The 5 Ms, explained with quotes from ‘Rounders’

In this episode, I use Rounders quotes to talk about creativity. Specifically, I talk about Brian Koppelman’s answer to a listener in one of his Q&A episodes.

His listener’s question (at 23:10“How do you keep nourishing yourself to keep the spark alive?”

Brian Koppelman: That’s related and it’s also back to those things I said earlier: the meditation, morning pages, long walks, cardio, listening to music, reading, watching movies. I want to keep stoking the flame by taking in great work. I want to engage with that great work and ask myself questions about it and let myself get stirred up. As you get older it gets harder to allow yourself to get stirred up emotionally by art. But it remains really worth it.

In honor of Wrestlemania, I’ve gimmick-ized the steps to the best of my ability by…

  • Combining music/reading/movies so that it’s 5 items, good to count off on one hand
  • Shoehorning each thing into something that’s starts with the letter M

1. “Uh, you know what? I got my five grand here. That’s just fine by me. I’m going home.” (Morning Pages)

A drawing of David Chang
I type more than I write longhand. When I write longhand it’s usually on an iPad. This is one of the times I can remember writing longhand. I was writing out quotes from podcast episodes and trying to sketch people in it. (I should try this again.)

Okay so this was an actual M in his description. I’ll summarize the version described by Julia Cameron in The Artist’s Way:

  • Write three pages of free form writing by hand
  • Burn the pages

Keep your hand moving across the page. Tim Ferriss describes it as clearing the cobwebs out.

Writing longhand is the prescribed method. But typing seems fine here especially if the actual alternative is that you won’t do it at all. (Really, I’m just defending the fact that I type these and don’t do it longhand.)

After you get through the initial friction, it can be very enjoyable to just free write. I used the quote about walking away when you’re up to capture Julia’s thoughts about whether or not you should continue beyond three pages.

Julia Cameron: “No! To write more than three pages is to invite self-involvement and narcissism. The pages are therapeutic, and three pages is the ideal dose.”

(Of course, Mike McDermott doesn’t end up walking away. But you’re just trying to get your day started.)

2. “Vegas huh? (Yep.) Good luck man.” (Meditation)

The Vessel but with eyes
I’m still working on making meditation practice. Until then I’ll share this picture from one of my morning walks on the High Line. This is The Vessel, looking skeptical when I talk about the benefits of meditation.

I used this quote because I’d guess meditation is the one that you’re least likely to already have in your routine.

This Rounders quote represents the skeptics. In Rounders, people are skeptical when Mike says that poker is a game of skill. Plenty of people are skeptical about meditation. Research, testimonials, and all of that can sway some people into believing it’s effective. But still, it’s “not for them”.

That said, I’m still trying to make it a regular part of my day. My first step will be adding a sauna session to the days when I make it to the gym. Which is at least sitting in silence.

(Also, check out this early episode Dan Harris’s 10% Happier: Brian Koppelman.)

3. “Hanging around, hanging around. Kid’s got alligator blood. Can’t get rid of him.” (Move slow)

Here’s a self portrait from one of my walks. (And also the portable podcast recording studio.)

This is where I start jamming these things into words that start with M. “Move slow” represents the long walks.

I’ve mentioned it here before, but go check out Koppelman’s thread from New Years Eve. I associate it so much now with walking in Central Park, where I’ll try to do a long walk a couple times a week. Here’s a tweet from one of those earlier this year…

For the day to day walking, I aim for 5 miles (but am not maniacal about it or anything so I won’t pace around my living room before bed if I’m at 4.5 miles).

Lately I’ve been adding a stroll first thing in the morning. I’ll set a timer for 15 minutes, start walking and then walk back when the timer goes off. It goes by quick. My guess is that it’s because it’s out and back.

Bonus: I can get a few minutes on the High Line and at that time of the morning it’s pretty empty except for, you guessed it, runners.

Or if you need to describe what they’re doing with a letter M for whatever reason you might instead say that they’re moving fast…

4. Move fast — “15 grand in five days? I can do that. I’ve gone on rushes like that before”

Living room with kettlebells
On good mornings, I move the coffee table and pull the rug away, revealing a gym. Or a rubber mat. Then I move a few kettlebells over from the corner and do swings (move fast) and get-ups (move slow). I fill out the day’s entry in the 5-Minute Journal app on the iPad and then start an interval timer to go through the workout. As I’m typing each item out, I’m realizing it sounds more and more like self-development parody.

Koppelman mentions cardio. Down jackets are disappearing and lawns are opening around the city. This signals that it’s time for my spring tradition. Which is trying to get into running and only doing enough sessions to finish listening to Haruki Murakami’s “What I Talk about When I Talk about Running”.

I’m not a runner or cyclist, so the version of “move fast” that’s been working for me is doing kettlebell workouts. Right now that means two movements: the swing and the get-up.

The swing is fast. The get-up is actually pretty slow but I think the important part of “move fast” is that it’s a workout and more strenuous than what you do in the “move slow” section.

5. “In my club I will splash the pot whenever the fuck I please” (Movies, music, and books)

Peter Jackson & The Making of Middle Earth
I didn’t know “production bios” was a genre but I picked up “Anything You Can Imagine: Peter Jackson & The Making of Middle-Earth” and have really really enjoyed it. It reminded me of how much the Lord of the Rings trilogy stirred me up in high school and college. I’ve started watching movies again.

Stories make humans human. Take other stories in.

This M is about consuming art that moves you.

While it doesn’t necessarily have to be movies, I have started watching more movies since listening to the episode of The Moment. (Rounders being one of them, along with The Big Short, Tropic Thunder, The Fellowship of the Ring, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. Which I’ll be happy to pull quotes from to ham-handedly explain future topics.)

This will help in your craft, as well. As Stephen King says in On Writing, “If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.”

I have the Teddy KGB quote to close this as a reminder of ownership. He owned that club. You own this process. You can define what a successful day looks like.

Empty your mind, strengthen your body, fill your mind.

Do the work and nobody can take that away from you.

6. The bonus M: Make time for people you love

One metric to rule them all: Meals shared with people you love.

This last M is a reminder of why it’s worth doing these other things in the first place. You might not be present if you’re always worried that your creative spark will disappear.

Do your morning pages, meditate, move slow, move fast, watch some movies and get stirred up by stories.

Then go experience your story with other people.