In this Episode
- [02:35]Stephan and Joe Polish reminisce about how they first crossed paths.
- [04:11]Joe reflects on their childhood experiences and notes the value of mental acuity to perceive situations differently.
- [10:37]Joe describes how his childhood insecurity and disconnection led to his ability to connect with others as an adult.
- [13:31]Joe discusses the importance of spiritual practice and meditation in the process of learning and unlearning.
- [21:47]Joe emphasizes the significance of self-awareness and questioning beliefs, noticing that some individuals behave well out of fear of internal punishment despite appearing spiritual or religious.
- [26:10]Joe stresses addressing the root causes of abuse instead of just treating the symptoms.
- [33:07]Stephan reflects on the purpose of events and challenges in his life, seeking guidance from God and discovering deeper meanings and lessons.
- [45:17]Joe distinguishes between shame and guilt, recognizing that people can do harmful things without being inherently bad, and strives for acceptance.
- [51:30]Joe suggests that people should have a “Genius Network” of supportive individuals in their lives to help solve problems and provide guidance.
Joe, it’s so great to have you on the show.
It’s great to be here, Stephan. It’s been a long time, right?
Yes. You’ve been on my other show, Marketing Speak. We’ve had some great conversations there, talking about some of your marketing genius. But in this episode, I want to get into the personal development angle. You’re a biohacker. You’re working on your spiritual path. You’re doing some amazing things. I find you inspiring and just an awesome person.
Thank you, and likewise. I appreciate all the support. Yeah, it’s been good. When I say it’s been a long time, it seems like it’s been a long time. But in the scheme of things, it hasn’t been that long.
It might have been past lives and who knows what. We’ve known each other in this lifetime since 2011 or 2012 when I was involved with Neil Strauss and his secret society, which I was a member of. Then you came and spoke at some of his events, like the one in New York. It was the one I met you at.
Yeah. That goofball is right about what’s in it for them. It’s so interesting to see people’s transition to where they started. When he wrote The Game to The Truth, which I helped him ten years later, I helped him with that book related to the addiction stuff. It’s so interesting to see what happens in someone’s lifetime and where they start, where they end up, what they do in between, and everything.
It’s quite a journey. You’ve had quite a journey, too. Let’s talk about that. Your childhood set you up to not succeed, in a way. If you just look at it at the service level, perfect timing, and everything is divinely guided and orchestrated. Of course, at a higher level, that’s true. But when somebody just looks at the facts and the struggles that you had to face and overcome, it is a lot.
I also had struggles and turmoil in my childhood. I remember my uncle telling me at one point that he just thought it was miraculous that I even made it out of my childhood alive, not in jail or something. I don’t know if that’s a compliment, but I’ll take it as such. Anyway, what transpired in your childhood?
It’s interesting because I think when you’re in the middle of a difficult situation, that’s all you know as a child. How would it be if you’re rich, if you’re poor? I think even humans are often a byproduct of our own perceptions and what we see the world as. Until you develop the mental awareness or acuity to have perspective, “How much of that do you have as a child?” I think some kids are amazingly perceptive.
I think sometimes when you’re younger, there are stages where you see things in the world that as you get older and depending on how you perceive life, how your health is, your schedule, your overwhelm, your environment, all these factors, your biochemical, your dopamine levels, everything, where you can become aware in terms of how things smell, taste, feel.
For me, the quick version of my childhood, and I always want to preface these things, where every day, through reading, watching, and conversations, I spent half my time in the addiction recovery field. I hear a lot of painful parts of people’s lives. I don’t ever want to share anything in my story in a way that comes across like, “Oh, poor me. My childhood was bad.”
I’m open to changing or altering a belief. Just because I believe something, it doesn’t mean it’s the truth.
I don’t want to maximize it, and I don’t want to minimize it either. I don’t want to say, “Oh, yeah, it just happened to me. It was a gift.” I do believe what I do now is a gift, and I can translate a lot of stuff in the gifts. I also believe there’s a lot of painful stuff, and it leaves scar tissue. Even when I use the word believe, a belief means you’re unsure.
I’m open to changing or altering a belief. Just because I believe something, it doesn’t mean it’s the truth. Feelings are not facts. Just because I feel great, it doesn’t mean things are great. If I feel shitty, it doesn’t mean my life is shitty. It just is in a moment.
Looking at my whole childhood, my mother died when I was four years old. I was raised Catholic. My mother was a former nun. She left the convent because she had gotten ill and met my father in church. They ended up getting married. My father had a really tough life. So to my mother. I know much less about my mother’s childhood than my father’s.
When my mother died, my father, who was a locksmith, a hardworking and struggling guy. He was injured, he was honorably discharged from the army, he was drafted, his right leg was broken multiple times in service, and he had a difficult life. He had a great job. But when he got drafted, he lost that. He just was in a lot of physical and mental pain and anguish.
When he met my mom, that was a huge highlight for him. I have an older brother, four and a half years older. When my mom died from ovarian cancer, it just broke my father’s heart. He never recovered.
We had a tough childhood. My father was left with two kids. He did the best he could. I think everyone is, whatever their level of consciousness is, or their atmospheric conditions are—which is a term I got from my friend Don Wood, who’s a doctor. He’s a trauma therapist and a Genius Network member. You’ve met Don. He talks about the atmospheric conditions.
The atmospheric conditions in my father’s life were pretty tough, as were my mother’s. Therefore, so were my childhood and my brother’s. We moved every two years because my father could never settle down anywhere. It was a very interesting form of his inability to be okay.
From my perception, wherever he was, he would establish a business and work hard trying to build up a clientele because being a locksmith was not an easy business. It was oftentimes 24/7 emergency work. People would be locked out of their houses. You’d have people arguing and locking somebody out of the house, losing their car keys, break-ins, and everything under the sun. It was a very interesting business.
My father worked really hard. He was also on pain medication because of his constant pain in his knee. He would always go to the Veterans Administration, and he had a love-hate relationship with them because you devote your life to service, and then you hurt yourself, and then they don’t treat you well. I saw a lot of stuff.
The constant messaging I got was not encouraging and empowering. I cannot think of any sort of, “Yeah, you can do it.” It was a lot of fear. “Make sure you dress up before you go out in the cold. People are out to get you.” It’s very much this narrative that the world is not safe.
I say all this stuff because there are a lot of things that can be very critical about my father. Believe me, there was a lot of anger and annoyance that I had, and there’s a part of me as I’ve gotten older. I’m 55 years old now when I sit and think—my mother died when she was 41. My father was a few years older. I look at my 40-year-old self.
I was 35 when my father died, and he was 73. He died of lung cancer. He smoked most of his life. That was an addiction. I have a tremendous amount of compassion for how difficult his life was. I also have a lot of respect for his work ethic.
He didn’t really give me much self-esteem. I cannot remember much. Was it his job to give me self-esteem? As a parent, what is your job? It’s, to a degree, to take care of your child. You’d be a role model.
He worked really hard. I wish I could go back and hug him when he was at a younger age and just encourage him if that was a possibility. He was a broken man.
Why isn’t that a possibility?
I’ve done Ayahuasca journeys. I’ve done all kinds of interesting stuff. There have been moments where I go and speak to that younger self—all versions, mother, father, myself, etc., just without it sounding too bizarrely weird for everyone. I know we can talk about pretty much anything. The thing is, I look at my childhood.
Today, people consider me a great connector. It all stemmed because I was very disconnected as a child.
What ended up happening is in the process of moving around a lot, I was a shy, scared, introverted kid. I got bullied, I got picked on. I would establish some levels of friendships. Today, people consider me a great connector. I guess I am because I know many people, and I definitely bring many people together, and I do a pretty good job with it.
It all stemmed because I was very disconnected as a child. I was very scared. I was very introverted. I wanted to be around people with energy. I later developed that. The beginning part of it as a child didn’t come out of inspiration. It stemmed from desperation, pain, angst, sexual abuse, mental abuse, physical abuse, a lot of abandonment, constantly being uprooted, and never feeling safe.
I never felt safe in the world. Even right now, with the last three years of the insanity of the propaganda, all of the fear porn that is being shoved out into the world through media, even if you isolate yourself, I don’t think it’s necessarily a very smart decision of what is actually occurring in the world. There’s a lot of generational trauma that’s happening right now.
In my lifetime, the last three years have been very interesting and very sad. In the midst of it all, I’m very optimistic. I do my best to wake up every day, make whatever impact I can, live a good life, and take care of myself. I use the million-dollar racehorse analogy, which you’ve heard me talk about.
If you had a million-dollar racehorse, every time that horse ran a race, you’d win a million dollars. The question is, how would you treat that horse? You wouldn’t shelve fast food down its throat. You should give it proper nutrition, rest, and exercise. You’d have the best trainers.
You’d have it running in the right races, not the wrong races. You wouldn’t have it hanging around with loser horses or toxic people. You would not have it up at 3 AM smoking cigarettes, watching porn, drinking alcohol, and snorting cocaine. You would literally have that horse well taken care of.
I do my best to wake up every day, make whatever impact I can, live a good life, and take care of myself.
In the many years, I’ve been in recovery now, which stemmed from my childhood, I had to go up and screw up my life for a while from the unresolved trauma I had as a child to actually learn about connection. I had to go through many years of disconnection in order to get the complete contrast of what connection is. Today, my business is running connection networks and trying to help connect people with themselves because if you’re disconnected from yourself, it’s really hard to connect with other people. I could go on and on.
Being disconnected, desperate, abused, and lost turned into a gift because that inspired you to eventually become a great connector and creator of opportunities. But you had to go through hell to get it.
Right. I should go grab it. It’s on the wall right outside this office here. You’ve been in my building a few times.
Many times, yes.
Quite a few times. You’ve done the speeches here. I have my Genius Network headquarters. Throughout the building, there’s a lot of art. There’s a lot of weird things. Part of it is people often don’t see things right away, but I strategically place a lot of clues in a lot of interesting things all around the building.
There’s a gal that I helped in recovery. She painted something for me that said, “Recovery didn’t open up the gates of heaven to let me in, but it opened up the gates of hell to let me out.” I really liked that one because sometimes, you just sit in the pain pit for a while. To get Eckhart Tolle, the pain body. A good portion of my adult life is exciting, productive, and making money, but I have a lot of angst.
I certainly have a euphoric recall. It’s really easy to take on too much to overwhelm myself. I’m still very skilled at doing that. What I have is I don’t sit in that place for long periods, though. Before it used to be months, weeks, and sometimes years when I would get on track, and then I would have a major blow-up. Part of it was just I needed to esteem myself for everything that I did. I just needed to go through that. For any of us to go from version 1.0 to 2.0 to 3.0, we have the ability to look at the past and say, “Okay, what worked? What didn’t work?”
I was in this massive pursuit of learning. I’m sitting in a room right now, and you can see some books behind me. There are 2,200 books in this particular room. Some are very valuable, and others are just regular books you can buy for $10, $20, or $30. Every one of them has been scanned. Out of all these books, there’s this little device we have that scans the ISBN number, the barcode, and the replacement value.
There’s $88,000 worth of books in this room, and I’m going to have to go through the program and find out which one. Some here, there’s a couple that are worth a lot. If they were all $20, they’d only be worth half that, right? What are the really valuable books?
What I’ve learned is that the most expensive information in the world is bad information. We can spend a lot of money on information. I sell $25,000 and $100,000 connection groups. It’s a lot of money, but it’s all relative. What’s a lot of money?
You can get a lot of free information online, but a lot of that information is bad. It doesn’t matter if it’s free. It doesn’t matter if you pay for it. The most expensive information in the world is bad information. I used to be on this massive pursuit to consume as much information as humanly possible. I’ve now learned you’re better off mastering a single book than trying to read 10 or 20 books quickly because you can consume, but the thing with the monkey mind is this constant need to learn.
The most expensive information in the world is bad information.
What I learned in recovery is that unlearning is oftentimes more valuable and more important than learning. In my journey, I learned a lot, but some of the things I picked up were not serving me very well. Through the unlearning and letting go process, spiritual practice and meditation come in.
I’m very careful to say, God. We can talk about it. We can talk about anything. There’s nothing off-limits with me. It’s just that the word represents different things for different people because I was very much manipulated by people using God as a form of gaslighting. I spent thousands of hours praying or trying to talk to an energy, a force of being in existence, a concept I never felt was there.
How do you feel now?
I believe something cannot come from nothing. What I feel now is everybody has the right to have their experience. I do my best not to lord my beliefs on anybody because they’ve not lived my life, nor have I lived theirs. I try to come from a place of acceptance.
I’ve seen thousands of people be in 12-step rooms recovery groups, things that I’ve seen in mostly the recovery world, where people are sharing the most preposterous, to me, versions of a belief system that I not only cannot connect with. I’m like, “You are absolutely insane,” in my mind. I wouldn’t say this to someone. What I look at is, “Is your life working? Are you helping or hurting other people?” You recently shared an interview that you did with my buddy Tim Ringgold.
You guys are talking about what it was when Tim was saying something along the lines of, “It doesn’t matter what my belief is. Do we work well together? Does it function?” There are also things that you both are talking about with experiences. Tim’s telling the story after his daughter Bella died.
Something cannot come from nothing.
I went with him on a trip. The first trip he took, I took him with me to Florida. We’re supposed to fly to Egypt, crazy story. It was the first time he got away after his 18-month-old daughter, Bella, died. Tim was a guy who would play music for people in hospice centers while they were dying. He does grief retreats.
I’ve been through his grief retreats. He’s a phenomenal human being, extremely compassionate, and has a crazy addiction recovery story. We’ve known each other for over 20 years. With all the different people I’ve sat around, he sat around, and you hear all kinds of different versions of what someone believes to be God.
My friend Ned Hallowell, the ADHD psychiatrist, has a great line, which I don’t think is his, but he’s the first one I heard say. “Lord helped me to search for the truth, but spare me the company of those who have already found it.” In 12-step groups, you’ll hear religion is for people who are afraid of going to hell, and spirituality is for people who have already been there. You have been through it.
I think there’s a powerful distinction that I don’t hear much talk about, but I saw it as a meme on some social platform, I forget. It’s this cylinder in three-dimensional space. It’s drawn as a 3D image, but then there are the two 2D planes that are perpendicular and intersecting.
One has a shadow cast from that cylinder, a rectangle. The word above that object or the two-dimensional shape of the rectangle is true. On the other perpendicular plane, you see a shadow of a circle. The cylinder is casting a shadow of a circle because of the angle, and that is also labeled as true. But the truth is it’s a cylinder, and neither of us sees that.
Your truth is a circle, and my truth that it’s a rectangle are both true, but they’re not the capital Truth. None of us can see that. That helps frame meeting people where they’re at so that I don’t try to push my own agenda, dogma, belief system, or anything like that, or even experiences with other people. If I can talk to God, you can talk to God, but we all have different paths. For me, to lord that over somebody is going to cause pain.
This is a Jewish wisdom. You can’t perform a mitzvah while simultaneously doing harm. You can’t make somebody feel bad or not be available for them, not do the dishes when they need you to, go and pray instead, and expect that you’re getting brownie points and have them do that.
A lot of people behave well because they have some sort of fear that if they don’t, they’re going to be internally punished. I know some pretty awful performing behaving humans that hurt other people, that live a very “spiritual” or “religious” life in terms of the veneering and in terms of the virtual signaling form of ways they use that.
I’ve been in high-profile recovery groups with clergy, famous politicians, Academy Award-winning actors and actresses, NFL players, NBA players, and famous musicians. Going back 23 years ago, when I first joined a high profile group, I’ve seen some people that the world admires and looks up to, and some that tout certain belief systems and whatnot, and then they’re living their life in a completely different way.
The benefit is all those people are there trying to get help. Kudos for that. There’s a lot of people in the personal development space, the made-for-marketing, spiritual leaders, I think most of them are full of crap. There are some that I think are awesome and authentic. And there’s everything in between.
I also have to constantly question my own beliefs. I always say, “What am I going to think about what I’m thinking right now ten years from now? How often do we think about our thinking?” My friend, Dan Sullivan, I’ve had quite a few podcasts with him on our podcast show about thinking about your thinking and thinking about your perceptions.
The interesting thing about being a human is that I have to tell myself this all the time: “I think we’re wired to always think we’re right. Even when we’re wrong or very wrong, we could very much think we are very right.” I want to constantly develop that awareness muscle of mine so that I don’t get caught in the trap. That whole saying is that people judge themselves by their intentions. They judge others by their actions.
Even people that have hurt people, “I didn’t intend to hurt him, but you did. I didn’t tend to steal that, but you did.” The question becomes, “What’s the result of someone’s life?” If what I’m doing is expanding myself and others, I think that’s a pretty good thing. If what I’m doing is contracting myself, contracting others, a lot of it is energy.
People judge themselves by their intentions. They judge others by their actions.
To go to the whole thing of what God is, I have a lot of friends who are atheists who are brilliant, nice, kind, caring, and compassionate people. I have other people that they think that I just think are doing wrong. I know they’re doing wrong things. I know they’re manipulative. It might be words, but I definitely think there’s a lot of good and there’s a lot of evil.
For instance, I won’t mention this one person’s name. He’s a very famous, smart, brilliant guy and atheist. I’ve recently met Jordan Peterson. Jordan is very articulate and outspoken about his Christian beliefs. These guys could not be more opposed to their belief in a god, but Jordan has this person on his show. They’re friends. It’s fascinating.
I always look at when someone believes in something I don’t believe, and I play a game with myself. When it comes to connection, I look for the pain points. If I had to defend or argue for that, “What would be my basis?” Not that I want to argue, because you don’t change people’s minds very much by arguing. I think you can learn a lot through debates, although I wouldn’t consider myself good at debates. I don’t like confrontation.
I’ll get into debates if I have to, but not because I want to be cruel or make someone look bad. Most of what I do, I’m just trying to learn. I’m always on a path of, “What don’t I know? Why am I not seeing it this way?”
If someone has a different political belief than me, I first approach it with, “What is that serving for them?” In their mind, there’s a reason they believe that. “Why do they support this sort of thing?” It doesn’t mean I changed my mind.Replace the squeaky wheels in your life. If you want to have an ELF— an easy, lucrative and fun life — rid yourself of the hard, annoying, and lame. Click To Tweet
Most of the politicians and world leaders leading the world right now, I wish all of them would go through a medical journey and develop some plant medicine, not much of the toxic medicine.
My girlfriend is a medical doctor, and many of my clients—my Genius Network members—are in the health field. You have natural paths, integrative doctors, functional medicine doctors, regular medical doctors, psychiatrists, and psychologists. There are a lot of good doctors in the world, and there’s a lot that a very toxic system has hijacked. Whoever profits from the crime is guilty of it. That’s what it boils down to.
I was raped and molested as a kid, and I was paid money not to say anything about it. It was the most confusing, complex, embarrassing, and shameful. It ripped almost any little bit of self-esteem or self-worth I had and just made me feel like a human piece of sh*t. It took years to develop any real, sustainable sense of worth. It was very difficult.
Some people are rapists, and I don’t mean physically raping people. I mean doing things without their consent, non-consensual control. There are many ways to rape people in that way. All forms of rape are horrible. The unfortunate thing is, for most people who hurt others, the same thing was done to them.
It’s all volunteer work. I’ve sat with a lot of people. Ninety-five percent of the people that I have helped with or sat with in recovery have been abused physically and sexually. A very small percentage have abused others. When they attempt to make amends or to deal with it, because a lot of people don’t, and that’s the unfortunate thing, we have such a culture of burning them at the stake. If people knew what happened to so many other individuals, I think they would think differently.
I remember Daniel Amen talking about brain scans in my interview with him years ago. He said, “If you saw the brains of serial killers, you would rethink the death penalty because these are very sick brains.” None of that is an excuse for violence. Why do I say an excuse? To understand why someone does the things they do, you understand that none of that is to be said, “It’s okay that someone hurts someone, especially in violent physical ways.”
In one of my interviews with Gabor Maté, I asked him the question, “How do you go throughout the day if you have to interact, or do you still know the person that raped you, abused you, hurt you, or betrayed you?” Almost everybody has been hurt or betrayed by someone that they still know, and a lot of those people are colleagues, former friends, family members, priests, and teachers. That’s where a belief in a higher power, something greater than yourself, actually comes in.
There’s a saying in 12-step groups that you’ll hear once in a while in recovery rooms: “God never gives you more than you can handle.” Hospitals, treatment centers, mental institutions, and prisons are filled with people that got more than they can handle. The question is, “Where does compassion come in?”
I do know you can’t punish pain out of people. If people are violent, psychopaths, sociopaths, incapable of having empathy for another human, some people are a danger to others until there’s another way, and there are always ways, we try to punitively treat that. Just to give you some stats, in America, 25% of the world’s prisoners are incarcerated. We’re one of the highest incarcerating countries, if not the highest incarcerated country in the world. And 40% approximately committed a violent crime. That’s a different category.
60%, if not 80-90%, of people who are arrested and thrown in jail or prison, drugs and alcohol were involved. There’s a tremendous amount of people who are incarcerated for simply struggling with addiction. Again, it’s not an excuse for criminal behavior or doing harm. However, if you understood the atmospheric conditions of their lives, it would make sense.
Jordan Peterson was being asked a question—there are so many videos with him out there—where someone was talking about sexual assault. He said, “Well, in college campuses, 50% of people that are murdered were drunk, 50% of people that murder were drunk. The majority of date rape and the majority of assaults, either one or both of the people were intoxicated.”
There’s all this talk of you got to have consent. There’s party culture in universities and campuses, where a lot of this is taking place. He’s like, “If you really want to stop the issue, you stop drinking. You stop the intoxication because when people are inebriated, they tend to do things.”
So much of my focus on addiction recovery, I can explain most things, including the entire pandemic, through the lens of addiction. There’s a very interesting book written. I don’t know how many years ago. It was called War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning. We live in a world where people are culturally addicted to war and patriotism, standing for this side, being opposed to that side. There’s a high dopamine surge that comes.
Addiction is a response to trauma.
Addiction is a response to trauma, and also, biochemical is off. My friend, Dr. Anna Lembke, wrote an amazing book called Dopamine Nation. She explains the biochemical aspects of the addiction: dopamine.
If you take a rat that is starving, and you remove the dopamine from this rat or mouse and put it in front of food, and it is physically starving, it has no dopamine or not enough dopamine. It will die. It will just sit there and die because it doesn’t even have the motivation to eat, even when starving.
Humans are very similar. We are a bundle of biochemistry. To go to the topic of health, biohacking, and how to take care of yourself, part of this is just not being a physical specimen that is in very poor health. It’s not just physical. It’s mental.
If I got zero sleep last night, this would be a completely different interview. I didn’t get good sleep last night. It wasn’t horrible. I didn’t stay up all night, but I got less sleep, and I don’t know why. I exercised yesterday, I got a sauna and a cold plunge, I meditated twice, and I still had a crappy night of sleep last night.
How do you find out why? This is a big question that, for me, once I started receiving information from above, it’s like, “Wow, how can I not tap into that universal wisdom and the universal Google? How did I even manage to stay alive this long without it?”
For example, there’s this spiritual coach. He has this question: “Why is this in my movie? Why is this lack of sleep, challenge, trauma, or whatever in my movie?” Somebody just cut me off on the freeway for no reason and then yelled at me.You have to really go out of your way to avoid personal growth and fulfillment. Click To Tweet
“Why is this in my movie?” Because it’s in your movie for a reason. There’s a purpose. There’s a message. There’s something to unpack. How do you unpack it? What I used to do is just not very much, but now everything is a reflection. As it is above, so it is below. He was like, “Okay, why is this in my movie? Why did this happen?” I reflect on it. I also asked God for guidance on this, and I got answers.
“Why did we not find a house yet to buy?” We’re in Florida, and the market is overheated, and there’s not a lot of inventory, and things are crazy overpriced, and so forth. Logically speaking, I could answer that, but that’s not the real reason. I finally got the real reason last night after I asked.
I asked God why I was pushing away this house we were meant to buy and move into. The answer I got was, “I’m attached.” I’m like, “Oh, what am I attached to?” I was thinking maybe the ducks. I love the ducks in the backyard. They’ve been here for years.
We’re in a rental, and a lake is in our backyard. “It’s not about the ducks, though. Okay. What is it? Is it the geese? No, it’s the lake.” I was attached to the lake. I had to release that attachment, but I didn’t know how to release the attachment until I knew I had the attachment. It all came from, first, having the desire to inquire and to know why that’s in my movie, then to have the humility to know I don’t have all the answers, then to ask for guidance, and then it came.
Pain is a messenger.
I don’t know if you’ve had experiences like that, where epiphanies, insights, or revelations came to you. Maybe in an Ayahuasca journey, but this is something that would be part of your daily practice, part of your daily collaboration and communication with God. You could ask that same question about your sleep. “Why is this in my movie? Why did I not get enough sleep? What’s the lesson? What’s the message?”
To the point of what the message is, there is a reason. I think not always at the moment. Sometimes, it takes a while, sometimes weeks, months, or even years. I love the concept of comedy; pain plus time equals comedy. Whenever you have a lot of pain in your life, and I think everyone listening to this can relate to this, think of something that you can look at any experience that you’re like, that was funny that that happened. But at the time, it wasn’t funny at all. Some of it was the most grueling, heartbreaking, agonizing, and why me sort of stuff.
I believe pain is a messenger. I think back pain, knee pain, neck pain, physical pain, lack of sleep, physical ailments, and within all of it, is life’s nature’s way of saying, “Hey, pay attention, neon signs, look here, something’s going on.” You’re around entrepreneurs all the time. We go to a lot of meetings with a lot of smart people in the entrepreneurial world and other parts of the world, too.
Workaholism is a respectable addiction. The way that most entrepreneurs take time off is they get sick, or they get rundown. It’s like, “All right, if you’re not going to take some time off, we’ll make you sick. We’re going to give you some sort of hurdle here that you won’t be able to jump over because you need to stop right.”
The conversation you had with Tim Ringgold about the ants when he looked down and what he said in his dialogue with God when I was meditating this morning popped into my head. I was trained in transcendental meditation in 2013 in Fairfield, Iowa.
I went and spoke at Maharishi International University and all that. Bob Roth is a friend of mine. I’ve done week-long meditations with Joe Dispenza. I gave him a cowbell at one, and I told him he could improve his meditations. It was a way to punk Joe Dispenza. It was really funny. He liked it a lot. It was a comedy.
It’s funny that so many ways people are trying to meditate and connect is through technology. Some of them facilitate it. Certainly, I have a VR company. We’re the only VR app that’s on the Oculus store that is an educational platform not doing gaming. It’s just educating people.
I don’t want people to live in a tech world. I also know enough. Being a business owner and a marketer, you oftentimes have to meet people where they’re at. It’s amusing how many people need to wear a wearable in order to go to sleep or need to track everything. I have a bit of a love-hate relationship as I look out. We’re using apps to get close to nature because the world is so programmed that that is the way to do it.
I don’t want anyone to live in a VR world. I want people to dip in there for a little bit if it will expand them. But if it contracts you, what’s the point? The reason I bring all this up is I have a friend who created the Bible app, which is the most downloaded app of all time. That company was sold a few years ago, but it’s the way we receive information and the way we interact. “What is consciousness? What is the connection?”We reflect the world we see. Only through mental awareness can we truly gain wisdom and perspective. Click To Tweet
We’re more connected than ever before in human history electronically, but I think we’re more disconnected as humans than ever before in this stage of existence, and I say as a whole because there are people right now—it is not lost on me at all how blessed of a life I have. There are probably three billion people on the planet. Their dreams would come true to change places with me, you, and most of the people who are listening to us right now. Even if it were just for a day, it would be the greatest part of their entire existence because some of them live such tortured lives, not all the time, not 24/7.
I’m not talking about people who have money and don’t have money because I know some very rich, miserable people. I know some people who do not make a lot of money but are some of the happiest, connected, caring, compassionate, loving life individuals you’d ever meet. Everyone can probably experience having gone to some country that doesn’t have a lot of money, but you met some nice, really connected people.
Connection is more of an inside job in the environment that you’re in than it is an external one because there are a lot of people who live in prisons with golden bars. I became a millionaire before the age of 30. I’ll tell you, having money is great. I don’t poo poo money. People that say money can’t buy happiness, for one, they don’t know how to spend it.
Secondly, if you think money can’t buy happiness, you haven’t given enough of it away because oftentimes, a little bit of money can change someone’s life. It can buy them education, it can buy them medical care, it can buy a lot of things. At the same time, as Jim Rohn says, “You can’t pay someone to do your push-ups for you.” If you give money to someone who is out of control, money can buy almost any vise that your twisted brain can come up with.
Oftentimes, some of the most difficult, painful addiction stories I’ve seen have been from people of means who are very smart. They have a lot of money, but addiction is not an intellectual thing. The issues are in the tissues. It is a trauma. The ones that seem to have the hardest time with recovery are the ones that think they can think their way out of it. They can power the way through it.
That’s a bit of complexity. There’s no simple answer to that other than try to love them. Try to enroll them. Don’t tell them what to do because the addict’s mind doesn’t want to be told anything, even if you tell yourself that. The Ram Dass line, “We’re all trying to walk each other home.”
“We’re all just walking each other home.”
I always go back to that, especially when I’m pissed at someone. I could sit here and act like, “Oh, no big deal.” I think there’s a lot of value in annoyance and anger. I think there’s a lot of value in the shadow self.
It gives us contrast. It gives us something to push against and to base our decisions on what we want and what we prefer. If you had no contrast, what would you prefer? You wouldn’t even know that there’s a choice there. But knowing that you’re in the sunshine and that you have contrast because it rained last week, then you prefer the sunshine. You can look at that as a contrast. You could see it as a tragedy, or God is not giving you your fair share. It’s just how you interpret it, but contrast is the name of the game here. Without it, you don’t learn.
There’s value in annoyance and anger. There’s value in the shadow self.
You’re absolutely right. I’ve known him for over 20 years. He is a brilliant therapist. He’s worked with billionaires. You probably remember my interview with him at the Genius Network event we did last year. Ken Wells has sat with more billionaires and more famous people than most therapists. He also will volunteer his time.
He will go sit with sex offenders and be incarcerated in prison. I’m like, “Why do you do that? You don’t get paid for it. You’re already a busy guy. More people would like to hire you than you physically have time for.”
He used to be a minister. He openly talks about addiction. He writes a blog for geniusrecovery.org. It’s not written by AI. It’s written by a guy who’s got decades. He’s 70.
Ken is a brilliant guy. I would ask him, “Why do you do that work?” He’s like, “Well, because I think we can see ourselves in every human. No matter what good or bad they’ve done, when things get so difficult, what happens in their life?” He comes from a real place of compassion and understanding. I’ve really learned. I’ve sat and been a recovery coach for despicable people that I personally do not—the judgment side of Joe has to be like, “Man, this is a difficult one.”
Even just saying the word despicable is full of judgment.
Absolutely. What I do, though, is I surprise myself. When I switch on the what’s in it for them, the caring, compassionate, I don’t actually interact with them that way, at least on a conscious level.
Even using the label despicable changes how you show up in the vibration that you have when you are in service, or at least believe you are in service to that person or those people. Everybody, in one sense, is a reflection of you. In another sense, they’re all just sparks of God. They lowered their low vibration to play a supporting role in your movie that gives you some insight, some lesson, some opportunity for growth, or some impetus to climb that ladder to God.Success is not the destination — it’s the journey and the practice of self-care. Click To Tweet
Let me clarify, too. When I say despicable things as I sit and think about it, I don’t think I have approached. I’m trying to think because I don’t want to just say this because we’re having a conversation. I want it to be a real accurate analysis of how I look back. Some of the people I’ve worked with, even associated with that I don’t anymore at the time, I didn’t consider them despicable. Usually, despicable comes later when I look at the whole course of it.
When I say despicable people, I’m describing behavior. Most people are not coming out of the womb evil or intending to do harm. I don’t think anyone comes to work every day and says, “I’m going do a shitty job at work, even though you and I both had employees that are great, others we’ve had to let go, others that weren’t the right fit, and friends that were great at one time, and then we’re no longer friends.”
When I’m thinking for my higher self, whatever that is, which I’m not always there all the time, I’m a human. I do my best to have acceptance—the difference between shame and guilt. Guilt is when you regret doing something bad. The shame is, “I am bad.” Most of my view is not that humans are inherently bad. They have done bad things, but are they really bad?
Some of the stuff I’ve seen over the last three years, there are people that I have had—it takes an enormous amount of acceptance to be like, “Boy, this person is doing some shitty stuff.” I now think some people are on the planet that are like the Joker in The Batman movie. They just want to watch the world burn. They get off on hurting people.
It is an exercise to voluntarily sit down with someone who has done despicable behavior, call them despicable, and still try to be a sounding board. I follow the philosophy of 12 steps, in which the only requirement for membership is a willingness to get help. I won’t stop anyone from wanting to get help. If they’re violent, if they’re in the moment, that’s a different story. If we were a fly on the wall of everyone’s life, people would probably want to kill each other.
In this whole thing of no judgment, I don’t buy that concept because you can’t drive a car without judging. Red light, green light, that’s a judgment. I know what people mean when they say no judgment. It means no harsh judgment. It means acceptance, but at the same time, we’re always judging all the time. That’s how we make decisions.
Someone listening to this or watching this right now has to make a judgment if they should spend their time listening to me and you versus any other option that they have. We’re always judging. The question is, “Is your judgment expanding you and humanity, or is it contracting?” The truth is, I think it’s both all the time. We just learned to make better judgments.
What I learned about success is not that things “get easier,” even oftentimes they do, because I teach people how to have an ELF business versus an app business. What happens, though, is you build up tolerance, resourcefulness, and awareness. You learn how to navigate potholes, land mines, and difficult people.
I’ll tell you, at the end of the day, I am happier with who I am today than at any other point in my life. I don’t know if that has something to do with getting older. All my life experiences, of course, have to do with everything. Twenty-plus years in recovery prepares you for a lot of stuff that I wasn’t aware of how useful that would be.
I’m at the point where even if someone’s not actively struggling with an addiction, I think they should go to open 12-step meetings. I know I’ve mentioned that several times. I’ve written two books on addiction recovery. Twelve steps is just one part of recovery. It’s not the end all be all, and many people don’t recover from 12 steps or just from 12 steps. But most people that poo poo 12 steps.
I always use the analogy, “Would you ever join a gym, not go to the gym and then say, ‘Gyms don’t work?’” You would never say that. Or would you join a gym, sit on the bench, not bench press, and say, “Gyms don’t work?” No, you would never say that. But people will go and sit into a 12-step meeting. They’ll sit in on it, but they won’t get a sponsor. They won’t do the steps, but they’ll say 12 steps don’t work. It’s not an attendance group; it’s a step group.
There are a lot of people who say, “This doesn’t work. That doesn’t work. Your book doesn’t work, Stephan. Your event doesn’t work. Your formulas don’t work with what you teach people.” They do if you work with them. In health activities or spiritual practice, you have to do it.
It’s so easy to be a critic. It’s much harder to be a creator. It’s impossible, I think, to do both at the same time. It’s binary.
I totally agree.
We’re out of time, so I wanted to get a parting word of wisdom from you about what our listeners’ next step should be. What will be the takeaway and next action for them based on our conversation?
Every passing moment is another chance to turn it all around, which is a great line out of this wacky movie, Vanilla Sky, from many years ago. My philosophy is, “What’s in it for them?” That’s why I wrote What’s In It For Them.
The opposite of addiction is connection. To connect with other people, you have to be connected with yourself. Some things talked about were biohacking, cold plunges, saunas, exercise, and eating. You have to go out of your way to avoid finding useful things on how to live a better life.
Or certainly over 400 hours of content on this show alone.
Exactly, yeah. Someone cannot use the excuse of the contents out there. But if you have a thousand options, you don’t have any options. I suggest that any problem in the world can be solved with the right Genius Network. Even though I have a group called Genius Network, every human should have a Genius Network. Those are people who have skills and capabilities.
If you are a giver, then pick up my book, read my book. You’ll like it. I’ve read it if you prefer listening to audio. It’s for givers to have better boundaries around takers. Life gives to the giver and takes in the taker. If you think just now, who are eight people in your life that have been dominoes? They have helped you, they love you, they care about you, they gave you advice, acknowledge them. Call them up and say thank you.
The easiest people, the ones that are so caring, are the ones that we often don’t even pay attention to because they’re not yelling at us. The whole squeaky wheel gets the oil. My friend Peter says the squeaky wheel gets replaced. Replace the squeaky wheels in your life. If you want an ELF life that is easy, lucrative and fun, get rid of the hard, annoying, lame, and frustrating.
The opposite of addiction is connection. To connect with other people, you have to be connected with yourself.
Success is not when you arrive. Success is a series of doing things in a certain way to take care of yourself. If I started freebasing cocaine again two weeks from now, if I did it every day, my life would be completely unraveled compared to how it is. It is a daily, consistent activity.
If you are disconnected in any way, shape, or form, look at why because, as you said, everything is a message. There’s a message there. The question is, “Are we noticing it? Are we listening to it?”
Love is always there. God, source, whatever you want to refer to it as is always there. The clouds are in the way. When the sun is up, the sun is up. When the sun is down, the sun is down. When it’s dark, it’s only dark for a short period. Don’t live in the darkness, but don’t burn yourself by trying to stay in the sun all the time. It’s a bit of both.
Just clear out the clouds. But when the storms come, realize the atmospheric conditions. If you understood the atmospheric conditions of somebody’s life, it would make sense why they are the way they are. You, me, and everyone listening, I believe we can change the atmospheric conditions of our lives, of our community, and of the people around us.
You can wake up every day and write a comedy, a tragedy, a horror story, a drama. What story are you writing? Your life and your actions are what produce that. If you feel lost to your point, tap into a higher source and ask for guidance. You’d be surprised. There you go.
That was a lot.
A lot of parting thoughts. I tried to stuff it all in there.
Good stuff. Joe. You’re a light in the world. Thank you for everything that you do for everybody, me included. Listener, get out there and do some good in the world like Joe, and we’ll catch you in the next episode. I’m your host, Stephan Spencer, signing off.
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Checklist of Actionable Takeaways
Overcome my trauma in order to grow. Face and process my trauma and understand how it has influenced my life.
Build strong connections with others that can help me overcome my past relational fears. Surround myself with positive and supportive people.
Discard old beliefs and habits. Letting go of my old, destructive habits and beliefs can be more important than learning new, positive habits and thought patterns. Simplify my experiences as a powerful tool for self-development.
Engage in spiritual practices or meditation. This helps me connect with my inner self and my higher power.
Cultivate compassion for myself and for others. Accept that everyone’s journey is unique and valuable.
Develop awareness. Recognize the collective human tendency to believe we’re always correct, even when we’re not. Develop my self-awareness to avoid this pattern.
Release attachments. Identify and release attachments in my life, whether they relate to material possessions or personal preferences. Sometimes, attachments can hold me back.
Maintain both physical and mental health. Sleep, exercise, meditation, and other practices contribute to overall well-being.
Avoid relying solely on technology for personal connection technology. I can’t let technology disconnect me from the real world. Find a balance between my digital and physical interactions.
Practice the power of generosity. Giving back doesn’t just mean financial gifts — I can change lives even with limited resources.
Connect with Joe Polish and access his valuable resources on joepolish.com. Follow Joe Polish on social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or LinkedIn to stay updated on his latest content and resources.
About Joe Polish
Joe Polish is the Founder of Genius Network, one of the highest-level groups in the world for entrepreneurs. He curates the Annual Genius Network Event, Genius Network ($25,000), and 100k ($100,000), all three groups being home to some of the most successful entrepreneurs alive, and is considered one of the most influential connectors in the world. Joe has also helped build thousands of businesses and generated hundreds of millions of dollars for his clients. He has been featured in INC, Fortune, Forbes, Success, and U.S. News & World Report, among others, and has spoken at Stanford University. Joe also hosts three of the top-ranked marketing and business podcasts on iTunes, including iLoveMarketing, 10xTalk, and GeniusNetwork. He’s also changed the lives of many others through his charitable causes, including The Make-A-Wish Foundation, Artists for Addicts, Genius Recovery, and JoeVolunteer.com, as well as being the single largest contributor to Sir Richard Branson’s charity, Virgin Unite.
His documentary, CONNECTED: The Joe Polish Story, premiered at the historic TCL Chinese Theatre (formerly Mann’s Chinese Theatre), and his documentary Black Star won the Audience Choice Award at the Sedona Film Festival. Joe’s mission with entrepreneurs and Genius Network is “to build a better entrepreneur,” and his mission with Genius Recovery is “to change the global conversation of how people view and treat addicts with compassion instead of judgment and to find the best forms of treatment that have efficacy and share those with the world.”
Disclaimer: The medical, fitness, psychological, mindset, lifestyle, and nutritional information provided on this website and through any materials, downloads, videos, webinars, podcasts, or emails is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical/fitness/nutritional advice, diagnoses, or treatment. Always seek the help of your physician, psychologist, psychiatrist, therapist, certified trainer, or dietitian with any questions regarding starting any new programs or treatments, or stopping any current programs or treatments. This website is for information purposes only, and the creators and editors, including Stephan Spencer, accept no liability for any injury or illness arising out of the use of the material contained herein, and make no warranty, express or implied, with respect to the contents of this website and affiliated materials.
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