THE FIVE STEPS TO BEING ADDICTED TO LIFE AND CREATIVITY
Originally, James Altucher’s.
The cocaine made his throat close. “I was about to die. I was snorting so much cocaine I couldn't stop."
Thirty years later he produced one of my favorite movies ever.
How do you rise from the ashes? I want to do it also.
He wanted to be an actor. He wanted to be creative. But he worked in real estate for his father.
You either make your choices in life or you let someone else make them for you. But if that happens, you won't be happy.
"I really wasn't happy with myself," he said. "I believe it was because I wasn't my authentic self doing what I really wanted to do in my life."
Fast forward to near death. To rehab. To becoming the sort of person that people trust. To using that trust to building a network of people who will help you in every area of life.
Fast forward to surrendering to opportunities to seem to come out of nowhere because you become the first person people think of.
Fast forward to loving books so much you buy the movie rights to them for almost nothing.
Just fast forward to pursuing what you love every minute of the day. Don't listen to the people who say "don't do what you love".
Now Scott Steindorff is the producer of “Empire Falls,” “Chef,” (one of my all time favorite movies), “The Lincoln Lawyer,” “Love in the Time of Cholera,” and more.
When I first saw "Chef" I said to myself, "This is the ultimate 'Choose Yourself' story." Watch the movie and you will see what I mean.
Scott's worked with Paul Newman, Jon Favreau, Robert Downey Jr., Matthew McConaughey, Scarlett Johansson, the list goes on.
The other day he called me. He was working on another unbelievable project.
I'm jealous. It's amazing to be so creative.
Rule #1: ABC: Always Be more Creative
I don't think I am self-aware. But I'd like to know if I'm doing in the right direction.
Creativity comes from self-awareness.
Scott, can you help me?
I also like how creativity is something that always needs to be reinvented.
Scott, can you show me?
Rule #2: FIND OUT WHAT YOU'RE CRAVING
Scott wanted euphoria. He craved it.
"I grew up wanting to be a skier and an actor and here I was in an office making money,” Scott said. "I started craving that feeling of euphoria and excitement and passion for life.”
So he started doing cocaine. Because it was the only way to get it.
I always know I am deeply unhappy in my professional life when I start getting addicted to something in my personal life. This is the #1 sign of unhappiness.
"Nobody knew I had a problem," he said. " I would do it by myself. So when I checked into rehab, it was a shock to my family."
The patients had to drink some type of alcohol until they threw up. "By the second day, I said to the doctor, 'This isn't working for me. I'm a cocaine addict not an alcoholic."
He thought they'd try something new. He thought they'd help.
"Well... leave," the doctor said.
"There was a shift in my consciousness. I went to my room. I cried uncontrollably for 24 hours. All the stress and pressure left me and from that moment on I haven't used for almost 33 and a half years."
I think most people don't know what they really want in life.
We talked about adapting. And I said it seems like you have to surrender and be okay with the changes... even while you're depressed.
Surrender first, trust that life will arrange itself, even at your worst moments. It's at your worst moments that you want to surrender. Not to a higher power. But just to take the power to screw up even more, away from yourself.
"Isn't depression a lack of your expression?" he said.
"When you can be creative, even a little, the depression starts to lift."
I thought about it. Even the times when I was most depressed about money, it was creativity that saved me. Never money.
Rule #3: ASK QUESTIONS
I'm not in a 12-step program, but I want to understand who I am as my authentic self. So I asked what can I do right now?
"Ask yourself questions,” he said. “How Am I feeling? How do I feel about myself, do I love myself, am I feeling less than? Do I feel guilt?"
"But what if you're lying to yourself?"
"You can't lie to yourself," he said. "You’re just denying the truth. If you're listening to this, it's coming to the surface. Don't push it down."
It's a practice. Recognize when you are lying to yourself.
The more you ask questions, the more you will listen to the answers, the more you will be able to call BS on yourself.
How am I feeling?
Do I love myself?
Do I feel guilt?
Who did I help today?
What really makes me excited about life right now?
This is what I ask myself every day. Eventually you stop BS-ing yourself.
Rule #4: ACT IT OUT
When you work on the idea muscle, ideas become easy.
That's why I say come up with bad ideas. It's just exercise.
People criticize me every day: execution is more important than ideas.
I agree: but execution ideas are just a subset of ideas. So practice coming up with ideas.
Actions > Words > Ideas
Scott learned how to "produce" when he put together big real estate projects.
For his father. Then for MGM, then finally when he bought the rights to his favorite books and needed to put together money, actors, directors, studios in Hollywood.
"It was all the same," he said. "But I got to do what I loved."
It's not about one skill set. It's about how you meld them together and act on them.
Scott laughed and said, "I have very few skills in life..."
I didn’t quite believe him. He had skills to do real estate. To make movies. To be creative.
We always compare ourselves to what the “next level” is. And I can’t help it. I do it also. So, again, it’s the direction that counts. And fully engaging in the process.
Not looking to achieve "the goal". The goal will never be achieved. But we can go in the right direction every moment of our lives.
Scott would surrender. If an opportunity presented itself, and it excited his need for creativity, he would say “yes”.
It never hurts to try the next steps in whatever endeavor presents itself.
Make your life a series of experiments. If an experiment works, run with it. Cure life.
If it doesn't work, move on.
Scott’s story is not about movies, or addiction, or creativity, it’s about knowing the right direction to take the next step.
Rule #5: MAKE SMALL CHANGES EVERYDAY
Scott quit his dad’s real-estate firm.
"Was he supportive?" I asked.
They didn't talk for two years…
Scott became a millionaire from real estate. And unhappy. Then the market crashed.
"It crushed me," he said. "I was broke".
Scott changed careers every five years or so. Now he's 56. And he's working on a Joan of Arc movie, a new TV series based in the Bahamas, and a script for one of my all-time favorite books: "Station 11."
Any time he liked a book, he’d try to buy the movie rights. Then he’d try to get the movie made.
Sometimes it would work. Sometimes it would be a massive success. But always he tried, starting with the simplest step.
The story he told me was a combination of luck, learning skills, building a network, and acting on the intersection of all of the above.
But more than anything, it’s being open to surrender. Surrendering to constant reinvention.
Reinvention is a habit not an event.