-- World of Writing , Interview --
I am excited to bring you this interview today... it has been a while since I have featured another writer on our blog - simply due to heavy amount of content contributions and so little time.
Here, today, we are proud to present and interview with Greg Marcus - author of 2 books and mussar guru. For those of you who aren't sure familiar with the term "mussar" , it is a practice that gives people the tools they need to find the root causes of internal struggles and empowers them to make changes in small, incremental steps, acting to bring kindness, justice, and compassion into the world.
Greg is a frequent guest and co-host of Cooking with Ryan Scott on KGO 810 in San Francisco, and has been a guest on AM radio stations across the country. He has a BA in Biology from Cornell University, and earned his Ph.D. in biology from MIT. He worked for ten years as a marketer in the Silicon Valley genomics industry, after which he became a stay-at-home dad, writer, life balance coach, and biotech consultant. Greg’s first book,Busting Your Corporate Idol: Self-Help for the Chronically Overworked, is a five star Amazon best seller. His latest book, The Spiritual Practice of Good Actions: Finding Balance Through the Soul Traits of Mussar was released on September 8th, 2016. Greg resides in the San Francisco Bay Area with his wife, two daughters, and two cats.Visit him at
Q: Who inspired you to pursue a career in writing?
Believe it or not, it was my 12th grade English teacher, Len Fonte. When I told him that I was going to college for science, he was stunned that I wasn’t going to be a writer. Even though I went on to get a Ph.D. from MIT, I never forgot what he said, and writing a book remained on my bucket list. Once I started writing, and seeing the positive impact it had on people, I was hooked.
Q: How does writing help you make a difference in the world?
My passion is to help unaffiliated Jewish people discover the richness of their heritage. We have thousands of years of practical wisdom to help each of us become better people. In the corporate world, I discovered I have a talent for making complex information accessible, so bringing this ability to the Jewish wisdom literature has helped me reach a lot of people. And by making this accessible to the broad, unaffiliated Jewish population, I’ve helped make Mussar accessible to non-Jewish seekers and spiritually curious people as well. We all have what it takes to be a Mensch, a person of outstanding character. What we lack is an instruction manual. My writing helps provide people that manual.
Q: What is the wisest thing anyone has said to you?
Ben Zoma, a Jewish sage who lived in the second century, said “Who is wise? One who learns from everyone.” Judaism teaches that we are in conversation with those who have come before us and that, on a spiritual level, we were present for the great events of the past like the Exodus from Egypt. I have learned so many things from everyday people.
Ben Zoma’s teaching also gave me confidence to write The Spiritual Practice of Good Actions. I am not a Rabbi, and do not have a formal Jewish education. That is ok – we all have something to teach.
Q: What do you do when you are not writing?
Since I left the corporate world six years ago, I’ve been the daytime at-home parent for my now teenage daughters, as well as worked in biotech consulting, personal coaching, speaking and facilitating workshops. Since The Mussar Institute retreat in 2014, I’ve devoted my professional energy to Mussar. I was meditating, and it came to me that I needed to devote my life to spreading this wonderful, transformational practice. In that same moment, the idea for the American Mussar website came to me, as a place to make Mussar accessible to the contemporary Jewish audience.
Q: What gave you the idea (inspiration) for this book?
This book grew out of a Mussar class I created for my synagogue. I learned about Mussar in a family education program. I went to Rabbi Sarah Weissman two years later and said that I wanted to teach Mussar. She said, “Great.” Then I said that I needed to learn Mussar first, and she said, “Great.” I started taking an online class called “Everyday Holiness” from The Mussar Institute, and just two months later I started teaching my own class, which was called “Work Life Balance Through the Practice of Mussar.” The book emerged from the class, and I must say it just flew out of me once I got started.
Q: What were some of the challenges you faced in writing your non-fiction books?
My biggest challenge was getting started, and having a regular process for writing. I wrote my first book, Busting Your Corporate Idol: Self Help for the Chronically Overworked as a serial on my blog based on the methodology of Nina Amir in her book “How to Blog a Book.” I talked my second book aloud, using a method I learned from Ann McIndoo’s author’s coaching program. She has a great method for outlining your book, creating topic sentences, dictating the book, and then transcribing it to create the first manuscript. Once I had the manuscript, I put time on my calendar every day, and used Ann’s method for creating a mental framework to write.
I was very consistent with my Mussar practice, a gentle mental discipline to bring mindfulness and focus to life. That kind of focus is not natural to me, and having some easy-to-access methodology allows me to go far beyond what I would do on my own.