Don’t Leave Money On The Table


You control your bank account. You decide how rich you are.

Your wealth is the emotional account trapped inside you. You’ve got one, whether you acknowledge it or not. It’s the 401k your company provides — even if you didn’t sign up for it, it’s there, and your subconscious provides matching funds, which could be accruing as we speak, if you bother to add your 6% a day.

Don’t leave money on the table. Your emotional vault is the only resource you have, and if it’s bankrupt, or if you don’t know the access codes, or if you hate it and resent its existence and think it’s dumb, or if your Dad didn’t know his code, you lose capital. Right now. Because emotional capital accrues, like money in the bank. It builds on itself, it grows interest. The more you have, the more you get. It magnetizes, it draws energy, it gains power, it acquires strength.

And it translates into real-world capital. Because the more emotional capital you acquire, the more you use it. When you know your emotional account is flush, you act with certainty and confidence. That certainty allows you to relax and conduct your business intuitively, guided by the freedom a tremendous fortune affords.

How do you build emotional wealth?

Here’s what I do:

1. Write down anything you remember from your dreams when you first wake up. Often you won’t remember anything. But the more you do it, the more you remember. It’s not about interpreting — it’s about stretching open that connection to whatever’s in your head — keeping the line open. Even a few words will do. If you really can’t remember anything, try writing “what did I dream?” with your dominant hand, then writing whatever words come up with your non-dominant hand. You don’t believe that you don’t know your own mind, but whenever I’ve done this, my hand writes stuff that makes sense and that I didn’t know was there.

When you go back and read your dreams, you get a real portrait of where you’re at emotionally. Just now, I flipped through my journal. Everything sounded a lot more lucid than it felt at the time. The process of translating the abstract into language might crystallize meaning — we filter for the pieces that make sense to us. What stops you up in this is knowing you’re not describing the dream exactly right — but that’s what stops us up in writing. Better to get anything down on paper than to wait until we’re getting it down perfectly. Practicing this every morning keeps our blocks open: it’s like injecting Heparin in the IV tubes of the mind. Just get anything down, because these are pieces pointing to where you were that day. And as it turns out, the pieces add up to a very evocative whole.

2. Take a walk every day. There’s something about walking that stirs up the unconscious and clears access to your emotions. It’s like space clearing for the mind, and it literally readjusts your spine. Probably better to go alone, at least a few days a week, so you’re forced to confront yourself. You can try walking meditation, which Natalie Goldberg describes in Writing Down The Bones. Or you can listen to music or audiobooks. Or think about your story. Or think about nothing at all. Observe stuff, zone out. Be with yourself.

3. Meditate. Meditation was on my to-do list for a long time but I never got around to because I thought I was too busy. Meditation will change your life. I’m not fancy about it — sometimes I do it lying down. Sometimes sitting. Sometimes while walking. Usually it’s 15 minutes. I have a meditation timer on my iPhone, and I try to write down what I think about on the first bell and on the second bell — another way to track what’s going on inside me. Because this is the most valuable thing I have. My goal is to be still. Do nothing. Sometimes that means repeating a mantra that occurs to me in the moment — that’s how “Be More You” came to me. I was feeling anxious that day about staffing, and that’s what bubbled up from my subconscious: Be More You. Sometimes my thoughts run, and it’s a cacophony of all the junk of my daily life that I can’t seem to stop. And that’s okay — because being kind to yourself means allowing whatever is. Abandoning resistance. So if your mind needs to race and get all worked up, let it. Sit there with it quietly, because maybe all it needs is to be heard. And then eventually, if given enough time and enough hearing, it will run out of things to say, and then it will just be you and your mind, observing silence.

4. Write a couple of lines in a journal before you fall asleep at night. This is hard for me. But I do it because it’s good for me. If I really don’t want to do it, I’ll make myself write one sentence or one word. Again, this is about keeping that connection open and keeping a record of the flags that show up on the page. Very often you’ll be surprised by what shows up there, and it’s only when you’re forced to articulate on paper what’s in your head that you see what’s really going on inside you. What’s the point of owning a fortune if you don’t know the access codes? This is where you learn the access codes. Slowly, with practice.

5. Go there and stay there. You know that thing you don’t want to think about? The thought that provokes anxiety — that’s it, you just thought of it, then you pushed it back out of your mind. You know what it is. It makes you a little sick to your stomach. It creates a hot, burning sensation in your chest. You do not want to think about it, ever. You certainly don’t want to talk about it. You choke up a little when you try to talk about it. Go there and stay there. The ability to find those feelings and stay there, without running away is what makes us storytellers. When you feel vulnerable — humiliated — powerless — alone — do not resist. Do not puff out your chest and make yourself look bigger. Make yourself smaller. Look for chances to knock yourself down a peg or two. Your dangerous place is not the bottom: it’s the top. Stories are not told from up high. They’re told from below. Do not resist humiliation — embrace it. The more you dismantle your ego, the more you will access your own emotions, and the more your audience will access you.

Do not leave your matching funds on the table. They’re available right now, and if you let today pass without seizing and investing these funds, you’ll have nothing to draw on when it’s time to produce. Investing here, every day, is how storytellers get rich, quick.

How To Be Profound: Top Ten Tips

advice, drama, novels, pilots, screenwriting, storytelling, T.V. writing

So your neighbor is all “why won’t you stop calling cheese stores and telling them you’re throwing a benefit for the homeless they have to donate to” and you’re all “I jack fancy cheese stores out of cheese because it’s profound.” Because everything I do is profound. Because I’m doing it, it’s profound, and the fact I’m doing it means something. Tricking fancy cheese stores into donating me cheese is a mirror standing before my life, showing me what I am.

My superhero power is a curse: I see meaning in everything around me.

A life is a novel in practice: meaning and symbols and structure and symmetry lie everywhere you look, waiting to be exposed. Being profound means that even when your life centers around tricking fancy cheese stores into donating you free cheese, you see meaning.

So here they are, MY TOP TEN TIPS for how to be profound:

  1. Go Beneath The Surface. First, show us what’s on the surface. What’s on the surface is a symptom of what’s beneath the surface. Profundity is like acne: it erupts all over your face as an expression of your body’s secrets. So once you’ve established what’s on the surface, you’ve got a basis to ….
  2. Drill Down. Reject face values. Whatever you see on the surface of your world — your parking ticket, the pollution in the bay that bars you from surfing, the garbage juice you just poured all over your apartment — exist as indicators to show us what’s really going on. Parking tickets are society’s notices that we shouldn’t linger here, this isn’t our place. We can’t surf because we live in our own filth, waiting for the rain to wash it all away into the toilet that is our bay. Garbage juice … eh, see Reason #2. Why the fuck doesn’t it rain inside?
  3. Get Open. If you are closed, it’s going to be a hell of a lot more difficult to see how things relate to one another. Because you’re too busy guarding the fortress, making sure none of them relate to you. But once you make efforts to open up, you can …
  4. Connect. See the connections between one thing and another. How does one thing resemble another? What’s bothering you? What makes you angry? What does it remind you of? Anger is a flag that something is important. What makes us angry often reflects in our own life.
  5. Get Free. Some people fear connections — between ideas, between things, between themselves and others — because they’re afraid of being tied down, afraid of tying this Buzz Ballads II 2-CD disc compilation to the time you drove around all night in Atlanta listening to that song about rubbing lotion on someone, wondering if some boy was home and if not what he was doing and why he wasn’t home and with whom wasn’t he home, to the times you used to sit out on the curb as a child waiting for your father to get you and wondering the same thing. They’re afraid of tying these things together because of the fear there’s no end, no bottom, and because of the fear that once locked into one series of connections, that’s it. You’re done. You’re never done. Once you choose freedom, you’re always free, and all the things and people in your life can say and do whatever they want, and you’re still free. You’re never tied down to one story.
  6. Understand. How do you interpret what you see around you? It doesn’t matter whether it’s right or wrong. It’s true and it matters because you say so. Your understanding is a precious gift you share with the rest of us. And you share it by how you show one character looking at another, how you focus on a specific object on a table. That look and that object help us see your understanding through your connections, and they help us form our own.
  7. Get Bigger. Some people live a small life and tell small stories. Others choose to be profound. A life isn’t small because of a person’s profession or status or friends or attractiveness: a life is small because a person chooses not to grow. Every time we’re faced with an obstacle we make a choice: we shrink or we get bigger. Profundity gets bigger, and circles in other people under its wing, and takes the long view, and the deep view, and the transparent view.
  8. Get Inclusive. The most shallow people and ideas are the most exclusive. Anything that excludes — people, ideas, interpretations, experiences — clings to the surface, fights any effort to discover the meaning therein. Because that meaning is dark. Being profound means going deep, going broad, getting significant, including everything and everyone. I’m looking at you Hollywood.
  9. Get Pervasive. Profundity understands the way you do anything is the way you do everything, and the way the world does anything is the way the world does everything. Everything is the same all the time, and nothing really changes though things appear to change all the time. What looks to us like change are things happening on different scales or in different forms, and it’s our job as storytellers to reveal how these things have not changed but are in fact the same. Profundity is intense, thorough and complete.
  10. Find Origins. The roots of our current world originate in the past. To change the future, we change the present. Profundity honors the link between today’s garbage juice and the garbage juice of every waitress job you’ve ever held, and the garbage juice of the world, today’s parking ticket and tomorrow’s medical lab results and the mountain of social paperwork that documents and drives us through our roles in life, as determined as we are to resist.

Okay! Now it’s time to get out there and be profound.