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Month: February 2019

The Most Powerful Part of Your Body.

The Most Powerful Part of Your Body.

In a recent post (actually it was yesterday) I talked about the power of planning. Basically I get a lot more done and have a much more satisfying experience when I plan my day and stick to that plan.

I’m living a planned day today.

So far so good!

The embarrassing thing is that I know that a planned day is a more productive day but I don’t do it all the time. I “forget” the power of planning.

I “forget” about planning because I rebel against being told what to do, even if it’s me telling myself what to do.

I’m confident that most people do the same thing (please let me know if I’m wrong about this!) This is natural and normal. Part of our development as humans is a drive to rebel against authority. Young lions leave the pride to find mates that are not related to them. It’s an instinct. Humans do a similar thing. From the moment we’re born we’re trying to increase our personal control and autonomy just like all creatures. When we want something to change we do whatever we can to make it happen. Infants wail, babies grab things and try to crawl, two-year-olds say “no!” and “mine!” teenagers grumble and break rules. Twenty-somethings drink too much and become socialists. Fifty-somethings yell at their teenagers and run for office.

We’re just like lions and tigers and bears except we take longer to reach maturity and we’re blessed/cursed with self-awareness and intelligence.

So that’s why I avoid planning, which I know is good for me and I enjoy when I do it.

Here’s another thing that is effective and enjoyable that I try to avoid like the plague.

Talking to other people.

What we can really effect with our hands is very limited. What we can effect with communication is literally unlimited and I have done absolutely nothing worthwhile, including writing novels, on my own.

So why do I avoid it?

Many people who know me might be surprised to know that I’m really an introvert. When I was a kid I would spend all day reading and today that’s still what I long to do. I’m also very afraid of other people. I worry about what people think of me and I’m convinced on a deep level that I don’t belong.

I don’t think I’m alone in this.

But, like resisting authority, this is not useful and it’s not healthy.

There is really no reason not to ask other people for help or advice or partnership. Most people don’t ask for help because they don’t want to impose on others. If you think this way, consider how you feel when someone asks you for help. Most of the time, if the request is an actual request (not a demand) we feel honored to be asked and we want to do whatever we can. Maybe we can’t help but we’d like to.

So I’m spending a part of my day making contact with people to ask for help in building my business and finding new clients.

My invitation to you is to do the same. This is the new simple step. STEPPING OUT. Step out of your daily box and call someone you haven’t talked to in a while or call that one person who has the power to make your project leap forward or change your life.

Yeah, I slipped that in there. It’s no longer the THREE simple steps. It’s now the FOUR simple steps.

Step Back

Step Up

Step Forward

And now Step Out.

Gotta change the name of the blog without losing all my content. Anybody have any suggestions?

Also, I write and produce explainer videos and interviews. I need clients. Let me know if you know someone who needs that!

By the way, the most powerful part of your body? Your mouth.

Talk tomorrow!

The Instant Action Super Heros Origin Story

The Instant Action Super Heros Origin Story

I just had a great conversation with my son. He’s a responsible, kind, hard-working, wonderful kid and I’m very proud of him.

But there’s been a problem with being on time.

I know, what do I expect? He’s 17.

Well, being late all the time causes a lot of stress for him and for everyone and he recognizes that.

So put a pin in that. I’ll get back to that later.

Last night I was getting ready for bed and I looked back over my day and it occured to me that I hadn’t gotten done all the things I intended to get done. I thought to myself “maybe I’m not very self-directed.” Then I thought about all the things I did get done and I realized that it wasn’t that wasn’t self-directed. It was just that I wasn’t directing myself.

In other words, what I explicitly said I was going to do, I did. I wrote this blog. I did my stretches and foam rolling. I worked on my pilot.

This is one of those things that I learn and re-learn all the time. If I plan and schedule and set up accountability structures, I tend to get things done. If I just think about what I’m going to do. I tend to not get things done.

This works better when I do it every day. In other words, if I create and, much more importantly, maintain a habit of planning my day every morning I get a lot more done.

This is not surprising at all. The problem, of course, is that there are lots of distractions in the world and I have an aversion to structure. (Those are actually two problems.)

I think another issue is that I’m unrealistic when I plan. I try to cram too much in and then I don’t get everything done that I say I’m going to. Then I give up the practice.

I want to be clear that I don’t want to get more done because of some puritan work ethic or because I want some result. It just feels good to get things done and I really enjoy the things that I’m doing. Doing is it’s own reward.

My day will get filled up by activities. If I don’t plan, I can fill up the day with Netflix and Words With Friends and YouTube and Facebook and other crap. It’s not that there’s anything wrong with that stuff, it’s just that a day filled with being entertained or distracted is supremely unsatisfying and ultimately doesn’t work. A day filled with writing and meditating and exercising and communicating with people is a great day.

  • To recap:
    • Planning what you’re going to do works.
    • Saying what you’re going to do works.
    • Doing what you say you’re going to do works.

Sorry if this is really obvious. It’s obvious to me but I forget it all the time. Probably because I can survive without it and that’s really what the caveman and toddler who designed my brain care about. My caveman especially wants to avoid doing anything hard. Actually, he wants to avoid doing anything. In his world, which lasted 100,000 years, if he had enough nutrition and shelter it was probably a good idea to do as little as possible and keep an eye out for bad news. (Ahh! Facebook! Caveman like! Two birds, one stone!)

Okay, back to that pin.

So Yogi and I talked and we realized that he had developed a habit of setting alarms and then ignoring them. He’d hear an alarm and his response was to acknowledge it in his head and then continue doing what he was doing (sleeping, playing a game, writing an email, watching a tv show). Then he’d get up and do what he intended to do late.

This is now a habit. It’s ingrained in his basal ganglia. It’s going to take effort and support for him to change this programming. In the same way, I have to make an effort to create a habit of planning. So we are going to support each other. Yogi has made a commitment to INSTANT ACTION. Whenever he hears one of his alarms he is going to stop whatever he’s doing immediately and take whatever action he set the alarm to do.

Eventually, he’ll learn to plan around those alarms so that he’s not doing something when the alarm goes off. He’ll be a person who is ready to be on time and even early.

This seems like a good idea. Good enough to steal.

So, I’m going to do the same thing. I’m going to plan my day, set alarms and start whatever I planned to do the moment the alarm goes off.

We’re going to be the INSTANT ACTION SUPER HEROS!

And now I’ve told all you folks about it so we HAVE to do it.

Let’s see how it works.

Goals Update…Plus

Goals Update…Plus

Two weeks ago today I made a commitment to blogging every day. So far so good. It’s made a difference for me and I’ve got some great feedback so I think it’s made a difference for other people. It’s clear from the comments that evil robots are also reading—or commenting anyway. It’s also provided a background of accountability that is priceless.

A week ago today I made another commitment to do something about my achy muscles. Every morning since then I have rolled my sore muscles as soon as I got out of bed. This has made a big difference in the level of pain I feel during the day.

The reason that I have been able to keep developing these two habits is that I have told people—including you dear reader—that I have made these commitments. This is a structure of accountability.

Finally, I made a commitment with my wife to avoid sugary treats until her birthday in June, a little more than 4 months from now. We are both interested in losing a few pounds and we both like the occasional sugary snack. I am a cookie monster. I love cookies. Love them. I love girl scout cookies a lot so this is my favorite time of the year.

According to Wikipedia, cookies were invented in Persia 1400 years ago. I love them.

So that commitment has not been as clean. Yesterday I thoughtlessly bought and ate some cookies before the class I teach. I told Shelley about it and I’m moving forward. Hopefully, now that I’ve made the mistake and copped to it AND told you people, I will feel a larger sense of accountability.

It also helps to understand habits. I’ve written about this in the past but it bears repeating. Habits have three parts, the trigger, the action and the reward. For me, one trigger is making my way to teach class from my office at Cal Poly Pomona. My office is in the same building as the book store and my class is 2 hours and 45 minutes long. On the first day of the semester I grabbed a Kind bar and a pack of cookies (full disclosure: Nutter Butters) to provide me lecture-energy for that period of time. That was the thought the first time. After that it became a habit.

  1. Trigger = Walking by Book Store on my way to class
  2. Action = Buy and eat cookies
  3. Reward = Sugar rush, taste and calories

The evolutionary advantage of a habit is that it doesn’t take extra mental energy or will. You just do it. There’s a groove in your brain. The best illustration of this is driving. New drivers need to think about every move. After a while it becomes automatic. Taking it further, driving to work the first time requires attention and thought. Driving to work after a year can be done almost unconsciously.

Studies have shown that the best way to change habits is to acknowledge that there’s a groove in your brain (actually in your basal ganglia according to Dr. Ann Graybiel and others) around that trigger and alter the action while keeping the reward. In this case, I’m going to grab a banana or yogurt instead of a packet of cookies next time I enter the bookstore.

We’ll see how that works.

What goals are you up to reaching? What habits are you out to change? Please comment below (way below).

Comments and Evil Machines

Comments and Evil Machines

I’m dealing with a common comment situation.

My CAPTCHA tool is keeping real people from commenting but when I take it off I immediately get these wierd comments that are obviously generated by bots that say things like:

“Way cool! Some extremely valid points! I appreciate you writing this post and also the rest of the website is very good.


“If some one desires expert view regarding running a blog then i suggest him/her to pay a visit this blog, Keep up the fastidious job.”


Thanks, robot overlord, for the kind words of encouragement.

Now what do you want?

This morning I heard a news report about killer robots. There are people trying to get the U.N. to declare autonomous killing machines without human oversight illegal but Russian and the U.S. vetoed the idea last year. Of course at first I thought killer robots were the stuff of science fiction like The Terminator but then I realized that we already know about killer drones that are controlled by folks half a world away. The next step is to just write some rule of engagement and lay off the controllers.

Save’s money and it’s probably more efficient. It’s certainly faster and it takes out the whole human moral issue.

This should be stopped. If you’re not a namby-pamby wimp like me who just thinks killing people is a terrible thing to do no matter who they are, consider the problem of leftover landmines. There are over 100 landmines per square mile in Bosnia, Croatia and Cambodia. Egypt has over 20 million unexploded bombs in the ground. Imagine if all those landmines, over 100 million around the world, could get up and walk around and look for people to kill without any human input.

Or maybe just watch this terrifying episode of Black Mirror.

Of course, there are people building non-killer robots to try to clean up the landmines it’s not the technology that’s the problem.

Here’s the bottom line. AI and Machine Learning and Automatic Systems are developing fast, much faster than we realize. While they are being used for some very good things, they are also being used to fuck with people and take money, power and people’s lives.

You’ve been warned.

Sorry to be a bummer but if I blog every day, some days will be dark.

Please leave a comment below if you’re a real person. If you’re not real, please fuck off.

Why People Believe Conspiracy Theories

Why People Believe Conspiracy Theories

I’m listening to a Terry Pratchett book called “Nation.” Like every Terry Pratchett book, it’s filled with brilliant turns of phrase and deeply hilarious (and hilariously deep) observations about life and being human. The plot and the characters are wonderful and original. Generally the work of a master.

From a stage adaptation of Terry Pratchett’s Nation. This is Gary Carr as Mau and Emily Taaffe as Daphne at The National Theater in London in 2009.

Go out and read some Pratchett. It’ll make your life better.

But I’m not writing a review of a Terry Pratchett book, at least not today.

In the book there’s a point where Mau, one of the main characters is walking through a dark cave full of dead ancestors. These mummified corpses are making creaking sounds. Mau figures out that the creaking is coming from the grasses that are wound around the mummies because of the change in temperature. It’s not that the dead are coming to life.

But he’s still scared.

“The grandfathers didn’t wake up. The noise he had heard as a boy was just paper-vine getting hotter or colder. That was true and he could prove it.

‘It wasn’t hard to work out, so why is it all I can do not to wet myself?Because paper-vine moving doesn’t sound interesting and walking skeletons does. That’s why. Somehow they make us feel more important.’

Even our fears make us feel more important – because we fear that we may not be.

Nation, Terry Pratchett

Meanwhile, in the real world, a new study recently came out that found that YouTube was primarily responsible for the startling rise in the number of people who believe that the Earth is flat and that this whole spherical planet idea is a vast misinformation conspiracy.

Nearly everyone that researchers interviewed at recent Flat Earth Conference said that they first were exposed to the Flat Earth idea on YouTube. Basically the YouTube algorithm tends to lead people to more and more extreme views if you keep watching.Radical right-wing extremism, anti-vaccination and the truth about the aliens who really run the world will all surface if you watch YouTube long enough because the algorithm notices that people who watch this kind of nonsense tend to stay engaged longer.

More watching = more ad sales = more money = good for YouTube.

But why do people believe this stuff?

Well, other than the fact that, apparently, the falcon cannot hear the falconer, things fall apart, the centre cannot hold and mere anarchy is loosed upon the world, I have an observation about the appeal of vast conspiracy theories.

In a typical, vast conspiracy theory, the powerful systems of the world (including all scientists, the press, everyone in the government and all the big corporations) are under the tight control of a shadowy organization. The main purpose of this organization is to keep something secret from…who? Regular people. Especially including the conspiracy theorist.

So if you are the conspiracy theorist, the people (or grey aliens) with all the control and power are focusing much of their efforts on deluding you.

You are that important.

Yet you have not been deluded. You have actually figured out their plan even though they have duped, killed or co-opted everyone else on the planet.

You are that smart.

In this way, you, the conspiracy theorist, become the most important person in the world AND the smartest.

What’s not attractive about that?

Of course, this is a possible only in a country that has had a stable democracy for several generations. In other places they know that if someone controls everything they don’t have to keep their control secret.

Because they actually do control everything and everybody knows it. The best way to control everything is to let everyone know in no uncertain terms that you control everything.

That doesn’t mean that dictators and oligarchs don’t lie about everything. My point is that if you do control everything, keeping your ability to control the press and the government and everything a big secret is not just impossible, it’s a waste of time and energy.

“Three can keep a secret if two of them are dead.”

Benjamin Franklin

If you’re reading this and you are a conspiracy theorist, I invite you to stop wasting your mental energy on fearing the shadowy powers and just write a novel.

If you’re not a conspiracy theorist, I invite you to give up your fear of almost everything. Most things that people are afraid of are just noises made by grass, not skeletons coming to life.

If it’s not going to kill you, it’s not worth being afraid of.

If it is going to kill you, you should maybe run away but keep in mind that eventually, we’re all going to die so fearing death is kind of silly.

Ok, maybe that’s an extreme view. If you don’t fear death, what are you going to fear?

Maybe nothing.

That would be crazy. Like tin-foil hat crazy.

Wouldn’t it?

The Benefits of Being Wrong Part 2: Responsibility

The Benefits of Being Wrong Part 2: Responsibility

The good news is that you are completely responsible for the quality of your life.

The bad news is that you are completely responsible for the quality of your life.

The extent that you blame others for your suffering is the extent to which you give up your own power.

I’m not talking about magical thinking here. I don’t think our minds can effect objective reality. And I’m not talking about blame. There is a big difference between blame and responsibility. They are like apples and Apple computers. Very different things.

But we don’t live in objective reality. We live in subjective reality. And what is the key to happiness and power in our subjective reality is not what happens, it’s how we respond to what happens.

Responsibility is really about your ability to respond. In the Sallatha Sutra, the Buddha tells the parable of the two arrows. We can’t avoid the first arrow, which is an unpleasant occurrence. We can, but usually don’t, avoid the second arrow, which is the suffering caused by our wish that the inevitable first arrow hadn’t struck us.

We are responsible for our ongoing suffering in most cases and, according to the Buddha, this suffering is caused by our desire that things be other than what they are.

You can also take responsibility for things that happened in the past. This doesn’t mean taking the blame for what someone else did you you but it does mean taking responsibility for your part in whatever happened and cleaning up your side of the street. If you do this without expecting the other person (or persons) to do anything you can actually repair a rift in your life.

But taking responsibility is the key.

And admitting where and how you’ve been wrong is necessary. If you can’t admit that you’ve been wrong, you can’t take responsibility and you can’t reclaim that power.

I just finished watching Russian Doll on Netflix.

It’s good, you should watch it. I won’t spoil it for you but taking responsibility is the lesson that the characters need to learn and once they do they regain their power.

Let me know if this makes sense or resonates. Comments are below.



if you are starting a new practice or establishing a new habit. It’s important to do what you said you were going to do every day, every day.

So even if the day gets away from you or you forget to do what you said you were going to do. Do it anyway.

Like I’m doing right now.

Even if it’s short.

Like five, very short paragraphs.

The Benefits of Being Wrong Part I

The Benefits of Being Wrong Part I

There are a lot of people, nowadays, crowing about the value of failing. I thought I heard somebody quoting Astro Teller, the head of Google X (their throw-everything-at-the-wall lab), saying something about striving for failure. I looked him up on Brainy Quotes and found this instead:

I don’t believe a mistake-free learning environment exists.

Astro Teller

Funnily enough, this is exactly what I wanted to write about today. Specifically I wanted to point out that there is no way to learn if you don’t want to learn and if you are right and you know everything it’s hard to imagine wanting to learn.

I mean learning is hard, right? If you don’t need to learn, why bother.

And if you’re never wrong and you know everything…

“But, John,” you say, “nobody knows everything…”

I know that and you know that…

But doesn’t it seem that most people don’t? An awful lot (and I mean awful in every sense of the word) of people have it all figured out. Worse, they think that being wrong is the very worst thing that could happen to them.

So they can’t learn.

It’s not really surprising, unfortunately. There’s no upside for making mistakes in school except to learn from them. You don’t get a pat on the head or a good grade for taking a risk and being wrong.

Maybe you should.

So if you’re wrong today, pat yourself on the back and tell yourself you have an opportunity to learn something. If someone else is wrong, be nice to them and congratulate them on the opportunity to learn. Forgive them when they get upset that they were wrong. They were probably taught from a very young age that mistakes are a horrible thing to make.


PS Astro Teller is the grandson of Edward Teller, the father of the H-Bomb.

PPS Astro is a nickname.

PPPS More on the virtues of screwing up coming soon.

Making a Difference

Making a Difference

“One person can make a difference and everyone should try.”

John F. Kennedy

Yesterday, Bernie Sanders got into the race for the Democratic nomination for the 2020 presidential election. I’ve heard several analysts point out that he may be a victim of his own success. He didn’t win the nomination in 2016 but many of his policy ideas, things that set him apart 3 years ago, are now embraced by every dem.

So even though he didn’t win, he made a huge difference.

About 15 years ago, the late, great Aldrich Allen introduced me at Ten Tops, a sort of open mic night that Sacred Fools has been doing for over 20 years. Aldrich, who was one of the most iconoclastic people I have ever met (and that is saying something–I know a lot of weirdos), said of me: “I love the way his mind works.”

I have remembered and cherished this compliment since then. Honestly, it’s why I write. It made a profound impact on me. Because Aldrich was interested in what I had to say, I have continued to say things, and try to make them interesting, long after Aldrich was gone.

So the moral of these two stories is that anyone can make a difference and everyone should try.

That anyone and everyone includes you and me, just in case that wasn’t obvious.

So encourage someone today. Tell someone you love them or you like them or you appreciate them.

It’ll make a difference.

Goal, Stated

Goal, Stated


If you’ve been reading this for a while, you know that I have a structure that I’ve been developing called The Three Simple Steps.

The Three Simple Steps are”

  1. Step Back – Look at the big picture, set goals, define self and purpose.
  2. Step Up – Take responsibility and set up structures to support accountability and integrity.
  3. Step Forward – Take action.

I have just added another step so it’s going to be The Four Simple Steps or maybe The Four Fundamental Steps.

The new step is:

Step Out – Celebrate your accomplishments, step out of the realm you’re familiar with, and make new connections.

Not everything in this blog will be about the Four Steps but it will probably all relate.

Having said that, here’s the meat.

The Meat

The Four Steps are a dance. They are not meant to all go in a certain order all the time once you get started. To begin something, however, it’s almost always a good idea to take a step back and create a goal so you know where you’re going.

I’ve been thinking about setting a goal every two weeks and then applying the Four Steps to that goal and seeing how it works. My hope is that you, gentle reader, will join me in this endeavour.

Finding a goal for the next two is not hard for me. I’m in pain and I want it to stop.

The Goal: Spend at least 20 minutes a day (10 in the morning, 10 in the evening) stretching and foam rolling.

Here’s the backstory. Over the past few years, I’ve been getting achier and achier. I’ve been to a rheumatologist and, based on my blood work, I don’t have arthritis. The problem is just that I exercise and I don’t stretch or do foam rolling.

Lately, it’s been bad. My quads, my hips and my lower back are all painful. When I stand up after sitting down for any length of time I walk like Frankenstein’s Monster for several yards as my back cries out in protest. When I climb stairs I quietly grunt in pain.

It’s ridiculous and it has to stop.

My ultimate goal as it relates to my body is to be fit and healthy. One thing that is OBVIOUSLY missing is a daily stretching practice…or any stretching of any kind ever.


So my goal is to develop a daily stretching and rolling practice. I will also make an appointment with my doctor. I hope that he will set me up with a physical therapist/trainer who can design a routine for me.

Step up means take responsibility (whose fault is this? Mine! Done). It also means setting up accountability structures. I will set up an agreement with two other people (and with you, gentle readers), to support me in doing this every day.

Step forward means taking action which I will do as soon as I finish this post and publish it.

I actually started today with 5 minutes of rolling my muscles before I stood up and it made a huge difference.

I promise to keep you posted.

Now it’s your turn. What is your goal for the next two weeks? Post it below in the comments and I’ll help you reach it.