We’re drilling down into the “Diamond Hour” Concept, because almost
everyone can find a single hour a day to claim as your own. In
general, a writer might spend twenty minutes a day on each of three
1) Twenty minutes meditation
2) Twenty minutes exercise/incantation
3) Twenty minutes focused writing, FLOW STATE FIRST DRAFT. On alternate days, polish and edit. (Or something in alignment with deepest personal values and goals)
1) Fifteen minutes meditation
2) Fifteen minutes planning
3) Fifteen minutes exercise/incantation
4) Fifteen minutes FLOW STATE writing (or something in alignment with deepest personal values and goals)
1) Ten minutes meditation.
2) Ten minutes planning
3) Ten minutes exercise/incantation
4) Thirty minutes FLOW STATE writing (or something in alignment with deepest personal values and goals.)
Don’t do more than four basic things in your Diamond Hour, and don’t let any of the pieces get smaller than 10 minutes. But you can mix and match a bit to find the best pattern that works for you.
In combination with the Five Minute Miracle (Five sixty-second “breathing breaks” distributed through the day) you are kicking yourself into ultra-high gear. You are focusing your mind, raising your energy, moving toward your destiny, protecting your health, engaging your fitness, mastering stress, aligning with your “inner child”, creating a Daily Ritual of power, and far more.
EVEN IF YOU ARE TOTALLY BUSY THE REST OF THE DAY, you have moved toward your deepest goals.
And even more importantly, you are answering the two most important questions in life: Who Am I? And “What is true?”
Who are you? A moving, living, evolving being. One in alignment with your values. What is true? That the world can be navigated with joy and power, that every day has meaning and significance. That you have FAR more control over your life, destiny and emotions than 99.9% of the people around you believe.
Remember the idea that information is not power? Only information that causes or changes ACTION is power. If your emotions truly change, your actions will change. If you see the world more clearly or accurately, your actions will change. IF YOUR ACTIONS DO NOT CHANGE, YOU HAVE NOT CHANGED.
On this level, behavior is truth.
On the worst day of your life, you can “fall back” to the Five Minute Miracle. But NO ONE has fewer than five minutes of guided breathing time in a day. You are simply lying to yourself. And if you do that…you have just learned a bit about how you lie, how you distort your reality map.
Imagine you are on a road trip between birth and death. Is it valuable to know that your map is distorted? You think?
Musashi’s First Principle: “Do Not Think Dishonestly.” Until you stop lying about the fact that, barring serious illness, your adult body, adult relationships and adult careers are created by our consistent behaviors, and our behaviors are created by our beliefs, perceptions, value hierarchies and emotions. ADULTS TAKE RESPONSIBILITY. Children blame the world, their parents, their pasts. Either take responsibility, or the metaphorical “children” of your dreams and goals will simply wither and die.
“If it’s to be, it’s up to me” has to become your mantra, if there is any part of you that is still blaming the world. The world is just what it is. It is up to YOU to learn to read the map of that world, to align your values with your goals enough that just practicing or working toward them brings you satisfaction.
Why? Because no one is guaranteed a tomorrow. Live so that even if you die tomorrow, today was a triumph.
TODAY you expressed your dreams. TODAY you learned more about your mind, body, and emotions. TODAY you told your loved ones that you adore them. TODAY you celebrated your life. TODAY. TODAY. TODAY.
This day. This hour. This five minutes. This sixty seconds. This breath. This moment. The macro in the micro.
Perfect moments make a perfect minute. Perfect minutes make a perfect hour. Perfect hours make a perfect day. Perfect days make a life of mastery.
You will have ups and downs. Days when your head is full of fog, or your body is full of fire. Days of depression and those of exaltation. Days when your tasks seem like stones, and others when your goals are like wings.
But up or down, we must move forward, even if only a single step. Every person you’ve ever admired has their “down” days, their challenges, their flaws and heartbreaks. EVERY ONE OF THEM.
This is one of the most important things you learn if you study success. They ALL had their “dark nights of the soul” and one of the worst myths is that somehow they didn’t know about failure. No, they know more about failure than the people we call “failures.” Why? Because they got up and kept going. Which means that
1) they understand failure from both sides and
2) they fail more often.
Your ritual of daily action, even a piece as small as five minutes, will change your life. Begin today.
Continue tomorrow. Build the live of your dreams. Ask “who am I” and “what is true” with every act, every breath.
One step at a time, walk the Thousand Mile Road.
Pierce the illusion. Embrace your destiny. Live this one most precious life you have to live.
I close with the Sanskrit expression that means “the divinity within me salutes and acknowledges the divinity within you,” the same idea as the West African term “Num” which means that there is one spirit peering out through many eyes.
Friday, May 31, 2013
We’re drilling down into the “Diamond Hour” Concept, because almost
everyone can find a single hour a day to claim as your own. In
general, a writer might spend twenty minutes a day on each of three
Posted by Steven Barnes at 5:16 AM
Wednesday, May 29, 2013
I just got this note from one of my favorite people, “Granola Rolla”, who has struggled with body image issues for years:
“It’s a silly sort of epiphany, in that it's one of those `duh’ obvious things I've always known, but it's exciting because I'm starting to really get it. I just want to share something from a conversation with a friend today- `I think hating my body is like shooting the messenger. It's just a gauge for how well I take care of myself. No matter how noble or how foolish my reasons are for the degree of self-care, my body is just going to show the facts. I like to blame this body for not being desirable, even as I run away from those who clearly desire me and I'm kinda calling shenanigans on the whole thing.’
She gets it. Our bodies are the sum total of the actions we have taken, which are influenced by our knowledge (efficiency and effectiveness) and our emotions (the Hawaiian Huna consider our bodies to be like “black bags” where we store our unprocessed negative feelings until we’re ready to deal with them.) Trying to pretend that our exteriors have nothing to do with our interiors is a dangerous self-deception—and opens the door to accepting OTHER people’s negative, abusive behavior, because, after all, “what we do isn’t who we are.” Right. Well, no it isn’t, but it’s a hell of a lot closer to who we are than our self-image, or the stories we try to sell others.
And what else reveals our actions and attitudes? Try our finances. Try our relationship histories. A single problem is just a learning experience. But one that recurs three times suggests that we have not learned something critical. Learn the lesson, and you don’t have to repeat the mistake. There are good men, good women, opportunities out there, and healthy bodies lurking within the external shell, waiting to emerge when we have the knowledge, discipline, and emotional clarity.
The trick is to love yourself, while being as honest as a surgeon evaluating a tumor when we examine our actions, emotions, beliefs, values, and self-image. You are 100% deserving of love. You are also 100% deserving of an accurate map of reality. And a map is useless unless
1) you know where you’re going, and
2) you know where you are.
Musashi’s first principle is “Do not think dishonestly.” Tell the truth. Get an accurate map.
The second is: “The way is in training.” Your goals require constant action.
The third is “Know the ways of every art.” Study the actions and attitudes of the masters. Those who have succeeded at any discipline you desire. Find the critical path, the things in common between all of them. Do this with all your heart while maintaining sensory acuity to your results, and continuing to model and study.
Nothing can guarantee success. But failing to adapt the proper behaviors will guarantee failure. If you’re running east, no matter how far and how fast you run, you’ll never see a sunset.
Posted by Steven Barnes at 5:22 AM
Tuesday, May 28, 2013
"You can't always get what you want" sang the Stones. But you CAN get what you need. Thanks, Mick. This was never more true than on the DANGER WORD shoot...
It was 12:30 am Sunday night, and the crew was exhausted. The cast was exhausted. But the great Frankie Faison was driving us on with energy and clarity. “Motor through it!” he insisted, and we did. What a guy! But we had another major sequence to film after this, and I saw that we were in trouble. By the time we got through set-up, and changing location, and lighting (we had to fake daylight!), and everything else…multiple takes of a CRITICAL emotional sequence, without which DANGER WORD simply wouldn’t work…the risk of injury or hell, MUTINY was very real. And Tananarive and I went into a huddle. This is where it is useful to be a writer/producer. We understood the moral and emotional core of our film. We knew that the purpose of a story is not to supply information, but to convey an emotional charge. Information that does not change emotion (and therefore, influence action) is useless. Pointless. Trivial (why do you think they call it “Trivial Pursuit”?)
Tananarive was exhausted, nodding off between takes. But when she sat up and focused, a possibility occurred to her: with some re-jiggering, we could play the entire outdoor scene indoors. Right here on the set. I was shocked, but then thought about it (and yes, I’m being artfully vague here). I thought it through.
1) Did it make story sense? Would viewers “miss” the missing set-up? Would they say: "gee, I wonder why they didn't do X?" No.
2) Did it make “reality” sense? A modification was needed to the actual way the zombie disease attacked the system. Did it make sense? Immediately, I saw that it damned well could. In fact, it made perfect sense, even though we’d never stated it in the books.
3) Did it make logistical sense? Oh, yes indeedy. So much so I was gobsmacked.
4) Was there a way that it made the sequence BETTER? Yes. And this is critical. Nothing ever comes out the same. In general, it’s either better or worse. THINK OF THE WAY IT CAN MAKE THINGS BETTER. And I could: simplicity, directness, speed.
5) Did it make emotional sense? Yes. It allowed us to play out a major emotional change without a shift in location. It allowed the actors to “flow” from one powerful moment to another, without an hour-long break during which their exhaustion would sap their energy. That energy would transmit to the audience (“sales is a transfer of enthusiasm from one person to another”—and trust me, children…storytelling is sales, and sales is storytelling.)
I tested it. Looked at it from every direction, and oh my God, it made perfect sense. I kissed T, and went to our director. She was in the middle of putting out a half-dozen fires at once as the makeup people made magic. People were pulling at her, but I pulled rank on them. “Luchina,” I said, “give me sixty seconds, and I’ll make you very happy.” She trusted me. I told her our idea. It took a moment to sink in, and her eyes lit up.
With her permission, I went to our little star, Saoirse (SEER-SHAH) Scott, and told her. The little trooper had been game for everything, hadn’t ever complained about anything, no matter what we asked her to do. But when I explained my plan, and she realized that instead of another two hours of filming WE WERE ABOUT TO FINISH she hugged me and said, with simple sincerity: “I love you.”
We powered through that last sequence, the entire crew energized. Emotions were at a peak. Tears flowed. Then Saoirse’s mom said “she wants to hear the words.” Luchina paused and said: “It’s a wrap!” and the crew applauded.
Oh, my God. We were done! And there was a lesson there, an important one. You MUST be able to tell the difference between what you WANT and what you NEED. We WANTED the scene the way we wrote it, but it was becoming logistically nightmarish. What Tananarive saw was that the emotional core, represented in a few critical lines of dialogue, and the emotional peak we’d been working toward for two days, could be maintained even though the way it “looked” was different.
YOU CAN HAVE ANYTHING YOU NEED, IF YOU CAN LET GO OF HOW IT’S SUPPOSED TO LOOK. Go deeper into the actual meat of it. What is it you really need? What is the emotional hunger you are feeding. Go far enough, into its emotional roots, and you’ll find that the external aspects are often just “presentation,” the box it comes in. I love fancy boxes. But if you are starving, you don’t care what color the plate is. If you’re putting out a fire, you don’t give a #$%% about the wrapping the extinguisher comes in. Find the “fire” you are actually putting out, the “nutrients” you are actually seeking to ingest. While satisfying every basic NEED…begin to sacrifice your WANTS. Feed your emotional “children” but don’t let them dominate you into putting smiley-faces onto every damned pancake.
We won. Because we weren’t afraid to lose what was non-essential. I may be happier with that single insight of T’s than any other she ever made, other than deciding to marry me.
Jeeze, I love that girl. Well done, baby.
Posted by Steven Barnes at 6:22 AM
Thursday, May 23, 2013
Once upon a time, I created a work-flow model based on conversations
with, and study of, hundreds of writers. A “critical path” of what
seemed to be the most important characteristics. Most excellent
writers have these skills in some form or other, often at the level of
“unconscious competence” but it is possible to extract and refine them
In communicating them to students, I gave this process the name “The Machine” or sometimes “The Garden”, depending on the preference of the student. Over the last weeks I’ve parceled them out, but as I’m taking off for Keycon SF convention today, and will be in crash mode for our movie next week, I wanted to encapsulate the first seven steps, and then complete the entire structure.
There are undoubtedly equally good, or better, ways to look at this, and I invite established writers to make their own suggestions, and all writers to modify to their own needs.
1) Create an output goal (a story a week, or a story every other week. Or a
2) Read 10 X what you write. Read one level “up” from your writing
3) Write stories that reflect the values, beliefs, and concerns of your own life, in indirect form.
4) Keep your stories circulating in the mail until they sell
5) Don’t try a novel until you’ve sold ten short stories.
6) Model the healthy attitudes, actions and beliefs of the writers you admire.
7) Once you’ve finished your first draft, ask “what is the meaning of my story” and
re-write from the beginning to sharpen this. There are two things to write about: what are human beings, and what is the world they see? “Who am I” and “what is true?”
8) Follow structure (plotting and consciously planning) until you have mastered it (selling at least 10 short stories), then try freestyle. If you have problems, revert to
structure until it is internalized.
My own structure concentrates on two things: plot and character. I see them as being two halves of the same coin. “Plot” is what a given character does in a given situation. “Character” is best revealed 1) by action and 2) by the character’s internal monologues and self-image, as well as the “stories” they try to sell about who they are. The GAP between observed behavior (concentrate on their career, their physical fitness and their relationship history) and this “story” reveals an entirely new and fascinating level to their personality. To deepen your understanding of this, one painful thing is necessary: applying the exact same standard RUTHLESSLY to yourself. By the way—you won’t be able to do this if you do not love yourself deeply. In a way, it is like performing exploratory surgery on your own child. Yuck. But critical if you wish to move forward in life.
9) Separate the “Flow” state from the “editing” state. Learn to enter “flow” state at will. This means constantly refining “left” and “right” brain modes of operation (not neurophysiologically elegant models, but hopefully the distinctions communicate.) I would suggest meditation and the study of the most logical and intelligent human beings you can groove with. Daily. Logic and Intuition, shaking hands across the Corpus Callosum.
10) Develop a circle of writers and readers to evaluate your work. Choose
the smartest, toughest critics you can find, and learn to take the discomfort. There are, of course, examples of writers who work in solitude, but even these have an “internal community” of role models and great artists in their minds, coaxing them toward greater skill, production, and honesty. The most fortunate people have both.
Remember: your “editing/reading” brain has far more experience AND ALWAYS WILL than your “flow/writing” brain. It will ALWAYS be better at criticizing what you’ve created than creating new text. The only exceptions are those unfortunate individuals who really haven’t read very much, but believe they have a calling to write. Every writing class or workshop instructor encounters these unfortunates with stories to tell but no skill with which to relate them…sometimes with few foundational skills such as spelling and grammar! But most of us have read hundreds of books for every book we write.
Don’t you get the joke? You must read to improve, but that means your “editor” will always be vastly more experienced than your “creator”, leading to insecurity, lack of confidence, and even disgust at the huge “gap” between your first drafts and the finished work of the masters.
“The Machine” is designed to strengthen, polish and bring to conscious awareness every basic link in the chain that leads from initial idea to published work: generating ideas, selecting ideas, researching, rough draft, polished draft, rewrite and integrating feedback, submission and repetition of the process throughout a career of ups and downs.
ANYTHING that disrupts this process is “writer’s block.” Not reading/researching, not writing, not finishing, not polishing, not submitting, not beginning your next project and continuing the cycle.
Not enjoying the process, even if it is the savage satisfaction of facing the Gorgon of our own doubt day after day. Caring enough about criticism to learn anything useful, to feel the pain without it decisively impacting our capacity for joy in process.
No one can promise you a financially successful career. But you CAN guarantee yourself a lifelong immersion in the fantastic world of creation. You CAN get better and better from year to year, and have more pleasure and satisfaction than most people believe is possible or reasonable.
You CAN fulfill a childhood dream of self-expression and communication. All these things are available to you, if you embrace the Machine…or cultivate your Garden.
Writer’s choice. As always, the choice of metaphor is up to you.
Write with Passion!
NOTE: If you have enjoyed these notes, please support our movie, DANGER WORD, at www.dangerwordfilm.com. All donations, however small, are appreciated. And for the next week, a portion of any purchases of products at www.diamondhour.com will go directly toward the creation of our first short film. Thank you!
Posted by Steven Barnes at 4:54 AM
Tomorrow, we take off for Albany to create our first short film. The goal is to use DANGER WORD to leverage ourselves into a full feature (on the theory that you can move up one order of magnitude per project, max) that first feature being a feature-length version of this story, and/or a feature-length version of T’s book “My Soul To Keep.” We hold the rights. We have the experience, and the circle of allies. We have powerful motivations that go WAY beyond our personal careers—so it has been gratifyingly possible to enroll others in this dream.
Regardless of what happens next, I’d like to thank everyone who has supported us, in every way that they have. I don’t really think there are “pivotal moments” in life so much as “clusters” of pivotal moments, actions, and decisions that create change. But what winners do it assume they have some agency in their fates, sufficient to make it worth while to push the edges, to get up early and stay up late. To totally invest themselves emotionally and move beyond their comfort zones. Using the model of the Hero’s Journey, I wanted to once again diagram the process of moving from one level to another
in life, whether that be a model of integration, success, or satisfaction.
1) Confronted with challenge. You have to recognize a problem or opportunity.
2) Reject the challenge. If the challenge is large enough to change your life, YOU WILL FEEL FEAR. It is how we’re wired up. People without enthusiasm are people who have had the hope crushed out of them. They have been slapped down so many times that it is safer to be blase. Or they have experienced the pain of accomplishment, and found that success equaled pain: the pain of losing friends, of attracting predators, of losing a sense of self.
3) Accept the challenge. You must see a way through the minefield. Deal with the emotions. DECIDE. Or nothing happens.
4) Road of Trials. You have to realistically assess where you are currently, and develop a crystal-clear vision of where you intend to go. Subtract where you are from where you need to be, and divide the gap into bite-size pieces you can address at the rate of about 1% per week for a 2-year goal. To do this, you may have to steal a beat from step #5…
5) Allies and Powers.
a) Find a peer group who will support your vision, if you don't they will drag you down. Friends with less ambition or ability are fine, AS LONG AS THEY SUPPORT YOU, AND DON'T SABOTAGE YOUR EFFORTS. We've all experienced this: people who bring over cake when you try to diet. "Pity parties" about how all men are X or all women are Y or this or that group will stop you, or your history confines you, or...or...
and what they're really doing is talking to themselves. Because if YOU succeed, it means they have to look at their own excuses, and feel the pain of not changing their own lives.
b) role models who have already accomplished your goal. Find three. Learn what they did in common to accomplish their dreams. See what they do that you don’t do, AND START DOING IT. Take action. Study their belief systems, mental syntax, and use of physiology. What they do, what they feel, what they think. And start programming yourself with these things. Seek out the technologies of implanting beliefs, raising energy, clarifying goals, gathering a mastermind…focus, flow, enthusiasm, sales…whatever. And especially learn to deal with fear and failure, because you WILL…
6) Confront Evil—and fail. This could be an internal or external opponent. “The voices in your head.” The fact that you are not internally aligned to succeed. Don’t have permission to “break through.” And in any arena where you have “beat your head against the wall” I can pretty much promise you that you’re dealing with mixed internal messages. Negative beliefs about money, or sales. Negative beliefs about relationships (or unrealistic expectations. Just recently I met a wealthy, famous gentleman who has never been married. His beliefs about relationships: a woman would have to be his perfect partner, share all his values, be able to read his mind and feel what he feels and think what he thinks about any entertainment or activity. With a standard like that, he will go through life alone!), conflicting values about body image (boy is there a lot of that right now. A major movement to accept your body “where it is.” That’s fine…as long as you can be satisfied and simultaneously maintain massive motivation to change. Difficult balancing act.)
7) The Dark Night of the Soul. You WILL crash and burn on any project that could change your life. There WILL be a point where it seems all is lost. That’s just the way it is. But if you know AHEAD of time, before you ever begin, that you will fall on your face at some point, why do we forget the lesson? Why don’t we remember that, and lay the plans in advance? Get your allies together (or be your own ally. One of my favorite tricks is to wait until a student is “up” and have them write a letter to their future self, to be opened only when you are “down.” Works like a charm.
8) Leap of Faith. This is ALWAYS faith in one of three things: yourself, your companions, or a Higher Power. Optimally, all three. This is what gets you through when you’ve come to the end of yourself.
9) Confront Evil—and succeed. IF you have taken the previous steps: clarified your goal, studied the behaviors of those who have succeeded, learned as much as they can teach, taken massive and constant action, maintained a positive attitude and kept the faith, THEN you have optimized your chances of success. If you have chosen your goal properly, then external success will be secondary to the person you are becoming along the way. You become internally focussed, and at some point, you are simply “becoming” who you are committed to being. Do this by finding the way that you goal is answering the twin questions: “who am I?” and “what is true?” You have reached this point when you are simply doing what you do…and the external results are happening “like magic.” Even for these evolved beings, it is sometimes necessary to drop back and punt. To go back to basics, and re-build a faulty bridge to your future.
10) The Student Becomes the Teacher. When you have learned a way to do something, share it with others. Help others. The best way to know that you know something is being able to transmit it to others. Note that this is not the “those who cannot do, teach” attitude. It is “those who can do, and teach others to do, are in harmony with the universe.” They are the ones responsible for every good thing we have as human beings. As individuals, we’re not that much smarter than chimps. It is in passing information from one generation to the next that we SHINE. We are the only animals with more information in our brains than in our genes. This sacred progression is a deep current of what we are as a species. When you swim WITH the current, you’ve found another level of integration. You have also taken a step toward Awakened Adulthood.
There you have it, again. I’ve said these things before, and will again. But tomorrow I take another step toward my future. What will happen? I don’t know. I simultaneously care passionately and don’t care. Because the ride itself is so much fun. Because I’m becoming a better version of who I am. Because whatever I learn, I will turn around and teach others.
That’s called being the Hero in the adventure of my lifetime.
Posted by Steven Barnes at 4:54 AM
Tuesday, May 14, 2013
Because of Saturday’s Diamond Hour show, I was forced to sit down and
work out the rest of the “Perfect Diamond Hour” sequence, and I want to
put this out as fast as possible, so BOOM, here it goes today!
We cannot control external events. What we CAN control is what they mean to us. And if you have been hurt in the past by aiming at a goal and failing, it is natural that you will associate pain with focus, hope and dreams. This is just your nervous system trying to protect you, and one of the “dragons at the gate” of your performance. Totally natural, and totally healthy.
That dragon is not your enemy. It is actually a big friendly puppy which, once tamed, becomes not a monster or enemy, but one of your greatest ally. The way we’re organizing the “perfect Diamond Hour” is designed to help you tame your fear, doubt, and pain. Let’s take a look at the process so far (and btw—you are watching me formalize this in real time. There will be modifications now and later, but the basic framework is solid):
1) 5MM. Take a break every three hours and breathe (later, you will briefly visualize, doing a mini version of this process.
2) Re-write goals.
3) Heartbeat meditation. Self-love, centering, relaxation, focus…this and more, in a streamlined package.
4) Ancient Child. Visualizing your innocent, enthusiastic, loving self. Most of us can do more for our children than we can for ourselves. This allows you to harness this tendency. If you didn’t get the love you needed from your parents…give it to yourself.
5) Morning ritual. Begin to create a morning ritual of thought, motion, and emotion. This begins the alignment of body mind and spirit, which is the highest level of efficiency you are capable of. Sun salutations, Five Tibetans, joint rotations…start MOVING!
6) Raise energy. Move with more power, jack your emotions higher. Associate these powerful positive emotions with your goals and daily actions. If you have to do it—find a way to ENJOY doing it. As Merry Poppins said: “in every job that must be done, there is an element of fun. Find the fun and POOF! The job’s a game!” Smart lady.
7)Gratitude for past and current blessings. Find gratitude for what you have already accomplished in your life. If you think you haven’t accomplished anything, you are either lying to yourself, or you have standards that are so unreasonably high they cause you pain. Start with the things for which you would praise your own child: learning to walk, and talk, and read. Having a strong healthy body, heart, and/or mind. Friendships. Family. FIND THINGS TO BE GRATEFUL FOR. If you can read these words, you should be grateful. If you lost your sight or reason, you would mourn them. If your child lost those things, you would be shattered. BE GRATEFUL for another day of life!
8) Gratitude for future blessings (goals). This is critical. Take the SAME
emotional energy you have raised about the things you have now…and begin to give thanks for the
goals you have in the future, as if you have already accomplished them. Say it out loud. If you
can’t say it, you can’t have it! “I’m SO grateful for the new love in my life! I’m SO grateful I
take the time to meditate every day! I’m SO grateful for my five new customers! I’m SO
grateful I look great in my size X pants! I’m SO grateful my children graduated college!”
Use total physiology, emphasis, enthusiasm, body language. The message of “The Science of
Getting Rich” is that gratitude for what we have now is the foundation for our future accomplishment.
9) Incantation (About three minutes) chanting, aloud, with enthusiasm, the belief that you already possess the resources and power necessary to create your dreams.
Success expert Tony Robbins suggests a statement like “All I need is within me now. All the STRENGTH I need is within me now. All the CONFIDENCE I need is within me now. All the LOVE I need is within me now…”
Again, WHILE MOVING, WALKING EXERCISING. Generate the emotions. FEEL it. If you don’t believe it, move your body as if you do. ACT the part. Put on the facial expression of confidence, throw your shoulders back. Smile. Move with authority, power, unstoppable energy. SEE your goals “As if now.”
And we’re back to the 30-day challenge. Do this, every day for 30 days. I promise that at times you will feel silly. You will have huge resistance on some days. JOURNAL THE EMOTIONS that come up. But I also promise that you will increase your output, and begin to see truly strange “coincidence” and instances of “synchronicity” occurring in your life.
“Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative and creation, there is one elementary truth the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one's favor all manner of unforeseen incidents, meetings and material assistance which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it. Begin it now.” Goethe, Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe
10) TAKE AN ACTION. You’ve clarified goals, raised energy, visualized your internal world and
the external steps you will take today and this week to create your future. NOW…take an action!
Exercise, write 1000 words of your novel, write an email you’ve put off. DO SOMETHING.
ACT ON A DECISION. Never leave the site of a decision without taking an action, however small, moving you in that direction. Mind: form a goal. Emotions: generate the positive feelings you WANT to have…and experience them NOW. Body: take an action. DO something. Make a phone call. Check your goal list. Read an article. Perform a sun salutation. Push away from the place.
TAKE AN ACTION. Nearing the end of his life, actor Michael Landon said that it is a tragedy that we don’t understand from birth that we are going to die. That that knowledge would lend both urgency and sweetness to our existence. “Whatever you want to do, do it now.” He said. “There are only so many tomorrows.”
If you will follow this advice for 30 days, you’ll understand something I’ve been trying to say all along. You will have taken responsibility for your existence, and will be acting with greatly enhanced clarity. These actions in the material world are the path to being what I refer to as an “awakened adult.” It is the doorway to an extraordinary life. I wish nothing less for each and every one of you.
Posted by Steven Barnes at 4:02 AM
Sunday, May 12, 2013
One of the reasons Motherhood seems to inspire greatness is that every good mother is committed to something other than herself. Something that goes beyond the edge of her own life. Something she loves enough to die for. You can touch this space by the simple joy of giving to others, of finding something to believe in that is larger than you, deeper than you, that will outlive you. By knowing what you would die for, and start living for it. Let the love you feel for your mother inspire you to be not just a great parent...but a great spirit.
Posted by Steven Barnes at 5:17 AM
Friday, May 10, 2013
This is Gratitude both past and present. During your Diamond Hour,
spend 3-5 minutes generating the most positive emotions you can.
Imagine all of the things in your life for
which you ALREADY feel gratitude: life, love, health, family, a roof over your head, etc. As you do, chant out loud something like “I’m SO grateful for my loving children! I’m SO grateful for
a strong, healthy body! I’m SO grateful for a healthy mind and happy heart!” and so on.
The core message of “As A Man Thinketh” and countless other self-help books is that our minds
and emotions create our worlds.
My very favorite goal-setting technique, the “Time Line” process created by Tad James, suggests that you need to visualize (or “mentalize”) your goal, its position on your time line (visualized as a string of actions and incidents stretching off into your future), the intermediate actions necessary to support that goal. Then you have to check the degree to which your internal ecology supports your goal: your beliefs, value hierarchy, and positive and negative emotional anchors or associations.
But the “carrier tone” of the entire thing is emotion. Enthusiasm. In the terms of Aikido master Koichi Tohei, does your “Ki” extend out into the world, or does the world’s negative energy “back up” into you? Imagine it like a stream running into a poisoned pond. So long as the water flows outwards, the poisoned water doesn’t enter the stream.
That is the power of enthusiasm. And it is impossible to feel enthusiastic and positive if all you see in your life right now is the negative. OUR EXTERNAL CIRCUMSTANCES DO NOT CONTROL OUR EMOTIONS. What we focus upon, our beliefs and perceptual filters control our emotions…big time. For 27 years, Nelson Mandela was imprisoned, convicted of sabotage against the system of apartheid.
But instead of becoming embittered, he used that time to benefit his people, clarify his values, and deepen his spiritual nature.
He focused on what could be done.
Remember the success equation? GOALS X FAITH X ACTION X GRATITUDE = SUCCESS. Because this equation is multiplicative rather than additive, a zero in any category will KILL your dreams. So no matter how hard it may be, it is critical that every day you find something to be grateful for, right here, rght now.
“No, dammit!” I can hear some of you howl. “I don’t have anything to be grateful for! I refuse to feel positive about my life!” Like Captain Kirk in The Final Fronteir: “I don't want my pain taken away! I need my pain!”
Says a fictional character.
Mistaking this for anything other than childish ego would be a huge mistake. If you learn the lesson, you don’t need the pain. Only if you insist on remaining ignorant do you need to hold onto the negative emotions. Dig deep. Learn the lesson. Then let the negative emotions go, trusting that you won’t make the same mistakes again.
You can afford to be grateful. Afford to embrace the small miracles of life, and find joy in any circumstance, no matter how difficult. In fact, the hard fact is that the only way to maximize your chances of moving to a BETTER circumstance is by finding joy right where you are. If this seems a contradiction, you have my sympathy. I can only say that you need to wrestle with this one until you “get it.”
Be grateful right now. And then…create an even better future.
Posted by Steven Barnes at 8:59 AM
Tuesday, May 07, 2013
Once you’ve finished your first draft, ask “what is the meaning of my
story” and re-write from the beginning to sharpen this. There are two
things to write about: what are human beings, and what is the world they
see? “Who am I” and “what is true?” These ideas link together
powerfully. Everything you have a character say and do is your comment
on what human beings are. Every plot twist is a statement about the
ethical structure of the universe: how the world responds to us, whether
it is benign, indifferent, or malevolent.
Here’s a note: classical science fiction tends to be much more “what is true” than “who am I?” It deals more with the physical structure of the universe, what is true, how it fits together. Most literary fiction deals more with the first question: “who am I” and the question of deep psychological and philosophical structure. In reality, all fiction has examples that move between these, but another thing to remember is that they are inseparable, really.
Go deeply enough into either question, and you emerge at the other position. So my suggestion is that you need to have a philosophy of humanity. What are we? Why are we? What motivates us, what is love and what is fear?
Go deep. Ultimately, the question is connected to your sense of self.
And then…what is the world? How do you understand the flow of history? The actions of human beings? Not “predict,” but in retrospect understand, and perhaps learn enough to make more positive choices in the future.
Meaning, values, beliefs…all of these things affect our world view. And working through it in your own life will teach you vast amounts about the world.
Then…develop a sense of the flow of history, human and cosmic. How did we become what we are as a species? It took me years of research to devise and refine the theories of social and human evolution in my novels LION’S BLOOD and GREAT SKY WOMAN. The concepts about race, gender, consciousness and social structure are at the core drive the books and define the characters, their worlds, their choices, thoughts and more. All in the service of an emotional charge.
So…what is your story about? Can you define it clearly?
And if you can, what is the opposite of that value? That position? Is there a character or situation that expresses that opposite? Can you set the two values in story opposition to each other? Sharpen them? Force them to clash?
Now, I DON’T suggest that you do this in your first draft. In the first draft, just write and have fun. But during re-write, it is quite valuable to (as I believe Paddy Cheyefski said) extract the meaning from your piece, write it on a 3 X 5 card, and post that card above your computer. Then be certain that every scene in some way explores your theme or counter theme. Do that, and you can create a core of power and emotion that will carry your readers along without them ever consciously realizing how and why they are responding so intensely.
It’s almost cheating.
Write with passion!
Posted by Steven Barnes at 9:07 AM
Friday, May 03, 2013
Two weeks ago, a young man named Terry H. was preparing to train for his 4th Degree black belt. His test involved serious physical and intellectual work, and part of the test was interviewing a martial artist he admires, who has integrated his physical skills into other levels (that's a great exercise!)
And although I did not know this gentleman personally, he reached out to me to ask my help. I was honored, and we had a wide-ranging hour-long phone interview during which I answered questions about my training and life. During the interview I poked a little to determine whether he was solidly set up for what was going to be a grueling test. How did I know? Here was the prep, according to Terry (I assume this was all to be done in the weeks before the test):
“Thanks again for the interview. It was one of the coolest parts of my 4th Dan test.
6000 pushups & crunches, 4000 basic kicks, 1000 advanced kicks, 1200 forms, 60 miles of roadwork....400 random acts of kindness (not so random, really) one day mute, one day blind folded, one day in a wheelchair….”
That was serious. I knew that it was designed to push him beyond his ordinary concept of self, and that at some point he would waver. So I gave him the ANCIENT CHILD meditation, teaching him to see the light within his heart, to then concentrate that into a child self, and connect it to his “Elder” self, the most generative process imaginable. And indeed, he hit his wall. When he did:
“A week before, my inner child had an inner meltdown. I got him talking to my future old man, and it was cool. "I just want to do good!" the child said. “I’m very proud of you” the elder replied.
There are voices in our minds. If those voices are destructive to you, it is crippling. To begin to align them opens the door to coherence, to congruency. To align your emotions so that you are not fighting yourself any longer.
This is a way of looking at the meditations where you observe your inner chatter without fighting. Where you throw an Ericksonian “Parts Party” to have your different aspects cooperate with each other. With the imaginary “board meetings” of role models discussed in “Think And Grow Rich.” With looking in the mirror and saying: “I love you.” (And if you cannot do this without flinching, you need this process!)
The “Ancient Child” is a way to access your own power, taking off your brakes. To move through life with the enthusiasm of a child and the wisdom of an elder. That gives your adult self the clarity it needs to fulfill its daily tasks with meaning: you know that every step you take is in alignment with your deepest values, beliefs, needs, and emotions. This feeling, if you haven’t experienced it, is just miraculous.
When Terry’s “child” felt despair, felt unequal to the goals he had set for himself (an inevitable part of the “Hero’s Journey” cycle) and cried “I just want to be good!” the part of him on the other side of the issue, the part who had already accomplished the goal reached back to take his hand. In this case, all that need to be said was “I’m very proud of you.”
Last night at Aikijutsu I watched a young father who had taken his seven year old son for instruction. The son kept trying to master a difficult technique, and failing. Again and again he looked up at his Dad, searching his Dad’s face for understanding, approval, encouragement. And the Dad smiled, and nodded, and gave him a “thumb’s up.” And the kid dove back in and tried again, and again…until he got it.
Anyone who had a parent who supported your dreams knows how important this is. Anyone who didn’t have this critical support knows how much it hurts.
I’m telling you it is not too late. Never too late. You can give yourself permission to be good, be great, to thrive.
In fact…in reality…you’re the only one who can. Please get your FREE copy of the ANCIENT CHILD today!
Posted by Steven Barnes at 3:46 AM
Wednesday, May 01, 2013
First, a recap:
1) Five Minute Miracle. Take five sixty-second “breathing breaks”, one every 2-3 hours.
2) Re-write your top 3-5 goals once every day. Be certain to have a tangible, photographable
goal in each of your top three arenas (body, finances, relationships). And Journal your emotions and
3) Begin to expand out the “5MM” breaks. For instance, spend extra time during session #1 by doing
it first thing in the morning on awakening, listen to your heartbeat.
4) Begin to implement the “Ancient Child” technique to contact your intuition and passion, clarify
your goals for the year and your actions for the day that relate to them.
5) Create a 15-minute (minimum) “morning ritual” of motion and emotion to center and begin to move
your goals and intentions from concept to motion. This means things like Joint Recovery, Five Tibetans, Sun Salutations…something basic and powerful that requires no equipment.
Something you do every day to anchor yourself into your physical body, your vehicle for this world.
6) Raise emotions MORE. Yep, we talked about emotion in Step #5 but we’re going deeper. We have focused our intentions, begun to move our bodies, and now we’re going to begin the magical alchemy of combining body, mind, and emotions so that everything we are is going in the same direction.
Charles Darwin believed that emotions were heuristics, simplified instructions for life that help us sort between numerous choices swiftly. Without emotion, it is difficult to clarify values, and without values, how do you know which of life’s countless options to take?
Now, the evolutionary emotional “flash” is best for short-term decisions (“should I walk down that ally? Ask that person out, or accept an invitation? Watch that movie?”) but long-term decisions require BOTH emotion and logic (buying a house, marrying a partner, designing a career). People who are not in touch with their emotions can have a difficult time making rapid decisions. People who are not in touch with their logical centers can make disastrous decisions about their bodies, their careers, and/or their relationships if they don’t hook both together at the same time.
So learning to deliberately raise and channel your emotions not only enables you to overcome inertia, but also make short-term decisions. Your ultimate destiny is shaped by your capacity to make daily decisions that lead to massive action, those actions in alignment with your long-term goals. The massive action allows you to “fail forward fast” and gain more data about your environment. While other people are trying to make a decision a week, you’re making ten decisions a day, and you’re going to blow their results away, if you just pay attention to the results you get.
ANYTHING that interferes with the process of action, interpreting results, and adjusting action must be eliminated. And changing beliefs or re-aligning values requires…wait for it…emotion.
You must learn to master your emotions. Part of this is learning to “ride” them like a surfer. Another is learning how to “tack” into them like a sailor. Part is learning to “direct” them by controlling your focus. Part is learning to find the “center” of your existence so that the emotions can rage and storm around you, while you remain calm. And part of it is simply being able to “Observe” your emotions without being attached to them.
In my own life, fear was a major concern in my martial arts training. This is precisely why it took me SEVENTEEN YEARS to earn my first black belt. I had a morbid fear of sparring. I was good at it. I’d never been hurt. Hell, I’d taken second place at the 1972 National Korean Karate competitions, and been congratulated on my technique by Joon Rhee himself, the “Father of American Tae Kwon Do.” But I had only wrapped technique around my fear like a candy shell around a Tootsie Pop’s chewy center.
Under stress, the whole structure collapsed. And friends, if you are trying to move forward in any hierarchical activity, you will be stress-tested to ego destruction. No matter how you twist and turn, eventually life lays you bare. And I couldn’t face the Gorgon.
It took me years of searching to finally find my answer, in the shape of a Shorei Chito Ryu instructor named Terry Letteau, and HIS instructor, Harley Reagan. These men opened the door to real understanding, that my fear was just…a feeling. It didn’t mean that I couldn’t, or shouldn’t, or mustn’t, or that I was small and weak, or that I was a coward. It was just there, and the labels I added to it were what was draining my strength away.
That’s another subject. The point is that every day, you need to directly engage with your emotions. You both use them as fuel, and study them as a source of conflict. If you say “Ever day in every way I’m getting better and better” what voices come up in your head? Whose voices are they?
If you say “I’m grateful for my life” do you believe it? If you seek things in your past and present that you can be proud of, do you lie to yourself and say “there is nothing. I’ve never done anything” and disempower yourself?
If you are going to direct your life, to have your dreams, you have to use all your tools. And that means keeping them in the very best condition. And that means to inspect them, under controlled conditions, like a pilot inspecting his plane and going through his check list BEFORE he is in the air…every damned day.
Raise your emotions. Think of what you love, what you are proud of, what you hope for. All the things you have to be grateful for. Look for “tiny” miracles if you want: the fact that you can read, walk, talk. That you live in a world where you can share knowledge you didn’t have to shed blood and skin to learn…just by opening a book. That you didn’t have to hunt your own meat, grow your own fruit, pave your own roads. That you are part of a web of association, billions of individuals working together to increase the possibility for all. Be grateful for your children, parents, friends. For health, for love, for your past accomplishments and future potential.
Yes, there will ALWAYS be storm clouds. Everyone has them. But the way you get through them is by shrinking your ego until you can fit into whatever specks of blue sky you can find. And when you do that…the storm clouds shrink, and you’ll find the room to do your dance.
So…raise your emotions. Every day. And then…surf the wave!
Posted by Steven Barnes at 4:53 AM