The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Monday, December 31, 2012

New Years' Goals

As the year comes to an end, I find myself realizing that the last month, I've concentrated more on family things than work of any kind...but that, while work piles up I'm having so much fun it doesn't feel like work...just more entertainment to dive into in January.

Should you make New Years Resolutions? I do, and look at the gap between what I plan and what I achieve as just feedback from the universe. It's a game, not a potential disappointment.

Two things about goals I'd like to share in this, the last message of 2012:

1) Write your goals out. Re-write them every day. Don't think that just "knowing" them is enough.
2) The "SMART" goal acronym is excellent. Goals should be a) Specific ("I finish and market my new novel" not "I get more work done"), b) Meaningful (it has to matter to you, personally, and not be a goal your parents programmed you with. c) phrased As-if now ("I increase my income by 50% over 2012" not "I make more money."), d)Realistic (if anyone else has ever accomplished your goal it is possible. If they started from a position at all analogous to yours, it is realistic. Also--give yourself enough time. The expression "there are no unrealistic goals, just unrealistic time frames" applies as well. e) Time-bound. This, again, relates to the fact that a goal without a deadline is just a dream.
3) Choose goals that inspire you. Choose them so that even if you don't reach them, the very effort of striving has made you a better human being.
4) Goals, beliefs, values, and positive/negative emotional anchors should ALL be aligned for optimal performance. Guess what: they'll never be. But that's the direction to work, and gather your resources to support this "laser-like" focus.

Have the very best and most satisfying New Year ever...and see you in 2013!

Steve Barnes

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Los Angeles, Your Dreams for 2013, and the Mastermind

I was in Los Angeles for five days, and had great fun (saw DJANGO UNCHAINED. My one-word review: Wow.) Saw my darling daughter Nicki perform in the amazing "Avenue Q" (so wonderful watching her live her dream!), visited with my sister, and got to hug my niece Shar, nephew Stephen (yep, nephew shares my name, and niece was born on my birthday. Close family!) and their terrific Dad Mits.

I also met with my producer on the project I've been working on for the last year. Man oh man, I can't wait to tell you more about it, but I can tell you that the producer's film is getting some of the best reviews of the year, the blogosphere is buzzing about it, it has the cover of numerous national magazines, and I'm thrilled beyond belief to have a dog in this fight.

And that's what I wanted to clarify today: the importance of allies. Mentors. MASTERMIND partners. You simply can't get where you want to go by yourself. No one does. We not only stand on the shoulders of those who came before, but are linked with others at this very moment, and our ability to accomplish our goals and fulfill our aims will depend upon our ability to create the correct teams:

1) Employers. Who needs your skills? Don't go looking for "a job." Rather, look to see whose stress you can reduce, profits you can increase, products you can improve.

2) Employees. Look for partners in building your dream, not worker drones. Whose dreams and values align with yours, at least for a time?

3) Customers. Whose life will be improved by your goods and services?

4) Allies. Mentors, friends, lovers, coaches. People who have knowledge, experience, resources and perspective you don't have. They may be on your own "level," below or above you IN A SPECIFIC ARENA. But so long as you grasp their essential humanity, and extend your own to them, it is possible to create genuine bonds of friendship and alliance.

This process of creating "teams" of people who can accomplish what cannot be done by a single person.

My producer has been in the business for decades, directed and produced successful films, managed people and organizations, written and directed writers, and most importantly, survived with integrity and grace. I've worked with him on another occasion, and our mutual trust paid off nicely. So I have decided to trust him now. To listen to what he says about ratings, casting, budget, studio versus independent financing, representation, and more.

If things don't work out, no harm no foul--it's still been a gas. But if it DOES...then he and I take our relationship to another level. We grasp that we've found allies capable of taking each others' dreams to a new dimension. That possibility is worth taking a risk for, don't you think?

So that's where things are right now.

1) What is your greatest dream for 2013?
2) What skills or resources do you currently lack? What support could you use?
3) Who has the skills you need? What can you offer them with honesty and integrity that will help them achieve THEIR goals, and thereby gain their assistance, perspective, or patronage?
4) What would YOU aspire to accomplish if you KNEW you had the perfect team to assist you?

Merry Christmas!

p.s.--please remember the 2 for 1 sale good until midnight PST December 24th: purchase ANY course at, then send me your request for ANY other course of equal or lesser value, and I'll send it to you FREE!!)

Thursday, December 20, 2012



This, the ninth film directed by Quentin Tarantino, and a doozy. In order to discuss this, I have to look at it from two different positions: as a movie separate from cultural context, and then, as a cultural artifact.

In a pure sense, Tarantino is a mash-up artist of humongous scholarship and skill. He doesn't make movies about reality, he makes movies about the movies we love, making meta-commentary on the myths we devour and the images that shape our perceptions, especially of the shadow worlds of crime and violence. In PULP FICTION he demonstrated an ability to twist time lines to create moments of tension (remember Butch and his girlfriend on the motorcycle? I thought for sure Jules would jump out and "pop" them...but no, he'd already left the business, if you look at the sequence. Wow.) as well as pull all kinds of bizarre subtexts up to the text level, and give us maps of the inner worlds of these low-lifes that we'd never seen before. A stunning movie, tht somehow created a context in which things I'd never imagine could be enjoyable became hysterically funny (Ving Rhames and the hillbilly. I'm just sayin'...)

While DEATH PROOF was nothing other than a C-movie romp, KILL BILL 1 and 2 had an emotional line and impact that I'd never seen coming, and made me start to think about him differently. But it was still about movies, not human reality. INGLORIOUS BASTARDS was fascinatingly misunderstood by many. It wasn't a movie about WW2, but rather a movie about movies about WW2. A hybrid of an art-house film about a Jew seeking vengeance, and a bad WW2 "men on a mission" romp with terrible acting as part of the image system. And the two worlds slowly wound together, getting closer and closer until in one memorable scene, you actually watch Christopher Waltz and Brad Pitt engage in a Bad Acting Contest across a table, and I was in geek heaven. But over under and around the fun, there was something else going on, a righteous indignation that there were cinematic sins that had never been addressed in the Tarantino fashion--bloody vengeance for payback of extraordinary evil.

I think he basically asked himself "If I was a Jew, what would I want to see in a movie?" And being the kinda guy he is, that meant watching Jews wrecking havok on the Nazi High Command. And if it didn't happen in the real world, why by God it was going to happen in his. Whatever one thinks of I.B. as a movie, it was audacious as hell, and not quite like anything else I'd seen.

 We'll get back to that. DJANGO UNCHAINED is a mash-up of several different genres or films, chief among them the Spaghetti "revenge" wester, Blaxploitation, and the "slave plantation" film. Basically, Django is a slave who is trained as a bounty hunter by a German dentist (you have to see it) who seeks to rescue his wife, who has been sold onto a Mississippi plantation. Pretty straight through-line, in some ways a story we've seen a thousand times before. It is played out with verve, beautiful cinematography, some hysterical comedy, and wonderful performances up and down the line (especially when you realize that these people are pieces of movies, not real people.) If I were an alien from another planet, watching film, and Django was slotted into the festival I'd consider it fun, bloody, and better by far than most of the movies it copies. I might put it in the top five Spaghetti westers I've ever seen, just on that count.

But there's a bigger issue here. And that is that if you compare films about slavery from the slaves' POV with films about, say, the civil war, or about slavery treating slaves as humans rather than animals, you'll see the extraordinary level of avoidance of this most deeply poisonous aspects of American history. Human history, really, but contrasted with our national myth, it is extraordinary. For an institution that lasted 250 years, followed by another 100 years of Jim Crow and Segregation (which was still alive and well in my youth) to have been documented in dramatic form so infrequently (compare the 5 years of the Civil War. Compare films made about the Holocaust. Hell, compare films about Jewish oppression in Biblical times) suggests a level of avoidance, aversion, guilt and fear that distort the national discourse to this day. You don't depict the rape, torture, and murder necessary to keep a people in bondage. You just don't.

And dear God, you don't even imply that there is an unpaid debt in blood. At the end of "Roots" you had the absurd sight of Chicken George refusing to whip the overseer who had tormented his family for decades, a "that would make us no better than him" absurdity on the level of Batman refusing to kill the Joker, even though everyone knows Joker will simply escape Arkham Asylum and kill again. Period. We all know that's an artifact of the Comics Code, and the need to preserve a neat-o villain, but has nothing to do with the real world.

And we all understood that Chicken George's action was pure Hollywood Don't Scare The White Folks stuff. Black people aren't like us, the image said. They wouldn't want the kind of revenge we ourselves would seek out.

The problem is that we're not different. And therein lies a real, real problem. No payback. No vengeance against the perpetrators. Oh, that's great for the spiritually minded, but a quick glance at world cinema suggests that vengeance is understood just fine by a large enough percentage of the human race to make the omission glaring. That is what happens when one group can control the images used to depict another group. There is no humanity. You don't get the "full spectrum" of human response. You have very low level thugs and sacrificial "buddies" (any Dirty Harry film), and extraordinarily high level (Morgan Freeman can play God), but not the simple arc of growing up, becoming an adult, finding and satisfying sexual needs with honor, falling in love, raising AND PROTECTING family, growing old. The precise arc of human life which is most common, most often presented in film all over the world...the "what will my life be, Daddy?" question, the "how do I become an adult?" question that all world literature answers for its people...

Simply doesn't exist in mainstream cinema. I've often commented about the lack of simple human sexuality in successful films with black protagonists (zero percent compared to about 22% for white protagonists in films that earn over 100 million domestic--the basic standard of "success), but there are other gaps, and among them the lack of payback, something so deeply held as a part of American mythology that in such movies as "The Gunfight At O.K. Corral" (which I was just watching last night) it was totally understood that clean-cut Burt Lancaster would throw his lifetime of legal service out the window to avenge a family slight. "He killed my brother." And that motivation--you mess with my family, I'll mess with yours--is understood as more than the Code of the West. It is part of every world culture you can find, anywhere.

And blacks in America...well, they kinda got messed with. And I think Tarantino, watching Westerns, realized that black cowboys weren't represented at 1% of their actual statistical existence. They were barely represented in Civil War movies--except in a film like "Glory" where they got vengeance, but had to die at the end for the "sin" of daring to demand to be treated like men. And the cinema audiences bought it, and the Academy rewarded the was as close to a moment of pure humanity as we could get, in that sense. Other films about slavery and its after-effects tip-toed around the horror, from "Amistad" (which was about people on their WAY to slavery), "Beloved" (about people already freed from slavery), "Lincoln" (slaves off stage), "Gone With The Wind" (the most powerful image creator in the entire sub-genre, in which slaves apparently just loved being slaves), "Mandingo" (in which slaves were exotic animals) and so forth.

Oddly, one of the very best major films on the subject was the comedy "Skin Game" with James Garner and Lou Gossett (about two con artists, one white and one black)...and it is no mistake that almost half of "Django" deals with a deadly con game. But the basic question at the core of "Django" is a geek cinophile's question: what would have happened if John Shaft, or Superfly, or Dolomite, or John Slaughter had been born a slave? And what if he had awakened to his true nature? In other worlds, what if the Avenging Hero as we understand him: the Rambos, James Bonds, Dirty Harry's, Martin Riggs--the human being who, armed with righteous rage and purpose can (in Shane Black's phrase) "Touch the myth" and become that irresistable force of nature necessary to bring balance to the universe?

And who would be crazy enough to make such a film? Gee, I wonder.

Tarantino has done something here that just makes me shake my head. I can barely believe it exists, and man oh man, is it in your face. Django starts as a slave, and ends as a mythic hero, the kind we've seen countless thousands of times on the screen. Except...we haven't. We've barely seen anything like this on screen, ever. At least for a generation. Remember: when "Shaft" was remade, they neutered him. We get angelic too-perfect Denzel and Will and Morgan, but no simple testosterone-driven male "thinking animals." You can say all you want about whether these images are important, but I can promise you the audience does. In fact, I don't think you can point to a single week in the history of cinema where where wasn't at least one such image playing in theaters. I submit to you that there is a hunger for them that is incalculably large, and consistent throughout all eras and most cultures--in fact ANY culture that has successfully survived contact with other, aggressive cultures. Don't have that energy? You get wiped the @#$$ out.

"Django" intends to correct that. As I said before, it is a big, messy, sprawling, indulgent, violent revenge fantasy that DARES you to disapprove of the target of its violence: slavers. Watch the reactions people have, and you'll very clearly see who empathizes with slaves and abolitionists...and who empathizes with the owners and abusers. Oh my Gawd, the blogosphere has been buzzing with hate, fear, and hysterical joy. This movie plays with cultural images and forbidden archetypes in a way only the most successful filmmakers in the world could manage, or possibly get away with.

It is FAR from perfect. I could make a considerable list of things I wish he'd done differently, or better, and yeah, it could have been trimmed by at least ten minutes. But that it exists at all is astounding. A simple story of a man seeking to rescue his wife from monsters. We've seen it countless times. Except this man is black, and the monstrocity underpins the single most persistent and attractive mythology in American history, as measured by GWTW's adjusted box office.

Viewed through this lens, it is hard to feel anything other than a kind of awe that this thing exists. There are maybe five filmmakers in the world who could have done it, and the other four didn't want to. A black director would have been too close--he actually would have to have been BETTER than Tarantino to pull this off--all the technical skills, and the writing skills, but sufficiently disconnected to maintain emotional distance...but simultaneously channel a volcano of emotions.

Hard to find.

I don't know how "good" DJANGO is. I think it is totally of a piece with the rest of Tarantino's oeuvre, but in an odd way more personal than most of his output. The man obviously grew up around black people, and simultaneously has a slight...remove...from the typical flow of human emotions. Is a bit of an "outsider" enough that he sees the human experience through a lens, and therefore doesn't fully associate with either side of this madness. That's apparently what it took to wrap his head around four hundred years of bullshit and come up with something like this.

Flawed? You bet. Unique? You bet. Was I hypnotized? You bet. Will I see it again? Ya think?

One of the best films of 2012, easily. But boy oh boy, is it not for every taste. Violent as hell, but not a fraction as violent as the institution it deconstructs. As a simple revenge fable, a romance, western, a Tarantino mash-up or a revisionist history that will...ummm...appeal to certain quadrants of the population and utterly appall others, DJANGO UNCHAIN is simply smashing entertainment. Excessive, overlong, self-indulgent...and masterful. A B+ at dead minimum. And in the right mood, virtually singular.

Friday, December 14, 2012

I Blew My Christmas Sale, but...


I blew it!

I had intended to have a big Christmas sale, taking 20% off this course, and 40% off that one, just like everyone else. life just blew up! I'm taking off for California today to see Tananarive, who has been teaching screenwriting at Antioch College, and just found out that a film project has become very very real. This is something OTHER than the project I've been hinting about (and the other film project THAT producer has been working on is the hottest ticket of the year, currently at 100% on Rotten Tomatoes! I'll be meeting with him in Hollywood on Tuesday).

But something else happened. A financial group wants to put not seven, but EIGHT figures into a film project of ours (do the math!) and we have to put together a treatment FAST. Yow!

So...without time to do something fancy, I'm going to make you guys the best offer I've ever made:

From now until Christmas, purchase ANY course on (with the exception of the work I do with Scott Sonnon--different system), and I'll give you a course of equal or lesser value for FREE.

Yep. Purchase ANY course, then send me an email at, tell me what you bought and what you want. And within 48 hours (I'm on the road, you have to cut me a little teeny bit of slack!) I'll send you a FREE copy of the desired course. I've never offered anything like this before, and it's a Christmas present from my family to yours. I am hugely excited about what is happening in my life, and just want to share the joy! want the best sleep of your life? Warrior Sleep. The best writing course on the Internet? The Lifewriting Year Long. The 101-Day Life makeover program? Align your life with the Hero's Journey? Improve Focus and Flow? Discover Tananarive Due's "Secrets of a Writer's Life"?

It's all there. No limit. For every course you purchase, you get one of equal or lesser value. Just...please give me 48 hours, wouldja? Maybe's gonna be busy as @#$$ around Casa Barnes!

Merry Christmas!

Begin With The End "In Heart"

Morning Ritual

There is nothing more important than the first few minutes of the day. I wanted to share with you the "morning ritual" that I undergo every day to get "things moving."

1) As soon as I realize I'm awake, I feel my body against the sheets, luxuriate in just being alive. I am in the "hypnogogic state", half-way between being asleep and awake. A perfect time for lucid dreaming. This is a great time to fantasize, to create images and impressions that If you know what I mean. Yummy, and it gets the juices going. The idea is to start the day with the feelings you want ot have at the end of it: satisfaction, pleasure, passion.

This time is precious. In it, you can flow with your dreams and goals, create a tempting future that is so bright, and warm, and wonderful that you cannot wait to get out of bed and into your day.

Similarly, at the END of the day, as you go to sleep, you can do the same thing. Remember the formula: GOALS X FAITH X CONSTANT ACTION X GRATITUDE X MUTUAL BENEFIT = RESULTS.

By using this "natural" hypnotic state, the borderline between dream and waking, you can reap benefits available to most people only after deliberate, conscious education of their minds, or years of meditation technique. Visualize your goals, and use your sensuality (those morning fantasies can be wonderful. In fact, if you're sleeping with your honey, it's great time to roll over and...well, you get the idea!) to produce the feelings of connection, pleasure and satisfaction most people only get at the END of a goal process.

BEGIN WITH THE FEELING YOU WANT TO END WITH. Start with an attitude of gratitude. It changes the entire complexion of the day!


Saturday, December 08, 2012

The Science of Erotic Intelligence

Diamond Hour December show. -
 Saturday, December 8, 2012,
1:00 PM Pacific Standard time (4:00 PM Eastern)
Connect via phone or VoIP (Skype, etc.)
(724) 444-7444

Wanted to invite you to join me and my guest Amara for a conversation about Erotic Intelligence.    I had the very great honor to visit  in Amara's world, years ago.  What I discovered was that the esoteric techniques and perspectives of spiritual sexuality involved the same experiences I had had in high states of meditation, intense yoga or martial arts, or the highest creative spaces I'd entered in writing.  Fascinating, but I now had an internal road map to describe and chart what had previously been non-verbal "knowings."  In the intervening years, I'd clustered information from several arenas regarding sexual energy (including the "Sex Transmutation" material from TAGR into a personal practice, using what I found to direct and cultivate my physical and mental "energies" (the chakra model suggests it is all the same energy, just "vibrating at different frequencies"), motivate and reward myself, and of course to have greater pleasure and intimacy on the actual sexual level.   It's all the same stuff, but sexuality is (by the chakra model) secondary only to survival as a means to experience primal reality.  And a LOT more fun, less painful, and less risky.  It was, in other words, "using my erotic energy intelligently" ("intelligence" here measured in capacity to solve problems, like "how shall I negotiate my life?").   When I reconnected with Amara (and her lovely partner Shyena Venice--what a dynamic pair!) last year, we started talking about where our various studies had taken us in the intervening years.   And realized there was overlap, even if we used different definitions, and had immersed ourselves in different traditions.    And of all the things we talked about, the concept of "Erotic Intelligence" kept cropping up as a theme.  It resonated with both of us, even if we couldn't quite agree upon the definition.   And finally, I realized there was no need to agree.   The differences in perspective were representative of the male-female differences in life experience and mentation (both men and women having both aspects, of course) and that it might be useful to actually allow this "messiness" of definitions to be part of what we were presenting, allow an audience to judge and learn for themselves, simply present the ways we had nurtured and utilized our sensual and sexual natures to create and reinforce other areas of our lives.   I knew I could honestly say that my sexual energy connected to EVERYTHING else I did, but most specifically my physical fitness, emotional relationships (boy, did it tie into the "Soulmate Process" I used to find Tananarive!), and creativity.    I swam in those waters, but Amara is a flippin' fish. She LIVES there, so I knew that if we could hold the space together, something valuable could happen.  And according to our feedback from the Tantric Meetup group in Phoenix early in November, it did indeed.     I invite you to join us for a recap, as well as a set of specific suggestions to increase, nurture, and refine your awareness of these energies, as well as the energies themselves (yeah, I know.  The term "energy" has a very specific scientific definition that I'm bending here, but I beg your understanding--there is no word I know of in the English language that comes as close to what I'm talking about).  

Friday, December 07, 2012

What was your best "good deed"?

As the holiday season approaches, I find it pleasant to consider ways that I've "earned my air"--in other words, tried to make the world a better place. Good deeds done for those who cannot benefit us, casting our bread upon the karmic waters, is an example of this.

I recently recalled one of my very favorite ones. It happened about 30 years ago.

I was living with my girlfriend Toni in a duplex near LACC, and was alone in the apartment. The doorbell rang, and there stood a small, frightened white lady who began to babble at me in a language I couldn't understand and didn't recognize. Clearly, she was lost, and terrified, and begging me to help her. Not knowing what in the world to do, I asked her in and brought her a glass of water. She seemed so frail and terrified, it was easy to imagine that she had been seeking a relative and/or traveling the strange city and gotten off a bus at the wrong stop...or something. Good lord. It was 4:30 in the after noon, winter as I recall, and in a couple of hours the sun would be down, the temperature drop, and this was going to get ugly.

I got her to talk, mentioning the name of the city "Los Angeles" and using hand signs to encourage her to tell me where she came from and who she was. From what seemed to be her name, and the name of a city or state or province she came from, I guessed she was from some Slavic country, and got an inspiration. I looked up the phone number for the Yugoslavian trade counselate, which shared offices with several other central European countries. Perfect.

Got them on the phone, and asked if there was a multilingual translator there, and explained the situation. My poor little house guest's eyes bugged out when I handed her the phone, and she began pouring out her heart to the lady on the other end. After a couple of minutes, I spoke to the translator, and she said that my guest had been trying to find her daughter's house and gotten lost. I got the daughter's address, bundled the lady into my car and drove her there, about two miles from my house.

The expression on the daughter's face, and the hug and grateful tears from my guest as she said good-bye have remained with me for decades. A small kindness, to a lost stranger.

That day, I earned my air.


Thursday, December 06, 2012

Increase your "Erotic Intelligence"?

Five weeks ago, I conducted a workshop in Phoenix on Erotic Intelligence. Luckily for me, I co-taught it with Amara Charles, one of my dearest friends, a lovely, brilliant and creative instructor in numerous sensual disciplines. The fascinating thing was that we simply couldn't come to a solid agreement on what we would teach and what our precise definitions were...which we interpreted as representative of the core difficulty men and women can have communicating about sex...and life itself.

So we did something unique: we simply never used the exact same definitions, allowing those differences to play out in "real time" in front of the audience. They loved it. They raved. That conversation is recorded and transcribed and will be the cornerstone of a new course, but I've convinced Amara to come on Saturday's "Diamond Hour" show to discuss five ways to increase, integrate, share and utilize Erotic Intelligence in your own life.

Just for fun, a little hint: Think And Grow Rich speaks of Sexual Transmutation as a core element in life success. Basically, that the most successful men and women Napoleon Hill studied had VERY high sex drives. They used that to motivate themselves, reward themselves, clarify their minds and values, protect their health...and much more.

But Hill, of course, had limited practical knowledge in the techniques of actually doing these things, so while he was WAAAY ahead of his time in observing and defining a phenomenon, there was a limited amount he could do in terms of direct suggestions.

Well...Amara has no such problems. For over twenty years, she's specifically taught these secret arts to students all over the world. More to the point, I trust the human being she is, and feel comfortable sharing her with my students, who trust me to take the very best care of them.

Amara is one of the best. Join us?
Diamond Hour December show. -
 Saturday, December 8, 2012,
1:00 PM Pacific Standard time (4:00 PM Eastern)
Connect via phone or VoIP (Skype, etc.)
(724) 444-7444

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

"Cradle To The Grave" application

A reader reached out to me with genuine issues, and it occurred to me that this is a perfect opportunity to both help her and illustrate an instance of the "Cradle To Grave" (yeah, probably a terrible name, but it's what I'm working with right now) meditation technique.   I'd recommended five "Sixty Second Breathing Breaks" during the day in a previous note, and she replied:

  • Dear Steven,
    Thank you so much for your advice. I think I should clarify things a bit:
    - I am currently working with a therapy program in XXX, but increasingly anxious to finish my time with them so I can move back home to New York. I miss my home terribly.
    - I am holding down a part-time job, which I've had for a year, but of late I have become very worried about finding new employment when I leave XXX. I've been making a tentative effort to find a new interim job while here, but I find the effort very stressful, and perhaps ill-conceived; I'm working with a career counselor back home in New York (phone sessions) to better plan my next move, and I understand that a lot of this sudden need comes less from necessity and more from a feeling of panic and self-doubt.
    - I am a recovering anorexic and suffering from a bad bout of ulcerative colitis. I'm due for an examination on Thursday, and I'm seeing a dietitian about diet, exercise, and daily caloric needs, but dealing with the health issues is also difficult. I hope they can get sorted out very soon.
    Does all this make sense?
    I'm very sorry if you feel like I'm trying to solicit your services. It just seems like you're a really good person to ask for advice about some things, and at this stage I am very grateful to have a range of perspectives available. Your 'breathing breaks' idea sounds very good - I perform 20-minute meditation sessions daily, but this seems like an excellent way to supplement that.
  • #####

  •  Sweetie, there is nothing wrong with asking for help and perspective. Don't apologize, just be honest and understanding if the askee hasn't the time.

  • 8:54am
    Steven Barnes

    The breathing breaks idea can be life changing. You're in a stress spiral: emotional affecting physical which then affects the emotional...and if you don't break it, you'll go down the drain. My understanding of anorexia is that it is a distorted body image syndrome, and those are often the result of powerful emotional storms and abuse issues. The perfect approach for you would be to take those five breaks a day, minimum of 60 seconds each. One can be your current 20 minute stretch. Visualize three "energy balls" of light: one at the "Belly brain", one at the heart center, one at the head. See how clear and bright you can make the light, but if it is foggy or muddy, that's fine. Begin to visualize your youngest self, as if pregnant with a child, in your belly brain. You can visualize this as the oldest "you" that existed prior to damage: might be eight years old, or two, or an unborn fetus. Or fertilized egg. Doesn't matter. What DOES matter is the establishment of connection.

The Last Novel That Changed Your Life

I remember reading books that changed my life when I was younger.   And while I've read MANY books that expanded my thinking, in terms of fiction none have really altered my perspective since my early 20's.  Nonfiction, sure.  But the last book that popped me open was a pulp SF novel called "The God Machine" by Martin Caiden ("The Six Million Dollar Man.")   In this book, a supercomputer takes over the world, and figures it can't be beaten, because the only route in to its innards is protected by a lethal radiation belt.    The book's hero is defeated and stymied until an old poker player beats his pants off, saying that the kid is an excellent technical player, but hasn't learned an important axiom: in order to win everything, you have to be willing to lose everything.  That, more specifically, a man totally willing to die can accomplish anything.  I wrestled with that one for some time, and came to the conclusion that I shouldn't aspire to anything that I wasn't willing to die for.   Changed my life, and it was the last fiction book to do so.  I was wondering...what was the last FICTION book that taught you about the world, or yourself, in a powerful way...and how old were you when you read it?

Friday, November 30, 2012

Morning Zen

This morning, looking at a book on my shelf, Jason asked me what "Zen" was. Oh boy oh boy oh boy. Have I ever been waiting for THAT one.

I started with a basic thought:

"where your mind goes when the words disappear, but you're still thinking about something. A perfect throw. A perfect kick."

"Can kids do that?" He asked.

 "Kids are born knowing this. It's adults who have to learn it again."

You can study Zen academically, but that's like taking a cooking class without ever eating the food. Better to find that delicate balance of "Focus and Flow" in any activity in which you have achieved excellence, or wish to. Zen mind is an odd, non-linguistic combination of "Beginner's Mind" and "Expert's Mind". It is both the end state of the continuum between "Unconscious Incompetence" and "Unconscious Competence" and process of that journey. Both noun and verb.

In meditation, seek moments of calm centeredness, and then ask where you have achieved similar moments during times of excellent action, especially under stress. I promise you: you have had them. Collecting them, examining without attachment, is a route to automatic duplication of such glorious moments. They are your legacy. Claim them!


Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Brain Freeze and Easter Eggs

Brain Freeze and Easter Eggs

Had a fantastic meeting with my film producer the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. He invited me to his lovely home in Beverly Hills, we talked life and politics and personal history before telling me that, aside from typos, he had no more notes for me. No. More. Notes.

So today I'll speak with him briefly to clarify some things, and then make those adjustments and send it off. And then...the fun begins.

Look, I've published over three million words of fiction and non-fiction, and written about two dozen television scripts. I'm still so excited I can barely control myself. To be honest, early in my career I developed a pattern of writing a dynamite first draft, and then freezing when it came to rewrite time. Freezing. By brain just locked up. Why?

Well...hard to say. It could have been emotional stuff (oh my Gawd! What if I fail!) or mental stuff (how do I integrate these notes!) or even spiritual stuff (if I succeed, I will change my life. My self-image. That is ego death, of a kind.)

But in time, I learned to ease into it. To integrate notes without really noticing I was doing it. Here's the pattern, so far as I can figure.
1) Take all notes given by the producer.
2) Wait a day, and then copy them into a central file.
3) Re-read the project, noting locations where the notes might be addressed.
4) Think through the notes, finding those that seem most reasonable and logical and easiest to do.
5) Consider that "low hanging fruit" and see which ones could reinforce my theme and strengthen the story. Unless I have a STRONG objection to them, try to integrate, making notes in the manuscript.
6) Keep remembering my closing images. Every action, line of dialog and plot turn has to reinforce those images. They are the "meaning" of the work.
7) If at all possible, find some little thing to tweak, adding a line or image somewhere. I've found that it's fun to give the producer or story editor something new to read, something to keep it fresh, a little "Easter Egg" to reward careful reading.

That last one is just something that I've learned over the years, and every time I've done that, things have worked out well. is another threshold. Can't wait!


Tuesday, November 27, 2012

It's Not That I Don't Love You...

Yeah, I haven't been in touch as much. November has been pure travel, teaching, vacation and intense business. Quite scrambled. Just flew in from Phoenix and Los Angeles last night. But what I want you to know is:

1) Today we're doing a book signing today with Blair Underwood at Spelman College. Juggling hats!

2) Had possibly the best business meeting of my life last Wednesday with the producer of my new screenplay. I've had a ton of success writing for television, and novels...but movies not so much. Oh, I was creative consultant on "The Secret of NIMH" and created the "bible" for the "Sakura Ninja" series of Swedish ninja movies starring Chuck Conners (The Rifleman! No kidding) but that's not enough, if you know what I mean. I can't wait to share more about what this project is...hopefully soon! What I'll say is that it is more personal to me than anything I've ever written, and has an autobiographical aspect that has never existed in my work before. It is sexy, funny, PACKED with action, and deals with issues so close to my heart that I don't dare let myself get too caught up in the possibilitites.

Two days ago I drove from L.A. to Phoenix and collapsed into my hotel bed. The next morning, I had a breakfast meeting with Amara Charles prior to hitting the airport. We discussed the upcoming "Erotic Intelligence" course, and how excited we were to be editing the transcript and making this available. The most fabulous thing about it is how boggled each of us were by what the other presented. My attitude toward the two-hour presentation we made earlier this month (to a VERY enthusiastic audience!) was that I didn't care about coming to "total agreement" on every aspect prior to the presentation. In fact, I considered that the "rough patches" simply represented the different ways we thought about the same issue--sex, power, beauty, male and female energies and attitudes. The lovely thing is that I agreed with everything she said...but about 50% of what she said I would never have thought of saying. Even more, as I went through hte transcript, I kept thinking: "gee, I don't remember her saying that...I don't remember her saying THAT..."

And realized what had happened. Simply put, every time she said something that hit hard, that seemed to represent a deep and important truth, my mind began to consider the implications, and in that consideration, missed the next thing she was saying. Wow.

More on that thought later. But at one point we discussed the film project, and she remarked that she knew I was deliberately preventing myself from getting too excited. That is the truth. The implications for my life and career are simply too large for me to take it too seriously. "People who get excited get depressed," I said. "And I can't allow that." That doesn't mean I don't enjoy the positive events in my life. Anyone who knows me knows that would be nonsense. It is that I try to maintain perspective, and not get too caught up in it all.

November has been great, just spectacular. I've been to Oregon, Washington, California, Arizona and Florida. The Orycon SF convention the Tantric Meetup in Phoenix, the Miami Book Fair, and Loscon. Saw my daughter kick butt in "Avenue Q" (she plays...Gary Coleman! If you don't know the play, that won't make sense. But yep, THAT Gary Coleman), created a new project, set up to make my original Tai Chi video available (stay tuned!) and much more. It will take me days to sort through it all, and I'll share as soon as I can.

 But meantime, here are three tips for you:

1) In rewriting, keep in mind the last major image in your writing. This is the "meaning" of your piece, and everything else you do has to support this image. Every word and action has to increase this emotional charge, or else it is pointless.

2) Plan on a slow, steady "uptick" in your day to day emotional responses. Keep a sense of humor about news, either positive or negative. Don't let the external world control your mood. A steady positive evolution is vastly superior to swings between depression and exultation. The "Five Minute Miracle" approach to maintaining calm (five sixty second "breathing breaks" during the day) is perfect for this.

3) The most important element of your physical training program is joint mobility. Five minutes of "joint rotation" exercise, slowly and carefully warming up your body in the following order: neck, shoulders, elbows, wrists, fingers, trunk, hips, knees, and ankles--is a fabulous beginning or close to any day. This was a life-saver on the road!

I'll be back at it tomorrow. Tons to talk about, and sorry I haven't been in touch.

Can't wait!


Friday, November 16, 2012

Take a deep breath (five times a day!)

So I'm finally beginning to edit the transcript for the Erotic Intelligence workshop with Amara from last weekend, with an eye toward creating our new product. There will be many many things to talk about in connection with it, but the first to pop up was the following quote, dealing with one of the "third rails" of the human body-mind: the survival instinct.

"And you can get in touch with your survival simply by slowing down your breathing to the point that carbon dioxide builds up in your blood and the panic button in the back of your head goes off. It’s great because the disciplines that slow your breathing down like that are teaching you to relax through stress. It’s beautiful. These things are not just esoteric. They’re also extraordinarily practical."

So much that could be said here. But one of the most important ones is just the question of clarity. There are so many different aspects of life that attract our attention, so much complication and so many petty, tangled motivations. You can worry about your mortgage, your receding hairline, your crabgrass and/or who your co-workers are giggling at behind your back. It can be difficult to apportion our limited human energy, and one of the first things to do is clarify your priorities. There are two basic ways that work:

1) Survival first.
2) Love first

Slowing your breathing down until you are below about three respirations per minute will, as said, increase the amount of carbon dioxide in your blood. Cardio-respiratory distress is a fear response, and if you continue you will begin to feel the alarms going off in your head. Relaxing decreases muscle tension, which burns less oxygen (thereby easing the stress) but also teaches you to relax under emotional stress.

Relaxing under emotional stress is a very positive habit, allowing one to maintain a balanced perspective, from which you can see the available options more clearly. Stress/strain creates tunnel vision, as well as rigidity of thought. PRECISELY the wrong responses in a life-and death situation, or running a business, or writing a term paper, or negotiating a family argument.

The law of requisite variety basically says: If a system is to be stable the number of states of its control mechanism must be greater than or equal to the number of states in the system being controlled" or to put this in more human terms, in any situation, more potential options tend to be better for problem solving than fewer.

(There are exceptions, of course. A famous story about a fox with a thousand ways to escape the hound pack, and a cat who had but one comes to mind. When the hounds arrived, the fox couldn't decide which of his thousand to use, and the cat ran up the tree. Oh, well...)

But at any rate, learning to control the breathing is a powerful, generative activity with near-infinite depth. But just on the surface, problems lead to stress lead to panic, leads to a narrowing of perceived options, leading to more problems.

And conversely, if one adds controlled breathing to the equation, then stress leads to an adaptive breathing response, which triggers both energy AND relaxation, which leads to sharper more flexible thinking, which leads to solutions, leading to growth.

All from a little conscious breathing. I can't wait until ├ůmara and I can conduct our full workshop, and actually teach and integrate all of the different basic aspects of human existence from the dozens of different world traditions that have explored this.

And for my half, it will happen from survival "up" and from the heart "out." And never, ever, ever from the head down.


Thursday, November 15, 2012

Young, hot, and dead

Young Adult Zombies

Tomorrow, I leave for the Miami Book fair, where Tananarive and I will be sitting on a YA book panel, talking about our zombie series DEVIL'S WAKE. She just finished her final read-through on the book, which will be out next February, and of which we are very proud.
But we've been asked: why is this book "young adult"? Why create a "horror" novel and suggest it is appropriate or even valuable for teenagers?

 Well, first of all, it isn't a "kids book." It is a book in which the lead characters are kids, and we decided that it would be smartest on all counts to set the level of sexuality and violence at a PG-13 level. That if we cared about these characters, and believed in this situation, we didnt need buckets of guts to create genuine fear and excitement.

 The interesting thing about zombies (of whatever variety) is that they have no individual personalities. We can't romanticize them, or save them, or reason with them. They are simply death and disease and corruption, come to bring flesh to our fears.

 The enduring value of such stories, from my POV, is the examination of human response. Remember that all we have to write about (from one valuable perspective) is "what is true?" and "who am I?"

 In writing terms, this is "what are human beings?" (as expressed in characterization of individuals and society) and "what is the world?" (as revealed in the way physical and biological structures and forces respond to effort, as well as the "ethical structure of the universe" in terms of how fate responds to human effort. The writer's philosophy is revealed by the way these two things interact.

 A human being's maturity and awareness is revealed by the way they navigate these two. Someone with a totally accurate map of external and internal reality would never set a goal they didn't meet. 

Someone aligned between conscious and unconscious drives would never act contrary to their own interests. A person aligned more deeply would be satisfied by life as it is...but still blossom and evolve as a being.

 If you know yourself, you aren't surprised by the behaviors of others. The more honest with yourself you are, the easier it is to detect the "gaps" between what people want you to believe, and what they actually are.

 The young characters in DEVIL'S WAKE and its sequel, DOMINO FALLS, are thrust into a living nightmare, in which they must trust themselves, and each other, and decide very very gingerly who they will trust in addition to that core family.

 And they must also test every group, situation, and culture they encounter, constantly adjusting expectations and ideas about what human beings are, who they are, "what is true" and how to best test one's ideas.

 Isn't this what growing up is about? Learning who we are, and what the world is, and how to refine and strengthen the connection between our dreams and our reality? How control our emotions and refine our reality maps?

 Once upon a time I defined an important line between childhood and adulthood as the point where you can focus your attention, energy, emotions and intellect to create goods and services you can trade legally to produce the resources necessary to put food on your table and a roof over your head.

 In other words, hunt, gather, and shelter. Maslow's most basic level. The beginning of Self awareness.

 Zombies just make it more fun.

 So...what exactly happens in the next installment of the Devil's Wake saga?

 I could tell you, but then I'd have to bite you.


Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Why the Hero's Journey?

Why the Hero's Journey?

In the Lifewriting Year Long course, I dive deeply into the concept of story structure, offering several different models of this thing called "story" while making it clear that none of these models are "the thing itself" but rather approaches, perspectives, tools to manage the different thematic and incidental aspects of their work.

I like the Hero's Journey for a variety of reasons:

1) It is universal. You cannot find a story recognized as "story" by any significant number of people (in other words, any television episode ever shown, any movie ever generally released, any novel that achieved even moderate success or longevity, any story that has lasted more than a generation) that cannot be explored through the HJ.

2) It not only diagrams story itself, it diagrams the PROCESS of writing a story.

3) Not only does it diagram a story, but it also diagrams the process of life. Every life. Everything you've ever attempted to accomplish in your entire life.

Therefore, if you will chose subjects for your writing that actually affect your own life and express your own values, EVERYTHING YOU LEARN MAKES YOU A BETTER WRITER, AND EVERYTHING YOU WRITE MAKES YOU A BETTER PERSON. And that's pretty cool.

In philosophical terms, there are basically two questions in life worth asking: "Who am I?" and "What is true?" In writing terms, these two questions manifest as "what is the world?" and "what are the human beings who experience it?" A spiritual version: "what is Man that Thou art mindful of him?" And it goes on and on.

Human beings. The world. You. Your perspective. The more you see the connection, the more you seek to explore your sense of human psychology, philosophy, science, politics, interpersonal dynamics and so forth...

The more you seek to find a spark of truth in every work, seek to trigger the "ah! Life is just like that!" response that automatically raises your work above the level of "pulp" and gives you the opportunity to create art...

In other words, the less you try to be "clever" and the more you simply attempt to find truth...

The better your writing will be. There are certainly other story patterns, but I know of none with this specific strength. You may well choose to go another way.

1) Do you think you can name a non-experimental film that doesn't follow this pattern (there are "art house" films that specifically seek to subvert this pattern. But by being in reaction to standard story, they remain bound by it)

2) If you don't like some version of the HJ--what pattern DO you utilize?

3) If you avoid pattern altogether, how DO you organize your work?

Important questions. Answers, anyone?


Tuesday, November 13, 2012

A Cubic Inch of Opportunity

A Cubic Inch of Opportunity

"From time to time, life gives you a cubic inch of opportunity. Either grab it at that moment, or it is gone forever."

I can think of numerous major events in my life that were now-or-nothing propositions. Moments of unusual clarity when an idea, a problem solution, or an opportunity for action occurs. Like dreams, ideas often melt away if they aren't swiftly seized. Among the very best ideas that seemed to arise in such a fashion:

1) The notion for my novel "Lion's Blood"
2) The title "Streetlethal."
3) The idea of writing out your life goals and challenges as if they are a story you are creating, already knowing the end point.
(the core of the entire Lifewriting process)
4) The recognition that Tananarive was my Soul Mate
5) The Five Minute Miracle concept combining "Perpetual Exercise" with "Synaptic facilitation."
6) The "Mind Reading" concept demanding that you deeply examine your own agency in creating your body, career, and relationships...and then using that information to "read" other people's lives in turn.
7) The "Soul Mate" process that lead to one of my most vital breakthroughs integrating work in perhaps five different disciplines.

 Each of these transformed my life, and each was in the category of a notion that was time-dependent.
 What was common about my success with each?
 1) I trust my instincts. Have calibrated my little "Tingly" sensations so that I know when my unconscious is sending a message.
 2) I recorded the thought. Audio, notebook, doesn't matter, but write it down.
 3) I took action. Whether "merely" writing it down, discussing and testing it with a friend, mentor or student, or in the case of Tananarive, devised a (damned sneaky) way to grab her attention, I DID SOMETHING. Tested the notion to determine if there was validity to it. Moved it out of the realm of the purely theoretical.

 In some ways this last step...TAKING ACTION...may be the most important. It is certainly the one most neglected by people who fail to achieve their life desires.


Monday, November 12, 2012


All right, so SKYFALL delivered. No Bond movie (or any movie, for that matter) is perfect. But it definitely takes its place with FRWL, Goldfinger, OHMSS, Spy Who Loved Me and Casino Royale as the best of a remarkable series. The Bond movies have ranged from action-comedy to near tragedy, like episodes of some mega-million dollar television series. The Bond actors have ranged from pretty faces to thuggish killing machines with broken hearts...and I've enjoyed them all. Just want to pause to acknowledge that the Broccolis have done something quite remarkable in keeping this going for 50 years. Pundits and disgruntled fans have been predicting the death, and bemoaning the "obsolescence" of 007 for forty of 'em. I've lost count of the number of conversations I've had where I tried to get someone to explain exactly how Bond is a misogynist. I always thought he was a misanthrope, a barely leashed semi-sociopath who channels his rage into being Her Majesty's biggest fist (and most explicitly in SKYFALL, the teeth of the British Bulldog. Lovely.) He has no real friends, no future, and has lost everything he ever loved--except England herself. And that is where he takes his stand. All the chatty cocktail party conversation, the insane courage, the fast cars, the easy sex and gambling--these are the things guys cling to as wish fulfillment, but no healthy person would actually want to BE Bond. You would never want your own son to experience the pressures that make such a human being. By dialing back the derring-do to a more human scale (it actually took me almost a half hour to realize I was looking at Ian Fleming tempered with Len Deighton, or John Le Carre) we finally grounded the icon in something resembling understandable human emotion. By moving the dial just a tick closer to 3-Dimensionality it was possible to glimpse the tragedy of a man who cannot live for his own future, or any thoughts of home and hearth. Not for him the sunshine. He was born, and will die, in the shadows.

A killing machine who cons bad guys--and apparently, fans around the world--into thinking he is a playboy in a tailored tux. A "fop who can fight." No. He is the world's deadliest commando. Roger Moore was the ideal "outer" Bond. Danial Craig is the perfect "inner" Bond. Moore recently declared straight-up that Craig was the best Bond ever, and the man who played 007 more than anyone else has the right to an opinion. My thought: Craig shows us the actual man. Connery was the actor they hired to play him in the movie. I can imagine Craig's Bond slipping into a theater to watch "Goldfinger" and smiling at Connery's sleek predator, then slipping out before the lights come up. And being grimly amused as he sits in a posh bar later, alone, deciding whether to pick up a blond for the night, or gamble, or just go home and eat some more pain pills. I seriously appreciate that the Broccolis created these three Craig films (although QofS was pretty painful to watch). I'd love to be a fly on the wall during family discussions on their bread and butter over the years. But lacking that, I'm happy that this part of my childhood continues to amuse, entertain and...occasionally...move me. All this time later. Wow.

Happy 50th, 007. Nobody has ever, ever, done it better.  An "A".  For Bond fans like me, an A+.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012


The eight steps on Buddhism's Eightfold path are: Right view, right thought, right speech, right conduct, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, and right concentration. They all interact and interrelate, and are generally not considered to be some kind of linear list. Scholars such as John Snelling have subdivided the list into three main elements: wisdom, morality, and meditation.

My personal preference in life and teaching is to concentrate on the "householder" aspects, plus heart, with the belief and observation that the rest takes care of itself.

Right view--without an accurate perspective, one cannot set balanced goals, let alone achieve them. If someone says "I'm driving from New York to Los Angeles" and gets there, it is reasonable to assume their GPS was accurate.

Right Thought--without managing our thoughts, it is impossible to maintain constant action over time.

Right Speech--without the ability to communicate honestly but compassionately, it is impossible to build mastermind groups, or attract and hold lovers or customers.

Right Conduct--again, critical to nurture relationships either intimate, social, or financial

Right Livelihood--work should be in alignment with laws, ethics, passion, and the concept of "mutual benefit and welfare."

Right Effort--without constant action, all goals remain fantasies. The ego attempt to discount what discipline and simple sweat contribute to fitness, success, and loving relationships is absolute poison.

Right Mindfulness--awareness of self and environment will teach you what is necessary to understand others.

Right Concentration--really, I like the concept of "coherence" more than the usual "focus." To have body, mind, and heart all functioning in the same rhythm, flowing in the same direction. The result is uncommon efficiency.

God knows I struggle with these. My own practice has been a search for the tools necessary to deepen and grow. A few years ago I stopped searching, realizing I had everything I needed--including the chisel necessary to chip away the b.s. that still slows me down, or pulls me into illusion. The only tools I offer are those I use myself.


Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Back from Oregon

My planeride back Orycon, I sat next to a guy who seemed restless and trying to rest, but unable to. A half hour before we landed, he turned to me and told me that that morning, he'd learned his girlfriend had been cheating on him. I basically held his hand for the rest of the trip, telling him that the pain was real, the anger and grief were real, but at the core of it is a fear that the event

s mean that he cannot and will not find love, that he cannot trust his own judgement, that there is something horribly wrong with him. Among other things, I told him of pains in my own life, and that it is possible to move beyond them, if we can learn the lessons they teach. "Don't trust people. Rely on them to do what they see as being in their own self interest. You have to learn to see what that is. And you do that by being scathingly honest with yourself." So...he must start by owning his emotions. Giving himself at least 30 days to begin to get his head on straight. Surround himself with friends who love him and will give him support and touch. And find ways to love himself, without question or reservation, in this time of pain. And to remember: she was doing the best she could, with the resources she has.

That's all any of us can do, or have ever done. Forgive himself, protect himself, and learn the lesson. When the lesson is learned, you can release the pain...and not before.

I used to wonder why I got into such conversations with people. Now I expect it. Just my karma. And dharma. And I'm content for that to be so.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

The greatest compliment of my life

I may have just received one of the greatest compliments of my life. Need to think about this. We were doing our morning ritual, and after the 8-count "Om" (the target is ten, but as a reward, if he does it perfectly, I let us stop at 8 and make a little joke of the last number) he asked if he could tell me something.

"I wish there was another of you, Daddy" he said. "That you still knew all the things you know, and could be here doing the things you do, but that there was another, little version."

"And what would you do with the other one?" I asked.

He touched his chest. "Put him in here, inside me, to help me."

Tears stung my eyes. "That's what we're building," I whispered to him, laying my hand over his heart. "We're building a little me, right inside you, to be with you always. Always. Even when I'm gone."

And we hugged.

I swear to God: life just doesn't get any better than that. Please, please, if you have a child who needs deeper connection with calm and centeredness, the ritual I created to compensate for my boy's ADD can seem like a miracle at times. ANYONE with a special need and financial issues can get a free copy. Please go to and get yours today, or forward this to someone with need.


Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Lurkers, Sulkers, and Critics

Lurkers, Sulkers, and Critics

We've all had that experience in a class, mastermind group or writing circle: someone in the discussion considers themselves to be in competition with you. They tear you down, criticize, snark, sabotage, try to create alliances against you, sulk, and loud-talk you.

In certain contexts, a competitor can make you stronger, faster, better, smarter. But in a Mastermind group, it is essential that every single person be in alignment for...wait for benefit and welfare.

One of the most important aspects of a Mastermind meeting is the "Hot Seat," where every member takes a turn reading their work, discussing their plants, asking for help. Then every member of the group offers insight, support, ideas, and encouragement. Again, the best analogy for a "mastermind" is a "superbrain." You start with a single "lobe" of your brain, make certain that it is operating at the highest possible efficiency, then add ONE new person (lobe). The communication must flow smoothly and in coordination across the nerve bundles. If, and only if, that communication is smooth you may seek ONE more person ("lobe") and repeat the process. Smooth cooperation and communication is the MOST important thing--a person of superb ability who is not aligned with you can destroy the entire thing.

So, then, new people can be added if:

1) They agree to 100% of the rules of your mastermind.
2) They can meet with the other members at least once per week, or agree to post on the board, exchange emails, Skype, phone, or however you have agreed to communicate.
3) If you are in a business that actually DOE have direct competition, you may not want to have a competitor join the group. You can have two plumbing supply businesses on the same block, but unless they can find a way to function in synergy, they probably can't both be in the same Mastermind.
4) There are people who just naturally try to dominate and "rank" others, show off, brag, boast and cut others down. REGARDLESS OF THEIR RESOURCES OR STATUS, do NOT let such a person into your group.
5)If people will not both share with and support the others in the group, they cannot join your group. No "lurkers" who listen without contributing.

Remember--this is not a coffee klatch, or a bunch of buddies. This is a weekly meeting to support each other, to move forward toward goals and dreams, not to "feel good" or "relax" unless that has a DIRECT influence on our goals. Be very very careful of time wasters, negatives, whiners, lurkers, and of course, eternal competitors. Whether in terms of personal traits, relationship glitches or mastermind goofs...they can destroy your dreams.