The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Keeping Your Word

I worked with a group of execs last Saturday at Moonview, and for multiple reasons used the Tibetans to anchor the conversation, rather than FlowFit. I can teach FlowFit during one-on-one sessions, or if I have a continuing relationship. But what if the client is walking out the door in an hour, and I'll never see them again?

I have to give them something to shift their breathing, which can have a massively powerful effect on stress levels. And the Tibetans seem my best bet for this, due to simplicity. A note: if you can keep your breathing low and slow, even under stress, you can keep it from devolving to strain. And if you can prevent stress from becoming strain, the organism responds by becoming stronger. Assuming you've chosen goals in all three arenas, and are moving toward them, stress will come at you fast and furious...but if you maintain your forward progress while staying centered, you will grow.

Note please how much of this is related to keeping your word to yourself. Discipline. Honesty. If you want to increase your motivation to do something, come up with a dozen solid reasons for doing it. Invariably, when someone says they can't maintain a program of some kind, when you ask them their reasons for sticking to it, those reasons are weak and watery. There's no bedrock there. If you are serious about doing something you've never done, you have to have more reasons to DO it than to AVOID it. That requires digging deep.

For instance: if you commit to I.F., or the Tibetans, or writing a thousand words a day, or meditating daily, or spending an hour a day in direct communication with your family...I promise you that if these things are not a part of your life already, you will devise countless "reasonable" reasons not to do them.

And what it boils down to is: can you keep your word to yourself, or not? If you can, you can accomplish miracles. If you cannot, it simply doesn't matter how smart you are, or what skills you have. You will never accomplish all you could in life, for that single reason. Learning to tell yourself the truth, learning to keep focus, learning to calm the mind until the illusions peel away...these are core steps along the path to self discovery.


If you cannot keep your word to yourself, I beg you not to pursue an artistic freelance career. Go after a job where someone will breathe down your neck, and force you to stay on-task. Otherwise, down the road, you will be in for serious pain. And I mean hitting-the-skids, can't-earn-a-living type pain.


And the question of the day is: without naming names, who was the person you knew with the highest level of potential, who crashed and burned the worst due to their own actions/inactions? To what personality flaw would you attribute this?


Anonymous said...

And the question of the day:
I have a writer friend who did not pay attention to their career. I do not mean that the person had another career that sucked up writing time. My friend was a full-time writer who made and still makes a better than basic living from writing residuals. However, perhaps sinking into self-doubt or mild depression, and/or not kicking the agent into gear or firing said agent, my friend now has not sold/finished a book in 10 years. This person was considered a major writer 20 years ago, so my friend should be able to get a book contract and fulfill it. I would be able to go along with the idea that my friend has retired or quit, expect that my friend purports to be writing. Short stories occasionally appear, but I hear more kvetching about other people's success than my friend's accomplishments. There is a huge amount of anger.

This is anonymous since we both know my friend.

I could go on and on, however, because I see self-determined failure all the time in many people both women and men.

Anonymous said...

There is a huge amount of anger. I realized that I was not clear that I see my friend's anger as the personality flaw to which I attribute this. Anger keeps my friend from attending conventions, being out there with people, and accomplishing things.
Example, we all were at the same convention and you both were promoting new books. You both got lots of dumb questions, and you may have been vexed by some of them (actually, I think you may have been amused), but not angry, while my friend was deeply angry at the dumb questions.
Anger seeps into every aspect of a person's life destroying so much.

Steve Perry said...

I had a buddy who was a certified genius, he had an IQ north of 170, most brilliant man I've ever known, intellectually. He was a champion gymnast, had black belts in a couple of martial arts, and got a full-ride scholarship to college based on a National Merit exam in high school in which he scored straight 99's across the board.

But he knew how smart he was, he lived from the neck up and the waist down, and was so certain he was superior that he didn't believe the rules and laws of society should apply to him. He quit school because he disagreed with his teacher, got drafted, deserted from the army and spent a couple years in Leavenworth. Had a series of dead-end jobs, finally wound up a programmer for Microsoft.

He smoked hand-rolled cigarettes, thirty or forty a day though he had a strong family history of heart disease. He was an alcoholic.

He had a massive heart attack at 58 and died.

An intellectual giant; an emotional midget. Such a waste.

Lynn Gazis-Sax said...

Oh, I'll name names; it hurts no one, since he died decades ago. His name was Alex. He was a pre-med at Stanford, and also fluent enough in German that he could read German philosophers in the original and speak in dialect. And he had a certain initiative; if a problem came up in his student house, he'd put himself forward to do something about it. A famous Stanford psychology professor considered Alex one of his most promising students.

He died of a cocaine overdose.

I've never really been sure what led him down that path, other than the obvious - addiction.

Robin James Burchett said...

The smartest person in my high school class - the kid who taught himself Latin first because it made the romance languages easier to pick up - failed to finish his doctorate in philosophy. He now creates junk mail for a living. Very good junk mail, I'm sure, and what would we do without that? But he could have been tenured at an ivy league university now, or be working for NASA, or helping Microsoft take over the world.

Anonymous said...

I have a friend who in my opinion fits the bill although you and he might not agree. He got his Ph D. in mathematics from MIT and taught Math and did research for 7 years before deciding he was tired of it. He then got an LLD from Harvard and became a public defender to help the disadvantage who were being persecuted. After two years as a public defender he decided few if any of those he defended deserved being defended, so he quit law. He then decide that his mission was the environment and joined the green community. He has spent the last 30 years building green houses and otherwise living the green life and not doing much with his intellect.

Marty S

suzanne said...

I don't view living the green life
and building greenhouses
as a waste of talent or genius

addvanced degrees
getting and career building with them
don't have anything necessarily
to do with "genius"

and "genius" as I see it
is about way more than
an IQ test score
or advanced degrees

and there are all kinds of "genius'
just as there are all kinds of intelligences

emotional genius
artistic genius
scientific genius
athletic genius
political genius
culinary genius
greenhouse genius

it's a combination of a passion
and Doing and Being