(Neal Stephenson’s Manuscript, not to discourage you)
Most everyone I know has started a blog novel and journal, most everyone I know has also stopped writing a blog, novel or journal after only a few weeks of trying. There are lots of reasons for this. Journals come down to not feeling interesting or profound, Blogs are usually stopped because no one is reading them and novels, well because they are freaking novels.
I myself had this problem for years, until I started practicing one simple trick. Write four words a day, ever day.
Surely you can find time for four words, surely there is no excuse not to be able to write four measly words. Heck, when I first started this method, often I’d just sit down and write, “The day was cold.” But then something amazing started happening, more often than not, it would go on. “The Day was cold. I tried walking around the streets of LA, but it began to rain, so I jumped into a coffee shop. I met a girl there, I think she may have been homeless, I could see it in her eyes. Nothing she said seemed completely whole, she was lying to me, lying because she didn’t have an answer, or maybe she was afraid of the truth”
You see, this is a hack, a simple fix. Often we say we have nothing to write, often we say we don’t have time, and if you actually end up only write four words, than that is probably true. But, more often than not, you will discover you just needed a reason to sit down, you needed to be forced to write something, you just needed to get started.
There is a secondary part of “four words a day.” You have to do it for 6 months. 6 months is not a lot of time, but it takes that much time to realize if you are writing anything of value, it takes that long to get viewers to your blog and start figuring out your novel. If you are writing a screenplay, you will have a first draft in a month or two, but it takes 6 to see if you really have something.
It’s four words, it’s maybe 1 minute a day. You can do it. Now you have no excuse to keep going.
I am not a morning person. I am grumpy, tired, I can’t think, I don’t want to talk, and I just want my coffee. I also hate doing laundry. My laundry schedule is as follows, when I run out of underwear, I do my laundry.
These two stressors always meet right after I step out of the shower. Seeing as I never waste the time to match the socks after I pull them out of the dryer, my sock closet looks like the intestines of a polar bear who was sponsored by Hanes. As I rummage through this mess I begin to mumble “And I thought they smelled bad… On the outside.” In my desperate search for two socks that match, my tension level rises until I finally give up and just pick out two that look close enough.
Then, finally I did it. I was fed up and I took a stand. I emptied my sock drawer into the garbage and ran over to Target. I spent 20 bucks on a few packs of matching socks.
There are two benefits to buying new socks. First of all, your feet are two things you use every day, they’re worth the 20 bucks. New socks feel great and you should never fret to spend money on things you use every day! – the saying, spend money on things that come between you and the ground comes to mind.
Second, I have saved time and stress by always being able to just grab two socks and know they match. There are few places in life where such a paltry sum can create such comfort and joy.
So go ahead and splurge on yourself, throw away your socks and buy new ones!
we could start a propaganda effort to get the enemy to waste money on propaganda, because propaganda doesn’t work…
If you don’t believe the entertainment we consume affects the way we behave in a society -and yes this includes “violent” video games– then you don’t believe in copycat killers, the effectiveness of advertising or even propaganda.
Hell if I get into my car after spending the night playing “Need for Speed,” I have to use every ounce of my brain power to keep the car under 65 while holding back an intense urge to ram every other car on the street.
The art and entertainment we create affects every aspect of who we are, how we think, and how we act in society. And guess what, this is a good thing!
I have worked in film for a long time now. I love telling stories and I love making movies. I think there comes a time in every artists life when he asks himself why he does what he does. Sure it’s fun, it’s fulfilling, but what am I trying to say? It took me years , but I realized I was making movies for a very simple reason.
“I want to make movies that make people not want to watch movies.”
It doesn’t make a lot of sense to most people, but it has become my lifelong mission. Entertainment has such a vital role in human evolution and society. Entertainment was the gravy we put on our meal and it was the method we used to inspire, to fight on, to dream great things.
Yet now we are bombarded by entertainment, it has become our day, the gravy has become our meal. We check Facebook and Twitter, we look at memes, and we want quick fixes that really do nothing to make this world a better place. We are slowly amusing ourselves to death.
My dad used to work for NASA, and I am kinda a space buff. I had the luck of hanging out with a bunch of JPLers right after Curiosity landed and I talked to them about why they loved space, how they decided to get into NASA. Each one it came back to some form of entertainment that inspired them, a childhood memory of “The Moon is a Harsh Mistress” another’s love for Star Trek. Entertainment pushed these people to dare great things. The ramifications of what we create can change the traction of human culture and ambition!
Our work, our art can lead human beings to be their best. Our creations can inspire others to do things we are not capable of. Entertainment can become important again. Entertainment can make this world a better place.
This is why I am offended when people tell me entertainment has no effect on society. It does. For better, and worse, it does.
Even the military uses art to increase its kill rate. In fact a single painting has forever changed the traction of human war.
After the battle of Gettysburg 27,000 rifles were confiscated, upon inspection it was found that 90% of the rifles had been reloaded over and over again without being shot. – it was so against human nature to pull the trigger, soldiers were pretending to fire and reload. As many as 80% of the guns used by the front line soldiers in WWII were never fired – and this does not include soldiers who purposely missed enemy targets. In fact it has been shown that over 90% of deaths in wars had come from 2% of the soldiers. – and many military psychologists believe this 2% of the population were psychopaths.
You see, killing human beings is hard, most people will not even defend themselves if it mean killing another man. There are obvious evolutionary reasons for this, and it’s one of the things that brings me faith in humanity. For how different we all are, it goes against every ounce of humanity to kill another person.
But the military is about killing people and blowing up things. A 20% kill rate just did not hack it! So after these studies came out, they instituted just about every plan they could think of to increase a soldiers ability to kill. After many failures their was one shining bright spot, and it came in the form of a famous painting, a painting we have all seen, we all know, you may even laugh at me when I call it art. But this painting has helped increase the kill rate of the American soldier to over 90%.
The human silhouette target.
(greatest killing machine in history)
Prior to these studies, the targets in every shooting range were those circular dart board papers that we all recognize. The closer to the center, the better you did. These targets made great Olympic marksmen but poor killers. Then the human silhouette was instituted and everything changed.
It wasn’t that it made it easier to kill, a soldier still goes through all the emotional trauma that comes with taking a human’s life. What it allowed him to do was distance himself in the moment that he pulled the trigger. “It’s just like shooting the targets back in beggers canyon” he would tell himself…
And as James Gandolfini explained to us in True Romance, with every kill it became easier.
Now the first time you kill somebody, that’s the hardest. I don’t give a shit if you’re fuckin’ Wyatt Earp or Jack the Ripper. Remember that guy in Texas? The guy up in that fuckin’ tower that killed all them people? I’ll bet you green money that first little black dot he took a bead on, that was the bitch of the bunch. First one is tough, no fuckin’ foolin’. The second one… the second one ain’t no fuckin’ Mardis Gras either, but it’s better than the first one ’cause you still feel the same thing, y’know… except it’s more diluted, y’know it’s… it’s better. I threw up on the first one, you believe that? Then the third one… the third one is easy, you level right off. It’s no problem. Now… shit… now I do it just to watch their fuckin’ expression change.
And we have all experienced this on a smaller scale. How often have you had to play a video game in which you had to kill an innocent person? I think of the terrorist zone in CoD 2 -the first time I played that level, I couldn’t bring myself to kill the civilians. I had the same problems with sacrificing a human in Skyrim -I actually felt a little, pain in my heart. It makes no sense, it’s illogical, but that gut instinct to not kill is so strong in the human psyche, that even in a video game I have to slowly desensitize myself.
Now let me be clear, I do not believe that media should be censored, I am 100% pro 1st amendment. But we must realize that our freedoms come with consequences. If our only argument for a certain right is that it is nothing but good, then our liberties will be taken away as soon as someone discovers an negative effect.
Does the TSA make it less likely for 9-11 to happen again? Probably, but I’m still against them. I believe that living free is more important than living safe. Has the mass media increased the likelihood of a mass killings? Probably. But on the whole, entertainment has been good for society – and I would even argue has made us safer.
If society were to collapse today, we would look to the mythology of our past as a blueprint to rebuild. Stories help us find our heroes, our morals and our laws. Entertainment is important. The reason it has stood the test of time, is that we need it. Entertainment warns us and guides us. It inspires us to be better. Don’t tell me what I do makes no difference, don’t tell the artists of the world that their work is pointless. Yes, violence in the media does make us more violent, and that is a good thing!
(this breakfast is great, but the eggs are a bit overcooked)
I brew my own beer, and I’m really proud of that. I smell the grains and try to determine which will mix together the best, I spend hours studying the yeast strain and regulate the temperature in my downstairs so that it can have the best effect on the flavor I am trying to achieve.
Some of my beers are fantastic, some are awful, but they are still mine damnit. – and even if one tastes like crap, it still gets the job done!
Sometimes I have beer tasting and inevitably a conversation will arise that goes something like this.
“Hey this is good beer!” random acquaintance tells me.
“Thanks!!” I reply, “I used an aromatic Belgian grain in that one.”
“This really is one of the best beers I have ever had.”
I take the compliment in, “I really appreciate it, I can send some home with you if you like!”
“That would be great, this is way better than that last one you gave me.”
“Yea I know, that wasn’t my best.” I always know what is about to come next.
“Oh and that first one, that first one I didn’t like so much.”
“Well I was trying something different on that one, it didn’t work out the way I intended, but lesson learned,” I say as I start thinking of ways to rescind my earlier offer of free beer.
Here some advice to everyone. Once you give a compliment, STOP! There is no reason to follow a compliment with a critique. It’s not like we are having an in depth conversation about brewing. You were just being nice and wanted to tell me you appreciate my hard work, there’s no reason to then destroy all that good will with pointing out my faults.
For some reason, there is something in the human psyche that says you have to follow a compliment with a critique. – I learned Al Brooks coined the term Compusult for this, a compliment followed by an insult. It’s as if you think the other person will think you are a fraud if you don’t follow your compliment with some hard hitting honesty. Well let me be the first to say, bring on the flattery! Hell, I don’t even care if it was an honest compliment, I put a lot of time and money into that beer, and hearing that you like it makes me feel good. If Hitler told me I had great beer, every conversation I ever had about him would start with, “Well I don’t agree with him on the Jew thing, but he does have great taste in beer.”
And guess what, if one of my beers was sub par I know it, trust me I know it. No beer has ever lived up to my own expectation. Anyone who is good at anything is his own worst critic. There are times I ask for critiques, there are times I want people to be harsh with me, I join beer clubs and just let people rip into my recipes… Actually, 90% of my experience with my brews is having other brewers critique the flavor and method. I am always trying to challenge myself to be better. By the time you are at my beer tasting, I have probably reworked my brew a dozen times just so that it is good enough to share.
Whenever you are talking to someone you respect, or someone you want to praise, as soon as you find yourself having any urge to be anything but positive, just cut it short. It’s so unexpected to receive a compliment that is not followed by a critique, this person will probably want to talk to you more, it’s makes you look interesting and different. You should especially remember this when talking to a sports star, celebrity, politician, hot chick… End the compusults, end them now!
(one of the most famous letters ever written and I can’t read a word of it)
How much do you enjoy going through the mail? I pretty much toss everything. Sometimes, something will look important, I’ll open it, skim a few lines, only to realize that some credit card company just wasted 37 seconds of my life. I actually can’t think of the last time I got a piece of mail that made my life better.
You know who else hates mail? Everyone… Well the point is lost in that statement. Everyone who you have ever sent a letter to, who you don’t know personally. If you have ever mailed anything to a politician, business leader or celebrity, most likely the only thing you received back – other than nothing – is a form letter that thanks you in some vague way that it could have been written for anyone.
And so this hack was taught to me by an assistant to a politician, it’s such a simple hack I can’t believe it is not talked about more. I have had such an incredible amount of success with this hack, I actually don’t want to share it.
Write hand written letters…
I know, I know this is how it was done for so long, but hand written letters have become so rare in the last 10 years that when you receive one. you can’t help but pick it up, analyze it an start reading it. Some people complain that their handwriting is too bad to use this hack. Actually the opposite is true. It has been shown that people will pay more attention to a letter they have a hard time reading. Try it yourself; get a few of your birthday cards out and see how much more time you give the cards that are barely legible… Your brain almost forces you to solve the puzzle!
It’s so simple, short and sweet. This will not work every time, but it works about a trillion times better than just sending the same old properly formatted word document.
In this age of mass production, people like personal, one of a kind things. People like to see effort and creation. It’s why going to a brewpub is so much fun, and paintings always look better in the artists studio.
I have a shoebox that I save all my hand written letters in, and while yours will probably get tossed by the celebrity you are trying to reach, it will also most likely get read.
(don’t tell us that raping our slaves then sacrificing them to the Gods has no effect)
Cicero was debating the Roman Senate on the effectiveness of prayer. “Our prayers cannot control the will of the Gods,” he would argue. The Roman Senators, who I’m sure, were afraid of losing the pagan vote, argued to the contrary. They brought forth proof to show how the will of man could persuade the Gods.
A great storm had hit the Mediterranean, destroying all but one ship from a Roman armada. The crew was brought forth to testify against Cicero. One after another, the sailors explained how they prayed for their lives, and the Gods had answered their call!
Cicero was defeated. The Romans and sailors mocked him as he sat silently, taking the verbal abuse from his foes. When the crowd finally calmed down, Cicero stood and made one final argument.
“There is only thing that you have proven,” Cicero explained “You can not hear the prayers of the dead on the ocean floor.”
“to get a girl to like you, all you need is confidence” says Ryan Gosling
Most losers I know look for advice from the winners, “What little secret does Bill Gates know that I don’t?” - I’ll give you a hint, if you start programming 80 hours a week at age 14, give up everything in order to start a company and be really lucky, you may create a billion dollar company.
The winners I know look to the losers, what are losers doing? What are the losers not doing? Read: Maybe the dead on the ocean floor should have spent less time praying and more time trying to keep their ships from overturning!
It’s a similar concept to starting a new business, stop looking at what everyone else has done and look at what they have missed. Find some task in your life that is harder than it should be, make it simpler then sell whatever made it easier – this sums up basically every startup ever.
Our brains work in narrative, we always want to connect the dots of how some super rich or super famous person made it happen. But the truth is much harsher, there are many factors in finding success, and luck also plays a gigantic role.
You wouldn’t look to a lottery winner and think “Hey I should just start buying lottery tickets.” But we do this in so many other aspect s of life. If you want to play the lottery, the only way to increase your odds is to buy more tickets.
So one of the things I do in this industry is work with Comedy Groups. The best experience have always been with my dear friends at Frog Island Comedy.
A few months ago we were invited on the reality show Viral Video Showdown. It worked like this, they showed up at our house at 2PM on a Saturday, they gave us a premise (in this case it was a musical about the apocalypse) and we had to write, film, edit and deliver the short within 72 hours… It was a lot of crazyness, but we ended up winning!
Here is what we pulled off, I’m really proud of this little video.
When an officer of the law is walking up to your car during a routine traffic stop, a lot of thoughts are going through his head. “Is this person going to be a jerk?” “Will they argue with me?” “I hope they have a clean record, so I don’t have to do a crap load of paper work!”
There is also one deep emotion that he is trying to repress, “I hope this isn’t the last moment of my life.”
Police officers live in a constant state of fear. They are pretty much summarily hated by everyone. Good guys give them a hard time and bad guys kill them. The one thing a cop never expects to hear when you roll down your window is “I’m sorry officer.”
Go on a ride-along with an officer, almost every town offers them. It’s a lot of fun to see the world from a cop’s perspective, you will see people arguing with the cops, acting like jerks, or just being quiet, but almost no one says “I’m sorry.” When they do, the officers demeanor changes, he is now on their side. It’s such a simple hack, yet it seems so hard for people to do.
You see, most people think cops thrive on authority, they don’t. It’s the academy rejects who ended up at the TSA and security companies, who value power. Police just want respect. Submission is the opposite of respect.
Respect comes from treating someone as a peer, treating someone like you would your friend. By saying “I’m sorry.” You are showing the officer you respect his time and his inner emotions. By saying “Officer,” instead of “Sir,” you are showing him you respect his title, and aren’t just being submissive to his power. Even holding your hands at 10-2 and turning off the gas while he walks up, is not a sign of submission, but respect of his fear of walking up to a complete stranger.
You may be thinking, “But what if I don’t deserve the ticket! What if I didn’t do anything wrong!”
It doesn’t matter, the officer is not the judge. Leave your arguing for the court, debating the officer will get you nowhere, and now you are wasting his time. Plus, everyone makes mistakes, if you were a cop, you would make mistakes as well. Saying “I’m sorry,” does not need to be an admission of guilt. It’s just a moment of understanding and relating to his plight.
When a civilian decides to become a cop, it’s not out of a need to be a dick, at the time he actually had grand dreams of making the world a better place. He probably doesn’t like patrolling the streets anymore than you enjoy being pulled over by him. Many are also military vets who have seen real hell, your complaining and scoffing will seem silly compared to the true acts of carnage he has experienced. The vast majority of police are just like you and me. They have fears and insecurities. So show them a little respect.
And in the end, even if you do get the ticket, ask for his name, shake his hand, and say something like “Thanks for protecting the highways.” It will make his day, and strangely will make you feel better about your ticket as well.
(why does no one ever ask me about my love of musical theater)
Nothing is more demeaning than waiting in line at the bar -READ: Strip Club– only to see the doorman give that bro-handshake/half hug to a patron in front of you. Even worse, someone walks up, and the doorman greets him by name while waiving him to “go right in.” You get jealous and wish you were that person, wanting to have his high social status! You dream of what it must be like to be such a baller and player, until you realize only rappers and professional athletes are allowed to be referred to as such.
But it gets worse. You spot that stranger in the bar, he’s enjoying himself, surrounded by awesome looking friends, and you want to talk to him, you want to get to know him. He just seems different. If he was your friend, you’d probably have the life you always wanted. Exotic vacations, spontaneous trips… Oh and the girls, you know he must get all the girls.
Well this tip was actually given to me by a stripper when I asked her how to date strippers. She replied, “It’s simple, just always buy the doorman a drink.”
It works like this, on a slow night, buy a Red Bull and a water from the bar. Go outside for a quick smoke or some fresh air. Walk up to the doorman and hand him over the Red Bull and say something like “Thought you might need this tonight” – if he explains he is not drinking caffeine, give him your water instead. Ask his name and strike up a short conversation, “So whats the worst fake ID you have ever seen?” “This place seems pretty chill, ever see any craziness?” Just something simple, a little three minute chat, nothing more, he has work to do. When you go back inside makes sure to end with a “Great to meet you INSERT NAME HERE” He may have already forgotten your name, repeat it for him.
In a few minutes you have just increased your social standing at the said establishment, and high social standing makes everything easier. You should always get to know the manager and bartenders at your local hangouts as well. Nothing makes you look more important than walking into a a bar, having the doorman call you out by name, the manager visit you at your table, and the bartender single you out for a drink. And people – READ: Girls – like important people.
Now, this hack often needs a followup. The next time you come to the club, the Doorman may or may not remember you, just walk up to him and say “How you doing INSERT NAME,” if he doesn’t reply by your name, make sure to remind him again “It was INSERT YOUR NAME.” If he is still staring a blank, just finish with “If you need another Red Bull let me know.” I’ve never had a doorman forget me after a reminder.
And now you are that guy! You are the guy who is envied by all the suckers waiting in line. Every time you show up to the “bar” it will be you getting the bro-handshake half hug. And soon the doorman will just waiving you in.
Monday was spent on Reddit reading the TIL section, while feeling superior to an online community that thinks the most popular comment must be the smartest. On Tuesday I planned a trip I have always wanted to take, recreating “The Motorcycle Diaries” on a
(just me, the elements and some lonely girl I pick up on the way)
BSA up the Pacific Coast Highway. Hell I bet I could get a bestselling novel out of it. After a couple of hard days of work I rewarded myself on Wednesday by getting drunk and watching reruns of Frazier. I woke up Thursday with my head spinning with the most amazing business idea I have ever had, only problem is it will take a few millions to start up. I guess I can file that one away for when I sell my bestselling novel. Friday I changed the world, I got into a comment war about how to restructure Health Care in America. I’m sure it had a positive effect on the overall dialogue of the internet.
And Saturday… Saturday I woke up feeling pretty lousy about myself, honestly I felt worthless. I walked around the house thinking that nothing ever changes, I am not making any progress on any of my goals, and actually, my life kinda sucks. It got so bad that when a friend I don’t care much for, called me to help him move, I begrudgingly said yes. –Though I made sure to make the day a living hell for him, letting him know that helping a friend move is basically the modern day equivalent to the Holocaust.
(I don’t know why my self image is so bad)
Strangely, after this horrible day of hanging out with someone I don’t like, while doing monotonous, labor intensive, free work, I felt pretty good about myself. I soon realized I was the only person he could count on, and that made me feel great. That night, he treated me to dinner and got me drunk. We joked about how awful moving is. – Our final conclusion was that basically ever evil act in the history of mankind probably started as either vengeance for helping someone move, or as an excuse to get out of it, ‘Oh sorry, I can’t help, I’ve got to….. go bomb the World Trade Center today.”
I started thinking about how worthless I felt earlier in the day and I decided that when I feel worthless it’s probably because I am worthless.
Self-worth really only comes from two places.
What you create and how you treat others.
So if you are feeling worthless, the first thing you need to do is admit you are worthless, then go out and do something of worth! It sounds crazy, but we were all raised being told how special we are, we had parents whose parents neglected them to the point that they overcompensate for us, and this mentality will take us years to break. You are only special if you do special things.
Personally, I wish whenever I was depressed as a child my mom would have kindly explained to me how worthless I was and that I needed to go out and do something. This however would have probably created a whole new list of unintended consequences.
Feeling worthless leads to being worthless. You spend more time in bed, more time on the internet, more time playing video games. The only way to break this cycle is to do something. Quit planning, quit talking and go out and do something that furthers the cause of humanity. Its cliché, but go volunteer at the local shelter, fix that faucet that has been dripping, mow your lawn and maybe build a patio.
There’s another plus to not being worthless, doing stuff makes you a winner, and people like winners. People will start to migrate towards you – and not worthless people, but people who actually have their shit together. Talking about the Koi Pond you built in the backyard inbetween your stints of helping build a school for a poor Mexican Village and taking a weekend to hike the Los Angeles Crest, is a great party conversation. So is the time you worked at the soup kitchen only to be mugged on the way home.
People like people who do things. In this world where getting by is the norm, anyone who breaks that norm is now some kind of modern day Ernest Hemmingway, and you don’t even have to write a book, fight in a war or kill yourself. It’s awesome.
(I’ll let you keep Cuba, but I will always be watching you from the Florida Keys)