coaching

Kill The Monster While It’s Small

A long time ago, I invested in a  weekend with master coach Joseph McClendon, who told a story about infomercial guru Tony Robbins.  Apparently, Robbins enjoys adventure outings with his friends, and took them all to a Fantasy Top Gun school.   Each had a jet (and of course a co-pilot actually doing the real flying) and the idea was that they would dog-fight.   Joe got into the air first, and before Robbins could get his own jet off the ground, Joe dive-bombed him and strafed him into oblivion.
“Why did you do that?”  I asked.

“Kill the monster while it’s small” he replied.

I loved that.

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A lot of our negative behaviors have threshold points.  At one point, we can control the urge, and at another, the urge is in control: the anger, fear, hunger, whatever, has us in its grip. Or…our financial problems have yet to spiral out of control. Or the relationship rift is still small enough to yield to honest inquiry.  And then the point comes when we are rageaholics, or scarfing down that Haagan-Daaz quart, or stealing, or beating the hell out of someone, or binge drinking.   If you can break the pattern BEFORE you reach this point, you can maintain control, and possibly even change a habit.
But you must “kill the monster while it is small.”

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I’d noticed that before Jason has what we call a “brain fart”–losing control, screaming, throwing things, disobeying etc.–he will make nonsense sounds, distort his posture or move without coordination, make small defiant gestures, and display unreasonable irritation with small things.
You can control your emotions if you control:

Your focus
Your internal monologue
Your physical movement.

One of the strengths of the “Five Minute Miracle” is that it forces you to “check in” on these three things during the day. You will eventually begin to check in automatically: what am I thinking? What’s my focus?   What is my posture and expression?  How am I breathing?
Just noticing these things and knowing what focus, thoughts, posture and breath patterns are optimal, and realizing you can make  conscious decisions that affect how you feel and therefore how you perform, is an incredibly powerful thing.
But could I give this to Jason?   I decided to teach him the concept: “Kill the monster while its small.” To point out to him the precursive behaviors that lead to an eruption.  Breathing. Voice. Posture. Movement.  Ask him what’s going on inside him.  Before he gets upset, are there internal sounds? Images? Muscle tensions? What happens?
After he comes “down” from a tantrum, ask him to describe what was happening inside him.  Did it have color?  Weight? Sound?  Motion? Temperature? Taste?  Smell?  Texture?
A headache thus addressed can often be eliminated (just rotate through the submodalities again and again. Every time you do, you’ll notice the pain diminishing).  Could it work for something like a “brainfart”?  I don’t know.  Worth a try, though.
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THE MORNING RITUAL
Jason comes into my office in the morning, every school day. Stands against the wall with his hands at his sides and waits for me to acknowledge him.  When I do he bows. Then he comes and sits in my lap, and we hug.
The next phase has always been breathing–count from one to ten, breathing slowly.  I would hold his hands and watch his eyes, and if his eyes left mine, I squeeze his hand to remind him to get back on point.  A couple of years ago he couldn’t meet my gaze, and now he likes staring contests.
But recently, he has wanted to do headstands in the morning.   Hmmm…breath counting while standing on his head?  Does that give me feedback about his focus? You bet.  And headstands are a “royal” exercise for scholars, writers, etc., a yogic balm with vast respect.  I decided to let him do it, using fingertip pressure to guide his balance.   In a few seconds I can get an excellent fast-and-dirty measure of his health, focus, balance, emotional state and more just by how he does this one exercise, as well as putting him on a path that can lead to real internal control.  I like that.
After he comes down (20-60 seconds or so) we sit cross-legged and hold hands.  I ask him:
“What is your job?”

“To be good”

“Were you good yesterday” (if not, what went wrong?)

“Yes” (Yaaay!)
Then:
“What are the laws?”

(And here he recites Musashi’s Nine Principles.  If he had a problem the previous day, it is almost always relatable to one of those principles)
“What are the rules?’

(And here he goes down a list of behavioral rules we’ve evolved to cover problems at school.  These can shift a bit if he masters one)
“What are your goals?”

(And here he has had two goals, including enjoying reading.   I ask if he accomplished them the day before.  If not, what went wrong? If so, great!)
And here I added a new one: “Kill the monster while it’s small.”
This has only been a part of his routine for a couple of weeks.   Every time he’s had a blow-up I’ve asked him about the precursive sensations, sounds, movements, and thoughts.
We recently changed his after-school routine so that he has to do his reading BEFORE he playstations or goes to the skate park. He hates that, but I’ve held my ground.
He gets to take 60-90 minutes off after school before reading, and had some REAL problems with not being allowed to do his favorite things during that time.    Three days ago he got VERY angry, defiant, stormed off up to his “boy cave” stomping his feet.  It looked bad.
Fifteen minutes later I went up to check on him, and he was looking at Ipad videoes.  Looked up at me kind of sheepishly, and quietly said:  “I killed the monster while it was small.”
Moments like that make this whole “Dad” thing soooooo much more fun.

Namaste,

Steve

(p.s.–what “monsters” do you have in your own life?  How can you “kill them while they are small”?  Can you think of ways this applies to larger life or social issues?)

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If we love and tell the truth…what need we fear?

Saul

Nice thread on “Better Call Saul” yesterday, so I thought I’d say a little more.  “Saul”, “Breaking Bad” and before them “The Sopranos” have (IMO) likable, bad people at the core of the shows.  We are tempted to empathize with their world views, to excuse their behaviors, justify their rationalizations.  Believe other people or external events are responsible for their choices.   I compared them to  mini-Macbeths, where horrifically evil actions are made comprehensible by seeing the humanity of the guilty party.  

Tragedies–men of force and intellect (well…I’d say Jimmy is clever, but not hugely smart) who think they can make their own rules in the world.  Of the three, I’d say Walter White is the most evil–he sees totally innocent people killed or destroyed as a consequence of his actions, and continues his behaviors. Unless I’m forgetting something, that’s worse than anything Tony Soprano ever did.  “Saul” is a step removed from direct evil physical actions, but constantly warps rules, and supports those who DO engage in direct, evil actions.

 

It’s a slippery slope indeed. What are the doorways to evil, the portals we often pass without realizing we’ve opened the gates to hell?  Well, Musashi speaks of one, and the Sufis another.

 

Musashi’s first principle is:   “Do not think dishonestly.”  Well…I’ve certainly never met anyone I could declare honest 100% of the time.   But the occasional lies we tell ourselves or others are not the same as excusing our lies by saying “everyone does it” and employ/rely upon them as a tactic and strategy.   It is even worse if we realize we are not disconnected from those around us. That, in essence, when we lie to others we cannot help but lie to ourselves.   That distorts our reality map, takes us off the road to wisdom and Awakening.    On “Saul”, Jimmy cannot even understand what is wrong with his lying, cheating, and stealing.  If he doesn’t get caught, what’s the problem..?

 

Every parent knows that a lying child is thinking this way, and we pray that something will finally “click in” and they will become internally directed, begin to seek honesty for their own sake.  When they do, we breathe a sigh of relief.

 

The Sufi piece is the thought that the beginning of evil is treating human beings as means rather than ends.  In other words, failing to extend your own humanity to others.   Walter White cares about the people close to him, but is so bought into his own bullshit that everything, including human lives, are just pieces on a game board to be moved around for his entertainment and profit.   

 

And make no mistake: they give him a way off that train–he is offered insurance.  His EGO won’t let him take it.  What is disturbing is that even after this telling moment, fans of the show continued to insist that he HAD to continue to be “Heisenburg”.   Wow.  Really?   Are these people not describing their own moral landscapes? That they would excuse themselves in the same circumstances? Do the same things and use the same justifications?

 

What did Walter White tell himself after that boy was shot in the desert? After the plane blew up? He is directly or indirectly responsible for HUNDREDS of deaths, and until the last fifteen minutes of the last episode, continued to claim he had no responsibility.   THAT is human evil.

 

“Judge Not, Lest Ye Be Judged” is often quoted.   But I think that comment is connected to “People in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.”   Very clearly, Christ evaluated the worth and rightness of human actions, so there can’t be a blanket statement against having values or measuring behaviors.  But what is being said is that if you judge others, you will be judged.  Well, actually, according to Christian doctrine you’re gonna be judged whether you judge others or not, so I have to think some thing is being lost in translation.

 

The truth is that we NEED the judgement of others, especially those who have walked the lifepaths we desire, who have the skills we covet, or have accomplished what we seek.  Without that judgement, we are denied the very feedback we need to improve.

 

That doesn’t mean to be cruel, mean, insulting, or anything else.  It means we need the truth. And frankly, yes, that little kid inside us wants that truth to be offered in the softest, sweetest way we can get it.  But in the adult world, if you are about to be hit by a train, do you REALLY want someone to spend five minutes telling you what a good, sweet, wonderful person you are, or would you rather hear someone say: “hey, idiot, get off the tracks!”    Yes, there is room between the two.   But if you are going to tell me that unless someone says it “nicely” you’re going to stay right there on the tracks, is that your “adult” or your “child” speaking?   

 

Either we are responsible for our actions, or we are not. If other people are responsible for our emotional states, we have NO AGENCY.   There is simply no behavior we cannot justify by saying someone else treated us in this or that manner.  None.

 

Yes, I’m talking personal responsibility, and I fully grasp the danger some will see in doing so.  What happens when we apply this principle to entire groups, some of whom (ahem) statistically have more issues with the legal system or other dysfunctional or destructive behaviors?

 

Simple, really.   While some of the underlying issues have been debated for thousands of years and will continue to be so for thousands more, I have no problem maintaining an internally consistent position, and it is this:

 

The average person cops out, stays asleep, lies to themselves an average amount of the time. And given the same stimuli will mis-behave or under-perform an average amount.  While individuals MUST be responsible for their behaviors or miss their lives, most are, by definition, only average about this. Such that if you see a group of people operating at a level of pain, it is reasonable to assume that they are dealing with different environmental pressures.  m So yes, I can see the problems in group X.  But the Ys wagging their finger would ON AVERAGE be the same, given the same history and situation.

That’s my position.  I’m perfectly aware that at least 20% of people have a different theory about such things, and that’s all right.

If you are an X, and you want a better life, you have to be other than average, or you are screwed. And much of that will be dependent on telling the truth and extending empathy.

Love and fear.  Telling the truth demands having sufficient control of your fear to actually deal with the worst that could happen, not need the balm of illusion.

 

And empathizing means loving yourself to reach the core of your being, to fill your own heart so that you need no emotional reinforcement from others.  Free of that neediness, you tap into something larger than human ego, and begin to expand outward, naturally beginnning to share that love with others. The consequence, to see your own soul in the eyes of others, is the door to heaven, just as objectification and dishonesty are  the doorway to hell.

 

If Jimmy and Walter and Tony had  loved themselves, told the truth, and extended that love to others…precisely what evil would they have ever done?  I may be forgetting something, but I don’t see it.  

 

Tragedies were considered a high social art, in classic dramas the downfall of a powerful human being because of their personal failings.  Watching them destroyed by their own hubris or lack of wisdom or evil was an uplifting experience, and the coffee-house discussions that followed allowed the audience to discuss and reinforce the social values at the core of the downfall.  

 

Watching “Breaking Bad” or “Better Call Saul” or “The Sopranos” (or “The Godfather”, probably the very best of the popular American explorations of this theme) is a fascinating Rorschach test.  What people say about the events tells you what they think of humanity, the ethical structure of the universe, what is acceptable, who is responsible for our actions and emotions.  Sometimes, what they wish they were courageous enough to do themselves.

 

It is educational.   And fun. And at times…just a little scary.

 

Namaste,

Steve

Problem Solving #3: Mindstorming

 

“Mindstorming” is the same thing as “Brainstorming”, only  in a solitary process.    This is what you have to use if you don’t have an external “Mastermind” to bounce ideas off of.  It is the most primary mode of thought, and where the rubber meets the road.

some thoughts:

  1. Again, it is critical to allow yourself to be silly, stupid, profane, just plain WRONG.  Nothing stops the flow of ideas like the notion that they all have to be “good.” The only way to have a good idea is to come up with a LOT of bad ideas!
  2. voice recorder apps for your cellphone are your friend. As are index cards, post-it notes, Scan Cards (my current favorite: http://mckinleyleather.com/pages/scancard-project-management-system) and other tools are great, as are mind-maps, outliners, and so forth.  
  3. Use multi-sensory techniques, digital, visual, auditory, tactile…anything you can to stimulate thinking.
  4. Give yourself a time-limit of ten minutes and generate a HUNDRED ideas that apply to your problem.    
  5. Practice going into “flow state”.  This is a skill separate from any particular application, and worthy of study.  It is the doorway to esoteric mental attributes, but also high creativity and full use of intelligence.   Tai Chi, Yoga, walking/running, dancing, 60 beat per minute “Largo” rhythm instrumental music, soft jazz…anything that takes you out of language and into visual/tactile thinking will do it.  I feel so sorry for those poor souls who have no idea that they can think without words.  
  6. Think of five people you admire.   Write out what you think each of them would say about your current problem or situation.

 

These are just to get you started. Really, I could go on forever.  And in fact, I invite you readers to add your own ideas in the comment section.  Share and learn!

 

Namaste,

Steve

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.

 

WWW.SCREENWRITINGWEBINAR.COM

 

The future is here!
Steve

Your Heart Is In Your Hands

One of the toughest things in life is to realize that you MUST be excited and committed in order to educe your best performance. But if you do that, you risk pain if things don’t work out right.  Ugh!

But if you let the pain trigger fear, and let that fear dissuade you from investing your emotions again, or as freely, you drastically reduce your chance of success.  Instead, you must learn to generate the most appropriate emotions again and again and again, while protecting yourself from the downside of depression, as many times as is necessary to succeed.   The “I.D.E.A.” concept (Instinctive Designation of Energy and Attention) touches on this.  Not so much emotion that  you will be devastated if failure results from your efforts, not so little that you don’t tap into your deeper reserves.

 

Here are some things that can help.

  1. Model success.  Find at least three people who have accomplished your chosen goal (or as close to it as possible) and study the “recipe” for their success, specifically three things: their emotions, their belief patterns, their use of their bodies.    What is their day-to-day emotional set?  How do they deal with failure and success?  What are their beliefs about it?    Average out their answers, see what they all say in common. That is your “critical path.”
  2. Set an arbitrary number of efforts to complete before you judge your results. 100 is a nice, round, useful number.   A salesman might commit to making presentations to 100 clients before expecting a sale.   A writer might set a goal of 100 stories completed and in submission 100 stories before you even question whether you have the potential to be a writer.   
  3. Develop your “morning ritual” to intensify and awaken your emotions every morning.  Specifically “faith” and “gratitude” which are the antidotes for fear and bitterness.   
  4. Don’t neglect “goals” (long term) and “actions” (short term).  When you know what your long-term goals are and why they are important, THAT’S ENERGY.  If you have faith you can and should accomplish them, THAT’S ENERGY.   If you know how your actions TODAY are taking you a step toward your destiny, THAT’S ENERGY.  And if you start your day with gratitude, your heart fills with love and light, and THAT friends, is ENERGY.

 

My favorite role models have the ability to raise their emotions whenever they want, by

  1. Changing focus
  2. Changing language
  3. Changing the way they use their bodies.

They are also simultaneously internally focused and service oriented.  In other words, they don’t need other people or things to perform, react, or evolve in a specific way.  THEY are responsible for their emotional well-being, because they know that those emotions are NOT controlled by external events, but by how they interpret those events.

And “service oriented” because once they have connected with their own Source, and can fill themselves with joy, the next, natural thing is for their sense of “Self” to expand.  In that expanded state they see the joys and concerns of their loved ones, families, neighbors, students and customers as their own.   They seek ways to make the world better, people happier, but they are not dependent upon the results.   Because they are already full, they can give without needing to take.

And they have enough self-love and self-respect to protect themselves from Predators and “takers”.   

Every day you have the chance to form yourself anew, clarify your goals and dreams, take actions, embrace your life, fill your heart with joy and share that joy with those you love…and the entire world.

 

The choice is yours.  What is YOUR Morning Ritual?  Remember–the quality of your life is the quality of your daily actions.    Your heart is in your hands.

 

Namaste,

Steve

Using a story prompt

We posted a list of “best things a patient ever said” to a psychiatrist.  I thought I’d take the list and show how you can create ideas from any springboard.

 

1. “People don’t do drugs to feel good. People do drugs to feel less bad.”

– vasovist”

 

Ask: is this true?  From your observations of people using drugs, alcohol, food, sex, or other sensory distractions, does it hold water?   When have YOU used these things to distract yourself from pain?  Or someone you know and love, or observed closely enough to have a solid opinion?

Did they get out of it?  Through it?  Were they consumed by it?  You have several  basic options: show someone  getting better, getting worse, or staying approximately even.  As I think the “approximately even” is an illusion, what you really have is UP or DOWN.   

So…create a character.   What is the pain they are escaping?  How do they escape?  What was their turning point up or down?  

Run through the chakras.  What level is the pain on?   Run through the Hero’s Journey.   Look at every point along the path.  What do they lack?  Have?  Where are they damaged, and refusing to move forward?

By the time you have done this, you will have a very good idea about the person, their issues, and what they need to move on. You then get to decide if they do.

(Warning: if YOU have not healed these issues in your own life, you are likely to believe it isn’t possible to heal.   So…I suggest that you choose an issue you HAVE healed. Then decide if you want the person to rise or fall. That is a responsible choice, rather than a self-serving one)

Remember that a short story is about a moment when someone changed. A decision or action that changes the course of a life.    Focus in on that, if possible maintaining the integrity of a 24-hour time frame.   

Again…what could YOU do with this story prompt?

 

Write with passion!

Steve

Does the Lifewriting Ten-Week serve an advanced student?

Steven Barnes and wife Tananarive Due on beach.

I just got a terrific note from an advanced writer who is going through the LIFEWRITING TEN WEEK program.  Basically, she has written multiple stories, published a well-received novel, and wanted to use our course to facilitate a current project.  As the “10-Week” is structured around short story writing as the basic building block, she wanted to know how to apply the ideas to her work, and wondered if the course was right for her at her level of development, and with her specific intents and needs.

First of all–there is nothing that is more of an honor than for a student to come to our work with serious accomplishment already in place. It is the difference between a white belt who needs basic concepts and a black belt who needs to “clean up” their biomechanics and align motion with mind and mind with spirit.  Very different…and yet the same, because the reality is that there are no “advance” techniques or secrets. There is only deeper and deeper grasp of basics.

Here is my answer to the writer we will call “Karen.”

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Greetings, Karen!

Some thoughts:
1) You could, of course, apply the ideas in the Lifewriting 10 Week program to a specific project you are working on.  Everyone makes adjustments to any course they take–no two people do anything precisely the same way.
2) How to do that?  Go to the root of what we’re doing: aligning your personal philosophy with a more specific strategic approach, and even more specific tactics.  Tactics are the surface (and most of what is taught in writing courses, or in all honesty, most courses of any kind).  “Do A, then B, then C.”  Strategy is “if you do A, THIS is what will happen.  And it fits into our overall plan in THAT way.”  Philosophy would be: “what is the meaning of life?  What is a human being?”  Your strategy has to accomplish something in alignment with your sense of meaning. Tactics will be specific steps you make to implement your strategy.   Right?
So the Lifewriting system says: what are human beings?  What is the world?  Who are YOU?  Everything you write flows from this idea, supporting it, exploring it, communicating what you find in those explorations.  The connection then, is between who YOU are, and the things that concern you, and who your CHARACTER is, and what concerns them, and who your AUDIENCE is, and what drives them.
There is an overlap, a way that you can express yourself, tell a great story, and serve or communicate to your reader to create an emotional change.   Written this way, “discipline” is a non-issue: you don’t have to discipline yourself to eat cake!
Tactics are plentiful in the course: time management, emotional control, use of imagery and so forth.    But we believe that within you, within everyone with an artistic/creative impulse, is not only a “perfect” story (or dance,or painting, or song) but also a “perfect” artistic life, one in alignment with your deepest dreams and hopes and needs and intents.
And this is a creative flow that runs through you like a river, falls from above like a storm.  “Tactics” or techniques then are what other people see from the outside (or what you might have to separate out in order to instruct a student).  But in a traditional apprenticeship relationship, the student of the sword-maker sleeping in the shop, what they want are techniques, but what they really get (and NEED) is the things that cannot be expressed in words.   They take actions and live the life until they absorb, through some magic, the core of mastery that the master cannot put into words. The words keep the apprentice’s conscious mind busy while the soul absorbs and learns to vibrate in tune.
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All of that is to express that you are experienced enough to make an adaptation.  Instead of short stories, look at each chapter of your work as its own mini-story, a fractal mini-version of the overall pattern.  (Chris Soth’s “Mini-Movie” method comes to mind).   After all, the entire story is one giant Action-Reaction unit: the world does X, the character responds with Y.  But every conversation between two people is the same, with every dialogue couplet: I say X, you respond Y, and we either progress or fall into the void as a consequence.
So Action-Reaction, whether on the smallest or largest level, speaks to “what are human beings?” and “what is true about the world?”    Look at your chapters and ask what the meaning of the events is, as the patterns repeat from the smallest to the largest level.   What is true about these events? These people?   How does this express your own sense of what is right or true?
Because…when you are working from your heart as well as your head, and driving it with your energy, the work just…flows. And is “right” and needs minimal re-writing, because you were speaking the truth.
In other words, when your work flows from the deepest wells, you create your own strategies and tactics and techniques as you go.  YOU are in the flow. Others, looking from outside, say “ah!  She used THIS or THAT technique!  What an expert.”  But you?  You were just running madly, blindly through the fields of your passion, gushing out the work the way a horse given her head runs madly for the sheer joy of feeling her body working the way it was intended.  THIS is art, and craft, and passion, and technique, all working together in the expression of your soul.
THAT is Lifewriting.   Techniques?  Sure.  Got a million of ’em.  Could generate a dozen an hour every day for the rest of my life without blinking or breathing hard. Its fun. But I’d rather teach your mind and heart and body to work together, so that you are just flowing as naturally as a baby plays.
Does that make sense?  I hope so.  If it does, then watch the movies, come to your own conclusions about how the structure aligns with the “Hero’s Journey” and then ask yourself how that applies to the chapter on your computer screen. The lives of your characters. And when you do that, they will pull you into the story, THEY will write for you.  And it will be the best, most effortless writing of your life.
It will be the story you, and only you, were born to write.
Steve

Thoughts on Procrastination

I have this issue with procrastination, so despite having studied quite a bit of material, I have not yet developed a daily regimen that will help me progress the way i’d like, that can be done quickly.”

Procrastination is as close to a universal problem as you’re going to find.   Almost everyone puts off some of the things that make life work, or a project shine.  The underlying motivation to delay action is fear of some kind.  Motivations include:

  1. The work is painful or difficult.
  2. A successful result would “change you” in some way that you find uncomfortable.
  3. You will be forced to face or deal with something you wish to avoid.
  4. You are unsure about how to proceed: the entire thing seems too huge.
  5. You are distracted by shiny, fun things, and believe that you can “crush it” at the last minute.

There are many potential answers to the problem, but the best answer is a tactic that is both curative and diagnostic.  It has the added benefit of giving rapid feedback: there are few things worse than a slow feedback-loop.   It would be better to learn TOMORROW that you have avoidance patterns that need to be addressed rather than in five years, yes? And if you are going to test a potential solution you would be better off find out it works immediately rather than in ten years, yes?

With that, we come back to the concept of the “Diamond Hour” and the “Morning Ritual.”   The “Diamond Hour” concept is that you boil down the most critical things that you must do until they all fit into sixty minutes.  That if you ONLY got that 60 minutes to yourself, if friends and family and business steal the rest of your day.  For a writer, this might look as follows:

10 minutes Heartbeat  meditation (centering and anti-stress)

10 minutes Five Tibetans (health and fitness)

10 minutes reviewing goals (focus and alignment)

30 minutes writing or rewriting (write 1st draft one day, edit the next)

While there are infinite other alignments, these will take care of your core needs.   Now: the trick is that you won’t do it.  No, you won’t, not unless you are already pretty well aligned.   Why?  Because if you did, you would actually get the result, and to do that you have to have actions, thoughts, emotions, values, beliefs, and goals all aligned and moving in the same direction.   Not only that, but you would have to have internal “permission” to actually be strong and healthy and happy and successful.  Only a tiny percentage of the population has such “internal permission.”

So when you try to do it, you’ll run into your “stuff” big time.   Keep a journal.  Write down the excuses and issues that arise (they will be both positive and negative things.  Both opportunities and problems.)  If every day you make a commitment to spend an hour (or scale it down to the time you ARE prepared to commit) note how you break your promises to yourself.  How you lie to yourself.

This might be painful, which is why your FIRST issue is to contact your heart–you have to LOVE yourself to be willing to look carefully at your flaws.  Otherwise, the self-loathing will overwhelm you, the guilt will distort your perceptions.  “There’s nothing but ugliness!” you will fear, and stop trying.  Why bother, right?

On the other hand, if you are obese, and you commit to a pattern of motion and eating which, over time, would take you to a body you covet, if that extra flesh is the result of fear, guilt, confusion, or power games those obstructions will fight for their lives, and clobber you if you actually step onto a path of power.  Your task is to NOTICE how they sabotage your efforts, and what tools they are using.

In other words, your ego will try to make things so complicated that there is no way to unsnarl the Gordian Knot.  So create a simple morning ritual which, if followed for 100 days, would change you.   YOU WILL FALL OFF THE HORSE.   The trick is to have a slightly disassociated, dispassionate view of it.  Watch without attachment.  

1)What happened?  

2) How fast did it happen?

3) Has this pattern emerged before?

4) What would you have to have done differently to prevent it?

5) What allies or capacities would have prevented it?

Look, there are countless ways to clarify goals, break them into smaller chunks, gain emotional leverage, interrupt negative patterns, recruit allies, or whatever.  But it starts with KNOWING WHAT IS GOING ON.  If you set it up so that either you do the work or you are breaking your promise, lying to yourself, then you are getting smacked in the face with your own lack of maturity and clarity.  To stop your ego from using guilt about this to stop you (tricky bastard!) START with loving yourself (Heartbeat meditation and the Ancient Child work great).  If your baby tried to walk and fell down, you would applaud, say “good  baby” and help them try again.  Why don’t you do the same thing to yourself?

TREAT YOURSELF AS IF YOU WERE YOUR OWN MOST BELOVED CHILD.

That means both compassion AND discipline.

Your homework, should you choose to accept it, is to devise a “morning ritual” which, if you did it for an hour or less every day, would, in 100 days create joyous effect, and in 1000 days change you forever.

Then the only question is how do you do it TODAY. And then tomorrow ask the same question. And again. And again.  Notice the effects.   Look into the causes.   Gather resources.  Increase leverage.  Interrupt negative patterns.  Start over again. And again. And again.

Just as you did when you learned to walk and talk.  You are ALREADY a master. When will you claim your heritage?

Namaste,

Steve

You’ve Got a Worldcon party favor coming…

You are a storyteller.  Every day of your life, you are communicating to yourself, your families, your co-workers, lovers, and customers. You are helping them understand your world, the world around them, the future they might share or create.

Get this right, and you create the relationships of your dreams, the career you deserve…and if you are actually a writer or have the dream to be such, you can finally publish your work, or build that body of work that might change the world.

Get this wrong, and your dreams will crash and burn in a nightmare of frustration.

In my own life, I got this wrong for twenty years, until I finally met real writers who showed me what I was doing wrong…and how to get it right.   So much wasted time and energy!

And once I found that key, it was possible to leverage my intelligence, ambition and energy to create best-selling, award-winning novels, write Emmy-winning television episodes, and create the life of my dreams. That body of work led to finding, wooing and winning my soulmate, American Book Award winning novelist Tananarive Due.  T is about to present the Hugo awards at the World Science Fiction convention next week…and we’re stoked. And in celebration, we’re going to have a present to give you in a few days that will blow your mind.

But right now, ask yourself a few questions:

1) Have you ever wanted to write a book, story, movie, or play?

2) How would becoming a better storyteller improve your life? Communication with your kids, customers, spouse?

3) What fears stop you from actually pursuing those skills, that goal?

4) Why aren’t you writing that book, story, movie RIGHT NOW?

If there is a part of you that yearns to sing, to share, to contribute, to find the creative (and financial!) freedom a thriving career can give you…then hold on tight.   Just a few days, and I’m gonna blow your mind!

Every life can be a creative life…

Steve

Taking the long way around to get back home…

I’ve taken a long detour from my central cause: the investigation of that state called “enlightenment” and its preliminary stages: awakened adulthood and non-dualistic thought.  Politics is specifically dualistic, and immediately triggers emotions that throw you off this path.    Still, it would have been cowardly of me not to take the time to see if the methods and approaches taught by great men and women for personal development could apply to the social sphere.   Preliminary evidence says “yes”, and the rules I evolved and suggested for discussing intractable subjects are my expression of this.  Namely, if you are dealing with a subject that seems intractable, raises the passions, and on which it is critical to find enough consensus to move forward (I tried it multiple times, and watched the same patterns of discussion pop up: racial violence, gun control, climate change and abortion).  The method was to

  1. Differentiate between when you discuss “what” and “how.”   Different discussions, and those who want to continue to discuss the “what” of it are not necessarily going to fit in a discussion of “how.”
  2. Only those capable of discussing while maintaining a sense of respect and shared humanity should be in the discussion at all. With race, racists white or black cannot be in the “how” portion, if you are extending this basic principle and operating from an assumption of equality.  If you believe men get to tell women who they are, or straights get to decide this for gays, or whites would have coped with slavery and Jim Crow better, or blacks wouldn’t have behaved as abominably and been in as deep, self-serving denial about it…you can’t be in the discussion.  To enter the discussion, they must make an open, clear declaration of belief in equality, or whatever your most basic premises might be.
  3. Language must be clarified.   One of the problems with Abortion, for instance, is that the question “when does human life begin” has no universal answer.  And without resolving this, people are literally using the same words to describe very different things.
  4. Violence stems from anger which stems from fear.  Understand and deal with the underlying fear, and the anger and violence disappear.   The Fergusen riots were a perfect example.   To say the rioters were mistaken in their beliefs and attitudes is a perfectly reasonable statement.  To suggest that THEY did not believe that they were under threat is, IMO, contemptuous and denial at a lethal level.  To fail to understand that people on BOTH sides of the gun control debate believe their position makes the world a safer place makes it impossible to move the conversation forward.
  5. You have to grasp that being smart enough to see a problem doesn’t mean you are wise enough to solve it.  Just because you can’t see an answer doesn’t mean there isn’t one. A corollary:  because a problem hasn’t been solved in your lifetime doesn’t mean it won’t be.  In nature, I don’t know of a wound that heals in less time than it took to inflict overall.
  6. All of us are smarter than any of us.   The power of civil discussion and communication is astounding.  In some ways, all human beings have accomplished is a matter of sharing what we know, and trying infinite variations until an  answer is found.  What is intractable to one generation becomes child’s play to another.
  7. You can complain about something three times before you must a) offer your solution or b) propose your theory of where the problem originated.   This has multiple motivations.  The surface motivation is to force people to participate in positive brainstorming, and stop focusing on the problem.  The deeper motivation may be more important:
  8. Beware of sleeping children and smiling monsters.   “You can’t wake up someone who is pretending to be asleep” applies here.  As does:  ‘It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it.” But this also happens when people cannot see an answer to a problem that scares them: they will put their fingers in their ears and yell “Nah nah nah.”  Similar to overweight people not stepping on the scale, or people with money problems not balancing their checkbook.  Mothers ignoring signs that stepdad is diddling the children.    If you don’t see it, it isn’t real.  If its real, and painful, and you see no answer, then better to remain in denial, right?  Wrong.    The term “Sleeping Children” applies to good people who delete information because there would be guilt, pain, fear, or loss of status/resources if they admitted it.
  9. The “Smiling Monsters” are another matter. They are people who are actively lying.  They are in your conversation to sabotage it. Slow you down or stop you. Or even worse, are simply there to cause chaos and enjoy the smell of blood: deliberate Trolls. These are the lowest.  But if you ask either “sleeping children” or “smiling monsters” to offer their solutions, or their belief in the origins of the issue, to this date, I’ve not caught one able to slip past that mark. Why?  Again, I have to reference this to race, the area I’ve considered most deeply in the political arena.    If you say: “those people are dysfunctional” you might be 100% correct.  But…what is the answer, and what the cause?  If you believe that whites would have dealt with slavery and its aftermath with less damage, dysfunction or complaint you are very clearly suggesting they are superior. Make no mistake about that.  You might be correct or incorrect about that–that’s a different discussion.  What you CANNOT do is take a place at the table when people are asking the question: “given that we believe human groups are basically equal, how do we level the playing field?”   And if you lie about your beliefs in order to disrupt that discussion, you are a Smiling Monster.  There are predators in the world, and I consider you one of them.
  10. You have to remember that you might be wrong. You really might.  But that doesn’t mean you have to allow dissenting voices at every step of the discussion.   As I’ve said, if you see your children screaming and drowning in the lake, it is the wrong time to debate whether water is wet.  You must act, and if it turns out you are deluded, you will have to deal with the consequences. So… the actions you take must be taken with love and respect, and within the laws unless you are 100% prepared to accept punishment for what you have done, placing your faith in a higher justice.  But LOVE is critical.
  11. Love then, is the starting place: enough love for yourself to want the best.  To also be willing to fight for what you believe, to defend yourself, to be willing to die for a cause larger than you.  But also to see the humanity in those who oppose you.  Yes, I use the term “smiling monster.”   And that may seem in conflict with the insistence on seeing humanity in all.   It is not: it is the use of a term that creates a very specific response. There are people you cannot argue with, cannot reason with, who will know your children are drowning, but try to engage you in a discussion of whether water is wet, then cluck and say “I didn’t know. So sorry” when you haul their sopping bodies out of the depths.  There are villains who will take your money or your life without any concern for anything you might say or do–for the sheer pleasure of it. And if you mistake them for a person who can be reasoned with, you will die.
  12. The ultimate warrior position is: I’m ready to die, and I’m ready to take you with me.    The power of this is astounding BUT YOU CANNOT BLUFF.   This is the value of performing the internal work of asking “who am I?” and “what is true?” until you reach a singularity, and move beyond it.  It is terrifying to the ego. But on the other side is freedom such as you cannot believe. To be willing to die to achieve a goal is a power position most never experience. To combine this with love and compassion, a willingness to discuss with anyone willing to extend their own humanity to you, to be unmoved in the face of insult and accusation but open to calm criticism connects your inner world with the outer world. This approach proceeds from the same spiritual point every great religion and spiritual teacher has been directing us to: all is one. The same that scientists have pointed toward: all human beings are the same under the skin. That physicists have stated: all reality began with all matter and energy bound into a single point which expanded with impossible speed 13.7 billion years ago, differentiating into everything we see in the natural universe, and resulting in human beings obsessed with their differences rather than marveling over their Oneness.
  13. We have the same basic drives and needs.  Even the Smiling Monsters are…and if you had infinite time to work with them, you could connect them with their love, softness, and sense of the divine as well.  You don’t have infinite time: your children are drowning.   Get in the water, throw me a life preserver, or get the @#$$ out of the way.
  14. One of my friends and mentors, Tim Piering said: “the key to accomplishment is clear goals with a written plan for accomplishment, and the ability to take action despite the voices in your head.”  There are ALWAYS dissenting voices in your head, always reasons to doubt an action: but if you wait until every voice in your head agrees, you accomplish nothing.   The “Mastermind” principle says that to create a “supermind” you have to find one person who agrees to work with you in a spirit of harmony.   You can add ONE more person at a time, if they agree 100% to participate in a spirit of harmony: agreement is more powerful than numbers.   In other words, the principles I’m stating here are not really about people “out there.” They are about you as an individual, you and your partners in a venture, or all of us as a society: those who can sit at the table and have a civil discussion will control the future of our country and our world.

And now, hopefully, I’ve connected the inner world and the outer, taking the political plane into account, something I never did before. And having done that, I can return to a discussion of personal growth, having laid the foundation for anyone, anywhere, to see the macro in the micro, see how the world of voices in their heads and the world of external action, relationship and politics are all connected.

Parts of YOU are asleep.

YOU have Monsters in your head that lie and feed your fear.

The external and internal are the same. The world lies before you and within you.   Do the work.

Namaste,

Steve