Monday, March 21, 2011


Here's what he said:

Reject the tyranny of being picked: pick yourself

Amanda Hocking is making a million dollars a year publishing her own work to the Kindle. No publisher.

Rebecca Black has reached more than 15,000,000 listeners, like it or not, without a record label.

Are we better off without gatekeepers? Well, it was gatekeepers that brought us the unforgettable lyrics of Terry Jacks in 1974, and it's gatekeepers that are spending a fortune bringing out pop songs and books that don't sell.

I'm not sure that this is even the right question. Whether or not we're better off, the fact is that the gatekeepers--the pickers--are reeling, losing power and fading away. What are you going to do about it?

It's a cultural instinct to wait to get picked. To seek out the permission and authority that comes from a publisher or talk show host or even a blogger saying, "I pick you." Once you reject that impulse and realize that no one is going to select you--that Prince Charming has chosen another house--then you can actually get to work.

If you're hoping that the HR people you sent your resume to are about to pick you, it's going to be a long wait. Once you understand that there are problems just waiting to be solved, once you realize that you have all the tools and all the permission you need, then opportunities to contribute abound.

No one is going to pick you. Pick yourself.

Hear, hear! I couldn't agree with Seth more.
And you don't have to make a million dollars or reach 15,000,000 people. You can do very well on a much smaller scale and pay your rent, gas up your car and never miss a meal. With the gifts we've gotten from the wonderful techies behind the Internet and their zillion programs (which I praise every morning when my computer starts humming) it gets more possible every day.

Seth has walked his talk from the beginning, and I can testify that he is right: Pick Yourself.

(If you want to know exactly how you might do that, I'm about to figure out how to do impromptu free Idea Parties on Facebook and we can find out anything! Don't go away.)

Monday, March 8, 2010

I'm still at war with the War of Art

Sigh. I'm going to catch a lot of hell for this.

After commenting on the post about Pressfield's book on this delightfully named website -

The World's Strongest Librarian:

- I got a couple of responses, and all of them defended the book. I was perplexed until a couple of comments on that site made me realize something I had forgotten: lots of people have never thought of their procrastinating behavior as 'Resistance,' or even that procrastination/avoidance has a name. And, though they don't specifically say it, the name indicates a thought that is radical the first time you think it: some part of you is procrastinating deliberately.

It is an exciting thought but it makes me realize that such people are at the beginning. I've been working with resistance so much and for so long, that I continually forget that.

Here's the very thoughtful (and most relevant) comment about my comment:

Jenny March 6, 2010 at 9:51 pm
Thanks for the information Barbara. I’ll definitely check out your site. Personally, I love the way Pressfield presents everything so simply. I think the concepts you bring up are very interesting but perhaps a little more in depth than many people want to/or are willing to go? I wouldn’t knock his book because of it because what I love about it is that he simply defines the issue and then gives real ways to fix it in your life. Regardless, thanks for stopping by and for sharing.

I was considering that when a few more posts showed up (by a number of posters who probably didn't see my comment) that proved her point. This is the best example:

"I’m freaked out that it has a name now. This concept is blowing me away because now it has a name. It’s something tangible and something that I can stare in the face and say, 'hi, let’s get over it.'"

From that came two more thoughts:

First: I remember occasionally hearing the same thing from my live audiences or via emails. So Jenny is right and I have to remember that from now on.

Second: Why did she have to end her comment with "It’s something...that I can stare in the face and say, 'hi, let’s get over it.'"

Now I have to get back into the ring. Damn it.

The term "Resistance," really is an exciting description of procrastination. It has echoes of "Resistance fighters." It's a revelation when you first discover your passive procrastinating for what it really is: a part of you that will actually battle your efforts to do what you want to do.

Now, that might seem obvious, and it made me smile at her delight in finally seeing procrastination for what it really is. But then I looked at the final sentence in that comment: "It’s something...that I can stare in the face and say, 'hi, let’s get over it.'"

And therein lies the rub.

I don't want to say anything bad about Pressfield's book. It's a beautiful book and he's a very good writer. That's one of the highest compliments I give. And his book is among the best I've seen with his message. And I don't want to provoke a lot of angry or defensive responses either. I thought about letting this whole thing pass and forgetting about it. But I can't.

Because I want to check up a few weeks or months down the road on that poster -- and the others like her -- who said "It’s something...that I can stare in the face and say, 'hi, let’s get over it,'"so I can ask them a question that's always burning in my brain at these times: 'How's that working for you?'

Invigorating calls to action like Pressfield's are irresistible. And traditional: (Once more unto the breach!) and the best ones will launch a pleasurable fresh resolve to conquer our blocks to action.

It never lasts, but, you might say, so what? If it gets you started again and makes you feel you have some control over that dream-killer, procrastination, where's the harm?

Here's my answer: There's no harm at all if you end up thinking, "Hey, maybe this doesn't work. Maybe resistance isn't all that easy to conquer. Maybe I need to know more."

But experience tells me that this isn't not what most people think when that exhilarating feeling fades and their efforts to write or paint or market their business once again grind to a halt. What they think -- and this is why I keep getting cranky about it -- is, "I've failed again."

You're okay if you say "I tried, it didn't work, let's return it." You're not okay if you believe that "I tried it, it didn't work for me, it works for better people, it's my fault."

If it really were your fault, that might be accurate. But it isn't.

And yet people keep saying it in my classes, in emails, on teleclasses: "I know I should think more positively/I know I should be able to conquer this procrastination, I've tried but I couldn't do it -- I'll try again," as they try once again to rev themselves up like a coach at halftime."

And I feel like someone is setting them up to think they should be able to do something that real humans can't do: conquer that powerful, primitive inner impulse to resist, with nothing but that unreliable newcomer, will power.

It's like having your 7 year old kid come home from school believing he's a failure because he can't sink a basketball through a hoop designed for taller people. You want to know who told him that and give them a piece of your mind.

In this case, we humans, all of us, are that 7-year-old kid. We can't make war on resistance and hope to win and I want to know who told us that we could. We have to quit trying the same thing and expecting different results. There are better ways to melt resistance.

Feel free to ask me what I believe they are.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Re The War of Art

I left this comment on a site reviewing The War of Art.

People I know like this book, so I bought it lst year and read it. And, as usual, I got pissed off.

In more diplomatic terms, I faced what a writer speaker with a lot of years of searching, learning, developing new methods for dealing with resistance, and writing 7 books about it often faces:

1) Frustration that readers are settling for Descriptions (here's what resistance is, here's what it does, you'll find it when you want to do things, you'll hate yourself, etc. etc.)instead of Prescriptions (here's what to do about this kind of resistance, and here's what to do when the Big Resistance has you, and here's when to do these things)and

2)some evil envy that books like this one are bigger bestsellers than my bestsellers.

I like this book, too, but like so many others, it doesn't seem concerned with the sources of resistance. Why do we resist? All I could find was that it has something to do with our 'dark side.' (That's from memory, so excuse if it's not exactly what Pressman said.) I don't know how anyone can be satisfied with that explanation. I never have been.

I've spent many years coming up with ways to get around resistance. In fact, I've been called The Resistance Whisperer, and often write on my blog of that name. (There's a letter to Seth Godin there now, that I don't want to bump down, so I'll wait a while to post on this subject over there.)

I've gotten great results with the methods I've developed in every book I've written and workshop and retreat I've run. But when resistance is tenacious, there's something under it, and that's what's always seemed most important to me.

One thing I know doesn't work -- and I've been very clear about this for a very long time -- is Positive Thinking. Another is toughing it out, battling resistance with determination, will power, self-discipline (aka 'The Male, Military Model.'). A little respect is due Resistance. It's much more powerful than our puny efforts to wrestle it to the ground. But, although we are weak, we are clever and tricky, and when it comes to ways of getting around resistance, I've seen a lot of great tips and tricks, and I've produced a lot of good ones myself.

I've found a number of things that do work. The one people pull out their pens to write down in my audiences is "Isolation is the dreamkiller." I have a cartoon booklet called 'How To Get What You Really Want When You Have No Character, No Goals, And You're Often in a Lousy Mood," that advises readers to start a team or buddy system. These are powerful weapons again resistance. The work like school worked, like the IRS works: with structure and accountability.

But even that is often not enough. When there's a stone in your shoe, nothing fixes it but to sit down, take your shoe off, and remove the stone. Toughing it out with self discipline isn't often the smart thing to do in my opinion. And no, my way doesn't require years of psychoanalysis. If my teleclasses go as they usually do, I'll be popping people out of resistance tonight and next week in less than 10 minutes.

I even have a blog dedicated to the subject. (See my signature below) And a bunch of best-selling books. (See All of them offer real solutions, and if the resistance just won't go away, they show you how to find that stone and get it out of your shoe.

Commiserating about resistance is very pleasant, but I argue that not very many people show you how to find out why resistance is stopping you and how you can melt it every time it shows up. I do.

Barbara Sher
Twitter: @barbarasher

PS: I'm teaching my small master class for coaches to do the same and hoping their efforts will wake everyone up to this thinking. (I'm not promoting the class. It's closed and a new one won't start until next year, if at all.)

Sunday, February 28, 2010

I disagree with Seth Godin about Genius and Lizard Brain

I'd like to disagree with this statement by Seth Godin in yesterday's blog:

When the lizard brain kicks in and the resistance slows you down, the only correct response is to push back again and again and again with one failure after another. Sooner or later, the lizard will get bored and give up.

Much as I love Seth Godin, and have for many years, I think he's got this one wrong. There's no point and a lot of wasted effort in pushing back at what you call Lizard Brain. Save the calories and let the synapses rest. We're programmed to crash after a high as a way of keeping us out of danger and letting us build up some energy.

Here's what I have concluded over my years of thinking on this subject:

Excitement (caused by inspiration) is half fear and half joy. An idea hits you like lightning. It's fabulous. (I do believe it's definitely, by any definition, a flash of genius, but it's available to everyone.)

First you get high on the joy, then, when you get too high for safety (according to your survival mechanism) and you crash. Then you usually give up. I agree you shouldn't give up, but I see the process and the solution differently.

I see excitement as having 3 stages and no one seems to mention the third. (It's not a return to the excitement.)

Phase One: you're on a real high and when you're high, it's like being in love. When you're in love, you're a genius. You can see, hear, smell, understand what no one else can. That's why no one else understands that your newborn baby the most beautiful baby that has ever existed. You're not crazy. You can actually see details that they miss. And, because you're not in love with their babies, they look ordinary to you. Nature is no fool. She's got survival down pat.

In Phase One I advise all my readers/listeners/audiences to write down each and every detail, not in notes, diagrams or outlines, but in English, in long declarative sentences that explain how you came to each conclusion. You'll need to understand them later.

Phase Two: You got too high. Fear trumps Joy. Your primitive survival mechanisms respond to fear with a great mechanism designed to make you safe: a micro-depression.

You experience it as a crash. And when you crash, you have all the attendant frills of any 'real' depression: you lose energy, you lose interest, and you no longer calculate in action terms, or in the present at all. You feel all knowing about the past and the future. You feel old and wise and start to speak in terms like 'never,' 'always,' and 'how could I have been so blind?' 'It has always been so. It will ever be so. Those who hope are fools." Etc.

That's what some call Lizard Brain. That's where some say you must make yourself become positive again. I strongly advise against that. Fighting nature isn't smart. You, Seth Godin, thankfully, don't ask us to try to rearrange our brains and force positive thoughts.

But you do say to battle this phase. And that's where we disagree again, and most importantly.

At Phase Two of excitement, the crash, I advise everyone to give in. Relax. You feel stupid? Call yourself stupid and despise happy, excited people for not realizing that life sucks. Lay about watching disgusting TV shows and eating crackers in bed. Bathe less.

When you've gotten bored with Phase Two you will move into the most important phase of all. When your energy begins to build up a little, self pity, though enjoyable at first, becomes tiresome. That's when you get up and take a shower, and, if you're like most of us, you try to maintain the micro-depression brand of wisdom so you'll stop getting excited about things.

Fortunately, that never works, but what usually happens instead is that you wait until you get excited about another idea and go through the process over again.

But you're not finished with the genius idea you had in Phase One. Starting to feel normal is actually part of the process:

Phase Three You've gone through two of the three phases of excitement and now it pays off. You hit pay dirt. Phase Three is where you lay out a plan and roll up your sleeves -- without the high, without the crash, but with the clarity and steady energy that makes things happen.

You won't have that energy unless you collapsed when you were supposed to.

Now you can dig up those carefully written, completely understandable notes you wrote in Phase One and read them in sober daylight, without a negative bias, without heart-banging excitement.

Because Phase Three is where all the work actually gets done. It's always been like that: slow and steady. The Genius is gone. the Hopeless One has recovered, and the Intelligent Hard Worker has returned.

And you'll get there sooner if you value the first fabulous insights (aka 'genius insight,' 'inspiration') enough to properly record them and you don't wear yourself out battling Lizard Brain.

My two cents.

Sunday, February 21, 2010


And I did it the only way I ever do anything useful: by being asked to explain it by a real person. I was way too busy to do this, but there's one thing I almost always brake for: a question. From a human. (Not from a company. Not so enthused about those.)

So, just in case you're a grad of a WriteSpeak Retreat (so far no one else is eligible to sign up for Part III) and you've been curious, here you are.

Q: I want to come to Part III, B., but need to know how much it costs. I'm not sure what we will do in Part III, but having been to the teleworkshop and the Retreat, I know it will be what I want, so count me in. I just need to know how to schedule the payment. Signed, E.

Hi E.

The cost is $1200 (25% of the original which had so much interaction that I couldn't do it that way again. It was time well spent: I learned how to teach what people in Part III needed to know and have now streamlined and automated much of it.)

The full cost doesn't have to be paid up front anymore (though my bookkeeper would very much like you to pay half for starters). You're the grad of a WriteSpeak retreat, so I know you're a serious student and won't duck out when you get scared. Usually, when you pay the whole fee in advance, it helps offset resistance (in this case, also known as Fear of Success)and keeps you going. I trust you to understand how important this is and to keep going no matter what.

I haven't had much opportunity to explain all the parts of Part III, including the final segment which is interactive and includes a group of people you will want to hang out with (including me) so let me answer questions you didn't ask, but might want to know.

I have more than one reason for letting everyone pay off the rest of the fee each month: it will provide a background for you to become familiar with subscription sites -- that is sites that automatically send you information and charge you each month. I've now seen a number of different subscription sites (joined a few of them myself) and I can see what makes a first-rate site. It's got a lot to do with great content, but even more, a first-rate subscription site is a community. A real one. And that's something that can't be faked.

There are 4 segments to Part III. The final segment takes place in the closed forum on my bulletin board. It's relatively small but it's been active for almost two years, and is wonderful. I've been adding threads for almost three years -- everything I know from my own experience, and everything I learn, as soon as I learn it. And I'm not the only one adding information. The forum is made up mostly of successful WriteSpeak graduates, many of whom are breaking ground (with our support) and showing us the many new ways a WriteSpeaker can bring in income. The membership includes guest members who know the ropes in their own fields. I've seen them in action and invited them in. I like them very much. None of them are there to advertise themselves. They want to be in the community. And I don't blame them.

A subscription site, at its best, doesn't have hundreds or thousands of members, but it has enough experienced members (and explorers) to make sure that almost any information a writer-speaker needs is available. And the people in the community really want to help each other members. They brake for questions just like I do -- and just like you do.


IIIa gets the machinery rolling re your content for your book and energy for your speaking. You'll get small, easy-to-do assignments to get you moving fast. They're a lot of fun, and they're over before you know it. Then we'll slow down, take a look at your growing pile of pages (Writing Without Writing) and devote some time to making you fall in love with organizing your material. The whole time you'll be doing the usual FAQs plus FAQ2s and FAQ3s. (FYI, FAQ3s basically get you ready to use a format like WriteSpeak Part I - the teleworkshop.)

When the learning curve for IIIa ends and the book process is humming along in the background, you'll move to IIIb.

IIIb works on setting you up as an expert -- which you may (or may not) already realize you are. It includes a filled-out website that functions as a first-class press kit (including testimonials, clients, etc.) and features your book preview, complete with table of contents, sample chapters, and extensive index. When you've completed this segment, you'll be ready to let the world know you exist so they can beat a path to your doorstep.

IIIc works on making you well known. In it you'll be learning the skills and setting up the ongoing schedule that creates 'Buzz.' Buzz will send the world to your website and your weblog, as well as following you on Twitter, friending you on Facebook, contacting you via LinkedIn and subscribing to your channel on YouTube.

When you've completed IIIc, you'll be ready to learn how to be successful financially.

IIId (which takes place in the closed forum described above) is all about bringing in income. I'll teach what I've learned through my long career, such as how to create a really good mailing list and write a newsletter people want to read, how I run my retreats and public TV specials, my Coaching Master Class, subscription sites, forums et al. But I'm far from the only teacher in the forum. We have some grads rocketing ahead and guest professionals that are using (and teaching us) new technologies I'm just learning myself.

You join this forum when you've completed all the the assignments and requirements. From that time on, you will belong to this community.

A more typical subscription site requires that you continue to pay monthly. But once you've done your work and finished paying the original fee, you're in the community with no further payments. You will have earned the right to be there, to get support and assistance, to share what you've learned with others and to keep up with the latest developments for as long as you wish. The most generous and helpful people I know are in this community. You'll be one of them.

There you are. I've finally described WriteSpeak Part III. I love FAQs. So glad you asked, E.


Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Found the other letter about the WS retreat.

I love this letter:

Someone from the world of big business wanted an agenda, and I just didn't know how to give her one. "What am I supposed to do, then?" she asked. "Just send my money and hope for the best?"

This answer came from a grad of my first WriteSpeak program who is now speaking at conferences, running online classes teaching how to dodge the traps that ruin marriage and keep it wonderful, has been featured in a number of major magazines, has a first rate book ready to go to my agent and is building a huge fan base:

Here it is:

“Send your money and hope for the best” might actually describe it
well, Colleen.

Just so you understand my role, I'm not on Barbara's staff. I'm just a
raving fan and willing volunteer, because I got so much more out of the
March 2007 retreat and the Part III course since then than I could ever
have hoped for.

In my day job, I design training programs for large corporations, so
I'm familiar with detailed objectives and agendas, and I understand why
you might be nervous without them. But this isn't the sort of training
program I develop. Those can be taught by anyone. They need a lot of
structure for that reason.

Barbara's retreat is a bunch of people sitting down in a living room
with someone who's made a name for herself as a writer and speaker, who
makes a nice living off rescuing people with potential, who keeps tabs
on all the year-to-year changes in this business, who's coached an
awful lot of people seeking to create a new career out of a dream, and
who's a master at clearing away both external and internal obstacles to
living a life we've only imagined. She shares what's worked for her.
She offers a variety of other approaches that work for other sorts of
people. She feels out each person in the room to figure out their
obstacles, and she moves away as many of them as she can. She figures
out how far she can push each person in the group and just keeps
nudging, leading, comforting, pushing, and counseling.

Barbara's going to arrive with a mental outline of things she wants to
cover and piles of resources to share with you. But then she's going to
craft a retreat around the people who show up, tossing in whatever's
needed and trimming back whatever's not. And she's going to care,
probably even more than you, whether or not you leave there equipped to
publish a book and start speaking within the next year.

Basically, though, you have to just trust her and put yourself in her
hands. Her approach isn't like anyone else's. Her goal isn't for you to
make big bucks, but to live a life you love and contribute your gifts
to the world. What she reveals isn't how the game is played, but where
the shortcuts can be found. She's not into picking a subject that will
make you instantly rich, but a way to find the money to support your
mission to save your particular orphans. She won't give you the
speaking advice you can get from Toastmasters or a public speaking
class, but she'll get you speaking with passion and purpose about
something that matters to you and a bunch of paying people waiting to
hear from you.

Not at soul at the first retreat left feeling they'd not gotten their
money's worth. In fact, several pleaded with her at the retreat to let
more of them into Part III. We're all still in touch with each other,
supporting each other's efforts. We're still plugging away at using all
the ideas we got in those few days. Not a one has grumbled that
something Barbara suggested hasn't worked for them. None has said
they've found a better program they want to recommend.

So, yes, send your money and hope for the best. Sleep well before you
arrive, and bring a thick notebook with you. I think you'll find your
money well spent.


Describing the WriteSpeak Retreat - Success at last!!

I'm trying to get a few more people into the New York WriteSpeak Retreat next week, because one of the most important results of a retreat is the amazing support team that's created. Bigger is better, and the limit is 15 anyway, so there's no way to get too big. So I'm writing grads of the Part I all-day teleclass who haven't been to a retreat to come to this one.

But whenever people ask me what we do at the retreat, I draw a blank. I mention a few of the processes I remember - like the last full day (and sometimes through the night) being entirely devoted to 'Message, Medium, Motivation, Money. So I asked some recent grads to send testimonials.

They sent great ones. But, like me, nobody said specifically what happened. ( I'm looking for a letter from a grad of the first retreat, who has come to two more retreats because she likes them so much and knows the benefit of being part of a group of people who will become movers and shakers in a year or two) in which she explained to someone who wanted an agenda, why nobody can describe it -- I'll add it when I find it.

And then last night I got one more testimonial in my inbox and it made me feel like a million bucks. It might stand as the best description of what actually comes of being at a retreat to date. You tell me:

(If you want to get into Saturday's teleworkshop or read more about the program, head over to or and take a look.)

A few friends who know I went through Barbara Sher's WriteSpeak program
last year asked me if I learned anything, and if it was worth it.

Looking back at what I've learned astounds me. Here's just a few things
that come to mind quickly:

Technology / Social Media

Barbara is on the cutting edge of technology and how it's used today
in business. In all honesty, I had no idea half this stuff existed before
she insisted that we learn it.

Prior to her class, I had never:
Written a Blog
I wasn't even sure what a Blog *was*. Now I have three.

Created a Web Site
For 15 years, I begged every techie in the family to help
me get a decent web site up for my small business. In
one weekend in WS, I learned how to create my own -
easily, and for FREE. Now I have 10 websites (no joke!)
and switch out old and new ones whenever I feel like it.

Used Twitter
Again, I hadn't even heard of it. Now I have over 1,000
followers and new friends from around the world. They
answer questions to stuff I want to know, inspire me,
teach me, amuse & enlighten me. I love it.

Published an eBook
Another thing I was vaguely aware of - but hadn't a
clue where to begin. Now I can churn them out.

Uploaded a Video to YouTube
Silly, but this never would have entered my mind before.
Now I upload, download, embed and reuse videos. Wow.

Self Published on Amazon and Elsewhere
This is still on my to-do list, but now I know how to
actually DO IT, and I'm no longer afraid of the process.

I'm sure there are 30-40 other things I take for granted
now and do on a daily basis that I learned in WS.

Personal Growth
On a personal basis, there has been tremendous growth as well.

Everyone knows that Barbara Sher is all about wanting you to
follow your dream, but how many of us even believe that's possible?

Before going to WriteSpeak, I was a lonely, scared, easily-intimidated,
insecure, overworked wreck. And that was on my good days.

Going to WriteSpeak was the first step in a journey to reclaiming myself
that continues to this day. Barbara and the wonderful friends I made at
WS II became my personal cheerleaders. They saw value I had overlooked
or forgotten. I made friends there who are now a permanent and important
part of my life.

They reached inside my tired, ragged heart and brought out a light I had
forgotten existed.

They told me I can write well. (I always wondered about that.)

They said I'm a artist. (I always hoped so.)

They respected me. (Whoa - who'd a thunk?)

They supported me when I struggled, kicked me when I procrastinated,
laughed at me when I was silly, and just *totally* accepted me - as I am,
flaws and all. What an enormous relief!

How can you begin to sum up a year like we've had? Every person in
the group has grown. We are not the same strangers who met a year
ago, hoping to learn a few tips and tricks about the writing and speaking
trades. We are a team now - a family who love and support each other
(even the weird ones). We rejoice in each other's triumphs and reach
out a hand when there are bad times.

And nowadays, I'm thinner, healthier, calmer, more at peace with myself,
more creative, aware of and accepting of my limits, and far, far, happier
than I was when we started this journey.

So was it worth it? My God, yes.

Would I do it again? In a heartbeat.

Would I suggest that *YOU* go? You'd be a fool not to.
You're going to get a lot more out of this than you can
even imagine. Trust me. I've been there.