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Welcome to the Wealthy Wellthy Life with Krisstina Wise. This interview is a continuation of last week’s show with Erik Wahl. After Erik’s mid-life crisis, he learned that being vulnerable is a very valuable thing. Erik often creates art on stage in front of thousands of viewers. Of course he feels scared, of course he feels like he might fail, or that his art sucks, but there’s a much deeper message about what he’s doing that makes it all worthwhile. Find out what that message is in this week’s interview!
You can also click on the time stamps below to jump to those specific points in the conversation.
What We Covered
- [01:50] – In order for you to really grow and succeed, you have to fail publicly.
- [02:40] – Does Erik ever have any doubts about his paintings?
- [05:15] – We’re capable of doing hard things, but we often don’t because we’re afraid of failure.
- [08:35] – Erik goes to live music concerts and theatre to find inspiration for his speaking gigs.
- [13:15] – How can people balance themselves out between the numbers and the art?
- [19:10] – You have to experience pain and suffering to really appreciate nirvana.
- [20:55] – Why are you spiraling down? Why are you so unhappy and unfulfilled? These are very important questions to ask yourself.
- [22:55] – Make no mistake, pain sucks! The good news is: This too shall pass.
- [29:00] – Let curiosity pull you into something new. You don’t have to force your creative or analytical mind to be something it’s not.
- [33:25] – What keeps Erik curious?
- [36:45] – How much does fear impact our lives? A lot!
- [40:20] – We’ve got to start somewhere. We all were beginners at one point in our lives.
- [43:20] – Have there been any dark moments for Erik since he became an artist?
- [48:05] – Remember, you might have perceived it to be a complete failure, but someone else might have thought it rocked!
- [49:05] – Erik busts some myths!
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Read the Transcription!
You are at the intersection of wealth, health, and happiness. Welcome to the Wealthy Wellthy Life.
Hello, and welcome to the Wealthy Wellthy Life, the show about becoming wealthy without sacrificing your healthy. Each week, I interview a counter-cultural thought leader to bring you a unique millionaire mindset. I’m Krisstina Wise, bestselling author, millionaire coach, and your personal guide to money, health, and happiness.
Today, I tackle money wealth with Erik Wahl. Erik is one of the most sought after motivational speakers in the world. Although he loved art from a very young age, he was discouraged by the people around him from pursuing a creative path because it wasn’t a marketable, practical skill. So, Erik worked hard in school, got good grades, went to college, and got the corporate job that was expected of him.
It wasn’t until he lost his executive job, his money, and his ego that he reconnected with his real passion for art and creativity. He harnessed his natural creativity and has since become a successful artist who uses his art as a metaphor for business and life. Erik is one of the most successful and captivating speakers in the world who keynotes as he paints on stage in front of thousands of people in sold-out auditoriums. I loved this interview, and I bet Erik’s message will ignite that creative spark in you too. Enjoy.
This is part 1 of a 2-part interview. So, if you missed part 1, be sure to check out last week’s episode in order to catch up.
Well, there’s a couple things that stand out there is number 1, because of the internet age that we’re in and social media that, I think, in order to really grow and succeed, and I find this for myself now, you have to be able to fail publicly because everything’s out there to be seen, and you have to put your stuff out there. So, you can’t hide behind filters, and edits, and 100 iterations before you actually put the final thing out there as the perfect brand, or the perfect this, or the perfect that.
So, there becomes a different level of vulnerability in creating and being that you might be judged for that. So, how much of that, when you’re going and you have a blank canvas, how much resistance is there? Are you like fully over it that you’re just going to paint? Is there still like this, “Oh my god, what if this is crappy or what if this isn’t well received?”? Because, I think that’s what causes the stops to so many people is that they’re just so afraid that maybe they’re going to paint the wrong thing and be judged negatively for it so, “I’d rather just not try at all.”
Yeah, so I’m a beginner. Do I struggle with this? Every single day. Is it an issue for me? Absolutely, yes. However, I’m also aware that it’s an issue and I’m also aware that, usually, almost without exception, when I am angry, or when I’m let down because something didn’t meet my expectations, it has something to do with my ego that I was protecting and defending a portion of my ego that is fictitious.
It doesn’t really exist. It’s just what I thought I wanted the world to see. I wanted them to think I’m a badass painter. I wanted them to think that I’m a genius philosophical speaker coming up with genius ideas on the spot that it’s just the way that it is. That’d be nice if that was it, but that’s not reality. I’m grinding, and I’m suffering, and I’m hurting, but I’m learning to let it go. I’m learning to not let that identify me or label me, and I’m able to let that go and then move on.
So, failure does not — even though I fail more than anyone that I know, I don’t let those failures define me. They still hurt. They absolutely hurt. I’m a volatile, emotional, passionate person. I love deeply and I suffer deeply. I live life like this, but life like this is so much more exciting than flatlining. I know how to flatline. I’ve flatlined for the first 30 years of my life. I was very predictable, very pragmatic, very logical, very rational, very linear in how I approached everything. I was very safe and secure. But, I didn’t get to experience the beauty of life, nor did I experience the great pain of life.
But, the great pains of life are life. That’s what allows for the beauty to arise. That’s what allows me to notice the beauty in that sunset is because I endured the hard night. I made it, and we can do hard things. We oftentimes don’t. Because we insulate, or we walk away from it, or we say, “I don’t like failure,” and so we don’t expose ourselves to hard things. But, we’re capable of doing hard things. We’re capable of enduring things that are not comfortable, and it makes us better people. But, the labor, and the grinding, and the pain makes us better people, and makes us more whole people, and more interesting people.
If it was just perfection, and beauty, and joy all the time, it would get boring and uninteresting and you wouldn’t want to watch me. People would rather watch me be real, and suffer, and hurt, and create crap three times, and then all of a sudden, “Whoa, that led to a brilliant moment.” They would rather see the authenticity following the trail of breadcrumbs of suckiness that led to something cool than they would just, “Wow, he just creates cool things, cool things, cool things.”
I think they are more interested in the story that led to, maybe, a breakthrough thought and all of the failures, and risks, and things that I experienced to find something new. To me, I’ve found that’s more interesting to people. It’s certainly more vulnerable for me. I’ve had to get used to people critiquing my sucky art, my sucky writing, my sucky filmmaking, but I’ve gotten better because of it.
Talk about vulnerability. You put yourself on stage with tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of people in the audience, and you’re right up there painting from scratch. It’s just such a beautiful example of, “Just put yourself out there, and whatever creation it is, it’s something as opposed to nothing.”
It’s something as opposed to nothing, and it’s actually not the something. The painting isn’t it at all. It’s the experience of watching. So, I could critique each painting that I’ve done in front of a large audience and say, “The zygomatic arch in the eye was off, the lighting was inaccurate. I could have done this better.” I can critique it with the best of them. However, that’s not what this experience is about. It was about actually creating something from nothing choreographed to music and a rock show that ignited the audience, gave them a reason to lean forward and go, “Whoa! I wasn’t expecting that from our general session keynote speaker.”
Well, when you’re in the experience too, Erik, the way you talk about it, and even seeing you performing is that there’s no critic. So, if you’re just looking at an end product. It’s so easy to critique, and maybe it’s not perfect or whatever. But, when you’re in a full experience, like what you offer your audiences, there’s no critique because you’re just in the moment with you and what’s happening on stage and everybody around you. There’s no critic because it’s totally rolled by emotion and the fulfillment of what’s happening and unfolding in this moment in time.
So, I think it’s even another metaphor and example in there, like really the living is in the unfolding of the moment, and it keeps us from being so judgmental and critical if we’re not so attached to — when it’s not about the end product, the something.
So, here’s where that was born from, because I think that’s important for your logical listeners, is I don’t go watch other keynote speakers. I don’t go to Toastmasters, I don’t go to NSA, I don’t watch other speakers for how to become a speaker. I go see live music, I go to theater, I go to operas, I go in the mosh pit, everywhere I’m in the country. Not because I love that band, or love that singer, or have those songs, or think that’s going to be a good play. I’m going because that’s my homework.
I’m looking at what artists are doing to fascinate an audience, to get audiences to stand up and cheer, and then I reverse-engineer that back into speaking. So, what that did if I were to a speaking class, they would tell you, “You open up with, maybe, some self-deprecating humor, you maybe open up with a quote, you maybe open up with a fact, and then you give your supporting thesis, and then you give a three-bodied paragraph on all that support that thesis, and then you give a concluding statement, and a PowerPoint, and that’s the way you speak.”
That, to me, is not interesting. That is linear, logical, rational dinosaur presentations. I want to create a rock show. I want to create a fascinating experience that is no longer critiqued. It’s an emotional release. Oh, and by the way, in addition to having this emotional release, I’m also educating you on adapting to change. I’m also giving you some tips on leadership. I’m giving you some tidbits on how to grow your brand.
So, within this fascinating rock show experience, I’m also giving actual takeaway, but I’m packaging it in slick, little, clever metaphors and mythos as opposed to logic that they’re going to see in a PowerPoint slide and be able to write down in their notes. I don’t want anyone to take a note during my presentation. I want them to experience it as a whole. Just like when I go see U2. I don’t want to write down, “Okay, did they do Where The Streets Have No Name? Check. Okay, I want to make sure that they do Beautiful Day. Check.” I want to experience the whole concert from start to finish and then, maybe afterwards, go like, “Oh man, they didn’t play Beautiful Day,” or, “Oh goodness, this was different than I thought it was going to be.”
But, I want to take in their version of what they’re wanting to share with me from start to finish and not critique it; just be a part of it. So, that’s what I want to create from the stage. In watching me, you say, “But, you’re not critiquing your art, you’re not critiquing this,” and I sort of realized that early that there’s a lot to critique about me. I don’t look like the other speakers look. I don’t, maybe, dress the way they do, I don’t use their language, but I want to use that as a competitive advantage, and I want to give them a reason why I don’t look like them so I remove the critique element and I give them fascination. I give them a rock show, I give them music and emotion.
Emotion can’t be critiqued. Emotion’s just something we feel, and I would rather have them feel something than to critique, “Is this keynote of value? Is this writing of value? Is this time of value?” Value is in what we get out of any one of these experiences, and it can be in a rap concert, it can be in the mosh pit, it can be in the opera, and it can be in the most dry, economic speaker. It’s how we allow them to fascinate us and how we process this information together to create something new.
So, for people, like you said, that we tend to live in our — well, we all live in our narratives, clearly, as linguistic creatures. But, we do create these narratives about ourselves, even labels that have, more or less, been given to us: I’m a left brain or a right brain. So, I love the fact that you talk about the duality and that it’s not either/or, and it’s really working to become both, and yes/and, I think, is what you said.
But, what sort of advice do you have to the more people that consider themselves more analytical, and I know I used to think that about myself. Like, I was one that said, “I’m a total left brain, I’m an analytical thinker, I’m type-A personality, very goal-oriented, success-oriented. I do not have a creative bone in my body.” Now, I’ve moved over and I do have a different narrative about myself. I actually think I’m very creative.
In fact, I’m most happy when I’m creating, but not in the traditional sense of painting. I’ve never picked up an instrument. I can write, but I wouldn’t call myself a writer. But, what are other ways, like what advice do you have for people that do sort of label themselves to be able to balance themselves out, especially if they don’t have these more traditional, let’s say, characteristics, or talents, if you will.
I think the trick is transcending and including, and it’s not that now you are creative, and expressive, and emotional, and you’re no longer analytical and disciplined. You still are. You still are an alpha dog. You’re an achiever. You know how to kick ass and you know how to create momentum and productivity. So now, you’ve just added to that, and it’s not that you’ve released that and you’re no longer analytical. You’re just adding to that. So, if someone is analytical, I would say, “Yes, you already won half the battle.” In fact, it’s far easier for me to teach a person who is analytical how to be creative than it is for me to teach someone who is creative how to be analytical.
So, if you’re analytical, you’ve already won half the battle. You’ve already got the hard work out of the way. Now, it’s a matter of how do you explore, and what are the baby steps that you’re going to take that you’re going to allow yourself to open up? Because, it’s not going to happen overnight. It’s going to be an evolutionary process of trying, failing, trying again, adjusting, trying, failing, trying again. We can use art or painting as a channel. It’s not the end game. All of your analytic listeners, your entrepreneurs, are not going to achieve greater happiness, or greater success, or greater bottom line because they painted.
However, what they will tap into is a new way of thinking, a new way of seeing. So, whether they try and start painting, or maybe they try photography, maybe they try ballroom dancing, maybe they try and learn a foreign language, maybe they try and do something that, maybe in the back of their head is, “That will be cool.” But, to get out and now start doing it, and to take the risk, and if it’s learn a foreign language, you want to learn German, that you study up for a month of boot camp hard studying and then you go to Germany, and then you put yourself where you have to communicate in German, and you don’t rely on the crutches of your English, or try and default to, maybe, some broken Spanish or something else. You put yourself in it and you learn by experience, and you learn by failing, and you learn that you have to figure out how to say, “Where’s the bathroom?” because there’s some real ramifications if you don’t.
So, put yourself in experiential situations where you need to learn these things, and it ultimately is all pointed towards how to think, how to open up our mind, and not rely on yesterday’s formula, yesterday’s English, yesterday’s skill sets to succeed tomorrow. We need to learn new languages, new patterns of thinking, new forms of identifying our own happiness, our spouse’s happiness, our worker’s happiness.
All of those things are very real, and they don’t just happen like this. They take a lot of experiential learning to truly empathize with your team, with your coworkers, with your customers, with your kids, with your spouse. It takes a lot of work, and you’ve got to be willing to do the work, and you’ve got to be willing to endure hardships, and maybe some things that don’t go perfectly well. But, to realize that’s where the growth happens, that is how our muscles expand, that’s how our health improves, it’s when we push through resistance.
So, for our relationships, we don’t quit when they get hard. I don’t divorce my boys when they bum me out or don’t do well in school. I embrace them and I realize this was not what I had envisioned for you. I didn’t want this to happen to you, your friends, your teachers, your authorities, but we’re going to learn from this, and we’re going to grow from this.
That happens in my business, in my art, with my wife, with my boys. I endure hardship. I can do hard things and I use them to grow and get better, not to say, “My boys suck. They studied and they got a C on that test. They suck.” Nope, let’s go back at this. First of all, our grade’s important. What’s the purpose of why we’re studying this? What are the bigger picture things? Then, focus on the things that really matter, and keep the major major and the minor minor.
We just took a business podcast into parenting techniques.
I think that’s so much the lesson is that it is fundamental. It transcends across everything is that there’s the homeostasis of life, of balance of nature, and it’s not about perfection. It’s just about constant growth and development in working, and trying, and breaking through the resistance, and being in the experience of that, and sometimes it shows up as pain, and suffering, and hardship, and sometimes it shows up as nirvana, like, “Wow, I’d got through that. We did this, we accomplished that, we produced this together, we created something from nothing. There’s virtue in my work and what I’m offering to the world and they’ve received it well this time, and the next time they hate it.” So, it’s just the dance of being in life and moving with it, and just dancing with it.
And the reality is is you will not experience nirvana without going through the pain, and suffering, and darkness. If we don’t allow ourselves to go through that, then we cannot reach the joy, and the happiness, and the nirvana that we aspire towards. Success will be a false oasis. We’ll never reach it. We’ll always want more. We thought that having 10 million in the bank was going to be enough. But, you ask anyone with 10 million in the bank, it’s not enough. They want more. If they only have $1,000 in the bank, they want more.
It has nothing to do with what you have out there. It’s what you have inside. I realize that’s a very holistic mindset and reframing, but it’s where I found life again after I realized that I was never going to hit this mark of success that even though people would have seen it, they would have said I was successful, but it didn’t feel like it, because it will never be enough.
Yeah, it’s never enough, and when your life becomes about you’re good enough, or happiness is it’s some level of success or achievement, or outward status or whatever. When that doesn’t go as planned, it throws you into that downward spiral. So, I think the way to pull out of that, even, is to come into terms with, “Okay, that’s not the answer. There must be something else,” and then going on, maybe, even the self-discovery journey of what is it and why? And it becomes very philosophical and pragmatic at the same time.
And understanding why am I spiraling down? Why am I free-falling? Why am I so unhappy or unfulfilled? Those are questions that, I think, ultimately, we need to ask on our way down. Because, unless we know those things, we’re just going to keep spiraling down, and we’re going to do some quick fixes to try and take a vacation to think that that’s going to make us better. We’re going to reset and all of a sudden, feel whole again. There’s a lot of things that we try and do for quick fixes, but they’re not going to work until we find our why and what is really truly driving us where we find happiness outside of external and circumstantial stuff.
Absolutely. So much of life is the polarity as well. As like you said, it is a pendulum that you can’t experience nirvana until you’ve probably experienced some level of really dark pain and suffering. Then, being able to compare the two and appreciate the nirvana and be able to know you can make it through the pain and suffering, and life swings back and forth versus numbing the pain.
I think so much, and I know I’ve learned this for myself, is being afraid of pain. It’s okay to just be in the pain sometimes. It will pass. The weather changes, and just sitting with it at the time and trying to listen like what’s the lesson here, or what got me here, or am I attached to something that when I didn’t get it? Just trying to be more introspective in understanding ourselves.
But, ultimately, it goes about just being okay and experiencing this, and going back to being curious, and being willing to fail, and putting yourself out there, and this equal dance between some analytical linear ROI, and being a creative innovator, whimsical creature, and just being in the dance of life.
The dance of life, and make no mistake, pain sucks.
Yes, it sucks. It does suck.
It hurts, and it still hurts me, and I’m still a victim of it. The only thing that’s changed is I’ve come to the realization that this too shall pass and I am actually going to grow from this. I will improve in some way if I can make it through this dark chapter, through this letdown, through this obstacle. I’m going to zag, and adjust, and grow, and that helps me sit in the darkness of suffering to know that I’ve been here before, that I can make it, I can do hard things. Don’t numb this. Even though I want to, don’t numb it because I need to experience the fullness of this suffering, this darkness, this uncertainty to be able to move forward.
If I numb it, I lose the potential for what it wanted to offer me or how I could have grown, and then I actually just become weaker. I become a weaker, less mentally tough, less disciplined person by numbing and by resisting suffering and pain. It’s the dance of life, and it’s a beautiful dance of life, and it allows for the highest of highs. I love those highs and that, to me, I don’t know if I could say that’s what life is about, but I love those experiences, and I don’t know that I’ve fully had those experiences before I was 30.
Before, when I was so analytical, it was more check, check. It was more did it meet my expectations? Now, it’s less expectations and more experiences. Experiences are live and in the moment, and when I have expectations, they’re usually not met. When it’s an experience, it’s everything that it was supposed to be.
Yeah, and just trying to be less attached to some predetermined outcome. Well, you’ve used the word, and obviously, a lot of people — some people might be watching on YouTube, and we’ll see you talk with your hands, and see how you light up, and you just speak from your heart. But, those just listening might not see that. You’ve used the word throughout our entire time together, this “love” word. Like, I can see that you feel. So, talk about being a businessman, and a type A, and an achiever, and very hugely, enormously successful, and being like this lover of life at the same time. How did those two work inside of you?
Sure. We’re going to talk about this in the context of a business podcast, and again, I don’t talk about this from the stage. Love is actually a controversial word in our society, and you don’t talk about love in the board meeting. You talk about ROI, and margin, and analytics, and profitability, and teamwork and collaboration. Love doesn’t come up as much even though love is actually what drives every one of those things.
It drives our passion, it drives our curiosity, it drives our relationships, it drives my art, it drives me in doing the hard work. It drives me in the discipline of enduring hardship, and if it’s learning a new language, I learn to love why I want to learn that language, not learn, “Is this verb conjugated properly, and is this going to be effective for me when I’m over in this country?”
It’s all driven from curiosity, love, passion. Another word is actually closely tied to love, for me, is this beginner’s mind. It’s like a child just loves. They also know what they don’t love. But, this beginner’s mind of curiosity is, I think, where love blossoms from. Love is an emotional attachment. We can’t critique it, we can’t rate it. I can’t have you tell me, “What number do you love your mom? What are the analytics? What is the ROI on your love of your mom?”
You have your own personal story and relationship with your mom that no one can judge. No one can critique it, or analyze it, or put ROI. Love is off the scale. It’s mythos. It is relative and it’s part of our human story. But, it created who you are. It created you as a person and she helped form you and breathe life into you and give you direction. You can’t rate your mom.
So, that’s the way I view a lot of the other things in my life is they’re not to be rated for ROI. They’re to be rated for love, and emotion, and passion, and empathy, and tolerance. So, all of those kind of mystical, holistic words go together, but they’re at the base of why we go in search of ROI, why we want to improve or optimize analytics, why we want to improve customer service, or improve ourselves as leaders, because we love it. Because, we love the game. We love growing ourselves, we love growing other people, we love nurturing them, we love the thrill of victory, we love competition.
So, to remove love from the equation removes the nuances of what business and brand-building has to potentially be. There, that’s what love means to me in business.
I love it. I mean, you speak with love, and you obviously speak from your heart. Again, I think you’re such a good example of the balance. You are very successful, but you exude this energy, and passion can almost be an overused word these days even in the business world. Find what you’re passionate about, or live with passion.
But, I think it’s really exchanging the word “passion”. I mean, passion’s a great word, but really a love of or a curiosity of, and the love of curiosity, and exploration, and that beginner’s mind that you talk about. I mean, that pulls you. You don’t have to try to force anything or analyze it to death, or wonder it to death. Like, it starts to just pull you and you’re almost just going with the current versus trying to paddle upstream or whatever to get to the destination.
If you don’t love your work, you can change it. If it doesn’t feel comfortable, it feels insecure, wait a second, I studied to be an accountant, I studied to be an engineer, I studied to be this. I have to be this. If you don’t love it, if you don’t love doing what you’re doing, you can change it, and that’s amazing that we have the ability to change even though it’s uncertain and uncomfortable.
But, we do hold that ability to change, and change can happen in an instant. It doesn’t need to be a long, drawn out change. Change happens the second we decide to choose a new path, and that new path can either be frighteningly scary, and uncertain, and crush us, or it can be a crazy, new, beautiful adventure that’s not a mystery to be solved, but rather, an adventure to be lived. I love that we have those opportunities and I love love.
You do love love. That’s very obvious. Well, and then that can transcend. So, it probably begins with a love of self, a love of creation, a love of our work, and our creation that comes through our work. But then, it’s a love of our people, and a love of our audiences, and a love of our customers. Like, when we really can start moving towards less, the analytics are important. They do tell their own story. We do have to be aware of the numbers and set the goals, and the targets, and the objectives.
But, not to be balanced out with when we can balance those — like, I see this love in you, this love to perform, this love of engaging your audiences, this love of telling a story, this love of demonstrating your artwork, this love of making impact, this love of, probably, your family and the people around you. When you can balance the two out, that’s probably where the magic lives.
It is, and a good short-term mini example is I used to not like social media. It’s not that I was ambivalent towards it. I didn’t like it. It seemed like a waste of time to me. I learned some new things, I explored, I experienced. Now, I love it. I love it because I’m a beginner in a whole new world and I understand it differently. So, what used to anger me, frustrate me, confuse me, I’ve now shifted and I actually love it. I love trying to explore and to figure it out. It was just a change in consciousness, a change in how I framed, in this case, social media.
So, anything can be reframed. Anything that you currently dislike, I think there’s ways to reframe it and find ways to make it fascinating and engaging again.
Well, you’ve said so many, just, golden nuggets. I mean, some of the things that I’ve really loved that you’ve said is I love this. We’re all capable of doing hard things, and that’s a really strong quote because we are all stronger than we think we are, and when you believe you can do strong things and you can get through hard moments, I think it can change so much.
I love this quote of yours: “The lack of creativity is a lack of curiosity”. Yeah, we’ve gotten so numb just going through the day to day, same way to work, do your work, come home, get in these routines that are almost unfulfilling, and we’ve lost so much curiosity, and I’m just guessing, as an artist, you’re always looking at things in a certain way in just, “What’s different, or what’s a different color?” or, “Wow, that’s a different shape I’ve never seen before,” or something. But, what keeps you curious? Is this something that you hone? Is it a natural thing, or is it just sort of a belief system that you’ve acquired?
It’s a belief system and I’m grateful that I do know that I have a fanbase or an audience that I will be sharing with. So, everything that I take in in my life, I’m translating to, “How am I going to share this with an audience?” Whether I’m watching Zootopia with my boys, or whether I’m watching Donald Trump with my father. I’m not critiquing, as much, Trump, although I have some, maybe, challenges. I’m more curious how he has fascinated a nation. How has he created so much momentum, and how does he have half of our country’s enthusiasm? What is the narrative that’s been built? How has he done this? Why is he so offensive to some people and so attractive to some people?
So, it’s less, to me, about the actual Zootopia movie, or Donald Trump, or the brand of Apple computers, and more the everything that takes place around it and why other people find it fascinating and how that relates to me as an artist, how it relates to me as an entrepreneur, how it relates to me as a writer, a performer.
So, everything has potential. Everything’s pregnant with possibility if I look beyond that first layer of kind of gut reaction or reflex. Reflex is such a poor indicator of who we truly are. Those initial emotions: anger, frustration, those are blinders on where this conversation, this potential, this country has the potential to go, our business has the potential to go, me as an artist has the potential to go.
If I took the first gut reaction, mine or someone else’s, those are not always proper indicators, and are often false indicators, but the curiosity around it, the situation around it, the complexity around it, it does. It just interests me in a way that is new all the time. I like it.
So, a few more questions. I know we’re running out of time here. I think you and I could talk forever. You’re amazing. So, how much is fear getting in our way as far as just being afraid to go out there and try social media, like you said, or just go out and put ourselves out there. I’m just guessing fear trumps so much of our creativity, of our ability to make impact, or big shifts, or try really new things.
So, we’re really, like you said the reflex of fear, anger, or just standoffishness, or I don’t like that, how much of that’s fear, and how do you get over that fear? Because, I’m sure that you experience that too, but you’re just kind of jumping over it and then continuing on.
Well, the simple answer, and this is the bullet point actionable takeaway, “How much does fear impact our lives?” A lot. It affects me a lot, but being aware of what I’m fearful and why am I fearful of it is a much more accurate place to start the process. What is the worst case scenario? Why is this such a tumultuous feeling, anxiety, why am I feeling this? Once I can pinpoint that, I’m much more aware and able to navigate around it.
Fear is real. A lot of times, fear’s in our life to protect us. So, I don’t want to ignore them and walk on the edge of the cliff close to death if this fear is protecting me and keeping me alive. But, I want to know what are the situations around me and is this something that’s holding me back? Fear holds me back all the time. I have fear. Everyone has fear, and I think we need to acknowledge that and realize that that fear is difficult to get through in everything that we’re doing. It’s difficult in relationships, it’s difficult in business, it’s difficult with our health. There’s a lot of fears out there and we need to figure those out.
It’s not just blowing through them. That’s not realistic, but every time that we come face-to-face with fear, and we are able to work through it or get past it, we become stronger, we become more courageous, and we become more confident. So, those points of fear are little mini-vaccination opportunities where we can overcome fear in small areas so that it’s not so overwhelming in big areas when stuff happens later on.
So, I try and use little mini-incubators of, “Can I work on this fear? Can I do this? Can I go talk to this person even though I don’t want to? Can I put this piece of art out there for people to see even though I feel afraid of doing that?” I’ll create little mini-incubators to try and vaccinate myself against fear, but I still experience fear all the time. It’s very real. I talk about it all the time. Do as I say, not as I do. I’m very good at explaining to other people how to overcome fear, but me doing it personally is a whole ‘nother issue, and I need to deal with that, and it happens not only daily, it probably happens hourly. So, I just need to be aware that fear plays a big role in who I am now, and where I have the potential to go.
Yeah, and I just appreciate you sharing that because I think that it can be in the back of a lot of people’s minds like, “Well, they’re so successful. They just don’t even experience fear anymore, and it’s just confidence. It’s really the realization, like no, these different things, putting yourself out there is almost always fearful one way or another and it’s just knowing I’ve done it before and even if it’s a terrible response and nobody stands up and I don’t even get any applause, I’ll make it through it and it’s going to be okay. It’s not even life or death, but we attach so much like we’re so fearful of getting a negative response, or a negative review, or some criticism, or maybe being judged a certain way, or not being good enough when we compare ourselves to how everybody else is doing like, “They’re great on social media, and I’m going to look horrible and like a beginner, so I’m just not going to do it at all.”
So, I think it’s really good to hear. We all experience this fear, and it’s just doing what it takes to think about it and get past it, and sort of do it anyway when it’s not life or death.
The master in anything was once a beginner, and we’re all beginners in new things and we’ve got to overcome some of these small hurdles. A lot of times, there are mental stigmas or blocks that have been kind of positioned in us that really, maybe, had no business being there in the first place, from the time that we were 5, 7, 10, 12 years old, we developed ideas for who we are and who we are not, and then we have fear based on these things that we developed when we were so young.
To be able to, I think, be aware of that, acknowledge that, not ignore it, acknowledge it and be, “Oh, that’s why I don’t like people hearing me sing, that’s why I don’t get out on the dance floor at weddings, because oh yeah.” So, just kind of understanding where is, and then what would happen if I did go and dance, and look silly, and I do the — was that part of the experience of being able to just overcome it and do it? Some of you thought it would be a good actual takeaway for people.
Next wedding you go to, even though you’re not used to dancing, go do it just because you should. Not because you’re a good dancer and not because people aren’t going to look at you, and not because they’re not going to make jokes about it afterwards, but do it because you can.
Yeah, because it might just feel good to be out on the dance floor and not give a damn about what anybody else thinks and just be with the music and be with one’s self and experience that.
And there might be something as far as mental toughness that you overcame a fear of looking silly and you did it anyway. And, damn, you did look silly. Yeah, you don’t dance like Michael Jackson danced, but you did it then, and you didn’t die, and you might be able to do something else the next time. So, again, that’s a little mini-vaccination, little mini-exercise to explore not, “Am I a good dancer?” but can I overcome this perception of what other people think of me as I move or don’t move well on the dance floor?
Well, that’s perfect. Alright, just a couple more questions, and you already shared one of these with us, but I’d love to see if another one comes to mind. You know, I interview a lot of highly uber-successful people, and so it’s so easy for us to think, “Wow, they’re successful. I can’t really relate to them. They can’t really relate to where I am,” but we all have had these transformational moments, or pivot moments, or low moments that really did become a launch pad for changing the trajectory of our lives to maybe move towards where we are now.
So, you said about in the dot-com bust and that ended up being a very dark moment for you in a place of feeling failure, and suffering, and, “Wow, who am I if I’m not a bunch of zeros?” the real pain that came out of that. Are there any other sort of dark moments, maybe, even as you become an artist on the other side of that that you’d like to share? Because, I really want the listeners to hear, “Yeah, it’s not always been perfect, it’s not always been easy.”
Yeah, I could unfortunately name hundreds, and a lot of them are still too close to home for me to be able to share with your viewers, because I hadn’t fully dealt with them, and I’m still suffering as a result of them, but one that I would say that was very visible was 2012, I created a film, and it was, in my head, brilliant, and this was going to be not only the script, but the filming, the photography, the packaging, the distribution, everything about it was going to be unbelievable.
It wasn’t and I almost had nervous breakdowns as a result as this was actually happening, as we were filming. I carved a Mona Lisa in the desert, 10,000 square foot Mona Lisa in the desert, and it didn’t turn out exactly how I had intended it to. The filming didn’t turn out. My ability to convey a script didn’t turn out like everything I had in my head. So, there were a lot of things that went wrong, but because I had so much enthusiasm, and hope, and expectations that this was going to be awesome, not only did it not come close to meeting any of them, it actually went so far below that I was like, “I suck as a writer, I suck as an artist, I suck as a collaborator working with other people,” and it just didn’t turn out good.
I learned a lot about myself. I didn’t learn a lot about art. I would do things differently, but it was expensive, it was bad. It took me a long time to work through it, because I thought it was going to be so awesome, and it wasn’t, and it didn’t meet my expectations, and it took me a long time, and I’ve had a lot of other similar experiences since then. So, that’s kind of the ugly stepchild of hopes, and dreams, and vision, and love, and passion is its equal and opposite unmet expectations, and broken relationships, and suffering and darkness.
So, if I’m going to dream, I have to be ready to catch not every dream’s going to work. That was one that didn’t. It hurt. It took me a long time of personal reflection, a lot of support from my wife to try new things again. But, I continued to try, I worked beyond that. That is what it is. It’s very public. It’s out there. I’m embarrassed by it, but I’m okay. It didn’t kill my brand, and now it’s maybe part of this story. People can go back and see, “Wow. Yeah, he’s right. That did suck, but it didn’t knock him down, and yeah, he is still going,” and I had that stuff going on all the time. I’m in the middle of one right now.
So, I’m happy that you see happiness, and passion, and excitement, and hope in me. But, just even in these very moments, I’m also experiencing just some really tough shit that is hurting me because I’ve put too much validity or weight on something that, maybe, didn’t deserve it, and it’s part of my journey.
It’s part of your journey, and it is part of life, and it’s even finding humor in certain things long after the pain, and embarrassment, and suffering, and all that stuff wears off. Then, it’s knowing, sometimes too, who your true friends and followers are, that it’s a love of you, and your work, and your courage, and your impact you make on the world, like, “Yeah, that wasn’t his best work, but that’s okay. I love him anyway,” and people that will be judged you or anyone else by one failed attempt at something means that was probably a pretty shallow relationship anyway.
True, and oftentimes other people don’t know our script. So, what I viewed as an abject failure, someone else might have saw it and actually thought it was kind of awesome, or thought it was inspiring. So, my perception of it is my perception. For me, it sucked and was dark, but it might not have been for them. So, that’s part of the learning process too is I don’t own the monopoly on what is right, and what is effective. It’s a shared experience, and I need to become better at realizing that it’s not about me. It’s about everyone else, and if everyone else has gained something from this even though I suffered a lot, then there’s good in that, and I want to be able to embrace that too.
Well, that’s awesome. Thank you for sharing that. Alright, one final question. I ask this of all my guests, and I always like to do a little myth busting, because I think so much, also, that holds us back is these really strong beliefs that just aren’t true that we’d hold onto for whatever reason. A lot of times it’s just cultural beliefs that we’ve never really thought about or challenged.
So, what is a myth out there, a misconception that you bump into all the time that you just want to call out, like it drives you nuts like, “Oh my god, the entire world is acting as though this is true, and it’s just categorically false.”?
Well, the first part of that is I try not to be shocked about it, because I realize what the narratives are and the situation around it that has led to this line of thinking. But, the one that would be the most prevalent for me, right now, is that analytics are discipline, and creativity and innovation are opposites, that they’re not together. We have to be either/or. That’s what my upcoming book, The Spark and the Grind, is about creativity and discipline, or the discipline of creativity.
Really, like you pool quoted that “a lack of creativity is just a lack of curiosity” is lack of creativity is really akin to laziness. It’s that we have become so comfortable with our crutches of logic, and metrics, and discipline to be able to measure our success that we’re not open to creativity, and we’ve just become reliant and undisciplined and lazy. Exploring creativity is about being mentally tough. It is about becoming strong in ourselves to be able to explore and experience setback or failure and continue pressing on.
So, the fact that discipline and creativity are not opposites, but rather they are one in the same and actually work together would be the myth that I feel like I’ve been addressing the most in the course of last years I’ve been writing so much about this.
Well, and I think I would put myself in that category is that it really is an either/or versus a both/and. So, thank you for really working to bust that one.
Busting myths. We crushed a myth right here.
Awesome! Right here, right now! Well, Erik, you are really amazing and such an inspiration. Again, I feel so lucky, number one, to have met you and had the opportunity to meet you in person, but also to have experienced, in the audience, your work, and your creation. So, I really honor you and appreciate you taking your time to be with me here today and sharing yourself with everybody listening. So, thank you very much.
Thank you. Thank you for the opportunity, thanks for your interest, and I look forward to our paths actually meeting physically at one of our upcoming venues here soon.
I think it will be soon. Thank you so much.
My pleasure. Thanks everyone. I really appreciate your time.
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