Category: Positively Positive

Maybe You Are Better off Single

“I used to think that the worst thing in life was to end up all alone. It’s not. The worst thing in life is ending up with people who make you feel all alone.” — Robin Williams

There’s a phrase that says, “If you meet an asshole in the morning, then you’ve met an asshole. If you meet assholes all day, maybe you’re the asshole.”

What does this have to do with relationships? It’s similar to always being in relationships with emotionally unavailable partners, and then blaming those same people instead of examining yourself.

I see a lot of articles where the author isn’t interested in looking at themselves to determine why they attract emotionally unavailable partners. They place the blame on the other person — even though, by their own words, they have had numerous relationships that fit the same pattern. They ignore and dismiss repeated behaviors resulting in the same outcome. And instead of looking at the hurt below the behavior, it’s much simpler to turn the mirror toward the other person. But if you remain in a relationship for a long time waiting for a “commitment,” you should examine why you are staying with someone who is consistently showing you who they are, and what they (don’t) want. Maybe it’s because you are emotionally unavailable too. Not choosing to leave is still a choice. (I understand abusive relationships are altogether different.)

I did all the above — blame my partners for the relationship failing and for being emotionally unavailable. Staying and waiting for the other person to change because I didn’t need to change anything. I wouldn’t bother with self-examination because it was much easier to place blame on someone else. I believed the problems that occurred were the other person’s fault; until I realized maybe it was me who was emotionally unavailable. I became tired of meeting assholes all day and finally understood that maybe I’m the asshole.

There are many reasons someone may be emotionally unavailable.

After years of therapy, I’ve learned mine come from childhood wounds that never healed. Therapy taught me instead of looking at why all of my partners were emotionally unavailable, I should look at why I kept attracting them. It’s a subtle difference, but an important one.

In an article in Psychology Today titled Why You Keep Attracting Unavailable Partners, Roxy Zarrabi, a licensed psychologist specializing in relationship patterns states, “If you consciously want a lasting relationship but keep getting a different result, you may be subconsciously drawn to unavailable partners.” She lists three reasons you might attract emotionally unavailable people:

  1. The role models you had for a romantic relationship in childhood mirror your relationship patterns. According to Zarrabi,One of the reasons people are drawn to emotionally unavailable partners is due to the role models they had for romantic relationships in childhood. Perhaps your parents were together but emotionally distant from one another, or perhaps one of them appeared to be much more invested in the relationship than the other, creating an imbalance in the partnership.”
  2. One or more of your caregivers growing up was unavailable. “If one parent or both were absent from your life or emotionally unavailable, it’s not uncommon to be drawn to the same type of partner repeatedly because it feels familiar. People often subconsciously try to heal what happened in the past by repeating the same dynamic they witnessed as children and hold onto the hope that it will work out this time around.”
  3. Some part of you is unavailable. “Consider that another reason you may be drawn to emotionally unavailable partners is that some part of you is also unavailable. Perhaps you consciously want commitment, but deep down you fear true intimacy, losing your sense of self in the relationship, or getting hurt.”

Every reason listed above applies to me, and I’m guessing if you keep attracting emotionally unavailable partners, there is some part of it that applies to you as well. Many people want to believe their problems are someone else’s fault, and they want someone to blame. It’s easier to believe nothing is wrong with you and the other person is the one who is really unavailable. There should be a good guy and a bad guy. And the other person is always the bad guy, right? But by not looking at your role in why you might pick the wrong partners, you set yourself up for the pattern to continue. If you are unavailable, you will attract the same.

“I never found a companion that was so companionable as solitude.” — Henry David Thoreau

I’ve done a lot of self-examination, and I find I am someone who loses myself in a relationship. I have co-dependent tendencies and can be anxiously attached. I will forego what I want for the other person, not express my needs, and avoid conflict for fear of it ending the relationship. Given these tendencies, I attract partners who are avoidant. It’s a recipe for disaster, and I recognize this now. All of this leads to me being emotionally unavailable, and as Zarabi states in her article, “As a result, it may feel safer to be with someone who is emotionally unavailable, because you know on some level that you don’t have to fully commit to the other person.” Pot meet kettle.

Knowing I don’t have to fully commit definitely keeps me safe. It keeps me from being vulnerable and opening up. And while I find relationships fulfilling and I love being in love, they also take a toll on me. At this point in my life, I’m questioning whether the benefits outweigh the negatives. Although I’m not sure this will continue, I’m beginning to think that a committed relationship may not be for me anymore. Given I’ve been married and divorced, have children, had a committed relationship after my divorce, and am almost 50, I know this decision is much easier for me than for someone who is younger, has never been in a relationship, or wants children.

But for many, being single is just as fulfilling as a relationship, despite what some of the research shows, and despite your age or gender. And while I am aware there can be a stigma with singlehood (especially for women), there is other research that shows being single has better outcomes, especially when compared to low-quality romantic relationships, and greater relationship conflict increases health problems, including depression.

So are you better off single?

In a paper titled, Happily Single: The Link Between Relationship Status and Well-Being Depends on Avoidance and Approach Social Goals, the authors conducted two studies that looked at the link between relationship status and daily life satisfaction as well as life satisfaction/well-being across time. They also compared persons who have avoidance social goals, which is “a motivation to maintain social connections by avoiding conflict or disagreement,” and approach social goals where they “try to maintain their social relationships by enhancing intimacy and fostering relationship growth.”

According to the paper, “In both studies, single people high in avoidance goals who strive to prevent relationship conflict and disagreements were just as happy as people involved in a relationship.” The authors also state, “…it is clear that desires to avoid negative outcomes can make it difficult to enjoy the rewards of relationships.” And, “Being single…may give people high in avoidance goals some relief if they are free from the anxiety and pressures posed by the risk of rejection and negative relationship experiences they try to avoid.”

Conversely, “…individuals high in approach goals who strive to enhance relationship closeness experienced greater life satisfaction/well-being but particularly when they were involved in a relationship.”

So, if you have avoidance social goals, and avoid conflict in order to maintain relationships, being single may be a better option. But it still has to come down to making a choice. Choosing to be single while doing some self-reflection and examining patterns can help you understand the role you play in picking partners. Or you can choose to continue meeting people who are emotionally unavailable. The former sounds much healthier to me.

While being in and committing to a relationship can certainly be rewarding, so can choosing to remain single. And maybe by choosing singlehood, we can learn to stop meeting assholes all day.

Jeff Barton is a writer, ultra-runner, lover of books and zombies, a practitioner of positive thinking, and most importantly, a dad. Living and loving life one day at a time. You can find him at and

Image courtesy of Juan Vargas.

How to Get Past Manifesting Love Blocks

Manifesting love is not for the faint of heart; however, it doesn’t need to be as tricky as some people make it out to be. All you need is willingness, clarity, and a great deal of courage and strength of heart. Oh, you also need openness, vulnerability, trust, and self-love, but you already know that.

I acknowledge you for your willingness to go out and get what you deserve, what you came to this earth for; it’s your birthright to find the right one for you, and it WILL happen!

So here you are in the midst of your manifesting-love journey, and all of a sudden, you feel stuck. Not to worry, my friends, because this is only temporary. I suggest you take some time to do some introspective work, and if you follow the following five tips, you will be all good to go and back on track.

# 1 Make a List of Three Non-Negotiables

The universe doesn’t like chaos. If you have a list of 8,425 items of everything you are looking for in your “person,” it will be impossible to bring them all to you. Pick three non-negotiables, aka deal-breakers. Everything else from your long list is the cherry on top. For instance, if you meet someone who has the same religion as you, is adventurous and intelligent (and those are your three), AND you have amazing chemistry, then there’s a great chance that the two of you could have endless potential. If this person happens to have some additional characteristics that you would like in a partner, but they aren’t part of your three non-negotiables, then consider yourself extra blessed. Take the time to hone in and think about what matters to you. Tap into your inner consciousness and look at your morals and values. What makes you feel comfortable, at ease, and full of joy? Those are your non-negotiables.

# 2 Get Clear on What You’re Looking For:

This is a significant block because, for the universe to serve up what you have ordered, you need to be clear on what you want to “order.”

Set the intention for what you ARE looking for, not what you’re NOT looking for:

In manifesting, you want to be positive. Since we know that the universe gives us what we focus on, you must be focused on what you do want, not what you don’t want, because if you are focused on what you don’t want, the universe will bring you just that because THAT’S what you’re focused on.

For example, a client of mine dated a man she couldn’t trust, and he gave her very obvious reasons not to trust him. He would flirt with other women in front of her, and sometimes he would disappear for days. Her self-esteem was at an all-time low. She came into her first session announcing that she wanted to manifest the right man for her; she was sick of dating the wrong men and would do everything to AVOID another man she couldn’t trust! You never want to use the word “avoid” when manifesting because that is exactly what you will manifest as it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. I informed her of this concept, and she was surprised and relieved. She understood from that day forward that she needed to focus on what she did want, which was a solid man she could trust- a man who had her back and a man she felt good around, she felt at home with, etc.

Once she had her “a-ha” moment and made a shift in consciousness, it didn’t take long for her to manifest her man. She met an upstanding, chivalrous gentleman, treated her like a princess, respected her, and made her feel safe physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.

#3 Be in Trust-Mode vs. Fear-Mode

There are two things in life- there is love, and there is fear. The two cannot exist at the same time. I encourage you to be mindful and aware of where you are residing at all times. If you reside in fear mode, make a conscious effort to shift into faith (aka as “love,” aka “trust”) mode.

Humans are conditioned to be in fear mode, but it only holds them back from manifesting love. Realizing that the block to love does not come from the outside; instead, it comes from the inside can feel very empowering. You have the power to choose to reside in love and trust mode to bring in the person who is the most aligned with you; that person you will recognize and instantly feel at home with; that’s your person. But you won’t be able to get there if you are in fear mode.

#4 Leave the Past in the Past

This is a must when it comes to manifesting love! If you are hung up on a past love, it’s not possible to bring in the love that is waiting for you. Energetically you are still in the past, so even though you think you’re ready, you’re not until you make peace with your past relationships and lay them to rest in the past where they belong. You learned and grew from each experience, and hopefully, they all made you stronger and more connected with the knowledge of who you are (if you haven’t done this work, feel free to reach out to me because healing is crucial to manifesting love). My point is that you need to be fully open to love, and that means that you are free and willing to be vulnerable and open your heart when the time is right to meet your “person.”

#5 Don’t Compare

Do not compare yourself to others. Let me repeat, do not compare yourself to other people. Everyone has their own “right time.” Just because your best friend Jenna has been happily married with a kid on the way doesn’t mean that it’s your time. Your time will come, and the more that you compare yourself to “Jenna” or everyone who pops up on your Instagram feed, the worse you will feel about yourself, and your energy and vibration will be low, resulting in low self-esteem, which will never get you what you want, which is love. Trust that your time will come and do your best to stay in your own lane.

No matter what you do or what you say, or how many dates you go on, manifesting needs to start from within. Every tip I mentioned has to do with how you are feeling on the inside. Do everything in your power to practice self-care and be gentle and tender with yourself. Before you know it, all of your anguish and “suffering” will be just a minor blip in the past, and you will find yourself in the arms of your “forever” wondering why you spent so much time worrying about it not happening. Stay present, stay grounded and stay centered, and most importantly, stay in your self-loving. You got this!

Jaime Bronstein is a relationship therapist, coach and host of “Love Talk Live” on LA Talk Radio. She was named the “#1 Relationship Coach Transforming Lives in 2020” by Yahoo Finance. For the past 20 years, Jaime has been teaching her clients how to heal their past, love themselves unconditionally, how to be vulnerable, tap into their inner strengths and intuition, and live more authentically to achieve their relationship goals. Jaime is highly sought-after to share her relationship advice on various media outlets such as KTLA, ABC, NBC and CBS News, PEOPLE, Thrive Global, and Bustle. Jaime empowers her clients to become aware of the fact that they were born to have love in their lives – not just any love – the right love for them. Jaime has a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Boston University, a master’s degree in social work from New York University, and a certificate in Spiritual Psychology from the University of Santa Monica. Jaime’s book on manifesting love is currently in the works. Find her online at and catch her on-camera radio show. Follow her on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. To check out some of Jaime’s work, click on her sizzle reel link:

The Choices You Make Today Will Be Your Biography Tomorrow…

I didn’t want to start a business. I wanted to interview prostitutes.

I started a web series at HBO called “III:am” about what people were up to in NYC at 3 in the morning.

Of course: I interviewed prostitutes, drug dealers, and probably you, if I ran into you at three in the morning. Sometimes I would ask you out.

Sometimes I ran into people I knew. Once I ran into Luke at 3 in the morning. I only knew Luke from playing chess in Washington Square Park.

But he was standing outside in the East Village and got into the car of an older man who pulled over. “I’ve got to make money somehow,” he told me.

Then HBO gave me some money to turn it into a TV show. This post isn’t about that. The experience of shooting that pilot changed my life.

But so did something else that happened.

I had a business I was doing on the side. I was making websites for other companies while I was working full time at HBO. We were making websites for Con Edison, Sony, American Express, BMG, Miramax, etc.

I had a lot of things going on and all of them scared me.

I was trying to make a TV show. I was trying to do my normal job of programming. And I was trying to keep all the clients happy at my new startup business.

I was saying “yes” to everything. When you say yes to too many things, your fire dwindles. You extinguish the flames.

I was scared to death to leave my full-time job. It seemed like a steady paycheck. And I was doing good at it. I was getting promotions. My salary had been going up.

But I was getting depressed at the same time. I hated being chained to my cubicle during the day.

I was also afraid to be discovered. How could I juggle job, TV show, secret business on the side?

Sometimes I would dress up in a suit in the NY Public Library across the street, run a few blocks to meet JP Morgan to pitch them on a website, and then change back into my clothes and go back to my cubicle.

Sometimes a client would be upset at work we did. I’d find an empty conference room, draw the shades, lock the door, and call the client and deal with him while people banged on the door.

Someone wrote me recently, “I have an idea. Should I quit my job now?”


Don’t quit. You have to build up: network, money, skills, alternatives, and probably many other things before you can quit.

Finally after 18 months, I quit. I confessed I had a business on the side.

They were upset but my boss’s boss’s boss’s boss said, “I already knew” and HBO remained the biggest client of my new business that I was now full time at.

Here was my checklist for quitting:


Not only did I have six months cash in the bank, but I had clients that made sure my business would stick around at least another six months in the worst case scenario.

I also had other companies that were offering me a job. I had built up a lot of good will with people doing favors across the industry.

I needed safety. I’m not a risk taker. I wanted to remove risk.


I was both the main sales person for the company, and the programmer of all of our software.

We simply couldn’t grow anymore if I didn’t devote more time to getting clients during the day.

A business can’t stay the same. It’s either growing or declining. A small business that is declining is already dead many months, even a year, before its employees know it.


I was dishonest in the beginning. I didn’t say up front I was running a business on the side while programming my tiny jobs from my cubicle. I was making a double salary.

I couldn’t do it anymore. It’s not a healthy way to live. I had to be honest.

My boss warned me, “When you leave here, nobody is going to return your calls.”

Which was true. Once I was not at HBO people didn’t return my calls.

19 years later they still don’t.


You can’t be a part-time CEO. I had hired a CEO to run the side business. But he really had other dreams and he focused on them over the business.

When I left to join full-time he left and became a writer at MTV.

His last thing is great, I recommend it – he started the restaurant / interactive experience, “Queen of the Night” in NYC. He also started the club, “The Box”. If you go to the restaurant, say “hi” for me.


I was once walking with Randy, the temporary CEO. I was really into chess at that moment. In fact, I was the best I had ever been.

I was showing him a chess book I was reading.

He said, “You have a whole business you should focus on. Why are you still playing games meant for little kids?”

And he was right. We passed a garbage can and I threw out the book. And the next day I quit my job.

The flowers that bloom the best are the ones the gardener waters and gives the most love to.

My chess playing ability has declined ever since.


Every day now I had one job: get more clients.

To get more clients I had to do many things that I could not do from my cubicle.

It’s horrible and humiliating what I had to do to get clients. But I got them. It was a 24 hour a day effort. Which means everything else suffered.

My attempts at making a TV show all died. My hopes to write a novel died. My friendships suffered unless a friend was working for a client. Those friendships flourished.

Having my own business was the hardest thing I ever did.

It involved technical skills at the highest level to beat out the competition, it involved personal skills to keep people motivated, it involved sales skills, it involved diplomacy when partners disagreed.

I’ve since started other businesses. And I’ve been involved in helping businesses with up to a billion in revenues.

But nothing was harder than that first business, with its tiny 4 million in revenues. With its employees who I had known since birth in some cases. With clients who would call me at 2 am with their career troubles. With people constantly trying to rob us, extort us, fire us, hate us.

I was an amateur then. Nothing wrong with that. But closing the gap between amateur and professional is hard work. It’s climbing a mountain where everyone else wants you to fall and die.

RESULT: Exactly one year to the day after I left to go full time, we sold the business. Exactly one year to the day after that, I started a new business.

I remember the day every year: August 31.

When I first started at HBO (also on an August 31) it was the happiest moment of my life.

I loved the company. I loved the product. I’d borrow “videotapes” every day and watched every show they ever did. I wanted to be the HBO expert.

I thought I would stay there forever. I was so proud. And then I left. It was the right decision.

And I guess I’ve regretted it ever since.

James Altucher is the author of the bestselling book Choose Yourself, editor at The Altucher Report and host of the popular podcast, The James Altucher Show, which takes you beyond business and entrepreneurship by exploring what it means to be human and achieve well-being in a world that is increasingly complicated. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

Image courtesy of Alexander Suhorucov.

Which Excuse Do You Use?

Boy, do we humans ever have an arsenal of excuses.

We use them to explain, justify and/or self-impose a limitation as to why we can’t do something.

THE reason we can’t get a promotion.
THE reason we can’t tell the truth to someone.
THE reason we no longer let ourselves get excited before a first date.

Want to know how you can tell when you’re making an excuse?

Do the money test.

Ask yourself this: if we gave you one, two, or five million dollars (whatever number works for you), would you be able to NOT text when driving, rage less, be nice to your spawn at witching hour, lose those last five pounds, find a new job, quit sugar, be bolder at work, or be a morning person?

Of course, you COULD.

WOULD you?

Well that’s another question. You see, all of a sudden given the right incentive (in this case, money), you could change ANYTHING in your life.

That begets the next question: How come you and your dream life aren’t worth it?


In any area where your results don’t match what you say you want, you have to figure out what your favorite brand of excuse is in that area. Once you can start to hear your favorite excuses, you can start to see them for what they truly are: Dream decay.

Wanna hear some greatest hits of excuses from our clients, coaches, and children, oh my:

On finding a new job:

I’ve been out of the market too long.
I wouldn’t know where to start.
I don’t have any professional clothes to wear to an interview.

On going on the dating sites:

Everyone is a liar.
I just want to do it the way I used to, in person!

On dieting:

I had such a hard week at work, I deserve a cookie.
Diets don’t work for me. Never have.
Thyroid…Metabolism…Big bones.
Muscles just weigh more.

On getting that colonoscopy/mammogram/teeth cleaning:

During a pandemic?! (p.s. you didn’t do it before the pandemic either)
I feel fine!
I don’t know how my insurance works.

On posting on social media:

I’m too old for this.
My life just isn’t that interesting.
I’m still coming up with ideas…

On stressing less:

So I’m just going to be that asshole who talks about how they “get enough sleep”? No, thank you.
If I don’t worry about the worst case scenario, how will I be prepared when it happens?

Everyone has their own favorite brand of excuse. In truth, excuses are brilliant.

They keep us from having to do something we don’t want to do and let us explain why we can’t {fill in the blank}. Heck, we have permanent no-fault insurance and, best of all, it’s the excuses fault, not ours.

Your happiness, self-esteem, and pride, however, pay the premium.



P.S. Inner.U LIFE is a 12 session online course that gives you the tools to hack into your own life, hone your dreams, and have every last thing you want in the areas that matter most to you: CAREER, MONEY, LOVE, TIME, FAMILY, and HEALTH. Do this life thing better from wherever, whenever.

Marnie Nir is Senior Vice President & Chief Content Officer and Expert Life Coach with Handel Group. She finally returned from Florida (a period in her life she likes to refer to as “witness protection”) to her home state of New York, but has shuffled around from New York to California and back again throughout her life. Marnie’s professional and personal life have come full-circle as well. A student of Slavic Language and Literature at UCLA, Marnie graduated with a BA and an understanding of Russian Literature as “purification through suffering”. Years later, after several jobs in publicity and production, most notably for the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle live tour (can’t make this stuff up), she began to see that, at least in her own life, suffering was not mandatory.  After marrying and giving birth to her first child, Marnie started coaching with her sister, Lauren Zander, creating the dream of who she wanted to be as not-her-mother. However, her work with Lauren took everything in her life to a much deeper level. More than a decade later, she is now an empty nester of two, co-author with Lauren Zander of Maybe It’s You, SVP of Chief Content Officer, and an Expert Life Coach in The Handel Method. She has also continued her creative work, namely as co-creator of the animated series Mother Up!, which aired 13 episodes on Hulu and starred Eva Longoria, serving as an expert at Campowerment, blogging for the Huffington Post, as well as writing her own blog (The Sour MILF).

Image courtesy of Brett Jordan

Allowing Subjective Knowing

Intuition is the discovery of the unemotional and unimaginable amongst the emotions and feelings that want to control the waves of chaotic human attitudes. It’s the noiselessness amongst the noise… the deep silence that’s always calm, accurate and present no matter how chaotic the levels on the surface are. This is the uncertainty of the unimaginable’ nature that never competes in the realms of certainty. It’s always there, and when certainty breaks down, the unimaginable begins to take over. When the unimaginable starts taking over, discovery becomes more common. Then when discovery becomes quite common, you relax within your innocence, because you’re not needing to be certain, and you’re also not needing to be afraid. This is when answers and solutions come pouring through your intuition… they’ve always been there, right alongside the challenges and the questions and the emotions.

The exact solutions to everything you’re facing in this world today are available — but they’re not within the public arguments… not on the surface of the public conversations filled with emotions and opinions of certainty. They’re to be found outside these arguments and debates; they’re waiting to be discovered without proof that they’ll work, or proof that they are even worthy of consideration…

You’ll know them when they appear.

And when you first discover them they’ll have no convincing details… they’ll be discounted quickly and you’ll not be able to defend them. They require faith for activation — this is the nature of the unimaginable. Real solutions are unimaginable and every day you must give yourself an opportunity to go where the ‘unimaginables’ exist… every day you must dream.

Our prayer is that you allow yourself this dream time each day; save up the world’s greatest challenges to be solved in unimaginable ways; allow these solutions to freely speak for themselves. Listen carefully, don’t interrupt the silence. Everything of value comes from this engine of creation that’s still working and is now needed more than ever. You can save the world — not by yourself — but start by becoming outrageously intuitive and all the help you require will show up.

Guru Singh is a world-renowned yoga instructor, author, musician, and family man. Guru Singh works with the Dalai Lama, teaches with Tony Robbins, and has recorded an album with Grammy® Award-winning artist Seal. He can also be found on Facebook and Twitter.

Check out Guru Singh’s most recent book: Buried Treasures: The Journey From Where You Are to Who You Are.

Image courtesy of Matheus Henrin.

How to Set Effective Limits with Your Child

You’ve probably heard that kids need limits. I myself used to question this premise. But what I learned by watching kids is confirmed by research findings in neurology. As children are faced with the necessity to rein in their impulse toward something they want (for instance, to grab the toy from the baby), so they can have something they want more (a warm, happy connection with you), they learn self-control. So our limits actually teach kids to set limits for themselves, which is otherwise known as self-discipline.

“But I hate setting limits. It’s the worst part of being a parent!”

Some parents, the ones I might call permissive, tell me they hate setting limits, particularly when their children are toddlers and respond with great frustration. They hate the idea of causing their child more grief, they don’t want to incite a tantrum, and they certainly don’t want their child to be angry at them. Over time, though, they often see that their children do not develop the ability to tolerate frustration or to manage themselves. These children are often referred to by others as “spoiled.” Click here to read more about why Permissive Parenting sabotages your child’s development.

“I count to three and they jump. No raising a brat for me!”

Other parents boast that they have no problem in setting limits, and are proud of their child’s quick obedience to their directives. Their children often do well until high school, when it becomes apparent that they haven’t developed good judgment or the ability to think for themselves. Kids who have been raised in an authoritarian manner are more likely to go along with their peers, to become bullies or victims, to have difficulty managing their anger, and to become adults who are more prone to depression. Click here to read more about why Authoritarian, or Strict, Parenting undermines your child’s ability to develop self-discipline.

The Sweet Spot Between Permissive and Authoritarian Parenting

There is a middle ground that works. Research shows that children develop optimally when we set limits as necessary, but do so with empathy. Empathy makes your limit more palatable to your child, so she doesn’t resist it as much. That’s what allows her to internalize it. Kids need appropriate limits, but it’s how you do it that counts.

“Isn’t setting limits just having the courage to say No and enforce it?”

Yes. But setting limits with empathy means that you:

  •  Start with a strong, supportive connection with your child so he knows you’re on his side.
  •  See it from his point of view and offer genuine empathy that he can feel, while setting the limit.
  •  Resist the temptation to be punitive in any way. Setting the limit teaches the lesson. Anything more backfires.
  •  See his life from his point of view and only set the limits you really need to set, so that his life is more about connection and discovery than about limits and frustration. Saying No too often undermines your relationship.

“But how do I decide which limits are really necessary?”

If you think about it, you already know the answer to this. Safety — for himself and others — is non-negotiable. Treating others with respect is important, although always a work in progress, as you teach him that he can advocate for his own needs without attacking anyone else. All other rules will change over time — he will have to learn to clean up his own messes, for instance, and not to interrupt you mid-sentence — but if you’re seeing things from his perspective, and keeping in mind what’s age-appropriate, you will know what he is ready to handle. You will also see what he needs — for instance, a good night’s sleep — and be prepared to enforce him getting those things.

So don’t go out of your way to create unnecessary limits, but don’t hesitate to set necessary ones. Just make sure that you have a terrific connection with your child so that you can offer genuine empathy, and he can feel it, while the limit setting is taking place.

“I have always followed the philosophy of attachment parenting and I am consciously trying to create an egalitarian home, not like the authoritarian household I grew up in. I want kids who think for themselves. I set as few limits as possible.”

If your children are doing well, that sounds great. But you should know that “Attachment Parenting” is about meeting kids’ needs for connection, and it does not preclude setting limits. In fact, I can’t think of an Attachment expert who does not encourage empathic limit setting. Click here for more on Attachment parenting and Limit Setting.

Giving kids more and more say over their lives as they gain maturity is certainly desirable, but we would not let a toddler make all his own decisions, and I would argue that most fourteen year olds are not yet ready to, either.

The key is that as a parent you need to feel comfortable setting limits when necessary. Studies show that kids raised too permissively become “difficult” – unable to manage themselves, inconsiderate of others, and unable to form mutually satisfying relationships. I’ve observed that many permissive parents are fearful of losing their child’s love. Although rejecting the authoritarian role is a good thing, rejecting the role of a parent is not. All parents have a critical responsibility to teach and guide their young. That necessarily includes setting limits. Click here for more on why permissive parenting doesn’t work.

“Okay, so we’ve established that limits are important. So why not just count to 3 and then start spanking? Why do we need empathic limits?”

Because studies show that when we try to control kids, especially punitively, they react with anger and resistance, as all humans do. All humans push back when they feel controlled. And limits are perceived as punitive, or at the very least as controlling, by the child unless they are offered with empathy. But kids are more willing to “follow” our guidance if we empathize. In other words, you understand why they want something, and they aren’t a bad person for wanting it, even if you don’t let them have it. For more on why Strict or Authoritarian Parenting doesn’t work, click here.

So while limits are an inescapable part of a child’s life, if your child perceives you as being unfair, or simply not understanding her perspective, she rebels. If there is too much frustration, she cannot overcome it constructively.

“So setting limits means you stop your child from doing something, but you don’t punish them for it. But if you stop them, isn’t that just the same as a consequence? For instance, if you don’t listen to Mom and stop throwing sand, we will have to leave the park?”

Yes, setting limits means sometimes you will stop your child from doing something. You may in fact have to remove him from the park. But if you do that as a punishment, he will get stuck in the injustice and in being angry at you, and the lesson is lost. If, instead, you just say “It was too hard for you to stop throwing sand. But throwing sand hurts people, so we had to leave. Soon you will be able to stop yourself, so we can stay and play. We can try again tomorrow.” That way your child will still be upset that he had to leave, but he sees you as on his side, and he sees staying at the park next time as within his power.

Setting limits is NOT the same as punishment.

Loving guidance and empathic limits help your child WANT to follow your guidance, so those good habits become part of who he is, whether you’re there or not. “Consequences” that are designed to punish? Just the opposite, because kids end up rebelling against them.

Limit Behavior, Allow Feelings

“But when I set limits, she has a tantrum!”

She’s allowed to have her feelings. It’s natural for her to feel anger and disappointment when we set a limit. Our job is to accept those feelings and love her through them. The more we do that, the less overwhelming her feelings are, and the less she’ll tantrum.

If we can’t tolerate her anger and sadness — in other words, when her reaction to the limit is not met with empathy — she learns that part of who she is is unacceptable, that there are ways in which she is shameful, and, what’s more, completely alone. As with any un-acknowledged emotion, the anger and sadness don’t just vanish, they go underground, where they are magnified and sow the seeds of depression.

“So we set the limit, and we respond with empathy to them not liking the limit?”

Exactly. If parents can provide an emotional “holding environment,” while also reinforcing the limit, the child has the freedom to rail against the limit, to cry and grieve about it, and finally to accept it and move on.

Moving on consists of letting go of that path and finding another, acceptable, path, for example, “I can’t play with Maggie right now; I’ll see her tomorrow.” It is firm limits accompanied by empathy that allow our children to experience their full reactions to the limits and come out on the other side.

The child learns that the world is indeed full of obstacles to her desires, but she isn’t left fighting that, which is what happens when the limit is not clearly reinforced. She grieves and then moves on, looking for another way to feel better.

She is also not left hopeless and depressed, which is what happens with authoritarian limit setting, which just makes her feel like a bad person.

She learns that she cannot always get her way, but she gets something better: someone who loves and accepts the full range of who she is. This unconditional positive regard becomes the core of unshakeable positive self esteem and stable internal happiness.

She also learns that she can tolerate her rage and misery and feel better afterwards. In this we see the beginning of resilience, as she considers other courses of action. “I can’t have my birthday party at the circus because we can’t afford it. I cried about it all day yesterday. But mom and dad seems to understand. Maybe they would help me design a soccer party in the park and let me have the girls stay for a sleepover.”

How Many Limits is Optimal?

“So does this mean the more frustrations, the better?”

No. First of all, you need to have a strong emotional bond for the child to accept your empathy. If she experiences you as sabotaging her happiness by creating frustrations, or arbitrary or unfair limits, she won’t accept your attempts to empathize. After all, you have the power to grant her desire, and you are refusing to do so, over and over. Second, kids have plenty of frustrating occurrences in their lives on a daily basis without you creating them.

“Is all this true for babies too?”

While most of this applies to babies as well as older children — i.e., sometimes you need to enforce a limit, such as not letting him stick his finger in the light socket, and you need to empathize with his disappointment — babies can tolerate much less frustration. They simply haven’t learned yet how to manage their feelings.

And since there is increasing evidence that moods in infancy lay the groundwork for mood habits later in life, you want to minimize the amount of time your baby spends unhappy. If she gets used to being unhappy, she will think unhappiness is a normal state and do her best to recreate it throughout her life. So with babies, it is always best to minimize frustration.

“But my baby gets into everything now that she can crawl!”

Of course, you can’t give her everything she wants, but luckily babies can generally be distracted. Babyproof and stay a step ahead of your baby. You will find yourself gradually increasing your limit setting as your child moves from babyhood to toddlerhood to preschooler, because it becomes clear both that appropriate behavior demands it and that she can handle it. And don’t forget: She’s not trying to drive you crazy, and she’s not bad for wanting something, even something that is patently impossible. What your baby needs is your empathy when you have to say no.

Dr. Laura Markham, founder of and author of The Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids Workbook, Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids: How To Stop Yelling and Start Connecting and Peaceful Parent, Happy Siblings: How to Stop the Fighting and Raise Friends for Life.

Image courtesy of Monstera.

Forgiveness — For Them or You?

I was recently listening to a Clubhouse talk with Marina Yanay-Triner, Compassionate Somatic Coach and Ethan Lipsitz, Founder of The Love Extremist Project around the topic of Intuition and Healing. They were giving space for people to share their stories. A woman opened up and shared a story that blew my mind. She spoke of her abusive childhood at the hands of an unnamed man. She then went on to discuss her transformation and healing from being a victim to the ultimate forgiveness of her abuser. Not only did she forgive him, but they also forged a friendship, and when he passed away, SHE GAVE HIS EULOGY! This is one of the most radical and beautiful stories I’ve ever heard. The inner peace and strength and LOVE to not only forgive but to CARE about, understand, and LOVE the perpetrator.

This woman, in my mind, belongs in the realm of The Buddha or the Dalai Lama. I was so moved and so inspired. I found myself thinking about this woman and her story for several days after I listened to the talk. How can I take even a small piece of that ability and use it in my own life to free myself? All the petty annoyances and grievances I complain about.

I was on a mission to radically forgive.

After years of therapy, my ego believed, I had forgiven many in my past that in my eyes had “wronged me.” Then, oddly and devastatingly, one of my dearest friends chose to abruptly end our friendship. No conversation. No logical explanation that made sense to me. I was traumatized. Suddenly, all of my childhood wounds of abandonment and alienation were activated. Puddles of tears. Days and days of sobbing, sadness and rage. And then what? I do believe everything happens for a reason. It was no coincidence that I had just attended this Clubhouse talk days before the friendship “break up.” It’s still fresh. I’m still confused. But I’m already working on forgiving her for the gut-wrenching pain I have been feeling. People that hurt others, are hurting themselves. That much I know.

I can’t fix it. I can’t change it. I can’t “make her see.” What can I do? What is in my control? I can forgive in hopes of inner peace. I can forgive because I want to choose to lead with love in my heart.

However, I am not quite there yet. Forgiveness is a process. Forgiveness is the end goal. For my own health and wellbeing, I know that forgiveness is where I need to be, but that’s going to take time.

The woman who forgave her abuser and ultimately spoke at his funeral took time. It took years and it is an extreme example, but there are lessons in forgiveness that each of us can use to shift our mindset.

The first step in shifting your mindset is realizing you have a choice. You get to choose to forgive. What is reliving the hurt helping you accomplish? Reliving the hurt can often be a repetition compulsion, like picking a mosquito bite scab. It hurts but we can’t stop. It is a choice. Stopping the thought and shifting to say out loud, “I HAVE A CHOICE and I choose to forgive” is very powerful.

Once you make that choice you must embrace forgiveness as a process. It is a commitment that you make that won’t happen overnight. Some days it will be easier than others, but it is not a simple choose and move on type task, forgiveness takes work.

Finally, focusing on the present is an important shift to help with the forgiveness process. What lessons has the person or situation you are forgiving taught you? What do you have that’s positive in your life right now, this very second, that you can put your energy into? Finding things in the here-and-now can help you leave the unhappiness and the stress of the past in the past.

Feeling wronged at times is part of moving through life as a human. Forgiving, though, is a mindset that you get to choose to shift to. In society, forgiveness is often framed as an act one does for someone else, but take a look deep inside… it is truly for them? Maybe, sometimes, but more likely, it’s for YOU and for YOUR health and wellbeing to come to a place of peace.

*Originally published on Brainz Magazine.

Joanna Hakimi is a proud entrepreneur and can often be found singing in the car with her two kids. Starting her first successful business when she was 17 and being president of the Young Entrepreneur’s Society at the University of Georgia, she never closed the door on opportunity. She then went on to Northwestern University and attained her Masters in Science, becoming a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. After being a successful LMFT in the northern suburbs of Chicago for more than 15 years while simultaneously running a mindful goods boutique for 5 years and accomplishing a 200 hour yoga teaching certification, Joanna was itching for a new adventure. After a phone conversation with a friend in California discussing ways to grow her Life Coaching business, the idea came about that independent professionals, such as Life Coaches, Health and Wellness Coaches and other similar people in the life changing business, needed a resource to connect potential clients with the LifeChanger they were seeking. That’s how her newest venture, LifeChangers.Info was born. LifeChangers has a mission to connect professionals with a new client base using a simple and inclusive site. When she’s not seeing clients or working to grow LifeChangers.Info, you can find Joanna hiking, making terrariums or, well, singing in the car with her kids…likely to Billy Joel or Indigo Girls. You can follow Joanna on Instagram.

Image courtesy of Engin Akyurt.

Fall Into Change

With summer officially behind us (at least according to the calendar), thoughts are turning to autumn. If you’re anything like my friends and family on the East Coast, you’re probably thinking of sweaters, colder weather, pumpkins, and watching the leaves change color. For a lot of people, autumn is their favorite time of year. I love autumn too, partly because it’s a glorious reminder from nature about the wonder of change. 

Change is inevitable, and beautiful. 

There’s nothing better than nature to prove this idea, season after season. I love that nature reminds me how incredible change can be, and how exciting it is adapting to new things in the world. While I currently live near the beach in Southern California, I spent many years living in New York. I remember how special it was to watch the bright green leaves of summer turn into such rich, warm colors. 

Autumn in most parts of the country seems to be the shortest season, and I’ve always thought it was an incredible reminder of being grateful for what you have while you have it. If we saw those bright red and yellow leaves all year long, it wouldn’t feel as special, would it? We take this season, all the seasons really, to appreciate what’s good about them, before rolling into the next season, and appreciating what that offers. 

Fall is a powerful time to clear out old energy.

It’s a great time to clear out the gunk, so you can work on rejuvenating yourself through the winter, and be refreshed for spring! As you see the leaves fall from the trees around you, follow suit, and let things go. Those leaves don’t stay shining and bright forever, eventually they turn brown and start to rot. This is what happens to you when you hold onto things you don’t need anymore. 

It’s not possible to hold onto things forever, and no one was better off by refusing to adapt, to change. People are meant to evolve, constantly. You’re always supposed to be learning, and changing, and becoming a more beautiful soul. 

This season is a great time to identify the things you want to work on, and to take the slower months of winter to really dig deep into yourself. If you live in colder climates where snow and ice keep you inside, winter can be an incredible time for deep work on yourself. Fall is the perfect time to start these changes. Nature itself is showing you how powerful this time can be, because true change can’t happen if old pattens don’t evolve and become new patterns. 

Change happens best when there is room and space to clear out what’s no longer good for you.

To adapt, to you need to allow yourself time and space, and to prioritize your own well being. To become a newer, better you, you first have to get comfortable with the idea of letting things go, actually let them go, and trust that incredible new things will come when the time is right. 

Again, nature shows us this idea all the time. Think of very early spring, how exciting it is to see the first green buds pop through the cold ground. It’s so fascinating, watching those flowers push through, until they bloom and bring a bright burst of color to the world. If you put in the work to change, to adapt, and to have the patience to wait, stunning things come forth. 

Life is meant to be a cycle. That idea exists in every religion and every culture, and nothing shows the beauty of a cycle better than nature. Fall leaves, to winter snow, to spring buds, to full summer bloom. Over and over again. Even different climates showcase this change, albeit a little less noticeably. It’s still there. 

Change is powerful. It’s important. 

So, wherever you are in the world, take these coming weeks before the holidays to check in with yourself. What are you feeling? What positive change do you want to make? Who do you want to be? 

Take the time to listen for those answers, and take the time during these months when life is a little bit slower to roll into those changes. Make daily commitments to whatever it is you want, and by the time the flowers bud next spring- you can be a whole new person. 

In Gratitude, 


Robin Lee is a medical intuitive, author, mentor, gratitude advocate, and speaker who has helped thousands of people around the world understand the language of their bodies. Robin believes that our bodies innately know how to balance and heal themselves if given proper care and support. Visit her website and follow her on Facebook and Twitter, where she shares tips, tools, and techniques to honor our bodies and heal our lives!

Image courtesy of jasmine chew.

The Pretenders

Did you know that one of the most authentic relationships of my life is with you?

I sit here every week writing exactly what I want to say.

There are no pretenses.

No adjusting my words.

I just tell you things as they are.

As the years have gone by, I understood the importance of this letter in my own life. 

It is the one place each week, I can count on to be real.

I have often struggled with living inside a dishonest world.

When people say something they don’t mean, it feels like a betrayal.

It is often the seemingly harmless pretenses. ‘I love seeing you.’ Or, ‘let’s hang out together again.’ When they really don’t mean it.

I happen to believe what people say.

I am a literal person.

If you show interest, I believe that you are interested.

If you tell me you like my hair, I believe that you do.

If you make a promise, I believe you will keep it.

So when I find myself in places where pretenses are at the forefront of my experience I feel a lot of loss. We live in a play pretend world that nobody prepared us for.

I came back home last night after experiencing many new adventures, making new friends, and visiting places I had never been to.

In the last two months, I traveled to Greece to see my family.

I saw a rocket go to space up close.

I spoke at a conference where politicians, celebrities, and public figures spent three days together.

And I came back knowing that finding people outside the Matrix is rare.

You can feel connection, friendship, and meaning but 9 out of 10 times, it won’t last.

9 out of 10 times, it won’t be more than a short-term occasion that ends on the day it starts.

In the last two months, I had plenty of new connections and friendships.

I experienced such beautiful moments.

I felt excitement that I can’t even describe.

I had the time of my life. 

I even felt like I belonged at times.

That I finally found my tribe.

I spent time with new girlfriends, mentors, public people, cousins, aunts and uncles, parents, dogs and cats too.

I had moments of pure joy and contentment.

I took my MFA art homework on the road.

I made book deadlines sitting at airport gates.

I met with my team no matter where I was.

I continued facilitating my classes as I was running from one place to the next.

I kept everything moving forward while searching for meaning, for new friendships and connections. 

Always looking for some kind of human Nirvana.

I didn’t find it. But I did find myself.

The most trusted player of the game of my life.

I played the play-pretend game without becoming one of the pretenders.

I looked people in the eyes.

I meant everything I said.

I didn’t make promises I had no intention of keeping.

I walked inside every conversation wanting to know the other person better.

I showed up without ulterior motives.

I tried to leave everyone better than I found them.

And that has to be more than enough.

In life, you will meet groupies, pretenders and users.

But now and again as you sit inside the game, someone will come along who is not a player. In the two months of traveling, moving across the globe I may have brought home with me two new friends, dare I say three.

Here’s to finding yours. 

Remember they are out there, they are looking for you, just as you are looking for them.

You and I are a special kind of human.

We mean what we say, and say what we mean.

And you will always find us outside the Matrix.

With honesty,


Christina Rasmussen is the creator and founder of The Life Reentry Institute, Second Firsts, and Star Letters, and the host of the Dear Life Podcast. Christina is on a crusade to help millions of people rebuild, reclaim, and relaunch their lives using the power of their own minds. Christina’s work has been featured on ABC News, NPR, The White House Blog, and She is the bestselling author of Second Firsts: Live, Laugh, and Love Again, which has also been translated in Chinese and German and just released her second book Where Did You Go on expanding the mind in ways that allows co-creation with the forces of the universe. She is also writing her first work of fiction: a science fiction story about a woman on a quest to start over and begin a new life. You can find more information on her website and follow her on FB or Twitter.

Image courtesy of Tomáš Malík.

The Penultimate Rules on Being More Creative

“You know that ‘penultimate’ means ‘second’, right?” she said to me.

I forget why. But it was in an horribly embarrassing situation. I remember that. I remember thinking I thought ‘penultimate’ meant ‘number one’.

‘You know it’s not the best. It’s the SECOND best,” she repeated.

I remember the blush. I remember her asking the question again. I remember not knowing what to do.

“Yes!” I said.

The first two rules for being creative:



This is a post about revenge. I can’t tell you why…

One time I secretly videotaped a date happening at the table next to me. The girl knew. She put an ad in the paper. None of the guys knew.

We picked the restaurant. We put cameras in every plant. We sat on both sides of the table of the date. We recorded two dates this way.

On the first date the guy confessed he was gay but he still liked her and was unsure. On the second date the guy got a phone call in the middle of the date. From his wife.

After the first date, the guy called the girl and said, “Life is to be lived. Not videotaped!”

I pitched the show to two different divisions within the same company. They found out about each other and both rejected the idea. One side said, “It feels too mean”.

Ideas can be creative, ideas can be helpful. Ideas can be funny. Ideas can change the world, can entertain others, can change your life.

But they still can be rejected. The important thing is not the idea, or you, or the people who see it. The important thing is tomorrow. What creativity will inspire you tomorrow.


I went to the gym today. I haven’t been to the gym in two weeks. I am not a regular gym goer.

“You can’t even do 70 lbs,” She was laughing at me. My trainer.

I can’t even tell you what machine we were on. Some machine where 70 pounds was too heavy for me. “You were doing it two weeks ago. See? This is what happens when you don’t go for two weeks.”

“But my daughter was visiting.”

“This is what happens when you don’t go for two weeks.” No excuses.

Muscles shrink pretty fast. The Creativity Muscle most of all. If you don’t use it every day, it goes away within weeks.

People think, “I’m going to take a shower and have inspiration.”

You’re just going to get up all wet. When I’m in the shower I daydream about money. I count it in my head. ‘How much will I have?’ I never seem to be creative there.

You get creative by exercising the Creativity Muscle. I call this being, “Pre-crative”. I made up that word.


For awhile I was taking one photograph a day and posting it on Instagram. I’d go up to people who made me feel some sort of curiosity itch and I’d ask them why they were who they were.

Like, if I saw a pretty guy and girl sitting on a bench, I’d want to know how they met. Oh, they are broken up? How come?

Or, if I saw a guy playing piano in the street. How did he get that piano there? OK, let’s take a selfie.

The result: a photograph and a story. And, because I don’t like talking to people, I get out of my comfort zone.

Or I try to write a post every day. Or it’s a day I’m doing a podcast. Or I am working on a book.

One creative thing a day. Or your creative muscle shrinks.

Think about it: write one page a day. In a year you have a book. In five years, five books.

One podcast a day. In a year, you’d be among the best podcasters in the world.

One photograph a day. Within a year or two you’d be a good photographer. When I take a photograph and put it on Instagram I try to tell a story with it. So it also improves my writing.

The real you lives outside of your comfort zone. Creativity is the bridge from our daily zone to the mysterious phantom zone.


I’ve written about this a million times. Pick a topic, any topic. Write ten ideas. Make it so that it’s difficult by idea #6 or idea #7.

Today I wrote: ten ideas for young adult novels.

By the way: they can be bad ideas. Horrible ideas. I had an idea. An unpopular kid is half-vampire. I called my teenage daughter. “Horrible idea,” she said. “I’m so sick of those.”


But that’s not the point. 10 ideas a day is 3,650 ideas in a year. Is 36,500 ideas in a decade.

People say “Ideas are a dime a dozen”. Maybe they are right. But you still need that dozen. Maybe you need that 36,500 to have one good one. I’ve had three or four good ideas in the past 15 years. That’s all you need.


“If you want to stop an argument, just say the word ‘panties’,” she told me. “Everyone stops then. Men become frozen.”

“Panties.” She didn’t say anything. Then: “See. It works every time.”

I fell in love with her. “Panties,” she said again.

Elon Musk didn’t sit down and make a space ship from nothing. He read every physics book. He read every book on mechanical engineering and space travel. He hired the best people in the world.

Carl Sagan has a joke. If you want to make an apple pie from scratch first you have to invent the Universe.

People say you are the average of the five people you spend your time with. Fair enough. I spend my time with some good people.

But inspiration also comes from the five people you are most inspired by. And those people can change every day.

I’ll you who it is for me today. Tomorrow it might be different. Today I’m inspired by:

Michael Lewis, Ksenia Anske, Celine, Richard Price, Jessi Klein.


The history of creativity is a history of errors.

One example: Pfizer created a drug that failed in all of it’s drug trials to solve Angina Pectoris (chest pain when the arteries clog). The drug was a failure. Normally calm scientists jumped off bridges in silent frustration.

Only…it had a strange side effect. Pfizer renamed the drug Viagra and started selling it to create that side effect.

Spencer Silver was trying to create a strong tape for a company called 3M. Instead, he failed. Created a very weak tape that seemed to have no use. Many years later 3M figured, let’s try to sell this and they called them Post-Its.

You can’t have great successes without being littered with failures along the way. Small experiments, small failures, small victories, small celebrations, lead to giant acts of creativity.

tl;dr … Don’t give up.


I went to a party with Randy. He went over to say hi to Wyclef Jean, the main rapper in the group the Fuguees. Wyclef had once been in a play that Randy wrote.

“Think about it,” Randy said to me later about the Fugees latest hit. “You take the song ‘Saturday Night Fever’ by the Bee-gees, put a beat to it and rap to it, and you are guaranteed to have a huge hit.”

Take anything that has resonated through time. Add your own twist to it. And BAM! Creative genius.

Stephen Pressfield describes this process perfectly in his book, ‘The Authentic Swing’. I really admire Pressfield and his books on creativity: The War of Art and Turning Pro.

In ‘The Authentic Swing’ he describes how he took one of the most ancient (and popular) stories ever: The bhavagad Gita, which is the foundation of Hinduism, and he combines that story with …. the story of a golf pro.

The result: The Legend of Bagger Vance, which became a huge bestselling novel and a movie starring Will Smith.

The key was to take something that had already been “focus grouped” by history. He knew that the Bhavagad Gita has resonated with billions of people over thousands of years.

This takes a lot of the risk out of wondering, “Will people like this?” Creativity, like being an entrepreneur, is not about risk taking. It’s about risk mitigation.

Pressfield took something that people had already liked, even loved, even worshipped, added his own spin, and created art.

1 + 1 = 3 means:

Take something focus grouped by history, add your spin, create art.

Leonardo Da Vinci’s best example: The Last Supper.

Take a 1500 year old story, combine it with more modern discoveries of the human body, make a painting.

By the way, greatest modern example of this. 22 year old Elijah Daniel, last January, tweeted he was going to combine 50 Shades of Grey with Donald Trump and put it on Amazon that very night.

He did it four hours later. “Trump Temptation” and it became a hit reaching #1 in ‘humorous erotica’ on Amazon.

I just looked at it. It has 400 reviews, which is more reviews than any of my books except one.

Here’s one of the reviews: “This book changed my life.. 5/5 stars.. The ending is… Amazing. Enjoy.”


I ruined my career. I kept writing about how I often I lost all of my money. How many times. How much, etc.

I was once trying to raise money for a hedge fund. Some wealthy people were interested. I went to them and they did their research. My friend who introduced us laughed me out of the room.

“Man,” he said, “Nobody is going to give you money. You are constantly writing about losing money.”

Yeah, I reminded him. I lost money investing in your company which went down the tubes.

OK, he said, I get it. But nobody says it.

And he was right. But I did it anyway. And I did it more. And more.

We almost didn’t do a deal with you, said another friend of mine who has since done a very successful deal with me.

You always write about how your deals fall through.

It’s true. Most deals fall through. And most people are too afraid to admit it.

Be fearless, be stupid, be wrong, be exposed.

That’s how you get the deals, raise the money, create art, and get people to laugh.

Just be honest. Don’t be chained by “should”.


Hunter S. Thompson loaded up on drugs and drove to Las Vegas with his “attorney” and “Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas” was the result.

Jack Kerouac hitchhiked across the US and wrote “On the Road” in three weeks.

Truman Capote spent months covering a murder trial and “In Cold Blood” was the result.

Brian Koppelman and David Levien threw themselves into the underground subculture of poker in NYC in the 90s and out came their first movie “Rounders”. Now they are working on the hit TV show “Billions”.

My friend, AJ Jacobs read The Encyclopedia Britannica from A-Z and then wrote the bestselling “The Know-It-All”.

It’s not possible every day to throw yourself into a story. And it’s not always healthy. If you’re in a happy marriage, don’t do something stupid for the sake of a story.

But what is life without experience. And when you create something out of your experiences, you can help expand the lives of others as they read it through your art.


The Matrix was a masterpiece about virtual reality, and the question: what if the world we live in is not the real world.

It asks the immortal question: red pill or blue pill? Will you discover the real world you live in, or stay in the fake one.

But… was it really about virtual reality?

The Warchowski Brothers, who made the movie, are now…the Warchowski sisters – they both became women.

Did they take the red pill and find their real reality?

Everyone looks down their nose at genre fiction. Kurt Vonnegut was a pulp science fiction novelist when he started.

The book, “Slaughterhouse Five” could be considered a pulpy book about aliens and time travel.

But dig a little deep and it’s a book about the horrific bombing of Dresden in World War II and Kurt Vonnegut’s real-life experiences during the bombing.

Always tell the truth, wrap it in art.


People always say, “Write what you know” and even above I say, “What is your truth”.

But the reality is: sometimes the truth is that we don’t know things.

I wrote “the Power of No” not because I was so great at saying “No”. In fact, I was awful at it. I couldn’t say ” No” to anyone and I still have trouble with it. This inability was ruining my life.

But when I am able to say “No” it allows me to find time to say “yes” to the things important to me: like family, friends, writing.

You don’t take dating lessons from Brad Pitt. You take it from someone who was awful at it and got better. Documenting the process of learning how to say “No” is how I wrote “The Power of No”.

Ditto for “Choose Yourself”. I was always looking for validation from others. From my parents, from friends, from girlfriends, from teachers and bosses and publishers.

It was a 20 year process to learn I could be happier by first finding happiness from within and not needing validation from without. It’s that process I painfully describe through failure after failure.

It’s a cliche to say, ‘go out of your comfort zone’. Unfortunately, that’s where all the creativity is waiting for you.


Read Raymond Carver’s original short story for “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love”, his most famous short story.

Only…that’s not the version that appears in his books. Gordon Lish’s edit is what appears.

I love seeing the two versions and the edits that resulted in the final draft. The two versions, seen together, is just as much art as the final story.

The process of creating art is art itself. Always keep track of your process.


When something irritates me, I tease it out into a story. What were you doing when you were most irritated?

Don’t say why it irritates you. Let the story say it. And don’t take revenge on anyone.

It’s all your fault. When you blame someone else, you are really underlining your own faults in dealing with people.

There are many weak people out there. They are trying constantly to drag you down into the swamp.

We all have our tragedies. We can all pull them out of our hearts and examine them and tell story after story about them. Your tragedies are your creative best friends.

True creativity is the way to rise above the people who dislike you. The way to fly in the sky. The pleasure is immense.

And the more you are creative, the more people will hate you. Because you have explored a world outside of everyone’s comfort zone. That’s why it’s ‘creative’. And when you try to take people out of their comfort zones, they will hate you.

The more people who hate you, the more creative you are. OR…the more people who hate you, the more hateful you are. Fall on the right side of this.

The best revenge is not ‘living well’. That’s just something small people say.

Living well is a choice. The best revenge is being creative. To see the world from above. To paint it. To strangle it to kiss it to tease it to love it to wish for it to want it to miss it to run from it to be scared of it.

It’s hypocritical to write about creativity. Because nobody knows. And everyone is different.

Happiness comes from outside. Being creative comes from inside. Comes from exploring the world that is outside by looking at how it changes you inside.

By exploring the question, over and over again, ‘who am I?’

What’s great is that the answer changes every second and, yet, deep down it never changes at all.

James Altucher is the author of the bestselling book Choose Yourself, editor at The Altucher Report and host of the popular podcast, The James Altucher Show, which takes you beyond business and entrepreneurship by exploring what it means to be human and achieve well-being in a world that is increasingly complicated. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

Image courtesy of Darius Krause.