The number one thing that’s going to change your life…

U.S. Marines of the 28th Regiment, 5th Division, raise the American flag atop Mt. Suribachi, Iwo Jima, on Feb. 23, 1945. Strategically located only 660 miles from Tokyo, the Pacific island became the site of one of the bloodiest, most famous battles of World War II against Japan.  (AP Photo/Joe Rosenthal)

The only thing, that will change your life, change your business, change your money, change your relationship, is you must raise your standard. Now I know that sounds boring, stupid, basic, but it’s the truth.

The only thing that changes our life long term is when we raise our standards. What does that mean? That sounds so boring and dumb. It means that all of us in life have things we want. We don’t get what we want, we get what we have. Remember what I said earlier, we all get what we tolerate in ourselves and other people, but when you’re no longer willing to tolerate something that’s when your life changes. The difference in people is their standards, period. The difference in people is their standards, period, and what do I mean by standards? Everyone in the world has a list of things they think they should do. I should lose weight. I should work out. I should spend more time with my kids. I should work harder. I should make more calls. I should. I should. I should. I should, and then you know what, people don’t do their shoulds, and they get mad at themselves, and they what I call “should all over themselves.” They beat themselves up about it. What changes people is when you’re should becomes a must. When suddenly the thing you said should happen has to happen. That’s when human beings change. It’s like, if you want to take the island, and you’re the head of the Army, the most powerful way to take the island is to burn the boats, because if there’s no way to go back it’s amazing what happens when it’s a must to do something versus the should. That’s what makes human beings succeed. — Tony Robbins

It took five weeks for the US Marines to capture the island of Iwo Jima. It took me a lot longer to change my own life and thankfully without anything close to that amount of risk. My Tony Robbins story is a long one that started with a visit many years ago from a high school classmate. We graduated MIT together, class of 1986, and it was he himself who used to joke that the only reason he was accepted to MIT was the need to make a quota for a specific minority. Now he is standing in front of me telling a story of how he is living on a boat in Hawaii while helping to turnaround businesses. What? …and that I should look into the teachings of this guy called Tony Robbins who wrote a book called Unlimited Power. What the what?

It was intriguing enough to make me go out and buy the book after which it promptly sat in my closet for the several years that followed. Somewhere in between the subject of Tony Robbins came up in reference to the things we should be doing in human resources at the family business where, for the most part, further discussion was dismissed because he was largely thought of charlatan by the head of HR.

In the years that followed I was faced with my own business turn around and the interim COO I brought in at the time wanted to go down to Florida and attend one of Tony’s seminars called UPW to “see if there are any chinks in this guy’s armor.” He wanted me to go with him and my health was not in a position where I had the energy to even make that move, but, okay, I get it, it was time to read the book. Which I did and if you are wondering my COO came back with only praise for what he experienced.

Though I do not remember any details of the book exactly, I know got sucked in deep enough to order the Personal Power CDs (they were probably on cassette at the time, and, yes, they were probably purchased from one of those infamous late night TV infomercials that the “the guy with the big head and big teeth” was running constantly in those days) and that is where the momentum started to build. Going through nearly all of the program with deep dive attention it was like I literally woke up from being asleep for most of my life. It was a year or two later when I finally made it down to, coincidentally Florida again, to attend my first UPW seminar where my journey with Tony truly began in the full technicolor glory that I describe going to a live event is as compared to the B&W silent movie version of the multimedia products.

“You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” — Jim Rohn

To say I raised my standards may be true but more precisely I no longer accepted standards that were lower than I what I knew now I was capable of achieving. I believe Jim Rohn’s statement to be true with the only change of adding yourself to that average. In other words, before the people you spend time with can lift you up you need to change yourself. I should lose weight — starting with what I am putting into my body. I should be more financially secure — starting with wasting less time on Facebook and in front of the TV. I should make more of my life — starting with investing in the talents within me. You all ready have people supporting your existing standards. If you don’t you wouldn’t be where you are today. If you are not happy with where you are start with yourself. Raise those shoulds into musts. Then look for the people who might be just outside of your existing circle for help. You already know who some of them are. Reach for their hand to get out of the hole and they will in turn lead you to others that will take you even further. I, myself, would not be in a position to have written any of these Medium stories without going through this process and for anyone who asks, and for a lot that don’t, I tell them I have Tony Robbins to thank for starting me down that road.

“Your talent is God’s gift to you. What you do with it is your gift back to God.” — Leo Buscaglia

As a side note, one of the most memorable experiences of going to UPW for the first time was seeing the range of people that were changed by the experience. One person described himself as only being alive because he decided to go to the event rather than use the gun in the nightstand to kill himself. Others had very successful lives who wanted to take them even further. For myself, all I knew is that something more was waiting for me in this life. I didn’t know what it was but I wasn’t looking to waste another year ending up in basically the same place I started with the only progress being one less year left to do something about it. I also had the simple perspective that if someone could use these strategies to turn around a life that was close to being ended from one’s own hand — imagine where I could go starting from a place seemingly already much further ahead. Now almost 20 years later I am living a life I could not even have dreamed of back then and I mean this literally. One day I am going to find that original workbook from the seminar and wonder to myself if I would could even be friends with the person I was back then. Yes, today I would still reach down the hole to try to lift my former self up but the real question in this intellectual trip is would my former self have taken that hand to get out? Without the help of Tony Robbins, sadly the answer would probably have been “no.”

(Originally posted on Medium)

How is drinking alcohol like making a lot of money?

Alcohol and Money

There was an article on WebMD ten years ago entitled, “Is Alcohol a Truth Serum?” It centered around a controversy at the time where someone made anti-Semitic remarks during a drunken tirade. Though the article did seem to draw a line between alcoholic behavior and social drinking the punch line still remained:

Alcohol can’t make you think or feel things — Gary L. Malone, MD

Meaning, at least for the social drinker, alcohol is indeed a truth serum because somewhere inside you need to believe the thoughts you express when drunk. More practically one can argue that everyone has beliefs that, if released without inhibition, would cause us to add ‘mea maxima culpa’ to the end of a good portion of our sentences. So, is ‘who we are’ answered by everything we think or what we end up actually doing?

I believe we need faults to evaluate and adjust our actions. We need faults for perspective, measurement, and oddly enough sympathy. The real question, however, is are the faults supporting who you are and what you do, or are they being held back with a wall just to fit into whatever the social norm is that surrounds you. Perhaps it is this latter case where alcohol crumbles that wall and exposes what you want to do as if no one is watching.

So, how does this relate to money? I believe in the exactly the same thing as Gary Vaynerchuk when he says:

There is no such thing as ‘selling out’, or fame, or money, or more eyeballs on them, changing anyone. It is very simple. The more eyeballs, the more attention, etc, exposes who you are.

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With money comes power. Power does not corrupt; it just allows you to do more of what you want to do. The mainstream media (meaning all of the Constant Negative News networks out there) tend to make us think most people who have a lot of money are all a bunch of drunken assholes. Yes, I am sure everyone knows that person who is an embarrassment to be around when they have had one too many — however, for most of us what comes out of our mouths under the influence is no different than what we speak sober. Most millionaires are completely invisible — they truly are the millionaires next door. If there was ever an analogy to the alcoholic with money it is probably the case where money comes too quickly into place without the work or knowledge to deal with it. A prime example of this is winning the lottery, either literally or through the luck of being a truly overnight success, which is an exceedingly rare instance.

My challenge to you, assuming you believe money corrupts people, is to think about another possibility. That is, the possibility where, in those cases you are using as references, the corruption was there before the money.

(Originally posted on Medium)

One life to live, and doing my best to do more than one thing with it

One Way and Another Way

People that know my background from the rigid plastic packaging industry sometimes shake their heads trying to figure things out when I tell them my ‘day job’ in now in the feature film industry. (For those plastics nerds reading this, ‘film’ is not referring to flexible packaging — no, it means movies — as in entertainment) “Oh, so you got a new hobby,” some have said. Ah, no. Though I do not tell them directly my thought is to help build a bigger business than what I left behind in manufacturing. For those still listening the question that comes up almost all of the time is, “Do I miss it?” The answer I give comes with a pause — how do you describe something that you truly valued and are grateful for while at the same time not missing it?

The manufacturing business was not just a business I owned but rather a family business my father started and I took over after his passing. When it achieved a level of success I felt I could not take further it was time to leave. I am grateful for the people that became a part of my life along the journey and obviously for the resources it created to continue down a different path ahead.

If you are an assembly line worker and love your job then you probably do not understand what I am talking about. I cannot imagine doing the same thing day in, and day out. Yet, if I am brutally honest with myself there is a level of abstraction where I am probably doing just that. I may have had no love for plastic packaging but I certainly enjoyed building the business — finding the people, capital, and strategy needed to make it grow into something my own father would have never imagined. To a great degree I am still doing the same thing, just in different industries now with the film investment being the one I hold closest to my heart.

My thoughts, when I started writing this piece, did not begin here but where I ended up leads me to a blog entry of Tim Ferriss, The Top 5 Reasons to Be a Jack of All Trades:

  1. It’s more fun, in the most serious existential sense.
  2. “Jack of all trades, master of none” is an artificial pairing.
  3. In a world of dogmatic specialists, it’s the generalist who ends up running the show.
  4. Boredom is failure.
  5. Diversity of intellectual playgrounds breeds confidence instead of fear of the unknown.

Thus, is it really being a ‘Jack of All Trades’ in the end or just being a miserable failure of labeling what you are good at that is the real truth? In other words, if you think you are a specialist could you be missing out on a larger picture to which you fit in just as well? Either way, the push towards a ‘gig economy’ is here and it is growing. As terrible as the thought is of finding something new, after doing the same thing over and over again for literally an entire career’s time, it is also becoming easier. The challenge, as with many things in life, is usually more of a mental shift than a lack of ability. Take that challenge, conquer it, and you just might find — as I have — the thrill of being born someone new again.

“We have two lives, and the second begins when we realize we only have one.” ― Confucius

(Originally posted on Medium)

Bulletproof Coffee: Simple vs Complicated, and Easy vs Hard

Bulletproof Coffe

I was listening to a Derek Sivers Q&A on the Tim Ferriss podcast and he talked about the interesting concept to which this story is entitled.

Look at running.

If you talk with people who hate running, you’ll hear them say, “Ugh. First you have to get your running clothes, and get dressed. Then you have to put on your shoes, then lace them up just right. Then you have to stretch, and warm up. Then afterwards you need to cool down, then shower. It’s such a pain!”

But if you talk with people who love running, they’ll say, “You just pop out for a quick run.” If you ask them about the steps involved, they’ll say there’s only one: just run.

So knowing that we have this human nature to think of things we like as simple, and things we don’t as complicated, you can use this to deliberately simplify how you think of something you’re avoiding, making it more appealing.

An ultra-marathon is simple: you just run 100 miles to the end. But that doesn’t mean it’s easy!

Success in business can be simple: find a need that people are proving they are willing to pay for, then find a profitable way to solve that need for them. But that doesn’t mean it’s easy!

Notice (in your mind) when your complications are holding you back. Turn the dial towards simplicity, so you just jump out the door and start running.

Notice (in your results) when your simplified approach is holding you back. Perhaps you’re using only one tool in the toolbox, and need to learn others.

And as for all the business advice out there, well, if information was the answer then we’d all be billionaires with perfect abs. So really you, yeah you listening to this, you need to shut that shit off, put your blinders on, get out the door and start running. (Metaphorically speaking, that is.)

So, how does this relate to Bulletproof coffee? If you are living under a rock and have not heard of it yet by brand name you might have at least heard about crazy people putting butter in their coffee. The concept of being bulletproof, however, goes far deeper than that. The key ingredients are four items:

  1. The Bulletproof branded coffee.
  2. The grass fed butter.
  3. The Brain Octane oil.
  4. The process of making it.

You can talk about all of the benefits — why the specific oil, what makes grass fed important for the butter, what makes the branded coffee different (especially in the United States), and even get people to taste it and have them find it surprisingly good. You can go further to talk about the results — no brain fog, no crash, mycotoxin free. Then, however, when you talk about the process the look and the comment that comes back from most is, “Oh, I would never have time to do that!”

So, notice (in your mind) when your complications are holding you back. Turn the dial towards simplicity, so you just jump out the door and start — in this case — brewing. Notice (in your results) when your simplified approach is holding you back — in this case your body is crashing, you have brain fog, etc. Perhaps you’re using only one tool in the toolbox, and need to learn others.

(Originally posted on Medium)

How Carol Baldwin got me into the Feature Film Business

Film - Jabberwock

Some of you, like me, might have been fans of a long ago, as in 1978, BBC series called Connections. It was a fascinating show that attempted to connect significant breakthroughs in the world to a chain reaction of events, be they intended or complete accidents, over long periods of time. For the purposes of this story, I am starting at a point in my life where my professional life became successful enough where it allowed me to support some charitable causes that were offering unique experiences that I had somehow found a passion for in my life…

As a fan of television and film it was intriguing to see something like a walk-on role offered to the winner of a charity auction. Thus, you can see me a few times on “Law & Order: Criminal Intent” To the Bone (2006). After meeting some of the other backgrounders I actually thought it might be something I could look into for my spare time. That is, keeping my day job and hooking into casting calls, like the others were doing, and perhaps even getting a SAG card. Yes, for some reason those long boring days in ‘holding’ actually seemed like it would be fun to do as a small part of my future.

Being a science fiction fan, when an offer for lunch on the sets of Stargate SG-1 and Battlestar Galactica came up it was something that I could not pass up even without a walk-on role! Thus, my first, and what I thought would be my only trip to Bridge Studios in Burnaby, BC was during September of 2006 supporting the Waterkeeper Alliance.

 

Then, just over a year later, I won a Charityfolks auction in December of 2007 for “The Ultimate Sci-Fi Experience with this Walk-On Role and Lunch on the Set of Stargate Atlantis with Stars Joe Flanagan and Amanda Tapping!!!!”

On a side note: Charityfolks.com was one of the best online auction sites for celebrity related experiences. From start to finish I never had anything but a professional experience. Their business model has since changed from auctions to, “You email us with your dream experience and we try to make that dream a reality,” and I have no experience with them outside of auctions but it is my hope that they still do make dreams come true.

The writer’s strike, and afterward my own calendar, made the scheduling of the experience difficult to say the least, and then came the word, “The producers have advised that they can accommodate a walk on role in our last episode of the season.” — which was also the last episode of the series! So, in September of 2008 I was back to Bridge Studios in Burnaby, BC! This time not just for lunch but for one of those background roles I so enjoyed from my previous Law & Order experience.

 

To makeup, to set, on camera — it was all a bit of a whirlwind. In between there was lunch with Joe and, before I left, Amanda Tapping visited from her time on Sanctuary. She was there to prep for her day on set tomorrow, when I would not be around anymore, and to thankfully take the time to say hello to me while there.

 

Yes, I mentioned already I am a fan of television, film, science fiction, etc. I started watching Stargate SG-1 in the days of live TV. Okay, it was not literally live, but what I mean is that it started out on Showtime and moved to the Sci-Fi Channel (now SyFy) in a time when TiVo did not exist yet, never mind digital streaming. On top of that it was actually a chore to continue watching it since the Sci-Fi Channel required a digital cable box, or some iteration of programming, beyond what was in the house at the time. The bottom line is it was a different time for television and one thing I know I did during my visits was to thank the people I met for providing that entertainment. It made life better. Not that life was at all bad — just that, at least for me, those stories being told were something I looked forward to. I am not one of those super fans that can recall the detail of every episode. In fact, I am quite the opposite — I am the kind of fan that gets lost in the story for that brief, and welcome, distraction then returns to the day at hand and promptly forgets most of what I just saw on the small screen!

 

While on set, after getting David Hewlett to sign an Atlantis publicity photo in the back of a Puddle Jumper, we starting talking about the digital SLR I had. It was a Canon 30D in the days when using an SLR for video was just starting to become a real “thing.” He ended up going down the dark side by getting a Nikon (hey, you can’t save everyone!) but after the set visit I traded emails with him pointing to the work of Vincent Laforet and others and talking about possible projects where I might even be able to help support in some way post his Dog’s Breakfast effort.

In helping make the post visit connection to David, the Unit Publicist knew I was talking to him about possibly working together on something and thus ended up asking me separately if it was okay to introduce me to someone else. Saying yes, I was introduced to Bernie Melanson in March of 2009. Well, from that connection a few days later I was reading my first script “Rock Bottom”. Never thought about financing a film before but here I am looking at a potential project with a role being written into it just for me! Yes, I was still coming off my high of thinking being a backgrounder might be in my future and here I am being scripted into something.

Well, as that project slipped for various reasons, something I would find out is seemingly mandatory in this business, I was introduced to a person named Aaron Gilbert in December of 2009 to talk about possible funding on a troubled project the same potential lead actor from Rock Bottom starred in.

I finally met Aaron in person in February of 2010 while he was out in New York City (New Jersey is my current home base) and, with the troubled project finding light of day without me, we talked about other opportunities. In May of 2010 my second script for a project called “Jabberwocky” was now in my hands. I made some script notes and it was surprisingly nice to see SyFy had all of my same concerns and more. (In other words it was nice to feel like someone who actually knew what they were doing) Moving forward with Jabberwock (somehow it lost its ‘y’) in August of 2010 I had my first iMDB credit of Executive Producer. Though I never made the adventure of visiting set in Bulgaria — background roles are fun, but not that fun — I did help bridge the financing for SyFy in bringing what I still believe today as one of their better ‘made for SyFy’ movies to the small screen. Yes, about a year later in September of 2011 it was fun to see my name appear for the first time in public — though I am sure few on the planet made notice of it!

Meanwhile, somewhere in between, near the end of 2010 and the beginning of 2011, I became more interested in what Aaron was building with Bron Studios than I was with the idea of supporting further individual projects. Then, in February of 2011, during a ferry ride over to Vancouver Island to the set of Foreverland, Aaron and I struck up a basic framework to become partners going forward in seeking world domination. (A term I am borrowing loosely from David Hewlett) In other words, from somehow getting to Burnaby, BC to visit sets and do a walk-on role I now am a partner in a new studio venture with an office address in that same town — 2,400 straight line miles from where I call home. The television and film industry might be new to me but the idea of building a business was not. So, a much as it may seem like I may have made a decision solely based on a fandom of what it was doing, the real excitement for me was being a part of something just starting out. It might not have been Facebook, Uber, or Twitter, but that little team coming together had a long term vision to build something special and that was one thing I knew how help make happen.

It seems like a lifetime has passed in the five years since the beginning of that partnership. Bernie, who introduced me to Aaron, was at the studio for only a short period of time. He has spent the bulk of his time since then out of the film business and now in the gambling industry — to which I also invested with him there but we can save that detour for another Medium story down the road. Film festivals, awards, and with each project behind we grow a little smarter for the ones in front of us. The story inside of Bron itself would make for many connections of fortunes and wrong turns but the single most important one to me is that of Aaron Gilbert himself. Of all the people I could have run into in the film business somehow I was lucky enough to have one of the most honest ones run into me.

 

Over those years my own IMDb list of credits expanded quite a bit and there are two projects on there that I actually did help make happen with David Hewlett. Haunter was a film David’s long time friend Vincenzo Natali was directing and Debug was a film David both wrote and directed himself. (Both films were produced by the amazing Steve Hoban of Copperheart Entertainment)

 

2015 was a great year for Bron Studios and it looks like 2016 will yet another significant leap forward — taking us into productions that make past efforts look like they happened a lot longer ago than they actually did. Here it is just January and we made history at Sundance with The Birth of a Nation. To put this ‘history’ into perspective one needs to compare it to other dealsand when attempting to take all of it in, that is why I left Park City, UT with tears of gratitude in my eyes. It was the biggest sale in the fest’s history and it also marks the largest sum ever paid for a finished movie at any festival, including Cannes, Berlin and Toronto.

 

‘I Saw the Light’, the story of the legendary country western singer Hank Williams, will be released by Sony Pictures Classics on March 25, 2016 to theaters. (You can catch a trailer for it as well as get the soundtrack on iTunes)

Then, on April 29, 2016 Netflix will be releasing the ‘Special Correspondence’ film it acquired from Bron Studios in 2015.

 

With obviously much, much more to come throughout the rest of the year and beyond…

So where does Carol Baldwin come into all of this?

The lunch on the Set of Stargate Atlantis was an auction item in support of the Carol Baldwin Breast Cancer Research Fund. When the fund coordinated that experience for a donation to their cause I am sure all they hoped for is some additional money and exposure to further their cause. What I am sure they still do not know about even today is that small effort also turned into a film studio business employing hundreds of people, across numerous productions, in the past, present and future, in all parts of the world.

…but the Baldwin story does not end there…

As I write this we are currently in production for “Drunk Parents” staring who else but Alec Baldwin in one of the lead roles. His appearance in the production is out of pure coincidence as no one involved in the process even knew about the story above as the project was coming together.

…but the Baldwin story still does not end there…

At a board of directors meeting in Burnaby one of the legal firms we use introduced a new partner to us, David Davoli. Finding out he lives in New York City, a stone’s throw from me as compared to Burnaby, I had to ask him about who he was and how he got into the film business. When he started to tell me the story of how becoming Alec Baldwin’s assistant was his introduction to the industry I had to laugh and comment that neither of would be on this Vancouver SkyTrain going back to our hotel without Carol Baldwin.

If you have read this far you might think it is an interesting story, but so what?

#1 Follow your passions — you can never know how far they will take you.

“You can only become truly accomplished at something you love. Don’t make money your goal. Instead pursue the things you love doing and then do them so well that people can’t take their eyes off of you.” — Maya Angelou

In winning those experiences I had no intent of anything happening beyond the enjoyment of those moments they would bring. In talking with David Hewlett, Bernie Melanson, and later Aaron Gilbert I had no intent beyond helping out on some projects people happened to be working on. It was not until well down the road where everything clicked into place — matching the things I love doing with my abilities to do things well.

#2 On the flip side — you can never know how far your actions will change the lives of others.

As Carol Baldwin does not know how she changed my life, and the lives of so many others, with one simple action we all can be the catalyst for change in the lives of others. Ironically, the moments in between doing what we think is important seem to produce the most impact.

“The true test of a man’s character is what he does when no one is watching.” — John Wooden

John Wooden is certainly correct in his statement and the deeper meaning is character is most visible when you speak or act without the intent of anyone actually hearing or seeing you. In the case of the Carol Baldwin Fund the intent was to raise money. It did so when the auction was won and the item was paid for. The everlasting affect outside of the organization, however, was in the moments that experience brought together. In my own personal life I can remember situations where people have mentioned things I have said to them that have changed their own lives in some way. I respectfully nod, thinking to myself, I have no memory of ever saying that to them. It is not that I did not say it. It is rather that the intent to change or advise someone was not there and therefore the memory was not either.

#3 It is a freakishly small world — the six degrees of Kevin Bacon always surround you.

On that same trip out for the board of directors meeting in Burnaby I was speaking with our VP of Production & Development for Bron Animation who casually mentioned he saw I was somehow involved with Dave Asprey of Bulletproof Digital via LinkedIn. When I affirmed the connection he went on to say his kids go to the same school Dave’s kids go to and that we should both visit Dave’s amazing Bulletproof Biohacking Lab by taking a hop over to the island the next time I come out Vancouver way.

As the rock finds trouble seeing the ripples it produces on a pond’s surface, while it continues its journey downward, so do our eyes have trouble seeing all of the connections around us as we move forward with our one immediate purpose.

For all of this, I thank you Carol Baldwin.

(Originally posted in Medium)