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The “Burn Baby Burn” FocusCatalyst

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You really can’t be very innovative when you’re feeling bad. Neuroscience research shows that when you are uptight and upset, your otherwise clear-thinking mind shuts down. It needs to relax to innovate.

This Burn Baby Burn FocusCatalyst is the best one to use when you are very upset and everything seems to be going wrong. It can make you feel much better surprisingly fast.

Here’s how to do it:

First, take a sheet of paper and make a list of everything that’s bothering you—writing about each thing in the most negatively catastrophic words you can possibly think of, the more negative, the better. For those of us who’ve always been taught to “think positive!” this can be a radically rebellious thing to do.

You can list anything that’s bothering you—personal or professional. Or you can focus on one or the other. Either way works.

Keep adding to the list until you feel “done.” You may only write a few lines or you may write several pages. Either way works.

Next, take another sheet of paper and write line-for-line the exact opposite of every line you wrote on the first list.

This means that on the second list you write about each negative item on the first list in the most positively glowing words you can possibly think of.

What you’ll write will be ridiculously positive. Don’t worry. You don’t have to believe any of it.

Then burn the first list.

(Or you can tear it into tiny pieces or put it through a paper shredder. Though if you can safely burn it—say in a fireplace—try it. Burning it is very satisfying…)

Finally, read the second list every day for 21 days. You do not have to believe anything in your second, positive list for this FocusCatalyst to create surprisingly positive, innovative results in your life.

Want an example?


Or…how this FocusCatalyst got me a million dollars.

In the ’90s I went into business for myself for the first time.

I’d spent years working in account management in major consumer packaged goods ad agencies in San Francisco, as well as in big high-tech ones in Silicon Valley—with a several-year stint in between in magazine advertising sales and sales management.

I was a partner in an ad agency when along came a very large client who only wanted to work with me. So I went into business for myself.

But…I was tens of thousands of dollars in debt when I started. And on top of that, my son was about to start high school, and I hadn’t saved a penny for his college tuition.

As I went to work doing branding and advertising for this very big client, it seemed like every other week that client was going to go away—not because of my performance, but because they were always threatening to reorganize their company. And if they did a reorg, then they’d pick a different ad agency to work with.

I was an emotional wreck through all this, until I started to use this Burn Baby Burn FocusCatalyst. Just about every day I’d do another one.

My negative lists were all about having no money and would include things like:

  1. I’ll lose this account.
  2. I won’t get another account.
  3. I was totally stupid to go into business for myself.
  4. This is awful!
  5. I won’t make any money at all. 6. I’ll lose a ton of money.
  6. I won’t have money for my son’s college tuition.
  7. My son won’t be able to go to college.
  8. My son’s life will be ruined.
  9. I’m a terrible mom.
  10. I won’t ever get a job or a way to make money again.
  11. I hate this!
  12. I hate them!
  13. I’m stupid to think I could do this!
  14. I don’t know what I’m doing.
  15. I’m not any good at this.
  16. I totally blew it—and my life—by thinking I could do this.

My second (positive) list included things like:

  1. I’ll keep this account forever.
  2. I’ll get so much more business.
  3. I was totally brilliant to go into business for myself.
  4. This is wonderful!
  5. I’ll make ten times more money than I ever could’ve hoped for or imagined.
  6. I’ll gain a ton of money from doing this.
  7. I’ll have all the money I need for my son’s college and a whole lot more.
  8. It will be easy and fun to make sure my son goes to a great college.
  9. My son’s life will be so enhanced by this.
  10. I’m a fantastic mom.
  11. I’ll always have lots of work to do and make a ton of money my whole life.
  12. I love this!
  13. I love them!
  14. I’m brilliant to think I can do this!
  15. I know exactly what I’m doing.
  16. I’m great at this.
  17. I’ll totally succeed at this—and at my life—because I did this.

I did not believe a single word I’d written on my second lists. At all. At all. At all.

Still, every morning as I worked out on my treadmill, I’d re-read all the second lists I’d written—never believing in any of those positive things at all.

Well, I never lost the account. In fact, after 2 years I fired them because I got a better, competing account. Soon I joined that company as vice president of marketing. And when I did, I had a whole lot of money left over from being in business for myself those couple of years.

There was so much money left over that I was able to make a big down payment on a 3 bedroom/3 bath 12th floor condo in downtown Palo Alto—a big corner unit with floor to ceiling glass on 2 sides. It was like living in one of the most beautiful views in the world every day.

My son not only graduated from U.C. Davis, but I was also able to send him to the Semester at Sea program his junior year—3 months on a cruise ship with 500 college students going around the world, taking a fully-accredited course load.

Five years later my Palo Alto condo doubled in value. I sold it and bought a loft in San Francisco’s trendy South of Market area for cash. That loft has since doubled in value.

And I really owe it all to Burn Baby Burn.

What Burn Baby Burn did was keep me in low signal noise, focused, innovative action a lot of the time.

At the beginning when my business was so precarious, I felt like I was walking on water and that if I looked down, I’d drown.

But I knew that if I kept myself focused and didn’t get freaked out by the situation I was in, then I would be able to think clearly and do great work for my client. And that’s exactly what happened.

Burn Baby Burn isn’t magic.  Or magical thinking.  

It’s just based on how the brain works.  It helped me have low signal noise in my brain so I could access the innovation insights I needed to do a great job for my client.