How to Keep Your Self-Esteem High


(Or How to Keep Your Self-Esteem High, when the Rewards Only Come Later)

One of my favorite scenes in a movie is the scene in Miracle, when Kurt Russell, playing U.S. Olympic hockey team coach Herb Brooks, yells at his players, “Play your game!” The last minutes of the now famous U.S. versus Soviet Union hockey game are ticking by, and Brooks wants his players to remain undeterred by Soviet attempts to make them lose focus.

Mind you, almost no one gave the American team any chance of defeating the Soviets, who were a hockey dynasty, considered unbeatable by all the experts.

Just take a look at the last minute of the game, in case you haven’t seen it. Because it is testimony to what can happen when focus and determination trump everything.

Well, I think, “Play your game!” is some of the best advice those with creative goals could ever hear. Why? Because, for anyone pursuing a career as a writer or artist or entrepreneur or musician or poet, the world is full of potential distractions and discouragements. And it’s very tough to remain committed to one’s path—especially a creative one—when the risks may be high and the pay may be low (if only termporarily).

Human beings have a tendency to compare themselves to one another, ceaselessly. The entire market for luxury goods and homes and cars depends on it. So, you’ll be constantly tempted to not “play your game” by friends and colleagues who take less uncertain paths to more certain financial rewards or greater status.

Here’s a little advice from the first psychiatrist I ever went to as a patient—Dr. James Mann. Yes, even psychiatrists go to psychiatrists. Actually, I was Chief Resident in psychiatry at Boston’s Tufts/New England Medical Center, at that time. And I told Dr. Mann that I wanted to complete work on a literary novel during my “free” time, but that a friend of mine had suggested I pivot to a different genre that would be more likely to sell lots of copies and make me more money. “The last place you want to end up,” Mann said, “is in a first class seat on a flight going somewhere you don’t want to go.”

Translation: Play your game, not anyone else’s.

This advice is particularly important for young people who need to navigate, absorb and make sense of all the feedback they get from friends, parents, teachers and coaches as they move from one grade to another and one school to another. Because the educational system as it is currently constructed—almost everywhere—is a soul-crushing, mind-numbing machine that rewards abandoning oneself, in favor of rote memorization of inert facts and useless skills. So it’s worth reminding our sons and daughters, again and again, to play your game, meaning to measure themselves according to whether they are developing strong character, whether they are expressing themselves creatively and intellectually in ways they value, whether they are learning leadership skills and autonomy, and whether they are avoiding any undue self-criticism.

You deserve no less. Make no mistake: When you journey boldly forward to pursue your true creative dreams, you are playing your game. It is not easy. But the rewards cannot be reproduced by playing according to anyone else’s rules or trying to achieve anyone else’s goals.

It shouldn’t be surprising that you might want a coach to help make that happen. If that’s the case, I would be honored to be the creative partner you deserve. Just email me at [email protected] or call 978-462-1125.

Keith Ablow, MD
Founder, Keith Ablow Creative

The post How to Keep Your Self-Esteem High appeared first on Keith Ablow Creative, Inc..

A NEW BOOK ON HOW TO—LITERALLY—STAND UP TO DEPRESSION (Achieve Good Posture and Trigger Better Mood)

So much has been written about the mind-body connection—and rightfully so.  It now seems obvious that our psychological state affects the function not only of the central nervous system, but the heart and every organ in the body.  Diseases from cancer to multiple sclerosis to hypertension, and everything in between, demonstrate undeniable links to depression, emotional trauma and unresolved, underlying anger.

We are lucky to have recognized the ways that yoga can stave off dementia and the ways that meditation can increase longevity.

Too little, however, has been written about the mirror image of the mind-body connection—the body-mind connection.  Yet we do know that correcting bodily abnormalities can correct emotional ones.  Certainly, exercise can improve mood, but that isn’t half the story.  We are learning incredible ways in which one’s psychological equilibrium can be optimized by optimizing one’s physical equilibrium.

Simply put, developing physical balance is linked to developing emotional balance. This is not theory, anymore; it is fact.  One example:  Botox, which prevents the brow from furrowing when we worry, also seems to short-circuit worry itself. When we relax the muscles that contract too powerfully when we are over-wrought, the mind seems to relax, too.

Another example:  Probiotics that alter bacterial colonization of the gut can insulate the mind from profound highs and lows of mood.

These examples are just the beginning.  Our bodily state influences our mental state in myriad ways.

Now, physical therapist Kathi Fairbend, MS, RPT is adding a crucial contribution.  Her new book,  Stand Up to Depression makes the simple, elegant and powerful point that correcting one’s posture can literally pave the way to elevating one’s mood.

As Fairbend makes plain, if you teach yourself to stand up like a person who isn’t depressed, you will be in a better position (quite literally) to become a person who isn’t depressed.

Think about it:  If using Botox to block the contractions of a few muscles in one’s forehead can treat depression, imagine what can happen when (with the help of Ms. Fairbend’s book) you learn to stand up to depression, stop slouching, walk confidently and plant your feet firmly on the ground.  Dozens of your muscles will resonate with your intention to stand up straight in life, shoulder your troubles and refuse the negative feedback that comes from inadvertently bending an ankle or buckling a knee, with every step you take.

Depression is insidious.  It hobbles its victims mentally, but also physically.  Reverse the physical decline, and it helps to reverse the mental decline.

I was lucky enough to consult to Ms. Fairbend as she wrote her groundbreaking book through my company Keith Ablow Creative. I have had a front row seat to the birth of a new specialty of physical therapy—physical therapy for the mind.   And I can envision a time when, with Ms. Fairbend’s help, thousands of physical therapists will treat hundreds of thousands of patients who come to them not only for help with joints and muscles and bones, but for help with depression and anxiety.

For now, that help can come directly from Ms. Fairbend’s book.  Stand Up to Depression stands alone as the way that people can tap into the brilliance of (as I see it) America’s leading physical therapist, a woman whose entire life’s work makes her uniquely qualified to take her readers on a bold new path of healing.


Keith Ablow, MD

Founder, The Ablow Center and Keith Ablow Creative

The post A NEW BOOK ON HOW TO—LITERALLY—STAND UP TO DEPRESSION (Achieve Good Posture and Trigger Better Mood) appeared first on Dr Keith Ablow.



So many of my counseling clients (The Ablow Center) and creative consulting clients (Keith Ablow Creative) can envision the next chapter of their life stories, but need some help actualizing the next chapter. Why? Sometimes it’s about resources, but very often it is about the resolve to let go of something they have, in order to get something else that speaks more to their heart.

This is a very human dilemma. Lots of us are risk averse. And we tend to interpret change as risky. “Better the devil you know than the devil you don’t,” is such a common adage that it appears in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary and lots of others.

The roots of this risk aversion seem to be hard-wired into us. As kids, we need encouragement to let go of the edge of the pool to begin to learn to swim. We need some prodding to let go of our comforting blankets or stuffed toys, in order to move forward toward independence. We need to be coaxed to let go of our parents’ hands when we start school. We literally need help to let go, then get moving.

Well, part of my job is to encourage my clients to let go of something that they have, in order to get something that they want. Sometimes that means letting go of a job to start a business. Sometimes it means letting go of an investment to trade into another. Sometimes, it means letting go of some income, in order to become a part-time (or full-time) artist. And it has been my absolute privilege to see many people I have worked with do just that. They have let go, in order to get moving toward goals they treasure.

I don’t want to minimize the psychological/cognitive shift required to let go, then get moving. In the book The War of Art, author Steven Pressfield makes a convincing case for how difficult the shift really is. He says that “resistance” to let go, then get moving is responsible for most of people’s unrealized potential:

Resistance obstructs movement only from a lower sphere to a higher. It kicks in when we seek to pursue a calling in the arts, launch an innovative enterprise, or evolve to a higher station morally, ethically, or spiritually.

So if you’re in Calcutta working with the Mother Teresa Foundation and you’re thinking of bolting to launch a career in telemarketing . . . relax. Resistance will give you a free pass.

The late Robert Pirsig, in his astounding book Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, used a metaphor to describe how difficult it is to let go, then get moving. He wrote about “the old South Indian Monkey Trap,” which “consists of a hollowed-out coconut, chained to a stake. The coconut has some rice inside which can be grabbed through a small hole.” The trouble is that the hole is big enough for the monkey’s empty hand to fit through, but too small for his hand full of rice to fit back out. “The monkey is suddenly trapped,” Pirsig says. He can’t re-value the rice. He can’t see that freedom without rice is more desirable than capture with it.

We’re all vulnerable to this trap.

So how do you break free? How do you let go, then get moving? Here are three ways to begin:

    1. Don’t think about trading one journey for another, entirely.

Put a toe in the water. By this, I mean that if you are considering letting go of a career as a travel agent to become a travel writer, don’t tell yourself that you would have to quit, have no income, grab your laptop and start traveling the world, writing all the while. Buy a book on travel writing and read it. Or choose one location you are transfixed by and query half-a-dozen magazines about whether one might accept a piece from you, about that place. Or write to a few noted travel writers and ask for some advice on transitioning. Taking one step toward the next chapter of your life story can make the next step easier. Then, the steps can fall very much into line.

    2. Stop assuming that you can’t be the one who succeeds.

Lots of us stymie ourselves from bold next steps because we assume they never yield real success. Sure, there are people who start businesses and make a fortune, but those people are few and far between, aren’t they? Actually, no. There are lots of them. You might be one of them, but you have to envision real success, in order to make it real. And even if the business doesn’t make it, won’t the experience be invaluable? Will you really be unable to recapture the income you had prior to taking the risk? Unlikely.

    3. Believe that your idea was given to you by a Higher Power.

It doesn’t matter if you believe the Higher Power to be God, the Universe or some mysterious location in your central nervous system. The idea has meaning. If it keeps beckoning you, then there’s a reason for that. It isn’t random or ridiculous. It’s real. Explore it.

Finally, if you need help letting go to get moving, then get a coach. I happen to be a life coach and counselor, so I’m biased. But, really, the power of two is not just 1 + 1. An exponential increase in energy is possible when you have someone in your corner, asking tough questions and also offering real support and encouragement (especially if that’s someone who has lots of success stories to draw from).

Ready? If you weren’t, you’d never have read all the way to the end of this article.

Keith Ablow, MD

Dr. Keith Ablow is the Founder of Keith Ablow Creative and The Ablow Center

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I recently was fortunate to have my book To Wrestle with Demons: A Psychiatrist Struggles to Understand His Patients and Himself published in a leather-bound collector’s edition by Gryphon Editions’ Classics of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences Library

Holding the book in my hands made me think a little bit about the moment at which we find ourselves, with high tech eclipsing high touch. Because the book—like every Gryphon Editions book—exudes quality. Leaving aside the content (which is not the subject of this blog), the book looks like a work of art. It feels like a work of art. It smells like a work of art.

This result is not easily achieved. Every volume from Gryphon Editions is fully bound in the best quality leather, or is quarter-leather bound with fine library buckram, and embellished with gold stamping of an original design. The raised bands across the spine are distinctive of the classic bookmaker’s art. Colorful endleaves are reminiscent of fine Old World editions. Coordinating headbands grace both ends of the spine and add strength. The acid-free leaves are smyth-sewn; their edges are gilded for additional protection and elegance. A permanent satin ribbon marker ensures easy reference.

Having my work included as a Gryphon Editions Classic moves me, in part because of the care the publisher takes with every book it creates. I believe this investment of time and energy on their part changes a reader’s experience, in an immeasurable way. Yes, the words are, technically, exactly the same as they are in the paperback edition of my work. Yet, as the great philosopher Marshall McLuhan wrote in his book Understanding Media, “The medium is the message.” A stunningly beautiful presentation of written words resonates in its own unique way. It always will. How could it not?

Robert Pirsig, author of the modern classic Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, wrote about this human capacity to appreciate quality:

If you want to build a factory, or fix a motorcycle, or set a nation right without getting
stuck, then classical, structural . . . knowledge, although necessary, isn’t enough. You
have to have a sense of what’s good. That is what carries you forward. This sense isn’t
just something you’re born with, although you are born with it. It’s also something you
can develop. It’s not just “intuition,” not just unexplainable “skill” or “talent” . . .

The key word is“better”— Quality.

Gryphon Editions publishes books that celebrate what they see as enduring knowledge (all ego aside), but that also celebrate enduring craftsmanship. Care in creation. They publish books that are unapologetically, fervently, even courageously (given the economics of creating such books) non-disposable. Beyond content, that is their medium. And that is their message.

I know that ebooks and Kindles and iPhones are not going away and that they offer a myriad of conveniences, but I do think that craftsmanship still matters, and that something is lost when we rush to abandon it. The owners of Gryphon Editions are clearly in no rush to do any such thing. If you can resolve to bring that sort of passion to what you do, then anyone who comes into contact with the product will, instinctively, recognize it.

Keith Ablow, MD
Founder, The Ablow Center and Keith Ablow Creative


Boston, MA
For Immediate Release

According to a recent Veteran’s Department study, more than 20 veterans and active duty personnel commit suicide each day. A prior VA study put that number closer to 22.

The toll of military service could not be starker than the way it manifests in those men and women who come to believe—wrongly and tragically—that relief from their unbearable psychological suffering will never come. That grim perspective is the work of depression, PTSD and other disorders that erode, and then erase, faith in the healing power of psychiatry and psychology, of love, of time and of God.

As a counselor and life coach who has worked in state, community mental health and VA settings (both inpatient and outpatient), my current private practice of counseling and life coaching means I now remain at an uncomfortable distance from the pain of America’s veterans. And that makes me uncomfortable. Because I live in a nation in which I enjoy the freedoms America’s veterans fought and fight to preserve.

That’s why I have decided to offer a full day, the 22nd of every month, composed of one-hour counseling and advice sessions for any veteran who wants my help, free of charge, anywhere in the world—whether in person, by phone or via Skype or FaceTime.

The first person I reached out to for assistance was Commander Kirk Lippold USN (Ret). Kirk was Commander of the USS Cole when the ship was bombed by al Qaeda terrorists on October 12, 2000 in the Gulf of Aden. He pulled bodies from the ocean that day. He knows first-hand what it is to live through the horrors of war.

Kirk’s father was a psychologist who founded the Salt Lake Suicide Prevention Center. When he was about five-years-old he heard his dad answering calls at all times of the day and night from people who needed help. And he never forgot it.

I could not be more honored that Commander Lippold agreed to join me in launching #HELP22. Soon, we intend to challenge psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, pastoral counselors and life coaches around America to offer their own days of free counseling and advice on the 22nd of each month. These professionals have remarkable, effective healing tools at their disposal. Every single hour could save a life.

My first #HELP22 day will take place beginning 8 a.m. on the 22nd of November (and running 11 hours, until 7 p.m.) Those who want to avail themselves of my time need only email [email protected] to begin the process of registering.

I’m not taking off for lunch or dinner during my #HELP22 day. I want my day to symbolize, in some small way, the endless days Commander Lippold and all service men and women know about. America’s veterans have contributed countless selfless hours, often in distant lands, risking their lives. I’ll be sitting safely in my office in Newburyport, Massachusetts, with plenty of hot coffee right downstairs. My offering is nothing compared to theirs, and I know it. But, I want to do something and I hope my colleagues around the nation will join me very soon.

Keith Ablow, MD

Media inquiries and potential clients, contact [email protected] or call 978-462-1125.

Is This the Question God Will Ask You When You Die?

The great novelist J.D. Salinger got a lot of things right. Among them, he wrote that one of the only questions that will be asked of us when we die is this:

Were most of your stars out?

Now, obviously, no one can know God’s plans for us. And I am sure I have readers who doubt the existence of God. But I think Salinger was on to something.

I think our journey in life, as human beings, may well be to get “most of our stars out.”

What does this mean? I believe it means that we each have a destiny—including the use of our talents and the expression of love (which may be the same thing)—and that we have to attempt to achieve that destiny. We have to get our stars out.

In order to know whether we have shone through to the greatest possible extent, we have to determine who we are, in our deepest essence. Are we, at the core of our existences, healers, businesspeople, writers, engineers, teachers, painters, or police officers? And how are we shining through as parents, friends, sisters, brothers, sons and daughters, husbands and wives.

One might think that the process of finding oneself—truly and irrevocably—should be easy. The trouble is that knowing one’s destiny and then expressing it can be very frightening. We tend to accuse ourselves of being imposters in our own lives, especially when it comes to the gifts we quietly believe we may have.

How can a person find his or her true self? The best disciplines to participate in are:

1. Psychotherapy: Insight-oriented psychotherapy or counseling remains the gold standard.

2. Meditation: Meditation clears the mind, allowing for the focus necessary to identify one’s core talents, hopes and dreams.

3. Prayer, Faith-based Discussions, Religious Services or Pastoral Counseling: A central theme of Christianity, Judaism and other religions is the value of the individual, especially when that individual has stopped running from what his or her heart and mind really dictate.

Somehow, back in the sixties or seventies the phrase “finding myself” took on the connotation of avoiding work and being lazy. But it isn’t easy at all. It takes focus and devotion. And there can be no more worthwhile pursuit. Because none of us can offer the world around us our very best if we are as though strangers to ourselves.

A world with enough people in it who are expressing themselves would be a very loving world, indeed. Now, you can use a simple question to move in that direction.

Were most of your stars out?

Keith Ablow, MD
Founder, Keith Ablow Creative, Inc.


None of us has time or words to spare, when you really think about it. Our lives on the planet are brief, and our opportunities to impact others are not infinite. Given this, I want to share three ways I believe you can truly move people when you interact with them, whether in your personal life, professional life or creative work.

Share What You Initially Fear is Too Much to Share

Whether in discussions with friends, with romantic partners or in your public speaking, writing or any other art, you will arrive at moments when revealing painful pages of your life story seems like too much of a risk. Those are the very pages to share. They are gold. I’m talking about living through losses or trauma or living with self-doubt or guilt. Sharing these pages requires courage—the courage of self-revelation. But only through self-revelation (and more of it, frankly, than you think is wise) can true connections with others be forged.

People are not moved by your successes or your C.V. They are moved by your challenges, especially the ones that initially make the seductive case that they ought be hidden away—buried. Unearth them. Share them.

Ask the Next Question, and the Next One, Too

In discussing life or love or art (which may be all the same thing, by the way) with others, many of us have the tendency to stop a conversation when we are at the threshold of intimacy—but still shy of it. Someone may offer that she “didn’t much like” her parents when she was growing up, and we’re tempted to say, “That’s sad. I’m sure they did better later on.” Or, we might say, “I think a lot of people feel that way about their parents while they’re growing up.” Both replies are ways of shutting the other person down. There are lots of questions that will open up the other person, including, “Why did you dislike them?” Or, “How did they disappoint you?” Or, “What do you remember as the time they let you down the most?”

When reading someone’s poetry or looking at his paintings or watching her film or, for that matter, wondering what moved someone to start a particular business, listen for the deepest of emotions, then ask more about the topics that seem connected to them.

Don’t run from the pain of another person. Move toward it. The reward will be genuine human connection, at a core, spiritual level. And, in this life, there is no greater reward.

Say it Out Loud When You Feel the Connection Happen

When we connect at this core, spiritual level with one or more people, the power of the connection can itself lead us to turn away from its power. To counteract this tendency, I find it valuable to state was has happened. “It’s amazing we could sit down and go back decades in one another’s life,” you might say. Or, “I feel like I know more about you after this hour than I know about friends I’ve known for years.” Celebrate and honor the connection; don’t fear it.

Really, what I am talking about here is fueling human empathy—perhaps the most powerful force in the world, and a true gift from God. We all have it, but too few of us take the time to exercise it, in order to strengthen it.

Keith Ablow, MD
Keith Ablow is the Founder of The Ablow Center and Keith Ablow Creative

Five Keys to Giving the Best Speech of Your Life

There are plenty of resources that provide advice on delivering a speech and which focus on organizing the material, providing visuals, selecting a topic and being a commanding presence.

My advice is more ambitious: What keys make a speech something that changes people, in meaningful ways, within the scope of 20 or 30 or 60 minutes?

Provided you can choose the topic of your speech, I think there are five such keys. If you create a speech that embraces them, there’s a real chance people will leave the room and not forget what they heard—and not forget that you were the messenger. That’s a tall order, in an age of sound bites, Tweets and Instagram posts, but powerful ideas, powerfully presented will always have a place.

So, here are my five keys to giving the best speech of your life:

Choose a topic that can change lives: The topic doesn’t have to revolutionize the entire philosophical, spiritual or professional underpinnings of a listener’s life, but it should have the potential to fundamentally impact some aspect of the listener’s life. You might refine the topic, for instance, from “Forging Relationships that Work,” to “One Message that People You Connect with Deserve to Hear.” In other words, get right down to a core deliverable that can reach the core of an audience member.

Choose a topic that has meaning in your own life: Human beings have radar for messages “from the heart.” They can tell when you’re speaking about something you care deeply about and when you’re at a distance from your topic (and, then, inevitably, from them). For example, if you were speaking about “Why People Keep Cars for Decades,” don’t forget to share memories of a car that you still think about (and regret having sold) or one that your grandfather kept, long after it made financial sense to keep repairing it (and how you recall the pride he took in maintaining it).

Go the extra mile in being self-revelatory: Too many people believe that there is a risk in self-revelation—that they will be making themselves too vulnerable. In fact, the opposite is true; revealing parts of oneself that seem quite personal is a powerful way to connect with others. For example, if you were to share the story about your grandfather keeping his car longer than it made economic sense, why not dig a little deeper and share a story of when he stood in the rain to watch you play Little League baseball, too?

Help your listeners access deeper parts of themselves: Feel free to ask/instruct audience members to connect with the messages you are delivering. You can literally facilitate them personalizing and internalizing what you are sharing, if you develop the confidence to guide them. Here’s an example: “So, I want you to close your eyes, just for fifteen seconds. Don’t worry, I’ll watch the clock. And I want you to imagine one possession someone you loved kept close at hand, that they treasured. Okay, now close your eyes.” After 15 seconds, you could ask a few members of the audience to share their memories.

Conclude by reminding the audience what has just happened, because (with a little planning and follow-through), it really should have. Highlighting the magic that unfolded will reinforce its power, over time. You might say, “Okay, we’ve spent thirty minutes together. That doesn’t seem like a very long time, right? But I would say we’re no longer strangers. We reached a different level, together, if only for half an hour. Think about that during some other times you spend with co-workers or friends or family. And make the most of as many half-hours of your life as you can.”

That last point could really be seen as summarizing my message here. When you have the good fortune to have the attention of a group and the opportunity to speak from the heart, directly to their hearts, command that attention and take that opportunity—all the way to real connection. Your audience might well never forget having heard from you.

Keith Ablow, MD

Keith Ablow is the Founder of Keith Ablow Creative and The Ablow Center.

Is This the Best Advice to Fiction Writers, Ever Given?

There’s plenty of good advice there for fiction writers. Some of it, by the way, is contained in the work of the late Gary Provost (, who created the Video Novel Workshop. The workshop is now available as a free download, but I bought that series of DVDs from Gary for about $60 when he was still alive. I used it to write 15 pages of my first published novel, Denial, and sold that book and its sequel to Random House, over lunch with the legendary publisher and editor Sonny Mehta (

The Best $60 I Ever Spent

I know that sounds easy—like, add water and stir—but it only happened after I had written 3 complete manuscripts that had gathered about 100 rejection letters. So, in a very real way, Gary’s advice was the key to my beginning my fiction writing career, in earnest. The $60 I handed him was the best money I ever spent.

Still, Gary’s isn’t my choice for the best advice to fiction writers, ever given. I believe that advice came from J.D. Salinger, in his book Raise High the Roofbeams, Carpenter & Seymour: An Introduction.

The Iconic Advice
Salinger’s pearl of wisdom is delivered as part of a letter written by Seymour Glass to his younger brother Buddy Glass. Seymour is watching his brother sleep and wants to pen something that can propel his brother’s writing forward.

The advice he gives him is this:

If only you’d remember before ever you sit down to write that you’ve been a reader long before you were ever a writer. You simply fix that fact in your mind, then sit very still and ask yourself, as a reader, what piece of writing in all the world Buddy Glass would most want to read if he had his heart’s choice. The next step is terrible, but so simple I can hardly believe it as I write it. You just sit down shamelessly and write the thing yourself. I won’t even underline that. It’s too important to be underlined.

Can You Really Write What You Dream of Reading?

Of course, you can. If you can imagine it, you can create it. And what better way to proceed than to use Salinger’s creative device to step out of the role of writer into that of reader, to really step out of the present moment, and imagine reading the work that would move you more than any other.
Why not take 30 minutes today (and tomorrow, if necessary) to really think deeply about what story would speak to your soul and might have the power to change you, profoundly? Because that’s the story to write. That very one.

For Fiction Writers Only?
Is Salinger’s advice applicable only to fiction writers? No. I think architects, public speakers, painters, sculptors, teachers and a host of other professionals can use it, too.

Just imagine what building, what speech, what painting, what sculpture, what assignment would you most like to see or hear or be asked to complete, of all possible ones. Then, just create that very thing yourself.

I have to agree with Salinger: That step is terrible, but so simple I can hardly believe it.

Keith Ablow, MD
Founder, Keith Ablow Creative
[email protected]

“No One Walks in and Gets a Talk Show, Greg” Why you should take every shot you get.

I still remember about 12 years ago, sitting with my television agent Greg Lipstone at a sandwich shop in Los Angeles. Greg was one of the heads of television for the mega-entertainment agency William Morris. We had a few meetings scheduled with television show runners to talk about a drama series I had thought up, but there was a 90-minute gap between those meetings. We finished our sandwiches in about 15 minutes, then Greg looked at me and said, “You know, I’ve always thought you would be great as a talk show host. Warner Brothers is right across the street. We’ve got some time to kill. Let’s walk over and see if anyone will take a meeting.”

I was fresh off what had felt like a big disappointment to me. Expert Witness, a television pilot I had sold to CBS and executive produced (with Matthew Modine in the leading role), hadn’t been ordered as a series by the network (even though they spent $5 million on the pilot). I wasn’t up for pie-in-the-sky ideas. “Greg,” I said. “I want to stick with projects that might actually get produced. No one walks in and gets a talk show. No one gets a talk show, period, pretty much. It’s one in a million.”

“Yeah,” he said. “That’s true.” He finished his bag of chips, while we talked about my kids and his kids. Then he looked up at me, again, and said, “We might as well just go over there, right? We have too much time to just sit here.”

I decided to humor him. I mean, I figured the whole thing might make for a few laughs on the way back down to the Warner Brothers lobby, after a very quick don’t-call-us-we’ll-call-you discussion, with an executive assistant, upstairs.

Greg and I took the elevator up to the Telepictures offices (the television syndication arm of Warner Brothers). He walked up to the receptionist in the lobby. “I wondered if Lisa Hackner might be around,” he said. I didn’t know it, but Lisa Hackner had worked with Tyra Banks and other talk show hosts.

“What can I tell her this is about?” the receptionist asked.

“Please tell her Greg Lipstone is here, and I just want five minutes to introduce her to a psychiatrist who I think would be great on television,” Greg said.

The assistant picked up the phone and delivered the message. I was ready for a semi-polite dismissal. Instead, she looked at us and said, “Lisa’s eating lunch, but if that doesn’t bother you, she said I could show you to her office.”

Well, that hadn’t gone at all the way I’d thought it would.

Two hours later, after telling Lisa what I loved about working with patients and why I thought moments of searing insight could be achieved, even on a talk show, she asked me if I could stay an extra two days in Los Angeles, if she could pretty much promise me a contract for a talk show by the end of the two days.

I decided to humor her, just like I had Greg. “Sure,” I said. “I’ll stay. But if you talk about contracts with, say, 20 percent the people who come by for lunch, when only 1 in 1,000 really happen, then I could go home before the weekend, which would be okay, too.”

“I don’t talk about contracts after one meeting, basically, ever,” she said.

Two days later, much to my surprise, I signed a contract for the pilot of The Dr. Keith Ablow Show, which was taped at Rockefeller Center and ran for a full year—180 episodes, as I recall—in over 90 percent of the nation.

Lesson learned: Do not assume that lightning cannot strike. Do not be afraid to ask for exactly what you want, as a creator. In artistic endeavors, take every shot you get.

What would you love to do? Who are the gatekeepers and stakeholders you need to reach to make it happen? Don’t assume you can’t connect with them or that your ideas won’t move them. And if you want to team up with someone to make that happen, I’m right here. Just let me know. Because I’m convinced now that the universe brings people together, often at just the right times, for just the right reasons.

Keith Ablow, MD
Founder, Keith Ablow Creative, Inc.