478: Change One Question to Change Your Life with Joe Polish

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Joe Polish

It’s natural for human beings to ask, “What’s in it for me?” We need to look out for ourselves, and that’s okay. But if we really want to make a difference in the world and other people’s lives, we need to change our primary question from “What’s in it for me?” to “What’s in it for them?” 

There may be no one better qualified to speak on this than today’s guest, the legendary Joe Polish, author of the new book, What’s In It For Them? 

Widely regarded as “the most connected person on the planet,” Joe has dedicated his life to serving others and has built a multi-million dollar enterprise as a result. His new book is so good people are calling it the new and improved How To Win Friends and Influence People—one of the bestselling books of all time. 

In today’s conversation with Joe, he shares his strategies and insights on creating more trust, rapport, and comfort in every interaction. You’ll also learn how to be a “giver” without getting taken advantage of and Joe’s approach to networking authentically and becoming wealthy without sacrificing your soul. 



  • How to tell if someone’s intentions are genuine or manipulative.
  • The long-term rewards of lifting other people through giving and kindness.
  • Why prioritizing your own needs enhances your ability to give more to others.
  • Balancing tough love with compassion and support in relationships.
  • How to push back against the dark side of AI and social media apps.
  • Why relationships are the ultimate currency.
  • How to use pain and suffering as a gateway to deeper, more meaningful relationships.
  • How to reframe negative experiences and focus on growth opportunities.



“The real juice in life comes from appreciation, and it comes from being able to do things for other people.”

“Be nice to the people you meet on the way up. They’re the same people you meet on the way down.”



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Hal Elrod: Hello, my friends. Welcome to the Achieve Your Goals podcast. This is your host, Hal Elrod. And today, you are going to get to experience a conversation that I just had with my good friend, Joe Polish. Now, if you don’t know who Joe is, he’s known as one of the most connected business people in the world. He’s the author of five books, including this one on the wall over here, The Miracle Morning for Addiction Recovery that he and I coauthored with Anna David, and Joe’s newest book, What’s in It for Them?, which is what we’re going to talk about today.

He’s also the founder of Genius Network, one of the highest-level entrepreneurial groups in the world, and he’s been featured in Inc., Fortune, Forbes, SUCCESS, on ABC’s 20/20, among many others. And he’s spoken at Stanford University and he also has three of the top ranked marketing and business podcasts in the world, including I Love Marketing, TEDx Talks, and Genius Network. Now, Joe’s mission, first with entrepreneurs and Genius Network is to build a better entrepreneur, and his mission with Genius Recovery is to change the global conversation about how people view and treat addicts to one of compassion instead of judgment, and to find the most effective forms of treatment and share them with the world. Joe is a recovering addict, and he has two nonprofits that are dedicated to helping people overcome their addiction.

Now, while most people constantly ask the question, what’s in it for me, think about it. It’s human nature, right? It’s like, should I go to this party? What’s in it for me if I go? Should I talk to this person? What’s in it for me? That’s the dominant question in our consciousness. I think it comes from survival. We need to ask that question, look out for our own. But today, Joe and I are talking about how you can transform your personal life, your relationships, and your level of professional success by changing your dominant question from what’s in it for me to what’s in it for them.

And as you’ll hear me say in the podcast today, this book, I’m loving it. I’m about a third of the way through. And to me, it’s the new and improved how to win friends and influence people. And you get to hear what Joe has to say about that because a lot of people are telling him that, but he has a very humble answer, as Joe usually does. You’re going to hear the story of how we met and just a lot more in today’s episode. The primary focus, of course, is on how you can transform your life and business by asking that question, what’s in it for them?

Before we dive into the podcast, I want to take just about two minutes to thank our sponsors that bring us the show every week or bring you this show. They help me support my family and I’ve been a customer of these sponsors long before they were sponsors, just so you know, right? I won’t sponsor or take on a sponsor for the podcast unless I love their products. The first is Organifi. This is the product that I take every afternoon for a little energy boost. I mix it with green tea. It’s Organifi Red Juice. I take their Organifi protein powder in the morning. I take their Pure for cognitive ability. When I’m sick, I take their Immunity and their Critical Immune. Here’s the bottom line, Organifi makes some of the highest quality organic whole food supplements on the market, period. If you want to boost your energy, your health, your immunity, your cognitive ability, head over to Organifi.com/Hal, that is spelled O-R-G-A-N-I-F-I, Organifi.com/Hal, and then use the discount code HAL, H-A-L, and you’ll get 20% off your entire order as a listener of the podcast.

And then last but not least, CURED Nutrition, this is one of my favorite products. If you’re not watching this, you won’t see me holding this to the camera, but it’s called Night Caps. And I took this last night. I take this most nights. I take either their Night Caps or their nighttime oil, same ingredients, just one’s in a capsule form, one’s in a dropper that you put on your tongue. Either way, it’s CBD and CBN oil that will help you fall asleep and stay asleep. In fact, I just recommended this product to Joe Polish while I’m talking to you today, a few weeks ago, and he said it’s been helping him with his challenges with sleep. So, head over to CuredNutrition.com/Hal and use that same discount code H-A-L for 20% off your entire order as a listener of the Achieve Your Goals podcast.

All right, without further ado, it is my great pleasure to introduce you to my good friend, one of the sweetest, most generous human beings I have ever met and one of the most connected human beings you will ever meet because he applies the lessons that you’re going to hear about today that are featured in his new book, What’s in It for Them? And here’s Joe Polish and I talking to you about shifting that question from what’s in it for me to what’s in it for them because it can transform your life. Enjoy this conversation.


Hal Elrod: Joe, you ready?

Joe Polish: I’m ready.

Hal Elrod: Countdown has concluded. It’s good to see you, brother.

Joe Polish: You too, man. Thanks again.

Hal Elrod: I want everybody to be here on the pre-podcast banter. We’re moving the books around. We’re talking about all sorts of random things. And you ever have that radio podcast? Sometimes a beautiful gold nugget comes out in the print, you’re like, “Oh, I wish we were recording that.”

Joe Polish: Yes, yes. And then pretty much for the sake of…

Hal Elrod: We had none of those.

Joe Polish: No, I was going to say for the sake of this podcast though, I was basically going to make things up and say that the best stuff was talked before that and you’re not going to hear it here. But hopefully, we’re making valuable– anyone that’s watching on video, I actually said, “Hal, I got to go get the Miracle Morning for Addiction Recovery, which is the book that we did together with Anna David. And so, I ran downstairs and I got a couple– I happened to be in my office. And here’s the funny thing. I’m in this room right now where you’re only seeing one part of the shelves behind me, but there are approximately 2,200 books in the room that I’m in. This one room, you’ve been here at my office.

Hal Elrod: I’ve been there.

Joe Polish: Yeah. But I didn’t have any of the Miracle Morning books for addiction recovery in here. I have the other Miracle Morning books. I have pretty much all of them. However, I didn’t have that one, and so, we had to decorate around my head, like, is it for advertising here, which we kind of are, so behind me…

Hal Elrod: We’re always putting advertising a little bit, yeah.

Joe Polish: Yeah. There’s five of my books behind me that I’ve written, five different books, one of them being the Miracle Morning for Addiction Recovery, and the other is the newest one. And the other ones are sandwiched in between, another recovery book and another book on marketing and a book called Life Gives to the Giver, so.

Hal Elrod: And as well as I know you, I’m surprised that your face is only prominent on the front of one of the books.

Joe Polish: Yeah, well, my face thing for people that– well, I don’t know if this is valuable right now for people listening.

Hal Elrod: I mean, actually, it’s funny. And then some people for sure judge it, right? They’re like, what’s this guy that puts his face all over these stickers and then these posters? But I think it’s hilarious. So, yeah, yeah, please tell us.

Joe Polish: Well, here’s the thing. I never started it. So, I’ve been doing a podcast with Dean Jackson since 2010. The first time I ever recorded a podcast was in 2005, before most people even knew what a podcast was. And there were people that listen to podcasts now that weren’t even born during that time.

And so, we had started a podcast. It was probably 2011, maybe 2012. I get a package in the mail with a bunch of stickers of my face on these little sheets, and then there’s a letter with a guy named Mark who has a company called My Sticker Face, MyStickerFace.com, and he’s like, “I’ve built my business listening to your podcast. And I wanted to share with you some of my product.” And he just had gotten a picture of me online, put it on a sticker. There’s different sizes. And I’m like thinking, this is hysterical. So, being the person that I am, I start putting these stickers on people’s homes, on their computers. I would travel with them and I’d take them over to my friend’s house. I would just put them behind kitchen counters, refrigerator doors, washing machines, all these places where they would open it up one day and they would see in the street.

Hal Elrod: In the car.

Joe Polish: Yeah. And it became this. So, all of a sudden, people start sending me things like pillows with my face, t-shirts with my face, calendars, coffee mugs. And it became this whole thing. If people come to my office and there’s my face on all this sh*t everywhere, and what’s funny is, is I’ll make a joke and say, “I probably look like the biggest narcissist on the planet.” And I never, never have I said, go put my face on this to anyone on my team or ordered anything that have my face on it. It’s just everywhere. It took out the life of it.

So, now, we have all kinds of our Genius Network members that, at the last Genius Network annual event, I had Mark do stickers for every one of our members that we could get really good pictures for, and they loved it. So, we had 350 people that had stickers with their face. And so, you just see it on the nametags. I was telling people, “Okay, if you meet someone really cool here, put a sticker on your Genius Network journal or whatever, so you can remember who that person is.” And they actually now serve a functional purpose. So, the narcissistic approach of having my face on everything has actually become a good genius networking methodology.

Hal Elrod: I love that. And if you’re listening, MyStickerFace.com, it’s really fun to do for your kids. I mean, it’s the coolest thing when your kids have stickers of themselves to put on stuff, give to their friends, and yeah, it’s super fun.

Joe Polish: Totally.

Hal Elrod: So, Joe, real quick, the story of how we met, and I don’t even know if you remember this. I got invited to a Dan Sullivan event in Los Angeles. It was a Strategic Coach preview evening. And you were sitting at a table. And this is the funny part is that I was like, “Oh, dude, that’s Joe Polish over there. That’s the Joe Polish,” but I knew nothing about you. I didn’t even know what you did. I didn’t think I knew about Genius Network at that point. I’m like, that’s– which is probably, I mean, it’s pretty positive. Your reputation is so big that someone doesn’t even know who you are, knows who you are. I’m like, “This is Joe Polish.”

My Miracle Morning had just come out and I always had coffee with me. And I was like, “I got to find a way to give Joe a copy of my book.” But I’m big on authenticity and I can’t authentically say, “Joe, I’m a big fan, so I love your work.” I mean, I’m literally Googling you on my phone. I’m like, who is Joe Polish, right? And so, I forgot what my entry was. I forgot what I said, but I approached you. I gave you a copy of my book, I said, “Thank you for all the work that you’ve done.” And then, I figured you would never read it.

And I get a Facebook message from your friend, this gal named Ivy, probably two weeks later, and she says, “Hey, Joe picked me up from the airport yesterday. And he hands me your book, The Miracle Morning, and says, you’ve got to read this.” She said, “I started reading it and I couldn’t stop. I read it cover to cover. And Joe and I just did our first Miracle Morning together. And at that point, I had listened to your podcast. I had engaged in your work.” And I was like, “Wow, that’s incredible that Joe, the Joe Polish listened.” And then, who knew that years later, we’d be friends? You’d be featured in the Miracle Morning documentary. We’d coauthored The Miracle Morning for Addiction Recovery. You’re on the podcast again. This is, I think, your second time on the show, man. So, yeah, for fun beginnings.

Joe Polish: No, totally. Totally. And what I do remember about that is that you were very nice. You’re very edifying, you’re very polite, you’re very cool, I mean, and you were very enthusiastic. So, I could also tell. And when I learned your story of the car accident and all of the different stuff you had been through. And I mean, look, you’re a fighter, you’re a survivor. You’ve been through some difficult stuff. And you really just went out of your way to be just a nice, cool dude. And so, I had a very good impression. Yeah, and I mean, I did go through the book and we looked at the SAVERS and we meditated and we worked out and we journaled and all this stuff, so.

Hal Elrod: All of the things.

Joe Polish: Yeah, yeah.

Hal Elrod: Well, then I’m holding your new book in my hand, What’s in It for them? And you’ve got four copies surrounding your head right now like a halo, 9 Genius Networking Principles to Get What You Want by Helping Others Get What They Want. This is really good. And I’m halfway through it, but I mean, it’s dog eared, it’s underlined. I’m getting a ton.

And I described this. The other day, actually, I was going to tell you this, I was being interviewed. And I think somebody asked me, “What’s a book that’s really impacted you or is impacting you now?” And I said, “What?” But if you would have heard me, you would have thought I was pitching my own book to put food on the family’s table. But I went off and I go, “This is the new How to Win Friends & Influence People.” And it’s literally, if somebody were to say, “Hey, take that classic book that sold tens of millions of copies and make it better somehow.” If you were to hire a ghostwriter and you’re like, “Make it better, make it more modern, make it more tactical, more applicable to our current lifestyle and culture.” That’s what this book is doing, so congratulations.

Joe Polish: No, thank you. Let me also acknowledge Dale Carnegie, who’s obviously not alive, but about 100 years ago, he wrote How to Win Friends & Influence People. And when I was in my 20s, I read that book, probably very early in my 20s. And then when I started a carpet cleaning business, that was my first venture into business, just trying to figure out how to make my carpet cleaning business work, I went through a Dale Carnegie 12-week course.

Hal Elrod: Nice.

Joe Polish: And so, every week, you would go through one of the chapters. Now, I always remember this one chapter, which is never criticize, condemn, and complain. And I would make jokes that I loved to criticize, condemn and complain in a funny joking way. And also, there’s toxic criticism and then there’s this blowing off steam. And someone that doesn’t outwardly speak words of angst or blame or annoyance or anger or being pissed off, they will internalize that in a lot of ways. And it could eek itself out in other creepy ways.

But the point is toxic critics and people that are– I mean, yeah, you can either create or you can complain. It’s hard to do both at the same time, although you can probably create while you’re complaining along the way. But bottom line is I love that book. And it was really valuable. And over the years, I became friends with Robert Cialdini, who wrote the book, Influence, who’s a dear friend of mine. He was just here at Genius Network a couple of weeks ago.

And if you think of how to win friends and influence people, I started thinking a lot of, well, it’s not just winning friends and influencing people, it’s winning the right friends and influencing the right people because you could win friends that really aren’t friends. There’s real friends, and then there’s deal friends. And so, with true relationships, your time, which in the book, Chapter 2 is about T.A.M.E.E., is what I call it. I don’t refer to it as T.A.M.E.E. in the book, but I use that as shorthand. Now, it’s time, attention, money, effort, and energy. And all of us, anyone listening to us right now, right now, you’re putting time into this, attention, effort, and energy. There’s not money per se involved with what we’re doing right at this moment, but you’re going to go spend money, you’re going to go spend time, you’re going to go spend attention. So, you only want to align yourself with people that are aligned with you.

Now, oftentimes, you don’t know that until bad things happen or you’re into it. But the more that you go through life and you develop the spidey senses of who’s a giver, who’s a taker. And by the way, this message right now, I believe, only will land on people that are givers and have empathy. If someone is a full-blown narcissist, they can maybe get the mechanics of it. If they’re a psychopath or a sociopath, they can hear this and they can use it to mirror and manipulate. The people that really are givers, they will resonate with this message, and people that are takers, hopefully, it’ll sink in a little bit. And the ones that are changeable or open to that will realize that there are different operating systems. You certainly can go through life and get a lot of things through criminal activity, through taking advantage of people to operating with a win-lose mentality. There are a lot of takers in the world that get rich, that make money. There are a lot of takers in the world that are leading in the world of leadership in certain positions right now.

But at the end of the day, on your deathbed, if you want to look back and say, “Did I expand humanity or did I contract it?” A lot of that has to do with giving more than you take and not taking at all to the degree that you– and when I mean taking, I mean nonconsensual, manipulating sort of taking. I mean, we all have parts where we give and take. And by being a giver, that also means you have to give to yourself. You can’t believe– it’s hard to fix the world with broken hands. And there’s– so this book was my thanks and my gratitude. And hopefully, it will add to How to Win Friends & Influence People, which I believe is a great book. But yeah, I’m hearing that a lot. People, this is a modern-day version of How to Win Friends & Influence People, and I say that at the very beginning of the book that this book wouldn’t exist without that.

So, if you’re a giver listening to this right now, and I imagine, Hal, with your audience and people that come to you, I mean, it’s pretty much what the Miracle Morning methodology is about, it’s developing rituals and ways to become very aware and be very productive and set. If you start off your day where you really give to yourself, I think that you can expand that greatly throughout the rest of your day and the rest of your life.

Hal Elrod: Yeah. Yeah, that’s one thing that I frame it often when I talk about the Miracle Morning Community is let’s say, it’s humanity at its finest because it’s people that are taking time every day to give to themselves, to elevate their own consciousness, which the way I define elevating consciousness is your awareness of how your thoughts, words, and actions impact yourself and other people, right? When you don’t take time every day and you’re just going from falling asleep stressed out to waking up stressed out, to reacting all day long, and that’s your vicious cycle, you don’t have any time to get centered and calm and connect with your spirituality and with your higher self and so on and so forth.

When did your mindset develop to this giving kind of selfless or generous mindset? Because people describe you as one of the most connected people in the world, you only become that way by being generous and being someone who others want to be around because you are a giver. Were you always like that? Or, I know in the book you describe as a kid, like you were trying to ease people’s suffering, but I also heard you talk about being selfish. So, how did that evolve, that mindset?

Joe Polish: Well, it evolved over many years and I don’t ever think one arrives. I think there’s always a place for continual improvement for me. There’s definitely times in my life where I was desperate, I was self-centered, I was hurt, I was traumatized so– and that certainly unhealed eeks its way out for me. It was in the realm of addiction. I mean, I believe addiction is the solution to pain. I believe addiction is a response to trauma. I believe it’s biochemical. So, if you’re lacking dopamine or serotonin production, so there’s things like diet and exercise and sunshine and sleep and all these other elements that factor in how a person is able to show up because you know what it’s like to be tormented. We had a great conversation a couple of weeks ago about sleep and you telling me all the things that you have utilized that have been very helpful for you when you were going through very difficult times.

And so, depending on where someone’s at, I think we’re all going to have stages where we’re caring, we’re conscientious, we’re empathetic, we’re sweet, we’re loving. In other times, we were self-interested and just desperate and were self-serving. And so, when I was a drug addict, I mean, I would shoplift. I would sell drugs to support my habit because that’s what people that are drug addicts do. And that would not be considered giving behavior. It’s weird, though. I was always very conscientious. I never wanted to hurt anybody, and any time I did something that sort of had an inner ding on my value system, I felt really sh*tty.

So, even when I was doing things, looking back, I mean, I think part of my pursuit to recovery was you don’t stop doing something negative unless there’s some consequence, either emotionally, or sometimes people need to get arrested or they need to have a terrible breakup or they need to get fired or they need to lose their children or get divorced or whatever before they even are aware that their actions are causing some pretty destructive stuff. I always had a sense whenever I started going down a bad path that this is not a good path to go.

And I did 30 days in the treatment center over 20 years ago, and they wanted us to do art therapy. And I wrote this one thing out in chalk where there’s this line from a really hardcore industrial band back in the day called Big Black, and the lyric was, I tell myself I will not go even as I drive there and…

Hal Elrod: I saw that, yeah.

Joe Polish: So, there are always times where it’s like, I shouldn’t be doing this, I shouldn’t be doing this. And look, every single person that’s read the Miracle Morning, they’re probably attracted to that because they stayed up too late. They’re doing things that aren’t good. Like you said earlier, most people’s lives are they wake up, look in the mirror, and say, “Good morning, let the stress begin.” And so, it’s like if you can wake up and before you get to that level, you can pause, you can do something, you can change that.

And so, what happened for me with the mindset was I’d gotten just a lot of pain. I wish I could say my growth in my business and becoming “successful” business owner, get my life together going from being a disconnected, messed up, shy, scared, introverted, drug-addicted young person to finally getting my act together was not driven by inspiration. It was driven by desperation. It was driven by pain.

And luckily, the mentors that I had or that I at least accessed were not humans. They were actual books. They were audiotapes. I mean, I just had Diana Nightingale, Earl Nightingale’s wife, at the last Genius Network meeting and I interviewed her because my all-time favorite audio program is Lead the Field by Earl Nightingale.

And then many years later, I created the number one selling marketing program in the history of Nightingale Conant, which produced audio learning programs back in 2004. We did that program. And so, the question is what caused it is a line I heard early on was one of the things. There’s many, but I heard the line, “Be nice to the people you meet on the way up, they’re the same people you meet on the way down.” So, I tried to tell young people that you’re going to run into people five years from now, 10 years from now, 20 years from now, 30 years from now, even 40 years from now. I now run into– because I’m 55 years old now, I literally have people in my life that I’ve known that aren’t family for over 50 years. You will run in to some of the same people, and some of those people. I’ve run into them recently and I’ve not seen them in over 25 years.

And do you want to leave scorched earth? Do you want to piss people off? People don’t forget when you screw them over. People don’t forget when you were short or when you were abusive. And that doesn’t mean you have to give everyone your attention because some people you can’t, especially if you’re doing a lot of stuff in the world and people create narratives. That person should have done this. There are a lot of entitled people that don’t show up with any give, but they show up with a take. And one of the things I say is we all want something, everybody wants something. But when you show up with a want from anybody, do your best to make sure that your give is equal to or greater than you want, and the people that we like in our lives that we think of right now, like do it as an exercise in your own mind, Hal, or anyone listening, who in your life do you really like? It really makes you feel good. You love hanging out with them, and I can almost guarantee that there’s something that they are giving you. It could be entertainment, it could be a job, it could be learning, and it could be love, it could be sex, it could be a variety of things that humans can provide or give to each other, but they do it in a way to where it’s not a taker energy, it’s a giver energy.

And so, show up with that giver energy. And so, I always do my best to do that in the people that become my real friends or how are people that are more powerful treat people that are less powerful than them? Do they say thank you when someone opens a door? Are they nice to a server? Are they pleasant to people even when there’s no money or no one’s watching? But how many people have we met that are on stage talking about authenticity, doing social media, pretending they’re monks, all this sort of crap that you see out in the world of the influencer world? And you meet these people backstage and you’re like, “You’re a narcissistic jerk. You are abusive to your team. You don’t give a sh*t about the people that you really are pretending because you’re saying it.” I mean, I’ve heard some people like, “I don’t care about them. We’re just trying to sell more…”

Hal Elrod: Are you talking about politicians right now or influencers?

Joe Polish: Aren’t they the same?

Hal Elrod: Well, you’re taking too big a water. I’ll say couple of things, couple kind of philosophies that I live by that I really feel like you embody. One is the more value you add to the lives of other people, the more valuable you become to those people, right?

Joe Polish: Yeah.

Hal Elrod: And I see your point. The people you like, they’re adding value to your life in some way and then they are now valuable to you, right? And then the other piece of that is like for me, I read– you ever read Tim Sanders’ book, Love Is the Killer App?

Joe Polish: Not the whole thing, parts of it. I never finish it.

Hal Elrod: That was one of the first books I read, 2004, I think, 2005, but it really turned me on. His whole message is love is the killer application in business, like love others, give up your time, your energy, your attention, your resources, etc. And that flipped my mindset to where your mindset kind of is, which is I’m just going to focus on adding as much value to the lives of every person I ever meet as I possibly can.

And what I found is that’s the recipe for success. And what your book teaches you, like, here’s the tactics of how you actually do that. Because it’s one thing to say that, someone’s like, “Yeah, that sounds great, but how do I add value?” What way? It’s like the way you need, you need proven processes and systems and strategies and the questions that really in that your book offers. But I found it to be so true. And like you mentioned, the same people you meet on the way up, you meet on the way down.

When you always are adding value to people’s lives, you just become a value– just a light, just a value creation machine where like, you don’t know how that’s going to come back to you. But like you said, people don’t forget. They’re like, “Yeah, when I met you and so-and-so,” and you mentioned waitresses or waiters, right? For me, it’s every person. What’s your name? How can I– actually, my waitress the other day, I was at this restaurant, The Well, it’s my favorite restaurant. And she came up and I said, “Hey, how’s it going?” And I was there to eat by myself. And she said, “I’ve really had some pain in my leg. And I went to get help. And the chiropractor– I don’t know what to do and I’m really scared.” And we talked for 15 minutes. And I was like, “Hey, I’m going to share with you a couple of my life stories,” which I mean, that’s–

But I said the real-life examples of how the doctor said I would never walk again, I want you to have this in your back pocket so you can remember that if I could do it, you could do it, too. And at the end, she ends up, she’s like, “Can you get up and can you give me a hug? Is that okay?” So, I’m hugging my waitress that I met 15 minutes ago. But if that’s your mindset, how can I always add value? And I feel like that is your mindset.

I want to read something from your book. This is how you start your new book, What’s in It for Them? I think it’s either the first line or the first paragraph. You say, “The secret to success in life and business is learning how to connect and form relationships with other people. And most people don’t know how to do that.” So, my question for you is, I guess two questions. Why is that the secret to success in life, in business? And why do you say or why do you think that most people don’t know how to do that?

Joe Polish: Yeah. So, I think we are more connected electronically today than we ever have been in human history, but we’re more disconnected as humans, right? And now, in December of 2022, just few weeks after ChatGPT came out and AI started, like, just exploded, I wrote an email about the dark side of AI and about how this can become very addictive and how it can become– who do you trust anymore when everything is fake or when you can fake everything?

So, the need for human connection, you’ve heard that same time is money. I’ve never had an alarm go off next to my bed, be it a phone or back before smartphones existed, the actual alarm clocks, and there was a pile of money there. Money comes from relationships and friendships. I mean, you can be a lone ranger, but humans are not built to be isolated and to borrow from 12 steps and we write about a lot of this in the Miracle Morning for Addiction Recovery. You’re sick of your secrets.

And silent battles are the hardest battles to fight. So, if you want a really hard battle, try to do everything alone. Try to do it without relationships. Try to do it without gratitude, respect, appreciation. Make sure no one desires you and make sure you desire no one else. Really hard to go through life.

You can make a lot of money and be a miserable person. I mean, we both know very rich people that live in prisons with golden bars. So, I think the real juice in life comes from appreciation and it comes from being able to do things for other people. There is a real– if you feel like your life sucks, and believe me, I’ve spent thousands of hours of my existence thinking life sucks. And when I was a full-blown addict, I wasn’t in a happy state of mind. I wasn’t in a positive mental attitude. I’m just trying to survive and get through the day. And I’ve been suicidal. I’ve been all kinds of things.

And when you’re in a state of ah, you think your life sucks, one of the best ways is to actually go be valuable to someone else, find someone whose life is or someone’s hurting more than you are. And it’s so weird because in that state, it’s hard to think I’ve got nothing else to give. I feel hopeless. But the way you generate hope is you actually give it to others. You give value. The whole thing about being a servant leader. I mean, there’s a lot of seminar, speakers, lot of stuff like that. And I’ve thought about that term and I’m not sure I love the term because it sounds a little weird in certain contexts.

The fact, though, is if you show up with a hand of I want to give, giving actually generates more gratitude. It generates being useful, makes people want more of you. It actually creates attraction, not lust, I think you’re hot, sort of attraction. It just creates an energetic, like, wow. There’s a presence that you feel. So, I think it’s one of the most important things in life, simply– now, again, I say this because this is Joe Polish’s perspective, and everything that comes out of my mouth is my current level of consciousness. And so, in a lot of the stuff that I believe, I’m hoping that 10 years from now, I can look back and say, “Boy, that was kind of dumb that I thought that. Maybe there’s a different layer to it.”

So, I kind of have a mix of like, what is work for me? What can I share? But where have I screwed up? What are the cautionary tales? So, my book is filled with that. It’s a combination of here’s the things that have worked really well for me and here are the cautionary tales. What I do say in the book is that if you are a giver, it’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when you will be taken advantage of. And most people stumble upon my book because they have been betrayed, they have been lied to, they have had their heart broken, they have been taken advantage of.

And Zig Ziglar, I didn’t know him very well, but I spent an hour on a couch with Zig Ziglar in the early 90s, and a smart dude and a character, good speaker. And he had this famous line, which is you can get anything you want in life if you help enough other people get what they want. And my friend, Martin, how he came to one of my Genius Network meetings probably close to a decade ago now and he was talking about that. And he said, “There’s a lot of lines that people use that you have to really think about them because you can help some people get what they want that won’t do a damn thing for you. And some of those people will abuse you and they will take advantage of you and they will lie to you.” And that’s a really hard thing when you hear me talking about be a giver, be a giver, and there’s someone listening is right now gone. I’ve been a giver and I’ve gotten frickin completely taken advantage of.

And the thing about it is that that will happen. However, all of the people you meet, all of the great value you put out into the world, the net benefit of being– Adam Grant is a friend of mine. He wrote Give & Take. He talks about givers, takers, and matchers. That’s a good book. I mean, my book is completely different than Give & Take. The point, though, is that he did this research on who makes the most money, and it starts out saying, well, takers make a lot of money, but giver is actually who makes the least amount of money, givers, but there’s a sort of way where it’s how you determine who you give to.

So, you can do really well as a giver or a taker financially, but you’ll do way better in the long run, I believe, as the operating system where you don’t leave scorched earth because you piss people off, you take advantage of people, you keep taking, taking, taking. I believe there’s a karmic bank account that sort of exists. And sometimes, it’s really hard when you see people that have done pretty despicable things and they seem to be doing well in the world, and then envy sets in or jealousy sets in. And what ends up happening is these people are such global takers that it actually creates resentment, and then the people start becoming takers because they let that person take their enthusiasm, take their belief.

And so, you got to be careful to not let yourself be hijacked, to get Eckhart Tolle here. You don’t want to turn into a pain body where you become identified so much with the actions of others. So, the thing is, I wrote the book so that it will protect the genuine givers of the world to put up better boundaries around the takers so that you can take your amazing giver energy, which the world so badly needs right now more than anything. And you can put your T.A.M.E.E., your time, attention, money, effort, and energy in the people that deserve it and the people that appreciate it, people that are reciprocal.

I always start with giving. I give people a test, I mean, because I want to show up being useful. And then I’ll see it because you oftentimes don’t know. I mean, I’ll share my opinions. I mean, certainly, I’m an opinionated guy, but I don’t share opinions based on not having evidence. I’m very careful about trying to act, like I know or have expertise in an area where I really don’t. And I question myself constantly because the challenge of being human is most of us think we’re right all the time. I mean, I usually wake up thinking I’m right. Everything I’m saying right now in my mind, I think, I’m right.

Hal Elrod: Then why wouldn’t you say it? Why would you say it, right?

Joe Polish: Right. Well, at least you believe it. But I also know that a belief means that you’re just not sure oftentimes. And I also have learned through recovery that unlearning is more important than learning. So, I’ve had to unlearn a lot of things in my life. And I also have to have the awareness that I’m not always right. And if I’ve said something that has been hurtful, I try to follow the 12-step philosophy, make amends whenever possible, except when to do so would injure yourself or others. And I just think it’s a good way to live.

And so, in my perfect, absolutely not. In my working on stuff all the time, yes. Am I trying to unlearn things? Yeah, that’s actually more important than learning and that’s a more difficult one because it happens on the unconscious level. And I know that feelings are not facts. Just because you feel sh*tty does not mean life is bad. Just because you feel excited and wonderful doesn’t mean that you’re in a good position.

So, I’m constantly evaluating kind of where I’m at from the standpoint of be a giver, produce more than I consume, direct my energies and effort towards people that appreciate it, don’t throw pearls before swine. And I say that metaphorically. I mean, I believe all humans have value. I think there are people that do bad things, but they’re not bad people. And there are people that do bad things that actually, unfortunately, are pretty toxic. And the best thing you can do with those people is just not give your energy to that.

And I also know that, think about this, Hal, if you dealt with the same stuff you deal with every single day, the first six months you ran your business, you would be frickin wanting to kill yourself, right? As business grows, as you get a family and you develop a tolerance, you develop resourcefulness, you develop ways to navigate landmines. And what is a business? I’m speaking to the business owners and people that work for a business. A business solves problems for a profit. That’s what a business does.

And that means life is filled with problems, continual problems, but problems are opportunities. Pain is a messenger. Everybody has it. And if you can be a pain detective and if you can identify things where people are hurting and you can take your life experience that you’re still developing and all is well, man, you can be an incredible asset as long as you don’t let the takers come in and run the show.

Hal Elrod: It’s actually a perfect segue because the next question I wanted to ask you is, in your new book, you talk about being a pain detective, what is the pain detective? And why do you recommend that everyone becomes one?

Joe Polish: Well, yeah, it’s just my way of saying that pain is a messenger. And there’s all kinds of ways that you can build rapport and you can be useful to people, you can be funny, you can be valuable. Some people, though, they will not open up because either you have taker energy and they’ve got good spidey senses or there’s something going on. And in order for them to find an opening for you to help solve them or be useful or be a friend, they need to resonate with the pain. There’s some hurt that they have.

And so, oftentimes, if you view people that no matter how rich, successful they are, there’s something in their life that needs to be solved. It could be very drastic, like shame, or they could just be hungry. And they need a bite of food.

Hal Elrod: Here’s water.

Joe Polish: Yeah, yeah, exactly. And so, a lot of this is not super complicated, nor am I talking about you have to NLP every person you meet and make presuppositions about how difficult their life is and jump into every– I mean, there’s certain pains you don’t want to take away. Look, I speak out of ignorance because I’m not a parent. Although I’ve raised the baby for a year and I’ve been around a lot of kids and I think a lot of my clients are kind of as difficult as some children. But you don’t want to handicap your kids by making their life too easy, right?

So, let me say it this way. What humans want is more woo, woo, excitement, joy, happiness, thrill, thrill-seeking, whatever on every level, just enjoying life. And they want less ah, pain, angst, annoyance, frustration. The only healthy form of fear is concern. Everything else from terror to– what’s frustration? It’s fear and anger kind of combined, right? So, people want more woo and less ah. However, certain ah gives you more woo. Exercise is an example, turning off the TV and going to bed early so you can wake up and not be exhausted, eating– I’d much rather eat pizza and ice cream and sugar and all kinds of stuff all day long because in the moment, it’s going to be a big woo but the ah that will come later.

So, learning that every person can identify with someone they were lusting after and this person wasn’t the healthiest person for them, but boy, they really wanted to get together with this person. I’ll try to keep this PG rated. And what happened was like, you know what? You paid a price for jumping into that pit, right? So, be careful of the things that are enticing and seductive because oftentimes, they don’t have really good consequences attached with that.

So, when you can identify the pain, there are certain pains that are valuable. I get into a sauna and cold plunge almost daily. And in the midst of doing that, it is ah, but the woo that I get from doing it is worth the ah. So, not everything that is painful is actually bad for you. And oftentimes– so what I’m talking about being a pain detective is look at what their life is hurting, look where there’s disconnection, look where you can– sometimes, it’s just simply making people laugh. You can gauge the value of most relationships by how often people laugh together.

And so, sometimes, what is comedy? Comedy is pain plus time equals comedy. Whenever you have pain in your life and you put time between it, oftentimes, sometimes it takes decades, sometimes it never goes away. But you can think of something where you’re like, It’s really funny, but at the time that it happened, like a breakup or someone left you or you got really embarrassed or you got rejected, you can look back. Our friend, Sean Stephenson, who passed away unfortunately, he was my best friend. He would always say to me, “Rejection is God’s protection.” And even if you’re an atheist, you can kind of get what that means.

And so, the point is that there’s a lot of things in life that are painful to people in the moment, and you can probably do a lot with it. And if you learn how to do that, not only will you be really valuable and useful to people, it actually is one of the best ways to make money and be useful because if you can turn a– I mean, would the Miracle Morning exist as a series if you weren’t removing a sh*t ton of pain from people’s lives?

Hal Elrod: No. That’s a good point. Now, I think that– and in your book, I was just flipping through it right now trying to find that section, but you have questions. You’re like, Keith, how do you become a pain detective? Because it is a matter of– I find that going first is often one of the best ways, which is being vulnerable. And then people go, “Oh, you’re not perfect.”

The other philosophy that I meant to share earlier is that, again, I think you really live is you embody is don’t worry about trying to impress people, just figure out how you can add value to their lives. And I think in today’s society, it’s so much like I need to look good for this person, right? I need to impress them. I need to be on their level or I need to– and then you’re racking your brain. What can I say that sounds impressive, right? What would I tell them that they would think is cool? And it’s just subtle but profound shift from they don’t give a shit about the things that I can impress them with. All they care about is can this person add value to my life.

And like you said, maybe they’re funny, but I think to your point, the deepest connection comes when we connect with somebody through their suffering, and then we’re able to, whether it’s just lending an ear or embodying empathy for them or relating like, wow, I can relate to it. I went through something like that and then you did. And now, you’re connecting on arguably the thing.

The pain is what keeps us up at night. The pain is the monkey on our back that never goes away. It never goes away, but it’s the one that makes the biggest impact on our nervous system and our psychology. So, if you can find another human being that you can express that, get it out of your nervous system, and actually express it in and talk about it. And then that in and of itself can be so healing is just talking through it. God, I feel so much better after talking to you. Thank you for simply being a space for me to share it, right?

Joe Polish: Right. Yeah, look, and I’ve been the primary caretaker of a couple of very, very close people to me while they were dying in hospice centers. And when you’ve sat with someone that you can’t fix it, people often go, “Well, what kind of value could you give there?” I don’t know what value I could give. Well, you can be a companion, sometimes presence. Presence is a gift when some people– there are thousands of people sitting in mental institutions or incarcerated or in assisted living homes that are incredibly lonely, in incredible pain, animal shelters, frickin burn units. I mean, there’s so much human suffering in the world and that sucks, but what sucks more is if you don’t have anyone to assist and help.

And so, when people are like, I don’t know how I can add value in the world, oh my God, there are so many people that anyone that’s listening here, it would be a dream come true just to have someone just sit with them or hold their hand or say, “You’re not alone.” And so, we’re not talking about you have to be some elaborate magician that understands every bit of human psychology in order to– it goes back to your thing. If you’re trying to impress somebody, when you’re pursuing status versus growth, it’s a completely different thing.

I’ve had numerous conversations with Dan Sullivan about this. So, when we say influencers, I kind of make fun of influencers because look, in our own ways, people will call us influencers because people know who we are. However, I have a love-hate relationship with that whole term because it’s like, what are you influencing? I mean, influence is great if you’re influencing…

Hal Elrod: Showing pictures of your cool lifestyle, I don’t know what the hell that’s influencing that’s valuable for anybody, right?

Joe Polish: Right. Well, what happens is what it does is a lot of people that are “influencers” and you talk to every one of them and they all spin it, and even the ones that are doing what I would consider just nonsense, but yeah, I’ve got a brand and we really got all the followers and we’re cultivating this sort of mission and everything. It’s like you’re showing pictures yourself and provocative, like really? But…

Hal Elrod: No, but I put an inspirational quote under me.

Joe Polish: Yeah. And again, look, I’m a 55-year-old dude. I mean, I understand being young, it’s appealing to have people admire you. It’s appealing to have people look up to you and say, “Oh, my God, that person is so whatever.” The fact of the matter is, though, is it expanding or contracting? And the worse thing about pursuing status is that all the focus is on you, not about them. And that’s the antithesis of what I’m saying.

You can still get all of those benefits and a hell of a lot more by actually caring about people, by really approaching people, by being useful and grateful and generous and value and saying, “Does this grow the relationship? Or does it not grow the relationship?” And so, it’s a simple question to ask, but you can ask yourself that all the time about any of the relationships that we’re in.

Hal Elrod: And yeah, you mentioned status. So, for me, it’s a question of like, who doesn’t like– I mean, we’re humans. We like attention. We like people saying, “Hey, you’re awesome” or “you did something great,” or whatever. But I have this conversation with my daughter who’s 13 and she’s in theater and she wants to be a famous movie star or whatever now. And I said, “Sweetheart,” I said, “just think about it. Being famous is cool,” I said, “but what are you being famous for? And just I want you to think about what’s more meaningful, being famous because you’re a celebrity or being famous because you’ve helped so many people improve their life in some way and that’s what you’re known for?” And so, I guess I’m projecting my own for sure. As I’m saying this, I’m like, I’m totally projecting.

Joe Polish: I think, here’s the thing, too, because one thing, I grew up very shy, introverted, disconnected. My mother died when I was four. I never saw a model of a healthy love relationship. My father was forever hurt, broken, and tormented. I feel even more empathetic and also appreciative, even though I did not have a very good childhood. I would not want to wish my childhood on anybody. I was raped and molested as a kid. I had no self-esteem. It was very unhappy.

And looking back, though, if none of that stuff happened, I wouldn’t have an addiction foundation called Genius Recovery. I wouldn’t do the stuff that I’m doing now. I wouldn’t have written the Miracle Morning for Addiction Recovery with you and Anna David. I have another book called Understanding Addiction Recovery. We have an educational platform. All this stuff came out of pain.

And so, the whole be of pain detective is if you learn how to transmute it, if you learn how to transform it, you can be really helpful and useful. And I don’t see any of this stuff because someone should be like, “Oh, poor me,” because we also have a culture of narcissists that are sharing their painful story as an attempt to live in woundology and use it as an artificial way to get people to think they’re really cool because they’ve been through some difficult sh*t. I mean, everybody that– I mean, you’ve been through grueling stuff. I mean, God, you were out here in Arizona when you were not in a good place with cancer and you literally look like someone that was in a concentration camp. I mean, you could not gain weight. Your eyes were sunken in. You were coughing. I mean, I could just see the misery that was in your being.

And of course, that hurt me, too, but I didn’t go into the space of like, “Oh, poor help.” Or Hal, my whole approach is like, how can I just be useful to the guy? Because you don’t want to take oftentimes and you know this, sometimes when the people take on the pain of the people that they’re being a caretaker for when someone’s dying, they often experience it in worse places than the person experiencing it because of how emotionally distraught they become.

So, the point is, with all of this sort of stuff that was a difficult challenge, now, looking back on it is I can see a lot of it as a gift, not a gift that’s like, thank you. Some people– and I understand. There’s many different ways that we can take our life experiences and extract the lessons, extract the joy, the learning, use it for amplification. For me, I just know that there’s a lot of people in pain, but there’s a lot of people that are loving life. And you can’t fix the world with broken hands.

And so, to the best of one’s ability, be a useful or helpful person, but don’t bleed yourself. Be discerning on who you give your time, attention, money, effort, and energy to, realize that, like my friend Don Wood says, “If you understood the atmospheric conditions of somebody’s life, it would make sense why they are the way they are.” I am the way I am, think the way I think, do the things I do because of the atmospheric conditions in my life. And the atmospheric conditions of my life for a very long time were very painful. And they were a storm. They were a disaster. They were a tornado. And I got to the point where I actually learned you can change your atmospheric conditions. You can wake up and write a tragedy or a comedy or a drama or a love story, and some days are going to suck and other days are going to be awesome. And life is never always wonderful or always horrible.

Like my friend Dave Kekich, who spent half his life in a wheelchair, he became paralyzed. He said, “Life is seldom as bleak as it seems when it’s going wrong, or seldom as great as it seems when it’s going well. Lighten up, you’ll live longer.” And so, I try to bring up some levity to everything as best I can, and it helps you get through difficult times. And if you operate that way, you can be a lighthouse for so many other people, including yourself.

Hal Elrod: Amen, brother. Well, I’m so grateful that– to me, you are a lighthouse with not just your work, but I mean this book specifically, right? This is a lighthouse for people that want to improve their lives, that want to improve their relationships, that want to expand their circle of influence, that want to suffer less and thrive more, that want more. Woo! What was the last, the other?

Joe Polish: It was ah, and it’s always weird. Even every time I say it, I feel a little goofy when I’m saying it, but it’s like it’s woo and ah because the rest of the day, think about it, we’re all going to be looking for what’s woo, what’s ah. Don’t be one of those ah-ah people. You want to be more woo and less ah.

Hal Elrod: Well, brother, where is the best spot? I mean, I’m guessing wherever books are sold, but the book is What’s in It for Them? by Joe Polish, like shoe polish, not like my wife’s nationality. The subtitle 9 Genius Networking Principles to Get What You Want by Helping Others Get What They Want. Where should people go grab this?

Joe Polish: Well, the website is WhatsInItForThem.com. And so, they can get it there. My name is Joe Polish, like you said, like nail polish or shoe polish, felt the same way as Polish, but I pronounce it polish. And I also have JoePolish.com, but that’s my social media handle for pretty much everything. And I will say, if someone has any addiction struggles, whatsoever, obviously, read the Miracle Morning for Addiction Recovery because I go through the four different ways to get sober and stay sober. It’s not just meetings. It’s four different things. And it’s what I’ve learned and I’ve spent over half a million dollars on my own recovery. And so, what is summarized in that book, you can really get a lot of insight, especially from Anna David and especially from you. So, that’s a real valuable book, but yeah, What’s in It for Them?

I also recorded the audio myself and as you know, recording your own audiobook is a bit of a pain in the butt, but I love it when the author reads their own book. And I spent two years on this book and I hope it really helps direct people in their lives and is what I call a domino for them, and so that they can be a domino for other people and really be useful. So, thank you.

Hal Elrod: Awesome. Well, mission accomplished, dude. Again, I’m about a third of the way through it, so I’ve got a lot to go, but it’s– I mean, I’m dog-earing probably every third page literally, so.

Joe Polish: Verne Harnish, who’s the founder of EO, Entrepreneurs’ Organization, he actually chose my book as the best business book of the year. And when he was giving a talk about it, he said, “There’s not a single page in this book that I’ve not underlined or highlighted.” So, I’m like, “Wow,” that makes me feel good because I really worked hard on it. But you oftentimes don’t know how people are going to respond until it’s out into the wild. And now that it’s out into the wild, people seem to really find my book valuable. And all the proceeds of the book go to Genius Recovery to help people that struggle with addiction. So, yeah, this is a book that I hope stays around for hundreds of years.

Hal Elrod: Yeah. And the fact that Verne Harnish, one of the best business authors of our generation, is making notes on every page. Your book is a huge feather in your cap, so.

Joe Polish: Thank you.

Hal Elrod: Well, dude, it’s an honor to know you, Joe. I love you, brother. It is an honor to have coauthored a book with you. And we will share What’s in It for Them? with my audience. Miracle Morning Community members and goal achievers, go to WhatsInItForThem.com. I always think that’s the best place. If they actually have a book website for the book, the author put a lot of thought into that or usually bonuses and stuff. I don’t know if there are in this case.

Joe Polish: Oh, tons of free bonuses and interviews. When someone gets the book, they don’t have to buy a course. One day, maybe we’ll make one, but we have tons of videos. Every testimonial that’s on the book is only from someone that read the entire book. That was my rules, because I don’t like when business books have a bunch of famous people that have never read the book on it. So, every testimonial is a real authentic testimonial. Yeah, and there’s a lot of bonuses for people just for getting the book.

Hal Elrod: Incredible. I love you, brother. And I will talk to you soon. And goal achievers and members of the Miracle Morning Community, I love you so much. The book is What’s in It for Them? I hope you enjoyed this conversation with Joe Polish and I’ll talk to you next week, everybody.

Joe Polish: Thank you.


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