from zero to 100% Guild, a continuum ANYONE can begin, a road ANYONE can walk, easier than at any point in history because of changes in technology.  


This Friday, we’re doing a totally Free webinar to create more material for our exclusive SCREENWRITING MACHINE class.  We’d love to have you in the audience for it.  We’ll be discussing the nuts and bolts of actual creation of short films, and you’ll have the opportunity to ask any questions you want, from the “why” to the “how” and the “how much.”  It will be at 6pm pst Friday the 22nd of January 2016, and we’re going to have serious fun, and show you how you can do the same.  Not “some day” but NOW.




If you can even remember your dream…it’s not too late.




Hollywood’s panic is your gain

I’m a dinosaur. For decades, I’ve discouraged students from self-publishing (although that’s MUCH better than “vanity” publishing, where you pay a company to publish your book for you). The “Machine” for writers says that you stay away from publishing books until you have published 10 stories (on average). Because there are hundreds of magazines, anthologies, webzines and so forth that pay at least a little money, Tananarive and I have always believed that a talented hard working writer WILL find her way through the system, no matter where in the world they are.

But I’ve come to realize that THIS IS NOT TRUE WITH SCREENWRITING.

The traditional method is:
Move to Hollywood.
Get a job in the industry/go to Film School
Write a stack of scripts.
Attract the attention of an agent
Enter production
Enter post-production
Get distribution deal

Fail a single step, and the entire “chain” breaks. Your “bridge” to success collapses. A single step. And frankly, that sucks. Even if you SUCCEED at doing it…once…you might not ever do it again. There are screenwriters who have won OSCARS and still struggled to get another film made. What chances do we have?

Well…this is where my friend Art Holcomb came in. Frankly, as an in-demand columnist, lecturer, Hollywood script consultant and media advisor, he has insights I lack. I’ve had plenty of scripts produced, but never actually been “on the other side of the table” as it were. What Art said about the actual nature of the game was depressing at first…and then exhilarating.

Because once we put our heads together, compared our experiences, and looked at what was working for young artists in the 21st Century, we realized that there really was another way. A NO-FAIL, NO-EXCUSES way for a screenwriter with a teaspoon of guts to actually “hack” the system.

Because THERE IS A LOOPHOLE. Yes, there is.

The shift in technology makes it possible. HOLLYWOOD IS PANICKING because of these “loopholes”, which are shattering their century-long “hold” on the industry.   (Think of the alarm in the music industry as services like Napster came into existence.  The movie industry isn’t as bad…it’s WORSE.  And that, my friend, is bad for major studios…but good for me and you!)

This panic, and the new technologies and social changes that triggered it, are YOUR ADVANTAGE, if you have the heart to take it.

This isn’t a joke, and it isn’t a gimmick. The answer? MAKE YOUR OWN SHORT MOVIE. We raised 30 thousand dollars to make “Danger Word” and it changed our relation to Hollywood. BUT YOU DON’T NEED THAT MUCH. NOT EVEN CLOSE.  In fact, you can probably do it for UNDER A HUNDRED DOLLARS.  Tananarive made hers for about SEVENTY BUCKS.

In two hours, we can teach you why this works, how it works, how to find the resources, why EVEN IF YOUR ONLY AMBITION IS TO BE A SCREENWRITER, with no slightest interest in being a director or producer, you will learn more screenwriting in ONE YEAR of following our program than you will from a FOUR YEAR film school.

This is new. It is complete. It is radical, and it is FUN.

You will learn:
How to START your script
How to FINISH your script.
How to banish the FEAR that stops you from speaking your TRUTH in your script
How to learn at accelerated speed, and learn the things that, before now, you had to join an expensive film school, or be one of the “annointed ones” who, through some combination of luck and skill actually “win the lottery” and get a film made.
How to position yourself to attract real Hollywood talent when you’re ready
How to have real FUN again. To recapture what made you want to write in the firstplace–to MAKE MOVIES.

Even if all you want to do is write, and have NO ambition to direct or produce, this is the fastest route to understanding your craft, guaranteed.    And if you DO want to actually make movies, to create your own films with total control?

Ladies and Gentlemen…start your engines!

Art and I have created something that opens the door to a totally different relationship with your creativity. You will have specific homework, specific guidance, a social media group to support you, a THOUSAND DOLLAR contest to inspire you, and teleseminars where you can ask anything you want. And at the end of the year, if you don’t agree you’ve had the time of your life, learned more, done more, and advanced your skill and career knowledge beyond your dreams, we’ll gladly return your tiny investment.

This is a path from “nothing” to “everything.” If you have even a smidgeon of self-confidence…if you are sick of being an “outsider” and want to get into the Great Game, just check out the “Screenwriting Machine” at WWW.HOLLYWOODLOOPHOLE.COM

You have nothing to lose but your helplessness!

Write With Passion!

Ladies and Gentlemen…start your engines!

I woke up this morning VIBRATING with joy, because I finally get to share my secret project with you!

Today’s finally the day the SCREENWRITING MACHINE revs to life.  To create it, to makes something that would cut through the Hollywood b.s.  I needed an ally, someone who is more of an “insider” than I am, and found a superb on in Art Holcomb, story and craft columnist for Creative Screen writing magazine, a gentleman of encyclopedic knowledge of the art and business of writing, and a man of genuine passion…and compassion…for the life of the writer.    

How I wish I’d met him in my 20’s!!  His insights cut through the b.s. like you wouldn’t believe.


The SCREENWRITING MACHINE is a specific path to success for 21st century screenwriters and film-makers, unique and powerful.  It is multi-media, combining video, audio, MP3, discussion groups, teleseminars and webinars and a THOUSAND DOLLAR contest into an absolutely killer package with a very simple goal–to turn you into a successful screenwriter.  Period.


We worked our hearts out, but I needed your help, and you didn’t let me down.   The flood of survey responses helped us “fine tune” the product, and in thanks we’re adding a very special LIMITED TIME offer for you, the ones who helped us get across that finish line.    More on that LIMITED TIME OFFER in just a minute.


The SCREENWRITING MACHINE that describes not just the paths others have followed, but a  new route to take you from rank beginner to as close to “pro” as your heart and skill can take you.  If you have the will to WORK, we have the way to maximize your efforts, and gain the tools you need.   

And to help motivate you we’ve done a dozen different things, but one of them is a THOUSAND DOLLAR   CONTEST.   A THOUSAND DOLLARS first prize, FIVE HUNDRED DOLLARS second prize, and TWO HUNDRED FIFTY dollars third prize, just for extra motivation.    If you are ready to work, we are ready to help.

 WWW.SCREENWRITINGWEBINAR.COM is the URL, and you need to go NOW.   


We have built-in discussion groups, and a FB group, and other extras along the way, all at an unbelievably small investment, about what a single college lecture costs to attend.


Because Art, my wife and partner Tananarive Due and I want you to succeed, we’re offering something worth more than the investment in the course itself.   Everyone who enrolls in the FIRST TEN DAYS only will be invited to a  FREE THREE PART WEBINAR/TELESEMINAR to answer all your questions.  


ALL  questions.   The ones you asked in the survey, and new ones as well.     Nothing off limits.   The SCREENWRITING MACHINE itself was designed to deal with all of this, but there is nothing like live conversation.  Art,  T and I will be on the line, and holding your hands as you explore this new approach.


There it is, the whole kit and kaboodle.  We really hope you’re going to take advantage of this opportunity.




The future is here!

Mastering the Unknown Unknowns


So…what would we have to do to actually chart a 21st Century path to screenwriting success?  What would it take?


The “Hero’s Journey” is the tool that I use to diagram not only a story, but the process of writing a story, or indeed the process of achieving any goal.    But as valuable as it is, it is not the complete picture.  It CANNOT be.  No pattern can be.  Because part of life, and the creative process, is chaos.

Just as no martial art can fully prepare you for a real fight–a REAL fight is like two cats in a sack.


The REAL process of achievement involves stuff coming at you from every direction, unexpectedly, such that logic of any kind yields to pure, powerful emotion. And if your emotions aren’t strong and rooted, you won’t survive.   Many years ago, a student asked me if there was a “Heroine’s Journey,”and I took that to mean a non-linear path, because the specific steps are not specific to either inner or outer journeys, neither masculine or feminine values.


But beyond question, there were linear and non-linear approaches, and mine was the former, a ten-step process I swear by. But…what if your mind doesn’t work that way?  What if you are a typical artist, and your creative mind is like a rabbit off its ADD meds, hip-hopping all over the place?


Well, I have a gift for you, Art’s “String of Pearls” technique.    It is PERFECT for non-linear creativity, and filled in the “gap” by showing the “unconscious” pathway to completing projects.  Great stuff, and here is an article on it:  


Read it.  You’ll thank me.   


But I’ve got more for you today.  We’ve spoken of the “Secret Formula” (GOALS X FAITH X ACTION X GRATITUDE = RESULTS) and if you take that, and apply it to the process of writing, wow, you will accelerate your pace of growth.   But I just came across an article that made it even clearer why managing your emotions is CRITICAL to the process of growth, change, and success.  You’re going to want to read this as well:


Put these things together, and you’ll be able to glimpse what Art and I saw: that the Industry has so many invisible walls and trap doors, it is so hard to get feedback or ever actually get into the game that it is like trying to learn to swim without ever getting in the pool.  


The “full circle” of skills and actions, represented by the Hero’s Journey, String of Pearls, and the “Secret Formula” would require a four-year film school to help an “outsider” even learn what they need to learn. To know what they don’t know.   The “unknown unknowns.”  And without that, you are thrashing in the dark, and will eventually lose energy and enthusiasm, be consumed by fear and frustration, and just…give up.  


And I tasked Art, just as he had challenged me.    “Can we create something that we would have given our left thumbs for when we were starting out?  Something that would allow us to really learn what we need to know, or at least have a real idea what we NEED to learn?  Is it even possible?”


And we created an answer. And came together to create something special, something new.  Unlike anything I’ve done before. And yeah, I’d have given my left thumb to have this when I was twenty-five.  


And I can’t wait for you to have it. And that opportunity comes…tomorrow!   The “Screenwriting Machine” is about to come to life.  And if you accept our challenge…you’ll never be the same.


See you tomorrow!


“What I need most is inner inspiration and motivation”


The lovely thing about conducting a survey is that it clarifies what people need, so that I can speak directly to actual concerns, not just talk about whatever comes into my mind on a given morning.   Here’s one which, in various forms, was repeated quite frequently:


“What I need most is inner inspiration and motivation.

Sounds easy, but it seems to elude me.”


Let me look at this one bit at a time, because the apparently simple statement is actually quite deep.


“Inspiration” and “motivation” are the things that get us going in the morning, or even better, that push or pull us to achieve beyond our current capacities or status.   Most of us can do “the status quo” just fine. In fact, it is engaging in certain behaviors, thoughts, and feelings on a daily basis that CREATES that status quo.  Understanding how to adapt new behaviors requires understanding what drives your CURRENT behaviors.  


Pleasure and Pain. That’s it, on the simplest level.  You do what you do to move away from pain and toward pleasure.  All animals do this.  Heck, maybe plants too. Depends on who you listen to.   Whatever you do in your life, at some point you defined these actions as pain-avoidance or pleasure-seeking behaviors.   Which means you need to look more carefully at the emotions beneath them.  Pain and pleasure are sensations. The associated emotions are fear and love.  We fear what causes us pain, we love what gives us pleasure.   One of the steps of maturation is the ability to accept pain or postpone pleasure in order to reach a worthy goal.  People who are gym rats, for instance, often learn to LOVE certain kinds of pain, because they know it leads to pleasure (a transformed body).


In fiction, there are countless examples. In CASABLANCA, Rick has associated emotional intimacy, love and commitment to pain–because the last time he loved, Ilsa ditched him and broke his heart. The entire film is about him “coming back to life” and embracing the emotional paradox of human existence.   Both his love of Ilsa and his commitment to a larger cause are awakened as result.


In the movie TRAINWRECK, Amy avoids love and intimacy because her father drilled into her that love leads to pain.  She drowns her real emotions is drugs, alcohol and meaningless sex to avoid the natural human urge to connect with another human being on a profound level.   And her “cheerleader dance” at the end is her declaration that she is willing to go beyond her stated limits, to be outrageous, and to take a chance.  She might be hurt, yes.  But if she doesn’t take that chance, she is utterly lost and broken…forever.


(Really liked that movie, by the way).


Now, how does this relate to the common sense of “I’m not motivated”?


Simple.  Do you have to motivate or discipline yourself to eat ice cream?  No?  Why not?  BECAUSE IT’S GOOD. Because you reliably anticipate pleasure from eating it. In fact, the reason it is easier to eat ice cream than diet is that one is immediate pleasure, while the other is certain pain and often very uncertain pleasure (the observation/belief that “diets don’t work” suggests that all that discipline and discomfort will be for nothing).  So to lose that weight, you have to have a path that is either less painful, or more certain of delivering the desired positive results.  Without that, your pain/pleasure equation inclines us to empty that carton.


Back to writing.   If you write well, and honestly, it is often painful.  You have to “make” the time–often at the sacrifice of other things that seem more certain.  You have to actually dig into your own emotions, even the painful ones. Have to fight against the voices that say “it’s no good!  You’ll never be any good! No one cares!  You’ll just be rejected!” as well as doubting voices from real members of our tribe: parents, teachers, lovers, co-workers, friends, spouses, bosses…if they don’t believe in what we’re doing.


Those outer voices are killer. The inner voices can be even worse.


Tim Piering said that you can accomplish anything if you have:

1)Well defined written goals and plans for their accomplishment expressed in continuous action.

2) The ability to take action despite the voices in your head.


Let’s go a little deeper.  You will have inspiration if you connect with your own dreams.  Motivation if you believe you will experience more pleasure than pain if you pursue them.


Here are some component things that will do this:

  1. Heartbeat meditation or “Ancient Child” work to connect to your essence.
  2. Goal-setting to clarify what you desire and why you want it.
  3. Organizational skills to make it as easy as possible to move forward.
  4. Completing short projects so that you have the total experience of creation.
  5. Setting a goal of (say) 100 short stories so that rejection is merely seen as a step along the path.


You have to know what you want, why you want it, how to get it, and how you will cope with disappointment, because there WILL be disappointment.


Let’s map this onto the Hero’s Journey, one tool that has never failed me. It is not the only way to look at these things, but it is damned powerful.  Let’s look at my own life.


  1. Hero confronted with challenge. As a child,  I wanted desperately to be a writer.
  2. Hero rejects the challenge.   I was told I could not have it. My mother tore my stories up.  People laughed at me.  I had no role models of possibility, and had never met a writer in my life.
  3. Accepts the challenge.   I DECIDED I WOULD RATHER FAIL AS A WRITER THAN SUCCEED AT ANYTHING ELSE.  In other words, I burned my bridges behind me.   All my love, all my fear, all my energy was focused on this goal, with the belief that “we become what we think about” driving me onward.
  4. Road of trials.   I decided that I would write and submit 100 short stories before I even began to ask whether I “could” or not.   In this way, the voices in my head had less traction.
  5. Allies and powers.  I needed role models to show me the path.   Read incessantly. Wrote every day.   I needed to learn how to enter flow state (meditation, tai chi, yoga), how to deal with fear (meditation, martial arts) allies (choosing certain friends carefully), a “point of view” on life (reading, studying) and so forth. My “voice” was developed simply by imitating enough different writers that my own “way” emerged.
  6. Confront evil-fail.   My heart was broken countless times.  Ideas were stolen, promises broken, friendships betrayed, work laughed at.  I was broke and discouraged, and my greatest idol told me that my first solo book wasn’t worth publishing.   
  7. Dark Night of the Soul.  I’ve been crushed more times than I can say. Lost, abandoned, shattered.
  8. Leap of Faith.  What got me through was the belief that the goal was possible: others had done it, why not me?  That I had accomplished other goals I’d considered lost causes. That I had friends or mentors who believed in me.  And more than anything else, when all else failed, I had developed a meditation practice that took me deep within myself, to a spark of divinity within. Took me YEARS to develop it, constant daily effort.  But I am made of the same stuff as the stars, and I love love LOVE writing. And the reward, in the end, is spending my life doing something precious to me.
  9. Confront evil–succeed.   I’ve been through this, again, countless times.   Both failures and successes.  I just concentrate more on the successes.
  10. The Student Becomes the Teacher.   As soon as possible, I began to share the path to happiness I had found. And in the faces of my students and the tales of their successes, I saw myself as part of the circle of life.    And as there have been tears along the way, so too there has been much laughter,and love, and joy. And I wouldn’t trade the life I’ve created for a billion dollars.


Look, the HJ is one way to organize resources.  As is THE SECRET FORMULA.  As are Musashi’s Principles.   As is the “Machine” concept that fuels the new course I’ve created with Art Holcome.  FIND SOMETHING.   Dig in.  Prepare for battle.  Find the resources you need to make contact with your real ambitions, your joys.  Find allies and mentors who have been discouraged, defeated, disappointed, betrayed, crushed, lonely, and lost…and got up and @#$$ won anyway. Get mad, or joyful. Whatever works for you.


Live your life. You’re the only one who can.




Putting it all together


So let’s put  the entire “Secret Ritual” (the “Secret Formula” plus the “Daily Ritual” all together, shall we?


GOALS: Are dreams with deadlines and plans for their accomplishment.  Write them down.  The S.M.A.R.T. acronym works just fine:



AS-IF NOW (“I have” not, “I will have”)

REALISTIC (if anyone else has ever accomplished your goal, starting from where you are, it is reasonable for you to hold that goal.  OR: there are no unrealistic goals, only unrealistic time-frames)

TIME-BOUND: set a date for completion. Make a picture in your head of how it will look.


A three-year goal can work beautifully.  Then set an intermediate one-year goal. Then a six month. Three month. One month. One week.  Then most importantly, what do you have to do TODAY to be on track to that perfect week, month, three month, six month, one year, three years?


What is the daily activity which, maintained for 1000 days, would take you to your dream?


FAITH.  The hero’s journey states clearly that in the accomplishment of any worthy goal, you will “hit the wall” and face failure.  The “Dark night of the soul.” What gets you through is your faith, your belief, and it is, (again, according to the HJ) faith in one of three things:

  1. Faith in yourself
  2. Faith in your companions (friends, family, allies, mentors)
  3. Faith in a higher power.


The most successful people I know have all three. But you need at least one, minimum, and it has to work even when you are flat on your back.  It is like a spare tire when you are taking a long road trip.


ACTION. This is the daily action that will, if maintained for 1000 days, will take you to your goal in three years.  Constant action.  The “machine” of accomplishment.


How much STUDY every day?  How much MODELING of those who are more successful?

How much WORK?  

How much EXERCISE and STRESS RELIEF to keep you healthy and sane?

How much SUBMISSION OF YOUR WORK to the market, or to competition, to test your quality and reassess your efforts?

How much RECREATION and SLEEP to recover?  Remember: your body and mind grow while resting, not while working.


GRATITUDE.  Don’t think you’ll accomplish and be happy.  BE HAPPY AND THEN ACCOMPLISH.   I’ve lost track of the number of highly successful people who postponed love, family, happiness or ignored health and emotional balance while pursuing external success.  And then when they accomplished it, clawed their way to the top of the heap…found that there was nothing there.


This formula: GOALS X FAITH X ACTION X GRATITUDE is the single most powerful tool I know of. The only question is: how do you apply it to your life?


THE DAILY RITUAL is a fantastic way.  Basically, the quality of your life is the quality of your rituals, the habits, the things that you do every single day.  Preferably FIRST THING IN THE MORNING before the world gets ahold of you.


Simply put, you move your body for 10-60 minutes EVERY MORNING.  Walking is great.  Dancing, yoga, rebounding, Five Tibetans…all great. I use Tai Chi.


WHILE YOU ARE MOVING you move through the four stages, chanting aloud and visualizing, and moving your body with power and ACTING AS IF you believe what you are saying.   My own pattern runs:


GRATITUDE:   (“I’m so grateful for…” my children, my health, my wife, my friends, etc.)

GOALS: (“I’m grateful for…” my long term accomplishments: body, career, family, finances)

ACTION:  (What I have to do TODAY to make it happen. And here you pull a great “trick”.  You started by giving thanks for the things in your past and present, right?  Now your task is to move, think, and feel the same way about what you are GOING to do, the things your are GOING to accomplish.  “I’m so happy that meeting went perfectly!  I’m so grateful I wrote five fantastic pages!  I’m so happy I exercised for thirty minutes!” and so forth.

FAITH: this is usually an affirmation: “All I need is within me now.  All the (energy, courage, creativity, strength, etc) is within me now…)


I spend about five minutes on each of these, and it sets up my entire day for victory, by implanting the “Secret Formula” at the deepest level. The more passionate, committed, positive, and dynamic you are, the better. Want to pretend to be someone else, someone who could easily master your obstacles and reach your goals?  Great!  Move, breathe, speak, and FEEL like them.  Step out of yourself, and into your dreams.


Whew.  Over the last few days, I’ve gotten out a lifetime of basic knowledge about how to direct your energy for maximum effectiveness and efficiency (I.D.E.A.), used the “Lifewriting” approach to planning your future and anchoring it in your daily efforts. And more, much more.    I need to let it simmer for a bit, and then I’ll be ready to do a webinar on the subject.  If you want to go more deeply into this, or ask more questions, or just absorb the information through a different representational system, please join me.


But until then…why not try this for just thirty days, and let me know what happens. Thirty days to change your life.  Yes, I believe that strongly that that is just what will happen.


Be the hero in the adventure of YOUR lifetime.  No one else can.




Part four: The First Miracle


O.K….let’s talk about the actual application of the SECRET FORMULA, the first time I noticed that there was something special about it.  VERY special.  Read carefully.


Four years ago, T and I made our short film, DANGER WORD.  We had each participated in local Atlanta film festivals and contests, looked at what people were doing, and said: “hey, we could do that!”   We allied ourselves with T’s dear friend and director Luchina Fisher and Luchina’s producer Zainab Ali .  Together, we figured that to produce the movie we wanted, we’d need a total of thirty thousand dollars.  About 15-20 of that for pre-production and production, about 10-15 for post production and promotion.  Our own salaries were modest…the vast majority of that money went directly into crew, equipment, transportation, and so forth.


A core principle of film is do NOT use your own money.  People go broke like that very quickly. One of the reasons is very simple: if you can’t enroll other people in funding your project, what makes you think you can sell tickets later?  You may have an ego project no one wants to see, and funding it out of your own pocket is an avoidance of reality, and a path to disaster. So we decided to crowd fund, both because we were short on cash, and to test our sales chops. If there was an audience that wanted to see this film, we would find out pretty quick.


And…we were VERY gratified to see a powerful, positive response from social media. Between our email and Facebook and Twitter and blogging audiences, T (who spearheaded the effort) and I raised about sixteen thousand dollars on the “Indiegogo” platform!  Enough for pre-production and production, hiring our crew and three actors at decent rates (our actors were angels, yes, we paid them, but obviously couldn’t come close to paying their worth.  They believed in our project!)  By describing our project not   just as a “zombie” movie but as a tale of an old man (Frankie Faison) desperately trying to protect his emotionally traumatized grand-daughter (Saoirse Scott ) in a post-apocalyptic world, people saw the HEART of our peace, and responded with money, time, and energy.


So we went to Upstate New York, and over three intense days, filmed our movie.  That was an adventure in itself, I can promise you, and on re-considering it, there were mini-cycles of the same “SECRET FORMULA” process encoded within.  More on that another time.


But here is the upshoot: we finished, came back home, and cut together a trailer from our footage.  We figured we’d use that trailer to raise the rest of the money that we needed for post-production (editing, music, titles and credits, promotion and distribution, etc.). I designed a trailer I thought would work well, had  Saoirse  record “Amazing Grace” to play over it (taking a cue from the movie) and cut it together. It was great!  People loved it!


And…we got a little more money, and then…nothing. The well had dried up.  Tapped out.  Our circle of fans and friends had given generously, believing in us and the project, but it now seemed we’d reached the point of diminishing returns. The harder we pushed, the less we got.  


Dead end.  A pall of depression settled over us.  We were, it seemed, dead in the water. What were we going to do?


We scheduled a conference call to discuss our options, and believe me, we were glum.  I decided that I had to function as more than a writer/producer.  I wanted to function as the spiritual core of the project, take it upon myself to lift everyone’s spirits.  But…how?


Well…I’d just finished reading a book called THE SCIENCE OF GETTING RICH, had boiled out this “Secret Formula” thingie.  And decided that this was the perfect opportunity to try it out.


And committed to doing just that.




Just kidding. This time, I’m taking it all the way to a conclusion. This might be the first time I’ve put this down in writing, and I want to get it out there.


I think that call was on a Tuesday.  And I acknowledged everyone’s efforts, thanked them for their work, and then got down to business, keeping my tone positive.


And went right down the line.


GOAL: What were we committed to?  Finishing our movie. Getting it out there.  What was necessary to get it done?  We had to raise fifteen thousand dollars.   I bored down more deeply.   DID WE REALLY HAVE TO RAISE FIFTEEN THOUSAND?  Really?


First…how much money did we have in the bank, left from the previous effort? About eighteen hundred, I recall.  All right, that meant we had to raise what, about 13.2 thou, right?


O.K.  Next.   Let’s brainstorm about this.  We’d raised all our money from social media, and though we got a few contributions of a thousand dollars, the average was about 100.   We’d raised that on VAPOR, sheer trust, nothing but social capital for collateral.  


But now we had footage. GOOD footage.  Could we cut together a rough version, with the resources we had?  It would cost…


Or would it?  Terence Taylor, our wonderful editor, might be willing to do that rough cut on account, to be repaid after we raised the rest of the money.  But…how would we raise that money?  How would we be able to honestly promise Terence that his work would be repaid?


Well…there are completion funds available in the world.  Grants, loans, investments, film-school funds.    If we could put together a presentation package, we could identify 100 sources of film money, at the highest level we could reach.   Send them all packages.  In other words, we’d raised the first 15 from grass roots–the “bottom up.”   What would it take to create a package that would allow us to approach people from the “top down”?  



It would take a lot less than fifteen thousand, I can tell you that.   And the instant we realized that, the tension started breaking.  We kept thinking about it, brain-storming about it.  We could defer costs. Get volunteers.  Find people who would make trades, or work for credit.  The price kept coming down and down…until we realized we could create a “demo” rough version of DANGER WORD for just a few thousand dollars.


Note how the GOAL had sharpened, so that we saw what actually needed to be accomplished, and once we faced the dragon squarely, it shrank?


That impacted our FAITH. Because once we saw that we only needed to raise about three thousand dollars cash, I said: “is there any one of us who doesn’t believe we can do that?  We’d raised FIFTEEN thousand dollars with NOTHING!   Surely we can raise THREE with the leverage of our footage! And now we were laughing.   We KNEW we could do it. Hell, we could put that on our credit cards!


Which led to ACTION.  We created an action plan. Tananarive, Luchina, Zainab and I would draw plans, make calls, create lists, reach out to high-level allies and potential investors.   Organizations who had the ability, or the contacts, to “write a check” for the entire amount.  Grass roots up, then top-down, right?


The mood was now jubilant. Party time!  We knew we could do it!   And note that we didn’t need “luck”, we needed work.   We KNEW that if we knocked on enough doors, someone would say “yes.”   It was just a numbers game.  How many doors?  A dozen? A hundred?  A thousand?  Whatever it was, we were gonna do it.    IT ISN’T LUCK.  IT IS PLAYING THE NUMBERS.


Get it?  Remember that picture of the  vultures sitting on the branch?  THAT has to be your attitude.  




Knock on enough doors, constantly modeling the techniques of the world’s great door-knockers?  

Somebody’s gonna let you in.

And the last step was GRATITUDE.  “Look how far we’ve come!”  I said.   “We can accomplish anything!”   We were now a fountain of optimism, creativity, energy.   Bubbling over.  In one hour we had totally turned the tide.  We ended the phone call with a general love-fest for each other.


And…can you guess what happened after we hung up?


Sure you can. Because on some level you understand the actual rules of the Universe.  

And those are: when you don’t have a sweetheart, you can’t get one.  Until you’ve got one, and then suddenly everybody is interested.


When you don’t have a job, you can’t get a job. Until you’ve got one, and then the phone won’t stop ringing.


When you don’t have credit, you can’t get credit.  Until you heal your credit and DON’T NEED IT, at which point people fall all over themselves to offer you cards and freebies.


It is absolutely perverse. Remember “Broadcast News” where Albert Brooks says “wouldn’t it be great if `needy” were a turn on?


Yeah.  Well, it ain’t.   Not to anyone healthy. To predators, sure.  But health attracts health.    When you are desperate, it is as if you are invisible.  But when you are confident, when you have clarity, faith, gratitude, and have that “patience my ass!” attitude, it is as if you gain psychic mass, begin to “bend” the space around you like a planet bends space-time, creating a gravity well.  Objects are not really “attracted” per se, but they enter your field and cannot escape.  You become a “luck magnet.”  


And if you get no luck?  To hell with it: play the numbers.  Every vacuum cleaner salesman knows that if they knock on enough doors, they will sell a unit.  They don’t take refusals personally.  They play the damned numbers.

Ask enough girls for a kiss, sure, you’ll get your face slapped, but you’re also gonna get smooched.

Play the numbers.

And I bet you can guess what happened once we had GOALS, FAITH, GRATITUDE and had committed to focused, determined, no-b.s. ACTION without a drop of self-pity.


Yeah, that’s right.  To make a long story short, within HOURS Indiegogo told us that we had a FIVE THOUSAND DOLLAR donation. I kid you not.  And within a few days, the wonderful lady who had given us that had motivated her mother to donate ANOTHER five thousand dollars.  Unreal.  Flabbergasting.  And neither of them had had the slightest idea of our phone conversation.


And if it hadn’t happened?  We’d have handled it anyway. THAT is what made it happen.


I’ve applied this “formula” about five more times, specifically, since then, and every time it has worked, snatched victory from apparent defeat.   Not always this spectacularly.  Sometimes we had to knock on more doors…but it work, produced “luck” BECAUSE WE DIDN’T NEED LUCK.


It works. It is the closest thing to “Magic” I’ve ever seen.  Please, try it.  Prove me wrong, if you can.


Well defined written GOALS with plans for their accomplishment.

FAITH that you CAN and SHOULD have this goal, that the efforts to accomplish it will produce more pleasure than pain.

DAILY ACTIONS that will take you to that goal if you can only stay on track. An “If it’s to be, it’s up to me” attitude.  A “Whatever It Takes” attitude.   A “Patience My Ass, I’m Gonna Kill Something” attitude.  A “Screw `luck’–I’m playing the Numbers” attitude.

And GRATITUDE.   Be happy.  Joyful. Celebrate your life, your existence, your family and friends. The mentors and allies who have helped you along the path.  In that way, no matter what happens…you’ve already won. And winning becomes a habit.


That’s the Secret Formula.   Tomorrow I’ll talk about how to integrate it into a Daily Ritual, but you already have everything you need.  Everything.   The only question is: are you willing to step out of your excuses? Are you ready to put 100% of yourself into making your life surpass your dreams?   Can you handle temporary defeat for ultimate victory?   ARE YOU READY TO BE HAPPY?


If so…there’s the Path, my friend. There’s the path.




The “Secret Formula” part 3

I told you I tell you a story about the first “miracle” created by the SECRET FORMULA.  But realized I need a bit more foundation first.


O.K., yesterday I described exactly how I “boiled down” the book THE SCIENCE OF GETTING RICH by Wallace D. Wattles to a five word formula: GOALS X FAITH X ACTION X GRATITUDE = RESULTS.   It became clear that the reason I didn’t want to understand it is that I didn’t want to release my anger and resentment about being in Atlanta (due to a family emergency).    There was another realization, that relates to WHY I chose this book in the first place.


In my frantic efforts to gain perspective and get my butt moving out of depression and anger, one of the bodies of knowledge I looked into was “The Secret,” a very popular success and achievement philosophy. But when I looked into it, I kept seeing people saying basically that “if you want something badly enough, focus on it strongly enough, it will be drawn to you.”


On one level I believed this, but on another level, I noticed that people seemed to think that thinking and “feeling” about it was ALL they had to do.


In other words, someone like Oprah Winfrey speaks of believing in “The Secret” and people say: “ah!  She’s so successful because of her visualizations.”  And because she speaks and moves with great congruence, it is easy to believe her.  Well, I have no reason to believe she is lying. What then, is the disconnect?


Simple.   We forget how we got where we are.  Masters are often terrible at teaching beginners–they have forgotten how much they know, because in order to be able to function at the level of mastery, all basics must be integrated at the level of “unconscious competence.”


(Remember that?   The pattern goes from Unconscious incompetence to conscious incompetence to conscious competence to the “look Ma, no hands!” of Unconscious competence.  THIS is the level you must move any skill into to reach a flow state.  And only in flow state do you access your deepest wells of skill.)


So Oprah is like a woman driving a Rolls Royce down the street, steering it with one finger. A pedestrian with no money, no car, and no driving experience looks at the tiny amount of effort she uses to steer, and says: “ah!  It takes no effort to travel in style.  All I have to do is want it enough!” Without seeing the massive amount of work it takes to make the money to BUY the car, or the skills it takes to design and build the car, or the number of hours it takes to practice your driving so that you can steer your perfectly balanced vehicle with a single finger, with as little effort as it takes to steer a planche on a Ouija board.






The missing piece was ACTION.  They had goals, faith, and gratitude, but not ACTION.  Constant, focused ACTION with feedback from their environment and constant modeling of successful patterns.  One might say that you know you have visualized your goals enough, have faith enough, IF YOU GET YOUR BUTT OFF THE COUCH.  I mean, if you aren’t motivated enough to ACT, what in the world makes you think “the Universe” is going to bend and fold itself to provide your needs?   So that is your measure.  Your GOAL is not really clear unless it motivates you to ACT.   Got it?




Well, I chose THE SCIENCE OF GETTING RICH because a few references suggested that THE SECRET had been based upon it, at least in part. And studying it, I saw the missing piece.  And if I had “deleted” the entire piece about gratitude, I could easily believe that others could “delete” the information about taking action. They had extracted what they wanted to see.  You know, when you were a kid, all you had to do was communicate your desire to your parents, and they might get you that bike, or take you to that movie, or buy you that ice cream cone, or give you a hug.


The adult world isn’t like that.  You have to DO.  Just recently, I conversed with a guy who is out of shape, and near-broke, and wonders why he cannot attract the women he is drawn to.  He made it clear: “I’m only attracted to beautiful women.  Gee, I used to attract them when I was younger. What’s wrong?”

Well,  the biggest is that he’s not willing to meet his own standards.

Well, two things leap immediately to mind.   The first is that younger people are naive. They literally don’t know how the world works as well as they will twenty years later.  Another is “potential”.  We love babies, despite their helplessness, because they are pure potential.  But as they grow, they begin to express that potential through actions taken consistently over time.  We measure older people by what they have DONE, not “what they might do in the future if they get themselves together.”  


And a beautiful YOUNG woman was given a gift of nature.   A beautiful MATURE woman is expressing constant actions carried out on a daily basis: creativity, discipline, self-respect, self-love, emotional health, capacity to postpone gratification, and so forth.  There is nothing, in my opinion, more beautiful than a woman over 40 who has taken care of herself.  Wow!


So those younger women have dreams and hopes and aspirations, and she sees him and says: “We might walk the Path together.  Let’s check this out!”  But the more mature woman says “My emotions, beliefs and values determine my daily behaviors.  My daily behaviors have brought me to where I am.  This man is not on my path and will either drain my energy trying to lift him up, or he will tear me down to his level so that he won’t be afraid of losing me.”


And want nothing to do with him.   He has the nerve, in other words, to say he is attracted “to beauty” without being willing to invest the same energy and time to either increase his resources or develop his own beauty.  He’s trying to “cheat” life.  Doesn’t work, not long-term.


And too many people who are studying metaphysical approaches to success are also trying to “cheat.”   


“I want it!” they say.  “Why can’t I have it?”

“People used to say I was so talented!  Why won’t they buy my stuff now?”


I promise that the 99% chance is that the people who are out-performing you put more focused time into the ADULT part of the equation. They model the behaviors of more successful people, and look at the price they pay.  And commit to paying it.   They not only increase their skills constantly, but understand that if they want MONEY, if they are in a discipline where excellence or success is measured by cash they must master Marketing and Sales, and if you think they are any less demanding a discipline than any other art or science, you are very much mistaken.


If you know marketing and sales well enough, you will ALWAYS make sales.   Even if your quality sucks.   If your quality sucks, but your marketing and sales are pro-level, you get demands for refund, and that is an indicator that you were either selling to the wrong market, or your quality needs to improve.  So if money is the issue, you must take action to


  1. Improve the quality of your product or service.
  2. Study Marketing, the science of finding the audience who wants your product, or educating a market as to its value
  3. Master SALES, the science of appealing to human nature such that people believe they want to exchange their time and energy (money) for yours (product or service) NOW.  That they will feel more joy and less pain if they make that exchange.


Each of these areas is a science of its own.  Practicing your art or discipline is often the “child” part of your personality, with the mastery of business–the Marketing and Sales–the “adult” part. If your child is screaming “pay attention to me!  Why won’t you buy my stuff!  How come those beautiful/powerful people aren’t interested in me?  Waaaaah!”


Well, you may have a goal, and you may have faith you can and should attain it.  You may feel gratitude. But what you are NOT doing is taking focused, modeled, adult, constant action toward your goal.  You have abdicated your adult responsibility to the “child” within you. If your child wants to dance, your adult must either create a safe place for that child to dance (get a job to pay the bills) or manage that child’s energy and time to take her to professional level and then manage the contracts and money and marketing (the stereotypical “show biz parent”).  Those are your choices, unless you can find an agent or manager willing to take the “adult” responsibility while you have the fun of remaining a “kid”. And they’re gonna want a big slice of your pie for that.  You have zero right to resent their chunk of your money, and need to expect that they, the agents, editors, producers and managers, will look at you as a big kid.   Big profitable kid, but a kid.



Those are the costs of not taking that action.  Even worse, the cost of neglecting to take action without realizing that you have neglected a critical step.    RESULTS COME FROM TAKING ACTIONS, AND TAKING THE RIGHT ACTIONS, EVERY DAMNED DAY OVER A PERIOD OF THOUSANDS OF FOCUSED HOURS.    Do that, focus like that, and what you’ll find is that you are the one steering that luxury car down the street, musing to yourself about the vast, almost incalculable costs you have paid over the course of your life, smiling (hopefully) to think it was all worth while, that you have created a safe place for your “child” to play.


But people watching from the sidewalk, unless they have vision, will see only the result, and think either “look at that lucky S.O.B.” or worse…


“If I only want it enough, I can have it.”  That simply isn’t true…unless your measure of “do I want it enough?” is “If I really want it enough, I’ll get up early, stay up late, sacrifice trivialities, be willing to push through frustration and despair, tell myself the painful truths, and CONSTANTLY LEARN how to improve my skills, marketing, and sales.”  And when all those things, that process, is at the level of Unconscious Competence for thousands of hours, you too will be a “natural”, an “overnight success” who “just got lucky.”


And you’ll laugh, because otherwise, you’d cry.




Anyway, tomorrow I’ll tell you that story about the SECRET FORMULA’S first miracle…





Part 2: The Secret Ritual. “Why my brain didn’t function”

Part 2: The Secret Ritual


So yesterday, I talked about how I read and re-read Wallace D. Wattles’ “The Science of Getting Rich” and couldn’t remember a word.  And came to the conclusion that there was something in that book my mind simply didn’t want to absorb, and that therefore it was critical for me to understand what the @#$$ that was.


So…I read one page at a time. Just one page.  Over and over again, until I did absorb it, and then wrote out a one-sentence synopsis of what I understood the page to mean.  Then and only then would I move on to the next page, and repeat. Went through all (approximately) 100 pages of the book, which left me with about four pages of notes.    Then I read through those notes and boiled each page down into a paragraph.  And then boiled those paragraphs into sentences.  And somewhere along that process, something “clicked” in my head, and I was able to boil those sentences down into five words, a formula:




Specifically, the CLARITY of your long term intent.  The DEPTH of your belief that you CAN and SHOULD accomplish these goals.  The CONSISTENCY of the daily/weekly actions, taken in such a way that you KNOW that if you sustained those actions for a thousand days, you would reach your goals. And then the amplitude of your gratitude, your simple joy in life.  To BEGIN your actions with the emotions that most people feel they cannot experience unless they achieve some external victory.


I stared at what I’d written in my notebook, and experienced an explosion of insight.  I knew just why my brain hadn’t been willing to absorb this.  Can you see it?


Here’s a hint: note that this is a multiplicative rather than additive equation (in other words, an additive equation would be GOALS + FAITH + ACTION + GRATITUDE = RESULTS).  What do you think the difference is?

Please stop and think about it.




Most smart people will say something like “multiplying accelerates the process exponentially” which is true, and a great insight.  But it is NOT what I extracted from this.


Hint #2: remember that I was VERY unhappy living in Atlanta at the time.  In fact, I felt as if my life had been shattered, the plans I’d made since childhood in tatters.  I HAD to get back to L.A., and struggled every day with rage, pain, and depression.


Get it yet?


O.K., let’s put it together.    One last hint.    Take each factor (goals, faith, action, and gratitude) and give them a numerical value from 0-9, representing your clarity and fullness of expression in each category.  Get the joke yet?


Because Hah-Hah, the joke was on me.   All right, enough teasing.   The difference between a multiplicative and an additive equation is that you cannot multiply by zero.  A single zero in any category CANCELS OUT THE ENTIRE EQUATION.




I can’t begin to count the number of people who feel that they NEED their anger, fear, dysfunction, resentment, whatever.  “I need my pain” Captain Kirk said in one of the Star Trek films.   Normal.  Natural. And wrong.  You need to take action.  You don’t NEED the negative emotions, even though it is true that they can motivate you.


Look at this.  It is saying that if you want to maximize your chances of success you must:

  1. Have clearly defined goals and plans for their accomplishment expressed in continuous action.  
  2. Must believe, really BELIEVE that you can and should do it.   Perhaps you will need new skills, resources, new allies or partners.   But you have “faith” that you can gather those resources, learn those skills, find the people who will help either increase your skills of performance or teach you how to market and sell (and trust me, if you aren’t making the money you want, the problem is almost certainly one of these areas.)
  3. Must take focused, committed, daily action.   Continually model the behavior of successes in your field so that you know what they do that is different from what you do.  Define the daily actions which, if you actually did them, would lead you to success in 1000 days.  Then the only question is: do you do it?
  4. Absolutely absorb and radiate gratitude.   Most people, as I’ve said, will say “I’ll be grateful/happy/joyous if I succeed.”  They have it EXACTLY BACKWARDS.  Don’t achieve to be happy. FIRST be happy, then go out and succeed.  And the truth is that this approach is the ONLY 100% guaranteed success formula, because EVERYTHING you do in life you do to move away from pain and toward pleasure.  The Dalai Lama said that “the meaning of life is to be happy.”  And that is about as close to capturing that meaning in language as I’ve ever heard. Everything else is a MEANS to that goal.


But what happens if you are focused, optimistic, busy, and joyful?  First, you access your very best work, as all channels are open. You learn at mach speed, because study and practice become play. You attract people to you like crazy–everyone will want to know how you manage to be so happy!  And you START your days with the emotions most people feel they can’t have until the END of the day.  


Why waste time?  Why not be as happy as you can, all the time?  I kid you not, I’ve coached thousands of people, and not a single one was unhappy or unsuccessful who implemented this formula. And every single person who has implemented it has accelerated their results massively.   


In fact, and I hesitate to say this…it comes the closest to “magic” that I’ve ever experienced.    Every time I’ve focused on these four aspects, life has SHIFTED and unexpected resources have dropped into my lap.   


And tomorrow I’ll tell you about the first instance, which created money out of NOTHING.  Unreal.  True.  Life-changing.


Meanwhile, if you are not living a life of abundance and joy, just look at these and I promise you at least one “link” in the chain is busted.  100% guarantee you.  And if you will commit to changing that reality, you can change your life.