"Fulfillment is a deep sustained state of being that comes from the way that you live your life."
Today I got together with my long-time friend, Carey Smolensky, to discuss an important topic that I don’t often talk about – happiness. Carey wanted to know where it sits in relation to passion and the way I live my life, and it was a joy to explore.
Carey has also been helping to produce spectacular live events for years, including our annual Best Year Ever Blueprint, and after years of us twisting his arm he’s finally producing his own first major event—The Passion Summit—in Chicago on May 7th and 8th.
At The Passion Summit, I will be presenting a brand new keynote—titled What Matters Most?—and helping to answer this universal question that we don’t typically ask. (If you’re interested in attending The Passion Summit, click here to register. Use the code YOPALVIP to save up to $350.)
But before that, I think you’ll really enjoy today’s conversation about Happiness & Fulfillment…
- Why I see happiness as an overrated concept—and what’s more important.
- Why emotions are fleeting, but inner peace is not.
- How I achieved long-term fulfillment—and why lasting, sustained happiness comes with it.
- The importance of doing deep work and looking at the big picture, even in the middle of the grind.
- And much more…
JOIN THE CONVERSATION
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Carey: And here we are. Carey Smolenski here and I am excited to be talking to a friend of mine, Hal Elrod. We’ve been friends in about 20 years now, something like that.
Hal: Too long. Too long I think. Twenty years I think. A couple of decades.
Carey: Author of the Miracle Morning, best-selling author, and how many countries are you in now?
Hal: Roughly 100 countries but 30 languages or so.
Carey: Okay. So, just 30?
Hal: Just 30. Yeah. It’s pretty wild when I do get messages all the time from people in France or Korea or often in their language and I got to click like Google translation or whatever to know how they are saying the book has changed their life and it’s been surreal.
Carey: Well, it’s awesome. Congratulations on all the success. Part of the reason that I have Hal on right now is because I wanted to share some aspects that you never really talk about happiness and for someone like yourself that has gone through so many life changes and struggles and I’m just curious, what is your take on happiness and where do you really put that in relationship to passion and the way with your life?
Hal: So, happiness is an interesting word if you will. Happiness you could say it’s a state of being. I think that most people would describe it as an emotion that happiness is an emotion. If you’re feeling happy, you’re feeling that emotion of happiness. I think happiness is kind of overrated and what I mean by that is, well, let me ask you, Carey, have you ever been happy, and a phone call changed that? You’re happy…
Carey: Right. If you allow the phone call to change it.
Hal: Okay. All right. All right. Now we’re peeling back the onion. Now we’re getting deep. Okay. So, yeah, we could be happy and then you’re happy just because you’re happy because whatever is going great and all of a sudden you get a phone call and it’s bad news or whatever and now you’re not happy. So, if you think about happiness is an emotion and we’ll say that over here if you’re listening to this, I’m holding it in my right, my left hand. So, the right hand represents all the positive emotions over here and the left hand represents all the negative emotions over here. So, we have positive, negative. So, positive being happiness, excitement, pleasure, gratitude, all these positive emotions, and the negative emotions like fear and worry and all of those things. And if you think about it, emotions are fleeting typically. Emotions are fleeting and what we’re really after is a state of peace, a state of inner peace. So, again, this is my opinion. I’m going to explain my take on this and, of course, if you’re listening or watching this, you can take it for what it’s worth. So, think of it this way. We’ve got all the positive emotions on the right and the negative emotions on the left. In between happiness and sadness or positive and negative emotion is a place that I call peace. It’s inner peace. And when you are in a state of peace, it’s essentially a neutral state where you’re calm. Everything is as it is. You accept all things that you can’t change therefore you’re at peace with all things you can’t change, and you then can choose whatever emotions will best serve you in the moment. So, think about that.
You could choose whatever emotion would best serve you in the moment. So, if I am emotional, if I am angry for example or I’m upset, well then, I don’t think very clearly. I can’t make good decisions. I can’t choose emotion because I’m overtaken by emotion but when you are living in a state of inner peace and I’m going to explain how to get there in a second, but you then get to choose what emotion would best serve you in any given circumstance. So, you can literally ask yourself, “Okay. I’m in this situation right now and I’m facing, it could be the day. It could just be I woke up today. What emotion do I want to feel?” And when you are able to live in an unwavering state of inner peace, you get to choose your emotions and that’s how most people live. Right, Carey?
Most people live, their emotions are dictated by what’s happening outside of them and you really need to think about it then. It’s not what’s going on around you or outside of you but only what’s going on inside of you that determines your happiness or your inner peace or your fulfillment. And what I think that we’re really after isn’t happiness as much. And by the way, happiness isn’t a bad thing. If that’s what you’re after, I’m not telling you that’s wrong, but I found that it’s fulfillment that we’re really after and that fulfillment is what leads to happiness. When do I feel the happiest? Not when I’m watching a comedy and I’m happy watching a comedy. I’m getting pleasure. There’s dopamine being released, right? I’m enjoying it.
Carey: It’s really short-lived that way.
Hal: It’s very short-lived. Yeah. But when you are living in a state of fulfillment and a state of fulfillment is where you’re happy at a much deeper, more sustained level. And so, that’s what I mean by happiness is overrated and that if we go for things that we think will make us happy often in the short-term. In fact, they said the difference between pleasure and happiness is pleasure that’s short-term, short-lived happiness. Watching the television, procrastinating. Well, procrastinating makes me happy, Carey. When there’s something I don’t want to do, procrastinating makes me really happy. But is that going to provide long-term happiness? No, it’s going to give me the opposite. Is that going to provide long-term fulfillment? So, what we’re after is what are the things, that’s the question to ask yourself, is what are the things that you can do that you need to do to bring you fulfillment, to fulfill you over the long-term and that is what will bring you that lasting sustained happiness.
And so, things like exercise, for example, you might not be happy going for a run. Maybe you are, maybe you aren’t but you’re probably happy when you have more energy and when you’re physically fit. So, it’s not making the choices in the short-term that will bring you that short-lived happiness. It’s really getting clear on what will fulfill me? How can I nurture myself physically, mentally, financially, emotionally, spiritually, and nurturing ourselves in those ways that provide that long-term fulfilment I believe is the secret to what we think that we want or we say that we want which is happiness but it’s really how do you create a life where you’re not having to chase happiness because it’s a life of deep fulfillment that it’s that way all the time every day.
Carey: There’s definitely congruency in what you’re saying where I talk about the 5-minute rule in getting out of an emotional state to be in a cognitive state to deal with any kind of a situation. So, agree. You’re definitely allowing yourself to be put in a positive or negative state or allowing someone else’s influence on you change your own personal being but just like if you’re purchasing something because you want it and you gain fulfillment from it or whether it’s a brand new car or a brand new toy, that fulfillment is going to be short-lived as you mentioned. So, how did you find your fulfillment in the long haul? What are some of your daily practices, some of the things that you do on a regular basis to find happiness, to find your passions, and to keep them fueled so that you make it to the long run, you don’t look for the easy way out in the short term just to avoid that big to-do list that we all have?
Hal: Yeah. It’s a great question and I think that there are both things to do in the kind of the short-term like a daily basis and then there are big picture ideas. In the short-term and you know this very well, but the Miracle Morning is my daily morning ritual that enables me to stay fulfilled and stay focused on what will make me fulfilled and the Miracle Morning is made of six practices and I’ll take a second for those that don’t know what the Miracle Morning is. It’s an acronym, SAVERS. The first S is for silence, A for affirmations, V for visualization, E for exercise, R for reading and the final S is for scribing which is a fancy word for writing or journaling.
Hal: Robert Kiyosaki summed it up really well. Robert Kiyosaki who wrote the book, Rich Dad Poor Dad. Robert interviewed me on his show and he said, “Hal, before the Miracle Morning, every successful person on the planet I would imagine practices at least one of the SAVERS and they swear by it or attribute their success to one of the SAVERS but I had never heard of anyone,” he said, “that practice all six of these ancient best practices.” And he said, “I do them every day now and that’s what it’s made such an impact on my life.” So, that’s my first thing that I do.
Again, the E in there is for exercise so you’re nurturing yourself physically. The S is for silence. That’s your prayer or your meditation time. You’re nurturing yourself spiritually. The A for affirmations, that really goes to answer your question of how do I stay focused on the things that fulfill me, the things that are the highest value in my life? And the way that I stay focused on it is I have written affirmations which are simply statements that remind me of what matters most. What are the top goals or priorities in my life, top values in my life? What am I committed to doing to ensure that I live in alignment with those goals or achieve those goals or live in alignment with those values? That affirmation that keep me on track and the way that I define them I call it level 10 success. If we’re measuring success in every area of our life from a level of one to ten, we all want level 10. So, for me, my affirmation is to articulate what is level 10 health for me and what do I need to do to live in alignment with level 10 health? And it’s very specific. It’s I will exercise this many days a week. I’ll exercise from this time to this time on these days a week. So, it’s very specific.
I have affirmations for every area of my life. I’ve got marriage affirmations on what I’ll do to be the best husband that I can be. I got parenting affirmations, you name it, business affirmations, on and on and on. As you know, I recently was diagnosed, well, a year ago was diagnosed with cancer, given a 30% chance of living which is a 70% chance of dying for all of you glass is half empty people and for me I just I have affirmations. I had them from, I mean, one of my first things I did when I was diagnosed with cancer was generate affirmations that reinforced my commitment to beating that cancer and living to be 100 plus years old with my family, for my family, alongside my family. So, affirmations are really how I state here on what will fulfill me and then…
Carey: Which before you move on about that, there was something we were going to touch on, but I just wanted to let everyone know that you are cancer-free at this point.
Hal: Yes. I am cancer-free.
Carey: So, absolutely amazing and congratulations and just an amazing journey and I know it wasn’t easy and I just thank you for being you.
Hal: Thanks, brother. Thanks for your support throughout the journey. And I’ll share with you, I mean, actually, this is great. This is an important lesson and I want to talk about how there’s something I wanted to touch on that you ask me about just in terms of how do I find fulfillment, right? And I’ll say that I find fulfillment by the way by helping other people. I find that that’s where for most of us, I think, that if we get really clear and then if we have an experience to really helping others a lot if that’s something that someone like when I was young, I was pretty selfish. I didn’t really know fulfillment came from helping other people because I was just trying to help myself. And so, if someone listening is like, “Yeah, I just kind of try to help myself,” or if someone’s listening where you’re in a scarcity mindset, maybe you’re not where you need to be in your life or your business right now. Maybe finances are tough. It’s hard to think about helping other people. You’re just trying to help yourself and I totally get that and no judgment as a result.
But for me, fulfillment I realized, and I think that anyone you find people that focused on their own success for long periods of time and then they become very wealthy and very rich. What do they then do? They turn their attention toward helping other people. They start foundations. They focus their efforts on philanthropy because if they find it, wow, once you achieved everything that you want, you go, “Well, what now?” And you find that fulfillment really is helping other people. And what I would encourage you to do is don’t wait until you achieve everything you want. Make it part of your daily, your annual goals, your daily rituals, etcetera. How can you help other people? And there’s an acronym that I have in my affirmations that is SAVE. If I got the SAVERS which is the Miracle Morning practices but then I’ve got SAVE which stands for Selflessly Add Value for Everyone or Every day or Everywhere, so it can be any of those Es or phrase. So, selflessly add value everywhere, every day with everyone and that for me reminds me every day to save the people in my life and that’s from saving the grocery clerk and adding value to their life through it could be just a compliment, sincere compliment, asking how their day is going.
Carey: Appreciation and just acknowledge.
Hal: Appreciation, yeah. I mean, acknowledgment is huge for people in the service industry because most people just look at them as a nametag or not even their name tag. They can look at that. They just go, “Hey, waiter, waiter. Hey, Garson.” And so, I think that for me has been, that every day I look at how can I add value and sometimes I actually started journaling my SAVE moments everyday so that acronym is pretty new. I came up with that a few months ago and I started journaling SAVE moments. So, like if someone on a Facebook post will say, “Hey I really need a donation or I need help,” or whatever or I need advice, I will either make that donation or I will take time to give the advice and then I’ll take a screenshot of it and I put it in my 5-minute journal which is an app that I use on my phone and I put today’s SAVE moment was, “I spent 15 minutes giving this detailed advice on this gentleman who asked for advice on how he can become a professional speaker.”
Of course, there wasn’t anything in it for me and that was a literal one that I did the other day. He asked for a tip and normally I would maybe like his post or give him a quick, but I thought, “You know what, I have it in me. I have it up here to help him in a major way right now just through 15 minutes of advice.” And he was someone I met him once. I don’t really know him. So, I took 15 minutes and I did that, right, and that to me afterward it’s hard to explain. Carey, I wouldn’t say that after I did that, I felt happy like that’s not the way I would describe the emotion. You know what I mean? But I felt fulfilled and to me, that’s much deeper and it’s much more rooted and it’s much more meaningful than just doing something that makes me feel quick and happy and smile for a moment.
Carey: And that’s a great way to explain it because for a lot of people those words had many meanings and I agree and that’s really the crux of The Passion Summit and I’m so excited for you to be one of the keynote speakers there. So, for those of you that don’t know, that’s an event coming up, May 7 and 8 here in the Chicagoland area. ThePassionSummit.com. Check it out. For anyone listening, we have a very special code for Yo Pal Hal which is YoPalVIP and that’s a $350 discount off the retail price. Happiness is something you normally never speak about and I think now you’re at a point where you feel you are really able to look at the rest of your life down a timeframe and chart things out, now to get some negative things behind you and no looking back.
Hal: Yeah. I’m glad you brought up with Passion Summit because we’re going to be coming together in May for the event. And what’s the website again? It’s ThePassionSummit.com?
Carey: You got it. Just YoPalVIP.
Hal: So, the message I’m going to give at the event, I mean, so I could just speak for me and I was looking at your – we went over the agenda the other day, so I’m pumped. We got a lot of cool stuff planned. A lot of great speakers but for me, personally, the message I’m going to give is it’s a new keynote that I’ve only given once, and I actually could say, I’ve actually never given it because, Carey, the keynote has evolved so much in just the last few months since I gave it that one time. And the keynote is called “What Matters Most?” with a question mark at the end. So, it’s not me telling you what matters most. It’s really instilling that question and then us exploring it together. And for me, there’s no more important question and it’s one that you can apply not just in your life, but it really is a question that, to me, it’s one of the dominant questions if not the dominant question in our lives, in our businesses, in our relationships, you name it.
So, what matters most in life? What matters most in my business? What matters most today? What matters most during this conversation? So, to me, that question and really constantly prioritizing what matters most in the way that we think, in the way that we feel, in the way that we talk, what we do, our actions, our projects, our activities, our priorities, our values, I mean, on and on and on. It’s such a universal question and it’s one that we don’t typically ask. Most people don’t wake up and go, “What matters most today?” They usually wake up and they just go through the day.
Carey: Being present almost because most people aren’t present. They’re either worried about what’s coming up later. What happened yesterday and they’re not living in the moment but if you’re wondering what matters most, you’re really putting yourself in the situation to be present on all accounts on whatever you’re doing.
Hal: This book I’m reading which you should read by the way if you haven’t yet, Carey, you’ll love it. It’s called Deep Work by Cal Newport. I think Joe Polish, my buddy, Joe. Joe, I think is the one that recommended this to me, but he talks about how in today’s society, deep work which is long focused work on a significant project or venture that can generate great results or impact. He says, “Most of us we do shallow work which is answering emails.” I mean, think about how many emails we answer every day? At the end of the year or at the end of our lifetime it’s like how many years of our life we’ve dedicated to answering emails. That would be called shallow work the most part, right? And he says because deep work is so rare, it’s also become that much more valuable. So, Carey, you wrote a book called living. Is it living with passion or living your life with passion?
Carey: Living Life with PASSION and Helping Others.
Hal: Living Life with Passion. Let’s see it. So, great example. Writing a book is deep work, right? And, Carey, you can attest to that. Writing a book is deep work. It takes a long significant focused commitment of time.
Carey: Right back to the fulfilling. It’s fulfilling, and it goes to the long haul as well.
Hal: That’s why I brought that up is because that’s another key to fulfillment. Deep work is a key to fulfillment because you don’t get fulfilled by answering emails, but you do get happy. See, this is the distinction I’m trying to make, people. If you answer 50 emails, you’re going to feel happy like, “Oh, I just answered all those emails. Boom. Look at that. I’m productive.” You’re busy. Usually, that would be busy. So, that’s the difference I’m just trying to get across. I don’t know if I explained at the very beginning. I wanted inner peace and I kind of was fiddling around trying to get to the point I was making with that difference between happiness and fulfillment and happiness is short-lived. Fulfillment is a deep sustained state of being that comes from the way that you live your life. And to me, what matters most, we’re going to talk about these but step one is personal development. That would be a given in Miracle Morning, dedicating time each day to becoming a person that you need to be that has the abilities, the knowledge, the skills, the beliefs to create everything that you want for your life, the most extraordinary life that you can imagine. That’s about personal development.
Beyond that, optimizing your health, your physical health. How do you optimize your physical health? How do you eat in a way that serves you and also taste good? That might sound kind of an interesting topic, but the number one cause of death is – actually the top two causes of death are largely diet related. Cancer is one and heart disease is the other and heart disease is primarily diet related. So, these are two major problems that can be solved but we got to know how do you do it? How do you shift your priorities and how do you shift your taste buds, so you can eat in a way that actually serves you and not only in the long term where you don’t die from something that’s pretty far off for most of us, but in the short-term how do you eat for maximum energy?
And that’s one of the big things that we all want. We all want more energy and most of us don’t realize that it’s actually our diet that causes us to be tired. Think about it, five-hour energy. They advertise. Do you ever get tired at 2:00 in the afternoon? You’re like, “Oh my God, that’s me.” You don’t need a five-hour energy. You need to not eat that chicken sandwich at lunch that’s made primarily of white bleached flour that your body they can’t even turn it into nutrition or energy. It just takes energy and digests it and it drains your energy that chicken with hormone. I mean, on and on and on. I don’t want to make too much of a soapbox here but health being one. Another big priority is your circle of influence, relationships, family in terms of what matters most.
And so, ultimately, really aligning your day every day with what matters most to you and what will bring you fulfillment, not just happiness in the short-term. That’s great. Happiness is not a bad thing, but long-term fulfillment is really what this is about. And you’ll get to a place, by the way, and the one thing we’re going to talk about finances as well. How do you set your finances up so that you create an abundance of financial wealth for yourself? So, that again that brings fulfillment. Ask the lottery winner that won a million dollars and spent it all in houses and cars and then had nothing to show for it. Did that bring them happiness in the short-term? Absolutely. Did it bring them financial fulfillment? Absolutely not. In fact, the opposite. So, many lottery winners end up committing suicide because they weren’t thinking long-term about what was going to sustain them financially, what’s going to sustain you physically, spiritually, emotionally, relationally, financially.
That’s really what we’re talking about and so I’ll stop and turn it over to you. Anything else for us to cover today? I know we just kind of touched on this topic and going a little bit with got to be…
Carey: A take of you and your passion and your attitude towards living life to its fullest and we definitely got a good taste of that but that’s really what the Passion Summit is going to be about. It’s not only ways to live better, be better, live bigger both on health and on wealth and at the same time, the biggest part of this is a networking opportunity for networking with like-minded people and I’m super excited that you’re one of the keynote speakers and for those of you that are just checking this out. It’s The Passion Summit. Check it out. It’s ThePassionSummit.com. You have a code today that you can use, YoPalVIP. That’s Y-O-P-A-L-V-I-P and that will discount the ticket price to $350. It’s right here on Schaumburg which is very close to Ohara Airport for those of you flying in. Super convenient. It’s at the Hyatt Regency in Schaumburg and it’s a two-day experience.
And a big part of that is not just everything we spoke about. It’s that and giving that which you mentioned. And the second day incorporates giving back in a way to really identify with one of three different charities. One of them is Front Row Foundation which, Hal, I know aside for myself, you’ve been there the whole way and you’re one of the top supporters and really appreciate what you do and your commitment to that organization but it takes people with life-challenging illnesses and puts them in the front row of their favorite theater or concert or sporting event and give them a front row experience but more so it’s living your life in the front row and it’s a mindset. Another is A Warmer Winter which is a local effort that we have here that we’ve started through our company to give food and clothing and hugs to Chicago’s homeless community and another is Angel Wings and Andy Jeanty, a friend of both of ours, has been involved with Angel Wings to create a hospital on Haiti and they’ve been open now a little bit over a year and that’s another very important charity.
We’re going to be delving into those but more so it’s really this community of collaboration of giving back. There’s going to be aspects to network with each other, there are aspects where we’re really integrating each other to find solutions. There’s also a Passion Village in the area where there’s resources that you can find for your personal well-being, for your financial well-being, for your business well-being in a number of different ways. So, the opportunities are really endless and just super excited of having that here in May.
Hal: Cool. Okay. Well, thank you, man. You’ve been a huge supporter of everything that I have done. For those of you that don’t know Carey Smolenski, he does all the audio and video and basically all the behind-the-scenes work at all of our live events and I’m just pumped for you to finally we’ve been bugging you to put on your own live event and after you’ve been to arguably more than anyone that I know on this planet doing the work that you do. So, I appreciate you, brother, and I look forward to seeing you in May at The Passion Summit and everybody listening, check out ThePassionSummit.com, use the code YoPalVIP, and we’ll see you there.
Carey: All right. We’ll see you there.
Hal: Okay. Take care.