My new motto

I think this holiday season really snuck up on people, because so far we’ve only received one card. From Dr. Bernard Markowitz. (A cosmetic surgeon who told me, in a consult, that my face is asymmetrical. Happy Hanukkah to you, too, Dr. Markowitz.)

Recently, I was sitting on my couch, fixated on the sensation of acid creeping up into my throat, because apparently I have GERD, and I thought about how stress was likely the cause. And it occurred to me, for the millionth time, that there’s really no good reason to feel stress. Because if times are good, you should be happy, and if times aren’t good, you’re undoubtedly growing. Suffering always leads to greater wisdom and compassion. “Pain is the gift no one wants”! In fact, some of the most memorably beautiful moments of my life have occurred when I was going through some kind of hell.

Anyway, while having these thoughts, I stumbled upon a new life philosophy. A new motto! And this motto is so good, it makes me wish I were a player in the jam-packed Online Motivational Coaching Space. Because any life coach worth their salt has a sticky tagline. But enough preamble, I’m gonna lay it on you:

Look forward to EVERYTHING. Even the “bad.”

Right?! I mean, how much better would life be if we didn’t worry about the future, didn’t dread anything, and instead eagerly anticipated EVERYTHING, even the bad, knowing that the bad, especially, will lead to awesome insights, connection to others, and our personal development?!

Excited, I wrote this new motto on an index card, and I look at it occasionally. Has it stopped me from experiencing stress? Fuck no. But maybe it’s because I don’t look at it often enough. I need to move it to my nightstand.

If you find this motto–“Look forward to EVERYTHING. (Even the “bad.”)–comforting, I’d be thrilled. Because that’s what I really care about: “Adding value,” as people in the Online Motivational Coaching Space say!

If you think a friend would find this comforting or helpful, please consider sharing it. Thanks!

Do we want kids to be consumers or creators?

Most kids are “basic.” Trend followers who buy what everyone else is buying, watch what everyone else is watching, and look at what all the popular people are posting. Same with a lot of adults, obviously. It’s natural to have tastes that are similar to your peers and to want to fit in. But should we support kids’ urge to simply be consumers of culture rather than creators of culture?

Instead of challenging them to make or do cool things, we often just agree to take them to cool locations so that they can take endless pics of themselves. Which will lead to what, exactly?

Creating worthwhile things and leading others forces kids to think. And encouraging them to do this forces us to think. Because in order to lure them out of their culture-consuming zombie state, we gotta be really clever. We gotta inspire and motivate them.

Or maybe we don’t?!

Maybe we just have to ban screen time for an hour or two and let them get bored. Give them drawing supplies. A musical instrument. A cookbook. Or even a little creative assignment.

“Invent a new recipe.”

“Create a vision board.”

“Write a 2-page screenplay and shoot it with your phone.”

“Compose some music on GarageBand.”

“Draw your dream bedroom.”

“Come up with 2 minutes of standup comedy material.”

“Think of a problem lots of people deal with and come up with a solution.”

“Think of a business you’d like to start.”

“Think of a change you’d like to see happen and how to get people on board.”

I have often mindlessly indulged kids. Either because I’m a people-pleaser and don’t want to deal with pushback, or because I relate to their desire for status (thus, IG posts that telegraph “My life is dope and I do dope shit”). But starting now, I am going to challenge myself to challenge kids more. They are worth the effort.

kids creativity good parenting parting tips parenting advicecreativity 

What type of work should you be doing?

I like career tests almost as much as I like personality quizzes*. And yesterday I stumbled on a really good one! The Sparketype Test.

The guy who created it, Jonathan Fields, has a podcast called the Good Life Project. He has interviewed all the usual suspects (another Brene Brown/Seth Godin/Elizabeth Gilbert interview, anyone? Sure. Why not? I always learn something new). I like his gentle, seemingly ego-free personality and the questions he asks guests. He always ends with, “When you hear the phrase ‘good life’–‘live a good life’–what does that mean to you?” GOOD QUESTION!

He’s worked with tons of people on finding meaning and purpose, particularly as it pertains to work, and after seeing patterns emerge again and again, he came up with a test for helping people identify the type of work that “lights them up” (thus, “Sparketype”).

I already know what kind of work I love. The reason I know, for sure, is because each time I finish shooting something, I make a list of other things I like to do that would be easier and likely more profitable, but I never can commit to doing any of them, so I suck it up and start writing the next script. But I can’t resist a self-test, so I took it. And I found the questions really interesting, and sort of surprising.

He has categorized types of work in a unique way, that I’d never thought about til I saw the phrasing of the questions on the self-test.

Before you take it, he tells you to answer honestly–don’t pick responses that reflect how you’d like to be, or how you think you should be. I was glad he said this, because I might’ve been tempted to side with some of the more altruistic statements in the test. Even though I of course like helping others, it turns out this is not my driver regarding work. In his follow-up “Sparketype Mastery Guide”–which I bought, because I’m a schmuck–he explains why this is not something to feel bad about.

If you take the free quiz, let me know what Sparketype you are. Mine is “The Maker” (making ideas manifest) and my secondary/shadow Sparketype is “The Maven” (driven to learn). Your secondary Sparketype is not necessarily a type of work you should pursue but instead an activity you probably perform “in service to” your primary Sparketype (i.e., I learn about a particular topic so that I can make better things).

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Sparketype – The Test

*The two best personality tests ever:

  • Gretchen Rubin’s “The Four Tendencies” (apparently, most people are either a Questioner or an Obliger. The rarer types are Upholders and Rebels. Rubin has figured out how to work around the challenges you face, depending on your type, so that you can attain any goal, finishing whatever you start):

3 things that have been a surprise to me

Over the last two years that I’ve been shooting without a crew, I’ve been surprised by three things:

  1. If there is anything you really wish you knew how to do, it is possible to learn it. I spent almost the last two decades thinking I was not the kind of person who could learn how to operate a camera, light a scene, record sound and edit footage. I’ve never been a tech-y person. When I was in my 20s, my then 8yo sister sat down with a new digital watch and changed all of the settings herself, and I was amazed. But the cliche is true. Where there’s a will, there’s a way.
  2. The dread I felt about learning new, “difficult” things was unfounded. Going outside of your comfort zone, taking the risk of looking dumb, being willing to suck at something when you are in that icky-feeling “just getting started” phase–it’s unnerving but it’s also exhilarating. You feel ALIVE. Like anything is possible. You suddenly have a vehicle to get you from here to THERE.
  3. Another thing that has surprised me is that, when you are completely immersed in learning something new or having fun using your newfound skills, it crowds out a lot of your bad habits. You don’t spend nearly as much time worrying, looking at your phone, being concerned about what others think, and otherwise wasting precious time.
  4. Okay, wait, there’s a 4th thing, and it’s the most surprising of all:  There comes a day when you look up and all of these activities that used to intimidate the hell out of you have become part of your daily routine.

Currently, I’m in a comfort zone again, somewhat. And once again, I don’t want to stretch and feel the discomfort of trying new things, to get to the next level.


I guess that’s just a testament to how hard it is to fight inertia.

When you think of the times in which you learned a new skill or pushed yourself to do something challenging, is it gratifying? Do you feel proud?

There’s a saying: “All happiness is growth.”

Maybe not ALL happiness is growth. But arguably progress is one of the most gratifying things we can experience, including observing it in others. For example, it’s really great to see a child you love overcome some difficulty or learn something new.



People who say “No, thanks” to reality

After experiencing a major setback early in life, why do some people scale back their expectations or even shrink from life while others go for broke?

The other night we watched the documentary above, about the Broadway production of the musical, “Merrily We Roll Along,” by Stephen Sondheim and Hal Prince, in the early 80s. I had read that it was about “how we frame success and failure,” which is what made me want to see it.

In the film, director Lonny Price talks about how, growing up, he was not good at sports and did not fit in at school. When he took drama class, he found his place. At summer camp, he played the original cast recording of the Broadway musical, “Company,” so incessantly that everyone in his cabin memorized it. He remarked, “Somewhere in America there’s a 55-year-old divorce lawyer who can sing every verse of ‘Another Hundred People’ flawlessly. Whether he wants to or not.”

The idea of these 14-year-old boys at camp being subjected to a showtunes album just because Lonny loved it so much killed me.

Also, people who look at regular, normal life and say, “No, thanks” and immerse themselves in a world that is more to their liking, like musical theater (playing dress-up and make-believe)–that fascinates me.

We also watched the new documentary, “Jerry Before Seinfeld.” In it, Jerry says that when he was young, he bought all the hit comedy albums, and when he graduated high school and learned from friends that there was a growing comedy club scene in New York, he said, “Oh, I want to be in that world. I don’t want to be in the real world.”

I just realized that my way of opting out of the real world, when I was young, was to read books. Now it’s making movies and web series with friends. And I want to do that–“be in that world”–as often as possible.






Lose yourself in Bruce Springsteen’s memoir

A book you can’t put down! A critic observed that Bruce could become a full-time novelist if he wanted, because he’s that good a writer. Which his fans already know, because his lyrics are great. What you learn in the book is that he realized, early on, that writing was his strength. And he applied a blue collar work ethic to becoming a rock star.

He is really good at describing feelings that are hard to articulate. He captures the full range of human experience. And you find out all kinds of interesting things, like about how when he finally had huge success, he walked into a therapist’s office and burst into tears, because he was hurting so much at that time of his life. It’s a great read and a nice escape for a while–it’s thick! Takes time to read it. Toward the end, I kept putting off finishing it, because I didn’t want it to be over.

If you develop full Bruce mania, which you will when you read this, you gotta watch the documentary, “The Promise: The Making of Darkness on the Edge of Town.” At one point in the film he says, “More than rich, more than famous, more than happy–” (he gives a short, tight laugh) “–I wanted to be great.” Fuck yeah, you did, Bruce!

Here’s a great song from the album (“Darkness on the Edge of Town”). Play it full blast while lying in a hot bath, and just think about life, man.


Can’t get that rush without music!

You know that feeling you get when you’re watching a great scene in one of your favorite movies–the sudden intense thrill or euphoria, or “the chills,” or however you describe that pulse quickening and wave of emotion you experience? Well, if you think about it, it’s probably really rare to have that experience without music accompanying the scene. I am probably the last person to realize this, but I have to keep reminding myself of it occasionally so that I make music a priority in my work.

I think the movie “Desperately Seeking Susan” is great, even if the writing is arguably a little thin sometimes. But there’s this moment at which the score, by Thomas Newman (cousin of Randy Newman), makes all the difference–it just takes the movie to another level, and it’s awesome. The scene is of Madonna and Rosanna Arquette’s characters in NYC, during the day, and here’s the score. See if it doesn’t give you chills:

My friend Denise sent me this. She is always up on everything and finds the best stuff. She found this pic @ultravioletkids. Her IG account is private–@anapamu–but if you ask, she’ll probably say yes.

Eliminate these 5 foods to live your best life

5 Foods That Can Cause Depression

What if your depression, anxiety, flatness and/or brain fog are not caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain but instead by blood sugar imbalance and inflammation?

Dr. Kelly Brogan says that if people were willing to avoid gluten, dairy and sugar and eat a diet high in natural fats (seeds, nuts, coconut oil, olive oil, etc.), get some B vitamins (eggs, seafood, red meat and/or nutritional yeast) and a little sun and exercise, they wouldn’t need meds.


In an interview with Marie Forleo, Brogan says a “37yo psychotic woman” who was found to have a sensitivity to wheat stopped eating it and is now okay. I find that amazing.

In her holistic psychiatric practice, she asks patients to try her 30-day diet and, assuming they find it beneficial, she helps them taper off of meds.

If you want to factor in a lot of dissenting opinions on why people shouldn’t get off meds, read the Comments section under this video on YouTube. Some people maintain that certain issues can only be solved with meds.

Seems like people should not get off meds if they’re not able or willing to eat a diet that reduces inflammation, which understandably, a lot of people aren’t. Like Brogan says, most people’s attitude is, “you’ll have to pry wheat and dairy out of my cold dead hands.”


When I mentioned this inflammation-mental health connection to a friend, she said all of this is covered in the bestselling book, “The Grain Brain.” I have the book but haven’t read it and I still am not interested. I figure I don’t need to read it since I already don’t eat wheat and barely ever eat other grains. But because I’ve never read the book, I don’t know why so many people are intolerant to wheat/bread now, when years ago they didn’t used to be. My friends says it’s because it’s made differently now. It’s not as digestible as it once was, because wheat is harvested too quickly now, to increase production/profits, and now bromide is added, which is bad for us.


Dr. Brogan says that a simple way to start to make a change is by eating a healthier breakfast, because it can significantly affect your performance the rest of the day. She says when you eat a bagel, it causes the body to oversecrete insulin (to deal with the sugar in the bloodstream) and then you crash and then you’re “hangry”–hungry and angry. This word has stuck with me.


I ate a ton of sugar and white flour when I was young. I remember being angry a lot. For example, I was always flipping off other drivers. For a while, I went to a good therapist, but I wish I could’ve gone to Dr. Brogan.


Maybe years from now, solving mental health issues by implementing an anti-inflammatory diet will be the norm. That would be awesome.

And maybe in the future there will be a pill specifically designed to eliminate inflammation. For people who can’t or won’t stop eating junk.

Sara Blakely: Baller!

She looks like just another smile-y blonde lady, but she’s the youngest self-made billionaire woman in the world. And despite having survived her share of dark experiences when young, she seems freakishly well-adjusted, positive and fun.

Even if you’re like, “Whatevs”

You HAVE to admit it was brilliant of her to create a product for which the target market is HALF THE POPULATION (or at least every woman over, say, 12 years old). Everyone from slim, fit celebrities to the average woman getting married, preparing for an important meeting or date, or trying to create “a more perfect canvas” for her clothes, as Blakely puts it, will sooner or later find herself purchasing Spanx. And now, what’s weird is even guys can buy her shapewear. It’s surprising to me that men are buying the compression garments shown on the Spanx site, but Blakely’s self-proclaimed knack is “knowing what the customer wants before they know they want it.” So, maybe men are buying Spanx products like crazy? SOMEBODY is, because she’s making a shit ton of money. In fact, a few weeks before she married her husband, also a successful entrepreneur named Jessie Itzler, she had to confess to him that she was richer than he thought. She told him her company doesn’t just make a few million a year, it makes a few hundred million a year. His reaction? He cried, because he was so happy for her. (I’m sorry, but I love these people!)

Here are 14 things that have stayed with me after listening to interviews of Blakely:

  1. While growing up, at the dinner table her father would ask her and her brother what they’d failed at that week, and if they had nothing to report, he’d be disappointed. But if she said, “Hey, I tried out for something at school and was horrible!”, they’d high-five each other. He helped “reframe failure” for her, so she learned not to be daunted by challenges, like starting her own business. To this day, if it’s been a while since she has taken a risk or embarrassed herself, she’ll purposefully do something like sing in a crowded elevator. (!)
  2. When she graduated college, she wanted to go to law school but failed the LSAT. So, she took the only job she could get at the time–selling fax machines door to door. She heard “no” several times a day, every day, for the 7 years she did it. She would have to sneak past security guards in office buildings that didn’t allow solicitors. She had her business card torn up in her face and she was shown out of buildings. She was so frustrated, she cried all the time. There were days when she would just drive to a park and sit and cry. But all this experience hearing “no” taught her not to get discouraged. When she was trying to persuade manufacturers to make the first Spanx, she was told no by all of them. So, she flew to North Carolina (where the mills were located) and was again told no, in person, by all of them. Two months later, she received a call from one of the men that had turned her down. He said his daughters thought her product was a good idea, but what had stuck in his mind was her infectious enthusiasm. He agreed to make her product, although he still thought it was not going to succeed. Later, when she got her first order from Neiman-Marcus, she called to tell him and he was surprised–he thought she’d only be handing out her Spanx as Christmas gifts to friends.
  3. Her parents divorced when she was in high school, and the day her father moved out, he gave her a Wayne Dyer tape titled, “How to Be a No-Limit Person.” Because she had recently witnessed her best friend get run over by a car, in their cul-de-sac, and was at a dark moment in her life, she was receptive. She became very interested in positive thinking and self development, so much so that her friends would joke that they didn’t want to ride in her car because she would make them listen to that self-help ‘crap.’ Today, she believes one of the most important things she does for her continuing self development is allowing herself alone time to think and get ideas. She said she loves thinking so much that it’s almost like a hobby. She feels that while driving in her car she is “most connected to gut,” and so she factors in extra time in the morning for a “fake commute,” in which she spends 40 minutes to an hour driving around Atlanta before going to her office, which is actually only 5 minutes from her home!
  4. I think it’s significant that she was working a sales job in the early 90s. Because women still wore pantyhose to work back then! And she clearly was used to the smoothing effect they had on her behind, because one night, she was going to a party and wanted to wear hose under the new, cream-colored pants she’d bought. But she didn’t want the toe part to be visible in her open-toed heels. So, she cut off the feet of the hose. And she immediately thought to herself, “Are you my idea?” Because at that point, she was actively looking for an idea. She had become so depressed in her fax machine sales job that she’d decided she was not living the life she was meant to live, that she was “in the wrong movie.” She had made a list of the things she was good at, including sales, and she had written the following on a piece of paper: “I want to invent a product that I can sell to millions of people that will make them feel good.” She spent two years developing her product, all the while being told no over and over, being warned by friends and family that it was not a wise use of her $5,000 in savings, that a bigger company would just steal the idea from her, etc. She said that every day she would think to herself, Who am I to do this? She didn’t have a business degree, had never worked in fashion, and knew nothing about designing clothes.
  5. She did not quit her day job selling fax machines until either Neiman’s made their first order or Oprah held up a pair of Spanx on her show and said, “This is my favorite thing!” (Blakely had sent Spanx to Oprah’s longtime stylist.) When Oprah’s people called to say they wanted to come shoot footage of her team at the Spanx offices, Blakely agreed, then scrambled to get a team and an office! I think she ended up grabbing the woman from her local wrap-and-mail place, and she and some other acquaintances or friends sat in a circle, pretending to have a meeting, in her townhouse. Something like that. Wild!
  6. At home, Blakely and her husband mostly discuss ideas. She says they rarely talk about other people or events. She says her husband is very entertaining to be married to and that they understand each other deeply and value each other’s ideas.
  7. When asked to list the 4 words that best describe her, Blakely said, “Inventive. Driven. Courageous. And tired.” Something like that. She said that in the 80s, she would’ve described herself as funny, but now that she’s a mom, she’s too tired to be funny. 
  8. Her motto: The more you experience in life, the more you have to offer others. She was once at a dinner party and said, “I have a motto,” and everyone looked expectantly at her and suddenly she forgot what her motto was. Later, her husband had a neon sign custom made for their living room that reads, “I have a motto, but I forgot what it is.”
  9. She believes that when we are in a really bad place in life, that’s when we’re in a great place to make a change. She said if she hadn’t been in the wrong job, dating the wrong guy, and miserable, she probably wouldn’t have taken such a radical action.
  10. She was focused on making Spanx the best product of its kind in the world (that’s probably why bigger companies didn’t create something to top it–because “what she had going for her is that she cared the most”).
  11. She did standup comedy for two years. What it taught her is the importance of choosing the right words for maximum impact. Because of her belief in the importance of this, when she talked about herself or her product, she took all doubt language out of her delivery. Instead of saying, “I think this is going to be great,” she’d say, “I know this is going to be great.”
  12. At first, she had to explain to people what her product was, what it offered. People were like, “Why do I need footless pantyhose?” and she’d be like, “It’s about the butt! The canvas!”
  13. While working on her idea, she didn’t tell anyone about it for a year or so. She said she was not looking for validation. She didn’t want to spend time defending her idea to family and friends, she wanted to pursue it. I think this is possibly the most badass thing about her.
  14. She believes that what you don’t know can be your competitive edge. If you don’t know how it’s supposed to be done, it’s pretty likely you’re going to do it different. For example, people in the retail fashion industry would ask her HOW she got Neiman’s to carry her product and she would simply say, “I called them.” (She repeatedly called the head buyer for Neiman’s, just like she did when she was selling fax machines, and she would never leave a message, and then finally one day the woman picked up!) Turns out, all the people in the biz were accustomed to going to trade shows, where they hoped that Neiman’s would come by their booth. They had never actually called Neiman’s directly! 

My theory about Sara Blakely

I think the most winning thing about Sara Blakely is not her ideas, her persistence, or her “scrappy” sales instinct. The most winning thing about her is her bubbly personality. Listen to any interview of her and see if you don’t wish you were friends with her.