KB: Do you have any advice for young people who are just finishing university?
SS: When I talk to people, I tell them don’t panic about feeling like you should have a career. Take time and travel and try to get away from wherever you are. I think traveling is the number one thing you can do to change your perspective about the world.
Try to travel not just as a tourist, but get a job and work somewhere for 6 or 8 months or whatever.
KB: I’ve never done a long extended trip. Anytime I travel, it's for 2 or 3 weeks as a tourist. I always felt like an outsider.
SS: It’s hard to get past that. When you first come to school, the first person you meet is not your best friend there. It takes two months to learn who the assholes are just in your dorm.
My last piece of advice is to read all of the time. But don't only read good books. Read bad ones as well. Anyone anyone who wants to be a writer needs to read all of the time and write all of the time.
When I read and I find a cool passage, I dog ear the bottom of the page. When I finish the book, I go back and copy out all the passages verbatim. I have a database with all the passages from that book. I also boil that book down to a few principles in my own head. I might even use some of those quotes in a book I’m writing.
People who want to write should keep a journal. Most important of all don’t talk about how you feel because no one cares. Write about the day, write about your experiences, write about something real that you saw. Describe it in a way that’s interesting.
"Much patience, much heartbreaking practice is needed, just as in archery. But once this practice has led to the goal the last trace of self-regard vanishes in sheer purposelessness." - Eugen Herrigel in Zen in the Art of Archery
KB: When I was reading The Fighter’s Mind, it felt like it was almost like a textbook on life.
And I’ve heard similar lessons expressed Taoist writers and Zen writers. What I found interesting is that these athletes discovered these principles through fighting. So I was wondering what about fighting allows for the discovery of these principles?
SS: If you have the read the book Flow, mastery is kind of getting into the zone. But you can’t cheat. There’s no karate kid in real life. You have to spend your years and years of diligent study and intelligent practice. Then it’s important to get out of your own way and get into your flow, the doing and not the thinking.
That’s where I think the good fighters get to, and that’s why I think the post fight interviews are so interesting because you’re talking to guys who are deep in a different place.
Again, great boxers have sparred so much and have gotten punched in the face so many times, that they’re picking up so many subtle cues so quickly, that they can do things that seem superhuman. They’re reading your intention in such subtle ways that it’s almost impossible for your body to perceive. It’s like guys hitting fast balls. They’re picking up a million cues from the way the pitcher is moving that they can actually see the future. That’s exactly what boxers do.
And that’s their own path to spirituality.
I think a lot of people who exercise are meditating. I think runners are almost all meditating a part of the time when they run and that’s why they do it, even if they don’t understand it.
KB: Because your mind is solely focused on your body.
SS: It’s simple and yet complex enough to occupy your mind. Knitting is a simple, repetitive skill, and it’s just enough to occupy your mind that you can’t dwell on your problems.
A lot of meditation is like that. You have to let your problems go and go back to the mantra or go back to the motion or go back to what you’re meditating on.
KB: I was wondering if you have any experience with psychedelics.
SS: I’ve done psychedelics. And I absolutely do think that they’re a good thing to dabble in, but not to do a lot of. If anything you learn that your brain is a chemistry set. Anything you see or feeling is not necessarily reality. I think that’s an important lesson.
I’ve just finished a book on survival and how survival is dealing with fear. Fear can cognitively disrupt you incredibly. You might not be able to think, you might not even be able to dial 911. I know a guy who got mugged and he couldn’t dial 911. He kept dialling 411. You hear all of the time that people have to get their neighbours to dial 911 if it’s their loved one who's in danger.
Your mind is a chemistry set and psychedelics is a great way to understand that and broaden your horizon and understand a little bit more about different ways of perceiving the world.
"Sincerity is the only way to make art"
KB: What has the been the most important lesson you’ve learnt in your life?
SS: I think that sincerity is the only way to make art.
Even if you’re making Fast and Furious for example. Those guys thought that was a fucking awesome movie. That’s why it did so well.
KB: When it’s all said and done, when you’re looking back on your life, how do you want to see it?
SS: I just want my life to be a good story.
I never wanted to be an actor. I want to be the guy that actors play.
KB: You posted this quote in your blog and it comes up in A Fighter’s Heart a lot. Can you talk a bit about the importance of the quote ‘The World is Made of Fire’?
SS: It's a quote from the book A Soldier Of The Great War. The idea is that people think they’re being safe when they don’t take risks and don’t push themselves. But you’re actually in the greatest danger when you do that because you’re risking your soul. You’re risking your artistic person and your individuality.
You commit and you believe in yourself. The world is made is fire.