Author D.X. Ferris on the Pittsburgh Steelers, Diamond Dallas Page, "Goodfellas" & more
To put it simply, D.X. Ferris is a very prolific author. In 2018 alone he released four books, and they were all books I was interested in reading.
Ferris -- a long-form journalist, teacher, motivational author, and comic-strip artist -- is a Pittsburgh native now based in Akron, Ohio. He is the rare sort of storyteller that can cover heavy metal, classic rock, mob movies, and fatherhood in the suburbs with all with passion, enthusiasm and extreme attention-to-detail. In turn, it may not be so surprising that those 4 books released this year were Good Advice From Goodfellas: Positive Life Lessons From The Best Mob Movie, Slayer 66 & 2/3: The Jeff & Dave Years, A Metal Biography... The Post-Repentless Remastered Edition, The Story Of Donnie Iris & The Cruisers, and Christmas Sevenfold: Suburban Metal Dad, Compendium Two.
I had the pleasure of doing Q&A with D.X. Ferris himself not only about his new books but his history as a sports fan. Talking with Ferris is both inspiring and also jealousy-provoking, as his output as a writer is arguably second to none; most authors do not release a book every year. More on all things D.X. Ferris can be found online at www.dxferris.com, www.SlayerBooks.com and/or www.6623Press.com.
When did you first become a Steelers fan?
D.X. Ferris: Man, I'm from Pittsburgh. They put Steelers and classic rock in the water there. The Steelers are a bedrock foundation of the culture. I live in the Cleveland area now. And you can drive downtown, spend a full day there, and drive home, and never see any Browns merchandise. In Pittsburgh, Sunday morning mass, you're probably going to see a couple people in Steelers jerseys. Not to mention constantly being surrounded by towels, bumper stickers, shirts, hats.
I hear the Steelers had a long, undistinguished history in "the Before Time." But I was born about 7 weeks before "the Immaculate Reception." And as I became a sentient living thing, we started winning Super Bowls. And we kept doing so through my formative years. So, yeah, Steelers. Always and forever.
How do you think this season is going?
D.X. Ferris: I don't want to jinx us, but it looks good. The start was shaky. But nothing makes me more nervous than an early lead. As a franchise, the Steelers have a knack for peaking at the right time. I hope that's what we're doing.
Do you have a favorite Steeler?
D.X. Ferris: Historically, of course, you have to love those superhuman legends like Rocky Bleier, Franco Harris, and [Terry] Bradshaw. But my all-time favorite is Hines Ward. He ended his career with 1,000 receptions, exactly. I get goosebumps thinking about it. Ending with exactly 1,000, on his next-to-last game, means everything he ever did matters. He could have partied a little more, lost focus one more time, taken it easy because he was older and he wanted to coast. But he didn't. All the work, momentum, focus, and effort he ever spent got him across that last line.
Are there any teams you feel as passionately about as you do the Steelers?
D.X. Ferris: No. I goofed off in high school, so I didn't go to a big college. The Penguins are great, but I'm not a hockey guy. The Pirates ripped out my heart a few decades ago.
What was the last sporting event you attended live?
D.X. Ferris: Probably a Cavs game or an Akron Rubber Ducks game -- they're the local minor league team. For all intents and purposes, professional basketball doesn't exist in Pittsburgh, so it's not important to me. But damned if the LeBron Cavs games weren't exciting events to be at. All respect, I don't get out much for Ohio sports. When we moved here, I thought I could get behind the Indians, because they're an AL team. But... Cleveland sports, it just goes against my Pittsburgh DNA.
You are, of course, a prolific author with multiple recent book releases to talk of. How much time a week do you spend writing?
D.X. Ferris: All of it. Well, all my free time. When that Malcolm Gladwell idea started circulating, his proclamation that you need to practice 10,000 hours to become an expert... I did the math and realized, "OK, I don't know if I'm an expert, but I have put in my 10,000 hours." And that was a few years back. November is about to end, and I've not-worked two days since July — one was Thanksgiving, and one was my birthday.
I say at the beginning of the Goodfellas book, "This book was brought to you by seven-day grind, wake up so early it hurts, and pay now play later." Yesterday, I was working on various things from 7:00 AM until 9:00 PM. Then I stumbled home, glassy-eyed, sat down at my desk, and banged out a couple comic strips. Last year, I said, "I'll get some sleep next year." Looking at that goal, this year was an abject failure. But I guess I did get a lot done.
Of your most recent books, are you most proud of any of them? Do you have a favorite?
D.X. Ferris: I've always wanted to write some kind of Christmas something, so I'm very happy to have the Christmas comic strips collection in the world. But If I had to go with one of the four books, I'd pick the Goodfellas one.
I started that one afternoon, after a long morning. I got up early. I had an event in the morning. I was tired as hell. I felt like taking a nap. But I was also feeling some life pressure. So I thought, "I can take a nap, or I can DO something." Instead of taking a nap, I grabbed a notebook and started working on the Goodfellas thing. So in the book, when I talk about the power of hard work, the grind, and willing something good to happen, I'm not talking out my butt. That's how the whole batch of books happened.
Aside from promoting your 2018 book releases, what is coming up for you work-wise?
D.X. Ferris: I have a board with 16 different projects on them, and I just scratched off four. I'm not sure what's next, though. If people respond to the Goodfellas book, I could start turning that into a series tomorrow. I'm a big fan of self-improvement, but I understand why that kind of material turns people off. I think if you can make self-improvement relatable and talk about it from a fun angle, a lot more people would warm up to it. In motivational circles, so many people focus on becoming multi-millionaire entrepreneurs. I'd like to get there, too — but as a teacher, I also like the idea of helping people do 10 or 20 percent better, one goal at a time.
That's why Goodfellas is such a good focus for a discussion about success: Most of us can't match what a motivational icon like Tony Robbins has. All respect to Robbins, I like people like DDP, Diamond Dallas Page, the pro wrestler turned fitness guru. I like the idea of showing people that if they grind it out, maybe you won't be Tony Robbins or Hines Ward... But you CAN do better than Henry Hill. Hill achieved his goals, but he was selfish, and he lost focus. I like helping people figure out how to work better. And act better.
I keep trying to work my way out of writing about music, but I have one or three more things I want to do before I try to put out some respectable creative output. And I want to try this thing I heard about called sleep. I just listened to LeBron James on the Tim Ferriss -- no relation -- podcast, and he makes himself get 8 or 9 hours of sleep a night. And he's an achiever. So I'm going to try that.
What do you wish more people knew about D.X. Ferris?
D.X. Ferris: You know, I'm not the kind of guy who thinks about himself in those terms. I'd probably sell more books if I were. I wish more people knew the basic things I've learned by getting my hands dirty, trying to be empathetic, and trying to not be a pain in the ass to my fellow humans.
There's a huge trend in management where people on opposite sides of the management-style spectrum are doing the same bad things, for different reasons. In this challenging economic environment, too many people are sociopaths: They either do anything they want to, because they're in charge, and they can get away with it. Or they're middle managers who have been tasked with doing anything they can to protect the institution's financial bottom line. And neither side seems to do it with any grace.
Say what you will about the business at hand in Goodfellas; the positive takeaway from the movie is this: Henry Hill and his friends did best when they were generous, and when they worked as a team. You're successful when you help other people succeed. That's leadership. That's what I wish people knew.
Finally, any last words for the kids?
D.X. Ferris: Hmmm.... Be sure to drink your Ovaltine. Get some cardio. Once you hurt your back, it won't get better unless you actively work out. Try not to eat after 8:00 PM. Every day, look for an opportunity to help at least one other person.
Oh, here's the important one: In tribute to the recently-deceased Stephen Hillenburg -- rest in peace -- I'll quote a Spongebob Squarepants Christmas song: "Don't be a jerk."