When my drummer was here recently for the recording of my sixth self-help singer-songwriter album, titled The Great Something, he talked about how much he loved the old 1960’s hit television show, The Twilight Zone.
It’s Twilight Zone-ish enough that my drummer has the same name as me, grew up in the same area of Ohio as me, and went to the same college as me – but we never met until five years ago, for the making of my first singer-songwriter album.
But it gets even stranger when one night an episode of The Twilight Zone aired on television – one I don’t recall ever seeing before.
As I watched, an idea for an “instant change” self-help technique came to me with a jolt.
Oh, this is good, I thought to myself, laughing.
Wait till I tell everyone about this!
And this is where the story gets really interesting.
But let’s start at the beginning.
I’m a huge fan of The Twilight Zone TV show.
I was five years old when it first aired in 1959, but I saw virtually every episode after that, and still watch them today. Each show was genius. Great acting, great stories, great lessons.
Over half of the 150 episodes were written by the man who created the show: Rod Serling.
Serling deeply influenced me when I was a teenager.
I studied his scripts, short stories, and movies to unlock his mastery at writing.
I loved his screenplays for Seven Days in May and Requiem for a Heavyweight.
Talk about hypnotic writing!
Rod Serling’s Advice to Writers (1962)
DON’T LET SENTIMENTALITY REAR ITS UGLY HEAD!!!
MAKE PEOPLE THINK… STUN THEM… GRAB YOUR AUDIENCE IMMEDIATELY
DON’T OVERLOAD DIALOGUE
HAVE A POINT OF VIEW… DON’T ACCEPT SOMEONE ELSE’S CONCEPT
OVERALL THEME LEADS TO CHARACTERS THEN ON TO PLOT
RESEARCH BACKGROUND FOR ANY STORY
CONTINUITY… TIE SCENES OR PARAGRAPHS TOGETHER
I almost signed up for the Famous Writers School, as Serling was on their board (as was John Caples, another writer who would influence me decades later).
It didn’t happen. I was still in high school, and my parents couldn’t or wouldn’t swing the tuition for the correspondence course.
But something even better happened.
I met Rod Serling.
He was giving a presentation in Youngstown, Ohio, not far from my home. Two friends and myself went to hear the great one speak. It was around 1970.
I was too excited to sit still.
I was star-struck and eager to meet the icon.
He walked out on stage, cigarette in hand, tanned, tiny, unshaven, tight lipped, and uncomfortable.
I was instantly disappointed.
Serling was a chain-smoking little man with darkness and insecurity in him.
He said if there was a thump at night, he’d be the first one outside in his shorts.
He said he was the only boxer who had to be carried into as well as out of the ring.
He was articulate, self effacing, and entertaining.
But I wanted to see a super human, not a mortal.
Though I was shy and nervous, I managed to ask him a question.
I raised my hand.
He nodded at me.
“Do you plan to write your autobiography?” I asked.
“No,” Serling replied. “Nothing much has happened in my life. It’d be boring.”
I was shocked.
Here was one of early television’s most influential writers.
A creative mind on the level of genius.
He wrote screenplays for some of the most haunting TV shows and movies ever.
He won several Emmy Awards for his work.
He served in the war and received the Purple Heart and Bronze Star, as well as trauma and wounds that would give him nightmares his entire life.
He was known as “the angry young man” of Hollywood, fighting with TV executives over censorship, racism, and war.
He was also unhappy.
“I was traumatized into writing by war events,” Rod Serling explained. “By going through a war in a combat situation and feeling the desperate sense of terrible need for some sort of therapy. To get it out of my gut, write it down. This is the way it began for me.”
And he thought his life story would be boring???
It was a turning point for me.
I decided if this insecure man can become a scrip writing legend, than there was a chance for me to make it as an author, too.
And now, before I get to the point of this entire article, let’s pause for a commercial break….
Be the first! Preorder my new album “The Great Something” as a limited edition collectible audio CD. All original transformational songs. All dedicated to Melissa Etheridge. You’ll get a surprise bonus gift when it ships in March. See http://www.thegreatsomethingalbum.com/
And now let’s continue with this article….
Back to the episode I saw the other night.
It took place in an office.
A businessman is talking to his secretary.
He is preparing to go on a trip.
He goes to his phone, starts to dial his wife’s number, when suddenly someone shouts, “CUT!”
The man freezes.
He watches as his office walls are moved.
And then he sees an entire film crew looking at him.
He is on a movie set.
The yelling of “CUT!” caused him to freeze.
He is almost traumatized by this turn of events.
He didn’t know he was on a set, or in a movie, or was an actor.
Imagine how you would feel if right now you heard a booming voice yell “CUT!” and then you saw the walls around you move apart, only to reveal a film crew that has been watching you the whole time.
The episode is from 1960. It’s #23. It was written by Richard Matheson. It’s called “A World of Difference.” Howard Duff is the key actor. Find it and watch it sometime.
And now let’s get to the point:
Here’s how I discovered a self-help “instant change” technique:
Whenever you notice anything not going the way you want it to, mentally or out loud yell, “CUT!”
And then do, think or say something different.
Use “CUT!” as a command to change your mind or even a situation.
A friend was complaining about her day.
I listened for a moment.
Then I blurted, “CUT!”
She stared at me.
“Let’s redo this scene,” I said. “Say your lines differently this time.”
I had to explain the entire Twilight Zone episode to her before she understood what I was doing, but my “pattern interrupt” caused her to smile and begin a new conversation.
I was served dinner at a restaurant.
I was about to complain about the dish when I remembered that complaining doesn’t help. It’s far wiser to state an intention instead.
So I yelled “CUT!” in my head.
“State what you want,” I told myself, “not what you don’t want.”
I then stated that I wanted my food heated up a little more, and the server smiled and handled it. No one was offended by a complaint, and I got what I wanted from the intention.
Do you see how this works?
I’m simply pretending that life is a stage play or television show.
As long as “the show” entertains me, fine.
But if I or someone in my real life reality show gets “out of tune” or goes “off script,” I can simply say “CUT!” and “Let’s do the scene again!”
“In almost everything I’ve written, there is a thread of this: man’s seemingly palpable need to dislike someone other than himself.”- Rod Serling
My own philosophy of life states that life is an illusion, anyway.
We’re all actors and actresses on the stage of life.
The problem is, we are all in a hypnotic trance and believe our roles.
“Awakening” is all about realizing you are acting out a script, though unconsciously.
By saying “CUT!” and pausing, you start to awaken from the trance and redirect your life.
In a real sense, you become the scriptwriter of your own life.
How cool is that?
I’m having fun using this self-help method in my daily life.
If I notice my thoughts start to go downhill, I just yell in my mind, “CUT!”
And then I choose to “redo my lines” by thinking more upbeat thoughts.
I doubt anyone involved with the making of The Twilight Zone ever thought of this way of retraining your brain and interrupting patterns, but I like thinking Rod Serling is smiling from above.
If not, then “CUT!” and “This time put a smile on your face, Rod!”
PS — One of my favorite screenplays by Rod Serling was titled, Patterns. It was a live television drama in 1955. It became a movie in 1956. Yelling “CUT!” is a great way to break a pattern. Just sayin’.
I’m going to share a hot off the press story with you here. Then we can look at how to apply the principles in it to your life.
I just finished recording my sixth singer-songwriter album. It’s called The Great Something.
While the previous five albums all reveal a musician growing in confidence and ability, each one better than the last, this latest one broke all boundaries.
The songs are better than ever.
The singing is hands down the best ever.
The music is stellar, going from swing to ballad to rock to (as my drummer put it) “improvised symphony of genius.”
Why is this album so much better than all the others?
I used everything I teach about self-help, goal-setting, and manifestation to create this album; from setting a clear intention to gathering my band of legends, to taking action on the ideas and opportunities that arose as I moved toward the recording date.
While all these elements are part of what make The Law of Attraction work in your favor, clearly the biggest turning point for me was attracting my private two-hour songwriting lesson with rock icon Melissa Etheridge.
I’ve already written four blog posts about my time with her. (See PS below for links to those “Attracting Melissa Etheridge” articles.) I won’t repeat myself (much) here, but I openly declare that my time with Melissa deeply influenced this entire album.
In fact, I’ve dedicated it to her.
Let me explain:
First, I used some of her music dynamics to create new songs.
The song “Melissa Said” is, as my producer called it, “The greatest thank you card of all time.” It’s an original song I wrote for Melissa, using some of the arrangements she shared with me about making music. My band got goose bumps listening to my homage to Melissa. It is stellar. It is three minutes of gratitude. (Wait till Melissa hears it!)
Second, the title track song was directly influenced by my time with Melissa.
While Melissa was too wise to tell me what to do, her feedback helped me learn lessons for myself. It was the Socratic method. Socrates didn’t give you the answer. He helped you think of it on your own. Being with Melissa helped me realize the title track song (and the album) needed to be called The Great Something, my phrase for God or the Divine. (It was originally going to be called The Miracle.) That insight redirected the entire album.
Third, and more importantly, Melissa urged me to write from the first person.
“The Great Something,” the title track song, is raw. It’s from my view of life, my hard times, and my discovery of The Great Something. The band was blown away with the power and depth of it. It is riveting. It is revealing. That is a direct result of taking to heart what Melissa told me about writing in the first person.
Fourth, when I was with Melissa, I shared the opening lines of a song that had come to me in my sleep.
Melissa liked what she heard. Because of that, I felt encouraged to complete the song. I did. It is the most hauntingly beautiful thing I’ve ever penned. It’s called “Hey You,” and it’s designed to heal any hurting heart. Guitar Monk Mathew Dixon added his sweet guitar on it and it is deliciously healing.
Fifth, Melissa taught me to feel my message when I sang.
As a result, my singing on a singer-songwriter ballad I wrote was, as my producer called it, “Sinatra-est.” It was probably the highest compliment he could give me. My voice compared even remotely to Frank Sinatra’s was enough to make me speechless. I just followed what Melissa taught me and felt the song as I sang it.
Obviously, I absorbed Melissa’s wisdom and vibe and infused it into this new album.
But we aren’t done with the album yet.
I’m hoping to have Grammy nominated saxophone great Mindi Abair add her happy sax to my “Glad Game” swing song.
I’m hoping Grammy nominated singer Ruthie Foster will add her soaring vocals to the spiritual I wrote called “Look for the Light.”
And I’m hoping Melissa Etheridge will add voice or guitar to any track.
I have big dreams for this new album. As Daniel Barrett, producer (and coauthor of the book, The Remembering Process) told me, “You can’t think average thoughts and expect extraordinary results.”
So, I’m thinking BIG.
This post isn’t about getting you to buy my new album. It isn’t completed yet, let alone ready for sale.
Instead, I’m sharing all of this with you to demonstrate how the Law of Attraction, magic, and miracles work.
Here’s a quick recap:
I’m sure you can do this, too.
You have a dream, don’t you?
You could set an intention for it, gather allies, and start to move toward it, right?
Are there any real excuses or limitations for doing what you really want to do, if you really want to do it?
Isn’t today a good day to begin?
The Great Something says YES!
PS – Here are the links to my four blog posts about my songwriting lesson with rock icon Melissa Etheridge:
Note: In case you are curious, samples of my five singer-songwriter albums are here: http://www.cdbaby.com/Artist/JoeVitale1
Happy New Year!
Today is January 1, 2017.
Whether you used the Law of Attraction — or some goal-setting or self-help method — to make your 2016 great, you got through it.
We both made it here so we should stand up and do a happy dance.
I’ll pause while you do it…
And now to the million-dollar questions –
What are you going to do differently in 2017 to make it outstanding?
How will you make 2017 breathtaking and full of success?
What do you want to have, do, or be in this New Year?
Whatever you did in 2016 brought you to this moment.
Are you happy with your results?
Did you achieve all you wanted?
And that’s okay.
After all, as Robert Browning asked, “Ah, but a man’s reach should exceed his grasp, or what’s a heaven for?”
If you want to achieve noteworthy success in 2017, I have three suggestions:
Achieving a fantastic 2017 is like planning a cross-country road trip:
Making the New Year spectacular is like planning a meal with friends:
Now apply this simple formula to 2017:
Here’s wishing you a glorious and unforgettably wonderful New Year!
I never intended to write a four part series about my private songwriting lesson with legendary singer-songwriter-guitarist Melissa Etheridge, but here we are.
I got so much out of my two hours with the rock icon last month that I’m still reflecting on it all.
In fact, friends claim that I mention Melissa in some way or other every fifteen minutes.
They’ve timed me. 🙂
One more session with her and I’ll be writing an entire book about all I’ve learned.
Anyway, in this episode I want to share what she taught me about singing, performing and becoming an overnight success.
Before we go there, I have to share a funny moment I had with her.
After Melissa showed me her book collection, guitar collection, and jigsaw puzzle she was working on, she walked me to a piano that her manager had given to her.
She played a few notes and asked me if I played.
“No,” I said. “I wanted a guitar when I was a kid. My father heard me and bought me an accordion. He didn’t want to hear rock, he wanted to hear polkas.”
“Parents!” Melissa said.
And from there we went into her home studio.
In my previous blog posts I shared what she taught me about writing songs. Her insights were revealing and inspiring. (See PS at end of this post for links.)
I told Melissa that one of the biggest fascinations for me was her singing.
I still remember her solo acoustic gig on Unplugged TV back in 1995.*
It shook me to the core.
Her explosive performance sent out ripples through time, and are still hitting my nerve endings today.
I want to sing like that, I thought. And I told Melissa so.
Of course, she asked me to sing for her.
And I (gulp) did.
It was actually easy to perform for her because she was entirely nonjudgmental.
She was patient, present, and eager.
But I was a nervous schoolboy compared to the powerhouse singing that Melissa does naturally.
So I asked her for any tips she could give me.
She told me about watching Ed Sullivan’s TV show and seeing house rockers, like Janice Joplin and Tom Jones.
“It was their joy in taking a song and belting it out,” Melissa explained. “Barbara Streisand, Johnny Mathis, Neil Diamond. I watched them perform. I always went with my feeling. I wanted to stand up and you know, SING.”
She went on to talk about where the power of a stirring performer comes from.
“Robert Plant’s singing like Janice Joplin,” Melissa said. “Janice Joplin’s singing like Memphis Minnie and Betsy Smith, and she’s singing like a black woman. All this rock and roll, and this popular music, comes from the slave era. It comes from this pain of I’m going to overcome this.”
“It comes from this pain of I’m going to overcome this.”
At this point Melissa pointed out that she heard a limiting belief in me.
She said that I thought I was too old to perform music and rock the world.
She reminded me that many people start entire new careers in their seventies. (I turn 63 today.)
“There’s an infinite stream of energy that can become whatever we want,” she told me. “And it’s up to us and the story we tell inside.
“So you’ve gotta believe it first,” she stressed. “You’ve gotta believe it first.”
I started to understand that much of Melissa’s on stage power comes from a decision.
She consciously intends to be electrifying.
“You’re gonna draw up this power, and you’re going to project it,” she said. “And be willing to let that energy come through you. I have an agreement, and I made it a long time ago, with the Universe, that I would be a conduit.”
Melissa explained that we are all energy and we project a vibrational field.
“It’s possible to gather this energy and let it go through us,” she continued. “But to do that, we’ve gotta have a clean channel. If you ever hear of anybody touring that lost their voice, it’s because they’re eating late at night, they’re doing all this stuff that’s going to come up and burn their voice.”
She went on to focus on the songs.
“What material are you working with?” she asked. “Are you singing, tonight I feel so weak. Then act what you are getting across. Be present for what you’re singing. If you’re singing a slow song, everybody’s got a hunger, then think about it, live it, have it be alive in you when you’re singing it.”
Melissa then focused on my new song, the one we were working on together, and a line from it.
“If you are singing, I’ve got a message from the Great Something, and I found it through my struggles and strifes, then put that intention in you as you’re singing. Think, I want to tell this story, and I want you to be moved by it because I want you to know the joy I’m having.”
Melissa explained that she first started singing when she was ten years old. She was in choirs in churches. The teacher would put her in the back because “I had such a weird voice.”
Weird voice? Melissa??
“In sixth grade I wrote a song, a protest song,” she continued. “And I sang that in a talent show that became a variety show around my hometown. We played at old folks’ homes, schools and prisons. And so I slowly started singing for people.
“I got in a band when I was in junior high, like eighth grade,” she continued. “A professional band that had grown guys and me. And we would have gigs on the weekends, at the officer’s club and these places. And so I sang other people’s songs. And that really helped me.”
At this point Melissa is explaining her decades of singing experience, and singing snippets to me as she continues.
You have to imagine my delight in being in her studio and witnessing this.
“First I sang Tammy Wynette, Sometimes it’s hard to be a woman, and then Stand by your man. I learned to sing from your gut; to when you start with the energy, when you get up, I’m singing from here, and then I would sing the guy’s songs.
“I would sing Roberta Flack. I remember the first time, ever I saw your face is the song, but it was the first time that I sang a song in my band, where usually people are dancing and talking and they’re not paying any attention to the band, we’re just there for their pleasure, that actually people would stop, look at me and then applaud.
“And then I realized that oh, a song grows. I’m telling a story. And I would captivate, I would see people paying attention and want to take that energy and keep it. So I had years and years and years and years and more years of singing in front of people.
That’s often what it takes to succeed:
Years, and years, and years, and years and more years.
“When I finally got out to California, I played for five years in the bars, with drunk people,” she continued. “When I finally got my record deal at the end of the 80’s, I would have 100 people in the bar that came to hear me and liked my original songs.”
Melissa summed up her story by saying, “You just get on the path, you just do it, and that’s your intention, and then you let The Great Something bring you the stuff.”
“You just get on the path, you just do it, and that’s your intention, and then you let The Great Something bring you the stuff.” – Melissa Etheridge
I was in awe of all the lifetime experience it took Melissa to get noticed, get a deal, and explode on the scene.
As with virtually every “overnight success” (including my own, as an author), it actually didn’t happen overnight.
Once again, I could continue with all I learned from this loving legend of rock.
But right now I have a new album to record.
I’m dedicating my new album to Melissa.
There may even be a song on it called “Melissa Said,” which will be a tribute to her. I’m currently drafting it using, of course, everything I’ve learned from her. I am forever grateful to her, and want her to know it.
I’m obviously still on fire from sitting with Melissa, so somebody bring me some water!
PS – Here are links to my previous posts about my private lesson with Melissa Etheridge:
Note: In case you are curious, samples of my five singer-songwriter albums are here:
* Brace yourself. Watch Melissa Etheridge on Unplugged TV 1995 here:
One of the best Law of Attraction books you could read today was first published in 1913.
Let me tell you about it…
Recently we watched the PBS television remake of the classic children’s book, Pollyanna.
I absolutely loved the new movie.
The acting, scenery, editing and story were virtually perfect.
There have been other movies of Pollyanna, going way back to 1920 with famous silent film star Mary Pickford. And of course Disney did their version in 1960 with Hayley Mills.
But this recent version is fresh and timely.
And I loved being reminded of the message in it.
At the core of Pollyanna’s sunny personality is “the glad game.”
In short, it’s the ability to find something to be glad about in any situation.
“There is something about everything that you can be glad about, if you keep hunting long enough to find it.” ― Eleanor H. Porter, Pollyanna
As Porter’s books reveal, this is at first something you have to train yourself to do. Even Pollyanna wasn’t born knowing it. Her father taught it to her.
It reminds me of the art I bought a few months ago:
In short, you can train your mind to see the good.
It’s what recent neuroscience is telling us.
You are not your brain; you are the operator of it.
You can teach your mind how to look for the “glad” in life.
And once you “get it,” looking for the glad in any situation becomes a fun challenge.
But the payoff is happiness.
And isn’t that what you want?
On my forthcoming new album, I plan to record a song called “Look for the Light.” It’s a reminder that there is light in everything.
But after seeing this remake of Pollyanna, I also wrote a song called “The Glad Game.”
I’m using what I learned from my private lesson with rock icon Melissa Etheridge to write something memorable.
And all of this got me wondering where the glad game came from.
Did Eleanor Porter invent it?
“What men and women need is encouragement. Their natural resisting powers should be strengthened, not weakened…. Instead of always harping on a man’s faults, tell him of his virtues. Try to pull him out of his rut of bad habits. Hold up to him his better self, his REAL self that can dare and do and win out! … The influence of a beautiful, helpful, hopeful character is contagious, and may revolutionize a whole town…. People radiate what is in their minds and in their hearts. If a man feels kindly and obliging, his neighbors will feel that way, too, before long. But if he scolds and scowls and criticizes—his neighbors will return scowl for scowl, and add interest! … When you look for the bad, expecting it, you will get it. When you know you will find the good—you will get that…” – Eleanor H. Porter, Pollyanna
In my new book, The Miracle: Six Steps to Enlightenment, I mention a little book called Just Be Glad.
I went looking for it and found it.
It’s by Christian D. Larson, a popular New Thought author of such books as Your Forces and How to Use Them. He also penned the famous Optimist Creed, which I’ve reprinted in a book or two of my own.
Larson’s glad book came out in 1912.
Porter’s glad novel came out in 1913.
I can’t find any references to any “glad game” before 1913, when Pollyanna: The Glad Book was first published.
Certainly after the book became a bestseller, it triggered more books, a board game, a play, movies, and rumors have it there were glad game mastermind meetings.
Pollyanna became a huge bestseller in 1914, became a publishing phenomena, ignited a joyous, glad-hunting following around the world, and is still regarded as a classic of children’s literature today.
Maybe Larson’s little book gave Porter the idea for her novel. I can’t say. It’s not likely, though.
Porter was probably finishing her novel and sending it to the publisher in 1912, when Larson’s book arrived.
So I think Porter deserves full credit for creating the idea of The Glad Game.
But I was also curious why the glad game isn’t talked about much these days.
Considering how much stress is reported in the world, and how much “fake news” is triggering unsettling emotions in people, learning to play the glad game would be welcome relief.
It could even be healing.
It could even help us return to a clarity of mind where we could better see our choices.
In fact, the glad game could be a wonderful way to change your inner vibration to one that is higher, brighter, and even wiser.
As you know, you get what you radiate.
Change the dial inside, using the glad game, and you can attract happier results.
So, why don’t more of us play the game?
My guess is that critical, skeptical, wounded, or cautious people think being a “Pollyanna” is not being a realist.
Over the decades, the term “Pollyanna” has come to be an insult; used to tell someone they are foolish, not in touch with reality, and possibly even dangerous to themselves.
But being a Pollyanna is making a choice on how to see the world.
You can still see the challenges, and still see the good in them, and still act to change them.
Letting situations or other people steal your happiness is being a victim.
Choosing to see the good/glad in situations or other people is being empowered.
You have a choice, of course.
For me, life is an optical illusion.
You see what you unconsciously expect and believe.
Like Pollyanna, you can consciously choose to look for and find the good/the glad/the light.
It’s your choice.
“Be glad. Be good. Be brave.” – Eleanor H. Porter
Remember, if you see the good but just sit there, you aren’t co-creating your reality.
You want to see the good, see the actions you need to take next, and do them.
After all, when Pollyanna was injured by a car, she didn’t give up. (She did briefly, but she pulled out of it.)
Instead, she got treatment and she got better.
Eleanor Porter, the author of Pollyanna: The Glad Book, explained it this way:
“Pollyanna did not pretend that everything was sugar-coated goodness, instead Pollyanna was positively determined to find the good in every situation.”
Note the difference?
Just looking at the world with blind eyes to objective reality is not what the author meant; it was looking at the world and finding the good in it.
Eleanor Porter once told an interviewer –
“People have thought that Pollyanna chirped that she was ‘glad’ at everything … I have never believed that we ought to deny discomfort and pain and evil; I have merely thought that it is far better to ‘greet the unknown with a cheer.'”
I believe the 1913 book was an unrecognized Law of Attraction resource.
Maybe it’s time for all of us to read it again, or at least go see the movie.
I think you’ll find something glad in it. 🙂
PS – Learn about the recent PBS TV version of Pollyanna here: