The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Friday, January 29, 2010

Running with the right pack

Thank God for the dismantling of Don't Ask Don't Tell! I am shocked at the lameness of the counter-arguments. Let me get this right: at least a dozen times I have heard the exact same thing posted on websites, on talk radio, in casual conversations: would you want women showering with men?

And I assume sincerity on the part of the speaker, and it is disturbing as hell.'re saying that gay men make you feel like a woman? Is that right? Women have things to fear because they are on average smaller and weaker than men, and are outnumbered in the military. For there to be any equivalency here these straight men would have to fear they were smaller and weaker than gays, on the average, and therefore vulnerable to rape? But gays are probably less than 10% of the military they can't outnumber straight men, and that Fear of Rape thing would seem to go right out the window. I'm left with wondering if the men who say this are actually afraid that if they were in the showers with a gay man, they might find themselves having a physical response. What the hell?

Let me say this. If THAT is the best argument, it's horrible. I would be ashamed to call myself a "fighting man" afraid of being raped by other men whom I outnumbered, and were no stronger than I. I thought the stereotype was that gays were smaller, weaker, more effeminate. Now it would seem that the secret fear is that they are larger, stronger...and terribly attractive. This is just sick. Not exactly a Mighty Warrior attitude, now, is it?

I stopped being bothered by gay men being attracted to me when I realized, at about age 25, that they were attracted to most of the same characteristics women were attracted to. Just a complement, then.

Unless, of course, you're scared of responding in the showers. Man, that would be embarrassing, now, wouldn't it?


Who are your three closest friends? I heard a story recently that a famous speaker, a really excellent motivation guy, was on a program with Tony Robbins. Afterwards, they sat around talking until after midnight. This guy said: "I don't understand. I earned 1.5 million last year. You made almost 100 million. What am I doing wrong?"

Robbins didn't hesitate. Asked him "Who are your four closest friends?" The guy reeled them off. Robbins asked "How much money do they make?" The guy was stunned. All his friends made about the same amount of money.

Robbins said that his four closest friends were damn near billionaires. Oops. Now, before you suggest that this is materialistic, I want to quote something that one of Tananarive's Jewish friends' mothers told him. "You can fall in love with anyone. Why not someone Jewish?" Now let's paraphrase roughly: "you can be friends with all kinds of people. Why not people who are healthy and successful?"

Even if you have a problem with the idea of seeking out friends who have positive characteristics, at the very least you should be aware of two very real problems.

1) People surround themselves with those who reinforce their own prejudices, attitudes, and values. Can't count the number of lonely men and women who surround themselves with a pity-party of like-minded who will tell them "men are dogs" or "women are gold-diggers" or "there's no good X out there." Can't count the number of financially broken people who surround themselves with others who will reinforce their attitudes that "money is the root of all evil" or "it takes money to make money" or whatever. Unpublished or unsuccessful writers whose friends all agree that the publishing industry is run by monsters with low taste. Obese people who surround themselves with people even fatter than they are (makes them look slim! I kid you not.)

The "Mastermind" principle applies to so many arenas of life. Probably all of them, actually. Just two days ago, I was working with a client who wanted help raising his income from 270K. I don't know anything about his specific industry, but I don't have to. The principles of success are pretty much the same across the board. I asked: "who are three people you know in your industry who earn more than you?" He searched his memory, and found them. "What are they doing that you don't do?" This person is a type of counselor, and was instantly abashed: this is precisely what he advises his own clients. He'd forgotten it.

But, you might ask, if they are more successful than you, what can you offer them? Why not honest admiration, courageous feedback, genuine affection? If you love yourself, deeply, you can radiate this outwards to anyone. And why in the world are rich, successful, happy people in good relationships any less deserving of friendship than anyone else?

This is NOT to say I reject old friends who aren't playing the games I choose in life. One of my very best friends in all my life was Lee, a guy I went to kindergarten with. We had totally different levels of ambition and accomplishment. But Lee loved me, and I loved him. Period. We had rituals of seeing every new Bond movie. I taught his son jiu jitsu on Saturday mornings. He was a connection to an earlier, simpler time in my life. I miss him terribly...Lee smoked and had some other damaging habits, and died of cancer. Sigh.

You can keep your old friends. Celebrate them for their positive qualities, or for their connection to your heart. But why not deliberately seek out some of the wonderful people who are accomplished in the arenas where you need help? can cling to your wounds and allow them to define you. Want to know where you'll end up in life? Add up all the people you spend time with. Divide by the number of people.

You'll be right in the middle of the pack. At the very least, choose your pack consciously.


steve-vh said...

I've always valued friends that made you want to be a better person (choose your definition) by their example and yet also did not make you feel inferior at the same time.

Ernessa from 32 Candles said...

What a great post! I remember when I was a starving artist, being bummed that almost all of my sister, good friends, and my then-boyfriend made so much more money than I did, and now that I look back on it, that was definitely a good thing. And I've noticed as I get older, I've been falling out of touch with the friends who complain about the industry and the system as opposed to working as hard as they can toward their goals.

Successful friends and family are great inspiration, and I'm just happy that they chose to support me and provide such awesome examples when I was struggling to achieve within my field.

On the other hand, I know someone who is very rich and very famous. And he has absolutely no life. That actually helps me as a writer, b/c it's easy to become self-consumed in this career. You should at some point say, "Well, just how rich do I need to be?" and decide if you can get there w/o sacrificing intimacy and balance.

Pagan Topologist said...

I confess, Steve, that I am often of the opinion that people who have huge incomes are superficial people whom I would not want as friends. I do have friends who are wealthier than I am, as well as friends who are not, but all in all, I prefer to spend my time with people with interesting ideas than people with large net worth.

Unknown said...

The argument in support of DADT which you object to is especially stupid, because it assumes that there are no gays currently showering with straight soldiers, and that is clearly un-true. DADT doesn't prevent gays from enlisting in the military, it just prevents them from coming out while there.

Daniel Keys Moran said...


It's not an either-or.

Steve Perry said...

I like Dorothy Parker's comment:

"If you want to know what God thinks of money, just look at the people He gave it to ..."

It's not either/or. But people who have a lot of money and who didn't inherit it but amassed it on their own very often tend to be focused on little else. They aren't necessarily ipso facto superficial, but unless you have some kind of great talent, getting rich isn't easy. If it were so, there'd be a lot more rich folks.

It's a way to keep score, some of them say, and they figure that he who dies with the most money wins.

Yes, you can write a book that becomes a runaway bestseller. Or come up with a widget that everybody needs two of, and watch the trucks haul your loot to your money bin. But a lot of folks who hustle all the live long day and into the night to gather the greenbacks as they may? They have a certain worldview that puts money at the top of the list.

Not everybody wants to go there. The notion that if you are going to get married anyway, why not marry a rich spouse? seems appealing to some. Others, not so much.

I'd rather be me poor than Tony Robbins rich.

Anonymous said...

Hey Steve P,

What's the downside of being Tony Robbins rich? I've listed to a lot of his tapes and he seems to have a pretty positive view of money in his life, and while he enjoys his fortune he at least talks about it's not the most important thing to him. Does he not walk the walk?

Mike R.

Anonymous said...

Steve always talks of balance, that can be hard to achieve when you are chasing the brass ring. An uncle of mine made a hell of a lot of money, He was a high level ax man for G.E. Basically an American version of a Japanese salaryman. The company got most of his time and energy, and the family and himself came second. I think they coped and coped well, but he now regrets time not spent with his wife who died young of cancer. Money is nice but there are many ways to define success. Langdon

Shady_Grady said...

I think the advice offered is excellent for professional networking or for those dysfunctional situations in which a person is really unhappy with their life and has surrounded him/herself with friends that reflect that unhappiness.

But otherwise I think that friendship is something independent of a person's wealth, income or status. Networking is different than friendship. Like anyone else I have friends that are more successful than I and those that are less successful. I hope that our friendship isn't based on self-interest or purely mercenary concerns.

Steve Perry said...

I hope Robbins is a happy guy. But he's a hustler -- not meant as a derogatory remark, but only as an observation -- and self-help guru whose rice bowl gets filled doing things that don't call to me.

If I had to do that to be rich, I'd rather not. I don't know if I'm happier being me than he is being him, but I'm happier being me than I'd be if I tried to do what he does.

I also thought that dumping his first wife seemed a less-than-successful way to demonstrate one's ability to give relationship advice, i.e. walk the walk -- especially since all the tapes and books to that point used their marriage as the perfect example of how-to-do-it.

Shit happens, we aren't perfect, but if you are going to hold yourself up as the example of doing it the right way, you do run some risks. We have the perfect marriage! Doesn't play so well when the divorce happens, because divorces seldom spring full blown from nowhere, so somebody wasn't being entirely candid.

Plus, doesn't he have a brother and sister that he never mentions? Got all his family stuff sorted out?

Jared said...

Hey Steven,

Interesting title to your post in terms of DADT. You see, "Running with the right pack", is the point as far as the military is concerned. Similer to the Sienfield "playing for the right team" schtick.
Soldiering is social engineering and our government loves to experiment socialy with the armed services. Integration in the 40's and 50's is a good example.
The armed services don't make the rules, the Congress does and in the case of DADT, the rule is not counter gay, it is pro social order within the confines of this great experiment called the uniformed services.
I must say that it amuses me when those outside the confines of military service express strong feelings on the fitness and viability of intimate military policies.
In some respects you are commenting on rules that you don't have to play by. But of course for we who are actually in the armed services, it is fundimental that we serve at the pleasure of our civilian leadership.
Military service is in all ways, totally sureal. DADT wheather it is redacted or not, makes it no less so. But please refrane from framing this issue in stark, cartoonish terms.
It's not about trivalities like attraction or team showers. Its about forcing an organization that runs on dicipline to confrom to one more social rule that ranges beyond the normal day to day.
Frankly, with all the warfighting going on, my peers and I don't give a damn if our team members like boys, girls or rubber duckys. We prefer god fearing, heretosextuials because its eaiser to deal with and relate to.
But we are happy to accept any and all and who are willing to accept us. I have found, in my 30 years of soldiering, that acceptance is a taller order for my civilian peers than it is for my military peers.
Anyway, I enjoy your blog, (via Instapundit)and your casual confidence. The point I took (after the DADT) was that we will meet all our expectations, no matter how crummy they are! Nature v/s Nuture. Take a good look at your nature and see how you nuture it's growth!

IYASU said...

On Mom's Shoulers...
I knew you would understand where I was comming from. Thank You Steven. I believe the commentors of my suggestion wanted me to go out and get a switch for myself. It hurts me to see kids abused, no innocent child deserves that. Was all that pretensious? Couldn't possibly think I meant any real physical harm. Its crazy to me though its so wrong to spank (NOT BEAT) a child, but children all around the globe are suffering far worse atrocities. Shoot, there's adult men and women gettin abused by spouses, or the police. What ya'll say about that? You know kids really do love discipline. And they also love attention whether "good" or "bad". I know I think differently, but get over it... All this drama about violence, so ya'll just dont watch the news right. How long are we supposed to "sheild" our kids from violence? Is it possible? My opinion is we are concieved violently, child-birth was violent to my body (twice), give me a few days to look up the numbers but hella folk die violence

Anonymous said...

It seems to me that Steve is using the acquisition of wealth as an example. I mean, for most of us, how much practical difference is there between 1.5 million dollars a year and 100 million dollars a year? I don't think he's necessarily saying that that ought to be our goal.

Rather, a similar example is that if you're an aspiring writer, and you join a workshop consisting of unpublished, aspiring writers, as a group, you're at the equivalent of 1.5 million dollars a year. Join a group with a couple of writers who have been published, maybe one or two writing full-time, and that will bring the energy up for the whole group. You'll soon have a writing group that, as a whole, is known for producing publishing writers.

The same could be said for other areas where you want to excel. Music, relationships, fitness. You're known by the company you keep...

Financial gain is one concrete measure of success in our society, and Steve's example was basically one that was enlarged for easier viewing.

I think.


I AM YASU said...

If anyone is qualified to give a spanking it's you, ol' Balanced Barnes. I like "LOVE U FOREVER AND EVER". My children and I went to the moon and all throughout the universe and back with our love affirmations. And they got spankings to. And hell yeah I was mad when I did it. My son 22 serving the country in the Navy, and daughter 16, Highschool Junior in Running Start going to College classes). I had dropped out in the 10th grade having my son. Up till then I was straight A student, but who cared? I had no discipline, or encouragement.

I AM YASU said...

Lay with down with dogs, wake with fleas. And broke.... Or shoot for the moon and end up amongst the stars. Or read all Napolean Hill's books. I LOVE YOU GUY'S & GAL'S

Anonymous said...

Excuse me…

Unknown said...

Someone gave me a different definition of homophobia that really changed the way i looked at it.

He said "homophobia is the fear of being outed.."

I was floored.

most folks who are homophobic aren't really afraid that a homosexual might rape them or see them as attractive. They are afraid that somehow being around someone who is gay will "bring" them out of the closet.

thanks for the tip about the millionaire

Ethiopian_Infidel said...

"..people who have huge incomes are superficial people whom I would not want as friends."

I side with Dan here. Some filthy rich people are indeed superficial and uninteresting, while others won wealth through their intellectual and character endowments. I'd think that friendships with Bill Gates, Steve Wozniak or the late Carl Sagan would be very profitable indeed. IMHO, reflexive disdain for wealth usually masks envy.

Pagan Topologist said...

Infidel, I would be most happy to have Warren Buffett, Bill Gates, or Oprah Winfrey as friends. Not, I think, Tony Robbins or Carl Sagan.

Tana Yasu said...

DAMN!!!! more money more problems. Ok the only millionare I know personally was just indited by a federal grand jury Jan.28 2010 for lying about having sex with stripper/prostitutes at a strip club here in Wa. part of this big sting operation to shut down adult clubs or something or other. ok now what??? That was the only one I had! I guess I'll be hanging with the thousand-ares.

Marty S said...

I have two simple criteria for choosing my friends. I like them as a person. They are fun to hang with.

Lobo said...

It's too bad that "god-fearing" is a more desirable quality in the military than "patriotic." But that's a whole other discussion. As far as DADT, if over the years, the civilian leadership decides where a serviceman/woman puts their genitals is no longer a concern, all the military has to do is shut up and make it so. If they are actually serving at the pleasure of the civilian leadership, their opinion on the matter is irrelevant and they really ought to be quiet about it and let their civilian leaders figure it out for them.

I think Steven is absolutely right on about having successful people in your life. Being successful is a learned skill. None of us are born with that knowledge, so we need to have people in our lives who can show us how. I was talking to a friend of mine recently who told me that the most important thing that his father-in-law ever did for him was take him golfing every Saturday morning. His father-in-law is a very successful businessman who is well connected in the Chicago financial and political scene. After the wedding, every Saturday morning his father-in-law took him golfing and introduced him to all of his friends. Those connections, along with the borrowed credibility from his father-in-law allowed him to start his own business and he's well on his way to being filthy rich. Maintaining friendships with people who are more successful than you opens doors that you'd never get open otherwise.

I take exception with the idea that Bill Gates became who he is through the force of his intellect alone. He had the luck to be born into a family that not only provided him with top-shelf education, they gave him the opportunity to grow naturally. Not to mention he had his own Mastermind in Paul Allen, an older person with many of the same goals. There are a lot of people who go through their formative years without any of that. Bill Gates was lucky enough to be born into a place and time where he could reach his potential. If you look deeper into the stories of many who are considered "self made", you'll find they relied heavily on others at various points in their lives. There are too many people in this country who are taught early on that they should stop dreaming and just accept their station in life. I could go on about this for pages.

I don't think Tony Robbins does what he does for the money. I'm sure he likes the money, but I don't think he gets up every morning thinking about how much money he makes. I think he gets up in the morning thinking that it's another day to do what he loves doing. Same thing for Warren Buffett. Pushing 80 years old, he doesn't get up every morning to go to work. He gets up every morning to go hang out with his best friends doing the things that he loves to do. If you ask these people about their money, they'll tell you outright that the money takes care of itself. That the most important motivation for doing what they do is how much they enjoy doing it.

Unknown said...

I've always liked this expression that I got from my mother:

"I love you not for who you are, but for who I am when I'm with you."

Ethiopian_Infidel said...

"It's too bad that "god-fearing" is a more desirable quality in the military than "patriotic."

INDEED!! If I may be excused for assuming the voice of a fictitious US General:

"As American soldiers, your SOLE DUTY is the defense of the security, interests and power of the United States. The SOLE prince or potentate you are sworn to obey is The President and his delegates of superior rank. The SOLE LAW which you are sworn to obey and defend is that enshrined in The Constitution. Those of you who privately swear allegiance to religious figures, corporeal or otherwise, as is your constitutional right, take note: when fighting to defend the interests and honor of the United States, you are sworn adjourn all allegiance to foreign princes or potentates. When their commands or laws conflict with those of President and Country, those of President and Country take ABSOLUTE precedent. When fighting on behalf of President and Country, nothing stands above President and Country, not even God."

In more rational and saner world, US soldiers would swear as above.

Sonal said...

There are a handful of people that I know that I don't have to feel guarded with and that I have a genuinely good time with. This is very rare and I treasure it dearly. These are truly the people that I consider to be friends. I know many other people - I don't know how to categorize it but they are not true friends. I agree that being around positive people with great ideas can keep me focused in the directions I want to go in life - but as of yet - I have not found many of them. I would consider it networking, not friendship - as one person mentioned earlier.

Robin James Burchett said...

Folks, associating with people who’ve done something you want to do really isn’t complicated. I want to run a marathon this year, so I found some guys at work who run regularly and told them that I’d like to join them when I get my stamina up to their level.

I have a friend who loves to watch and discuss foreign films, which his wife does not. So he started a local movie watching club and has made new friends who love the same thing.

Sure, you can do these things all alone, but it is so much easier and more fun to share with like-minded others. We’re social creatures, and we tend to behave and think very much like the people we hang out with. And, of course, you can find something to love, admire, and learn from in almost anyone. Just being present to that which you find most delightful and inspiring in your current associates is a tremendous gift to both them and yourself. That just takes more work to do with certain people, and the energy we have to spend in one day is limited.

In the business which my wife and I own, we could never have made it without the guidance of people who had been around the track a few times. Now we’ve outgrown the mentors that we originally worked with and we are connecting with people who have run larger enterprises. They simply see things we don’t and it is far too slow and painful to try to learn this stuff one mistake at a time. There’s nothing mercenary about it – people love to share and contribute to others. Think about some hard-won experience you have, and how much you enjoy passing it on to others.

Now we mentor people who are where we were at a few years ago. If you want to know how to get along with a mentor, my wife puts it best. She tells people, “I’ll give you my time on one condition. You have to do what I say. If I tell you to read a book, read the book. If I tell you to write a business plan and draft a two-year cash flow projection, just do it. You’ll understand why later.” 90% of the people who ask her advice don’t follow through, but she happily gives time to those who do.

Again, if you have an unfulfilled ambition, you would do well to associate with people who have done it. That does not mean ‘pretend to befriend someone so you can leach the success off them.’ There are many honorable forms of association, and you don’t need to share intimate secrets with the person who teaches you to rebuild your outboard motor. Of course, the more acquaintances and associates you have, the more friends you are likely to make in the process. And, if you’ve been conscious in selecting your associates, you will share with these new friends not only that chemistry that makes the friendship click, but also some deeply held beliefs and attitudes that will enrich both your lives. Nothing wrong with that, and a whole lot right.

Steven Barnes said...

Some rich people are miserable, some fit people are miserable, some happily married people are broke. I advocate balance...finding people who are higher in one area than you, but still good human beings usually isn't that hard.
YES! I am making comments about the military when I have never been in it. And so are most of the people who howl about gays there. I am totally open to the men and women of our armed forces offering their opinion, and would always hold their opinion higher than that of civilians.
About Tony Robbins. Heh. Well, I can't say anything about him, because of COURSE I don't know anything that isn't in the public record. By the way, did I ever tell you about the self improvement seminar I attended where the guy teaching it...I forget his name, but remember that he was quite tall...put the entire audience into a hypnotic state and gave them embedded commands to give him their money? Now THAT guy is kind of scary, I kid you not.
Wish I had an opinion about Robbins, though.

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