👋 Hi, I'm James.


I occasionally write about lessons learned on the journey to live a healthier, happier and more intentional life. 


📍 Austin, TX 

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  • James von der Lieth

The Secret to Creative Success Overheard At a Coffee Shop

Yesterday I was sitting in my favorite coffee shop in the world, Second State Coffee in Charleston SC, when a professional screenwriter sat down a few seats away to mentor a twenty-something who aspired to be like him.

I love this coffee shop because the pour-over is on-point, it has a bright minimalist aesthetic, and it seems to spur spontaneous connections like this one.

I’m usually too focussed on my own work to eavesdrop, but this particular conversation caught my attention for a couple reasons: Writing (and selling) a screenplay with my best friend by age 35 is on my bucket list. Secondly, this screenwriter guy was loud and passionate about what he way saying. He didn’t care that there were 20 other strangers in the coffee shop. He was speaking his unfiltered truth. I like hearing the truth.

“So what’s the secret to your success?” the kid asked. The screenwriter didn't have to think that much to respond:

“The first shift I made was from ‘I have to write’ to ‘I want to write’,” the screenwriter responded.

“Yeah, okay,” the kid say goofily taking notes on his phone like he was in a classroom...

“But, the biggest shift that truly changed my life was going from ‘I want to write’ to ‘I deserve to write’.”

Wow! My mind started racing…. ‘This shift has never even occurred to me. I’ve never even said out loud that I deserve to do anything. On some level I’ve always equated “I deserve to” with “I’m entitled to” and felt guilty.

I zoned out and went back to work, as the screenwriter went on to give tactical advice about time blocking, exercising, intermittent fasting, etc. From the parts I caught it was good stuff, but nothing new I hadn’t heard before on all my nerdy podcasts. As the conversation was wrapping up, the screenwriter caught my attention again:

“Good luck. I can tell you’re a smart guy. You deserve to write.”

This interaction really resonated with me. Giving the mentee emotional support and permission to succeed was better than any tactical advice he could have offered. All the tactical advice in the world doesn't matter if you don't think you deserve to do something. I know from personal experience and from a lifetime of watching troubled athletes implode, that if you don't think you deserve something, you will 100% self-sabotage.

There are people in your life that can help give you this permission— coaches, mentors, spiritual leaders, bosses, family members, spouses — but at the end of the day, its up to you to get out of your own way and give yourself permission to succeed at a subconscious level!

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