We’ve talked A LOT about inner freedom over the past couple of years, and specifically how you can gain the freedom to choose how you feel and how you experience every moment of your life—regardless of your circumstances.
Choosing to maintain a state of authentic GRATITUDE can be one of the most beneficial states of consciousness we can choose—especially when we’re enduring difficult times—and yet that’s also when maintaining that state is most challenging. Enter today’s guest.
Few people know this better than Louie Schwartzberg. Louie grew up with parents who were Holocaust survivors, and he learned the power of gratitude from a young age.
Louie is an award-winning cinematographer, director, producer, and visual artist who tells stories that celebrate life. He’s also produced three TED talks that have over 60 million combined views. His newest film, Gratitude Revealed, is a beautiful homage to gratitude and how it improves our lives – both as individuals and as a community.
In today’s conversation, we discuss why it’s crucial to be grateful when times are tough and how to do it, why suffering leads to growth, and Louie’s strategies for practicing gratitude in every moment.
- How Louie learned gratitude from his Holocaust survivor parents and how that inspired him to tell stories about adversity and gratitude through photography and filmmaking.
- The importance of being grateful not just when things are great but also when things feel terrible.
- Stop taking everything for granted. You can be grateful even for the small, mundane things that happen to you daily.
- Gratitude is a muscle, and it will get stronger with practice.
- Why being kind is always better than being right.
- How to sprinkle gratefulness throughout your daily existence to break the pattern of negative thinking and rumination.
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- Louie Schwartzberg on Instagram | Twitter | Facebook | LinkedIn
- Gratitude Revealed
- Fantastic Fungi
- Metahuman: Unleashing Your Infinite Potential by Deepak Chopra, MD
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Hal Elrod: All right, Louie Schwartzberg, we’re here. We finally made it.
Louie Schwartzberg: Yep. Good to be with you, Hal.
Hal Elrod: Yeah. And we owe this all to Josh Eidenberg, our mutual friend, who introduced us. How long have you known Josh, by the way?
Louie Schwartzberg: Oh, gosh. Little over a year, I met Josh through his partner, Brianna.
Hal Elrod: Oh, of course. Yeah. Brianna actually heads up our Miracle Morning Education Department, where she brings the Miracle Morning to schools around the country, yeah.
Louie Schwartzberg: Yeah, I’ve seen that book. It’s incredible, really great program. And both of them, I think, have a ton of energy. I think if we could bottle it, we would solve the energy crisis.
Hal Elrod: Yeah, totally. I’m so grateful to have them on my team. And Bri was first and she said forever, you need to hire Josh. He’s brilliant. And when I finally discovered how brilliant he was, I go, yeah, what a great fit. So, it is funny, though.
Louie Schwartzberg: You see the mushroom over my shoulder, that’s like a big print that Josh made. He’s got that app, that’s our moving art app. But if you point your phone over it, it’s just got a hidden QR code. And then that mushroom will turn into a time-lapse shot.
Hal Elrod: Which is your background, right?
Louie Schwartzberg: Yeah.
Hal Elrod: Actually, let’s talk about that. So, what I wanted to talk about is Josh sent me this film that you just released, Gratitude Revealed. And gratitude is a huge part of my life. I mean, it’s a fundamental part of my life. In fact, one of the quotes that was shared in the film from William Blake, “Gratitude is heaven itself.”
And I really believed that. To the degree that you’re grateful for what is happening in the moment, that’s heaven on earth if you’re fully present, fully grateful. So, I love the film. I’ve been watching it. I watched 30 minutes a day for the last three days. I like to watch movies that way during my lunch break. And so, I finished the last 30 minutes this morning. And you have fantastic film. So, we’ll talk more about that, but talk about your background with moving moments and time-lapse photography. And I guess, let’s lead up to how did you end up making a documentary on gratitude?
Louie Schwartzberg: Sure. Well, I think it all really started when I was a young kid in Brooklyn. My parents were Holocaust survivors. So, growing up under their roof, I learned a lot about how they appreciate all the little things in life, food on the table, a roof over their head, a steady job, the miracle of being able to have children after what they went through. And I think that’s always inspired me to tell stories about people who overcome adversity and have hope and resilience in their life. So, that has kicked me off, too. When I went to UCLA, I was going to be, I think, a lawyer. I was a Poli-Sci/History major, but then the antiwar protests were happening on campus. So, how can I study the French Revolution when there was the revolution happening literally right outside my door?
Hal Elrod: And that was what time frame?
Louie Schwartzberg: That’s like 1970, 1971. And then, so I had to learn photography. I couldn’t just grab my phone and I started to document the police brutality against the students on campus that are being arrested for protesting against the war. I found out that doing a photo essay was a lot easier than writing a paper, so I handed in this photo essay to my Poli-Sci class. I eventually found my voice through photography, and then photography led me to filmmaking. Filmmaking led me to wanting to shoot the highest quality resolution because I was enamored with people like Ansel Adams, and Edward Weston had turned me on to nature.
But in order to shoot high quality 35-millimeter movie film back then, there were no cameras that could do time-lapse. And I was really fascinated with altering time and scale. And so, I kind of pioneered the whole idea of a 35-millimeter time lapse. I retrofitted these old cameras that had a really good movement, used still camera lenses, and pioneered the whole idea of taking the stop motion cinematography outdoors.
It always had been done indoors with animation with cels like Disney, etc., and they had these giant AC motors, but we actually built the motor that was built around flashlight batteries. Coincidentally, 25 years later, somebody manufactured a battery-powered single-frame motor for a movie camera, and it got the Academy Award for technical achievement. So, it was just something I was fascinated with.
The other reason, I mean, so anyway, it was about a sense of wonder. It also had a lot to do with economics because even back then, film was $100 a minute. We purchased the raw stock developing process. And so, when you shoot time-lapse, you only shoot one frame, and then you pause, and then you shoot one frame.
So, it would take me maybe a month to shoot a four-minute roll of film. And I was living in Mendocino, part of the back-to-the-land movement, no phone, no TV, no nothing. But I was able to just capture the magic moments of sunsets and shafts of light and forests and flowers growing. And that kind of set me on this journey of telling stories that take an audience retirement scale.
Hal Elrod: Yeah, and it was probably a year ago that Josh started sending me your video, your time-lapse videos of flower blossoming over the course of a few minutes. I would imagine, speaking of heaven, the technology available now for what you do compared to what it was in 1970, I mean, I can only imagine. Let me ask, like do you appreciate that technology? I’m sure you do in some ways, but is there a certain also appreciation of how you had to scrap together to figure it out and make it happen back when that technology didn’t exist?
Louie Schwartzberg: Yeah. I think being creative when there was like limitations to what you can do is a good thing. But the truth is, I mean, in terms of shooting, let’s say, a time-lapse flower, there’s not a lot that’s changed, the biggest investment is your time, which is why I’ve had cameras rolling 24 hours a day, seven days a week, nonstop for four decades. Because now, I’m shooting, let’s say, with a still camera that’s digital, and so, I’ll tell what the big difference is, back then, I had little money and a lot of time. Now, I have got more money and less time. That’s why I’m rolling all the time because I basically get two seconds of screen time in a 24-hour period on average.
Hal Elrod: Wow.
Louie Schwartzberg: So, if you want to take a wild guess, in 40 years, how much time-lapse mushroom and flower footage do you think I have shooting nonstop round the clock?
Hal Elrod: I can’t even imagine.
Louie Schwartzberg: About 20 hours. So, I squeezed 40 years into 20 hours.
Hal Elrod: 40 years into 20 hours. That’s incredible. So fast forwarding to present time, why make a film about gratitude? Why make a documentary Gratitude Revealed? Why now? And how did that begin?
Louie Schwartzberg: Sure. So, as I said earlier, because of my upbringing with my folks, I love telling stories about people who overcome adversity. I love the whole idea that from ashes comes rebirth. It’s really the story of what occurred, I think, with the folks that survived the Holocaust. But I’ve seen that story over and over in nature. I’ve seen that story when I was shooting a lot of network promos for NBC and ABC back, again, in the early 80s. A lot of the downtown areas across America had been gutted and burned and people moved out of the inner city, went to suburbia.
But then there was this resurgence where young people started to move back. So, whether it’s a city, whether it’s a flower, this whole idea of regeneration and rebirth, it’s something that fascinates me, whether it’s nature or people. So, as I travel across the country doing lots of jobs and I’m on my own, I was always looking for these stories of remarkable but extraordinary people who aren’t famous, who are amazing in what they do, and especially focusing on this idea of overcoming adversity but having a ton of hope, joy, and resilience in their lives. So, I’ve been kind of capturing these magic moments.
And then when COVID happened, after we had released Fantastic Fungi, which was a huge success by going grassroots on your own, well, I really couldn’t be out there filming, and I thought, this is the perfect time to finally edit the movie. I did a TED Talk in 2014, the show about gratitude went viral. It’s gotten almost 20 million views and people share it all the time, like oh, wow, you do the gratitude video work. Oh, it’s Thanksgiving. I sent that to my brother, my sister, my friends, and so many people even in HR, in health care, say they use it over and over in their business meetings.
So, I knew there was something there, obviously. And then, therefore, I said now’s the time to do it because, with COVID, I was able to hunker down in my studio, put together these little pearls of wisdom from remarkable but extraordinary people that aren’t famous and make the movie.
Hal Elrod: So, that is what I thought was one of the things I really appreciated is that you interviewed a lot of not famous, regular folks and just see the simplicity in the things they were grateful for, but you also interviewed well-known, like Deepak Chopra, for example. And actually, I’m reading his book right now, Metahuman. So, it was like perfect timing as I watch that. Well, what was the biggest theme that emerged or some of the biggest themes amongst, whether it was Deepak Chopra or just the non-famous folks that you interviewed in terms of gratitude?
Louie Schwartzberg: I would say that one of the biggest themes, it’s also a reflection of, Hal, the work you do is that it’s actually scientifically been proven that it’s good for you, that if you practice gratitude, it’s good for your health, it’s good for your heart, it’s good for longevity, it’s good for your joy and your mental and physical well-being. Now, there are many ways to get there, and we cover topics like generosity and courage, love, connection. I think these are all overlapping elements that, in my opinion, add up to the gratitude.
I’m not a positive psychology expert. This is just from my own personal gut. But all those things, I think, add up to this umbrella called gratitude. So, I went off in these different directions, letting people talk about courage, fear, generosity, love, connection, laughter, whatever those topics were that I think are the building blocks, so that we can understand that in all those different kinds of wavelengths or directions, they do build up to the ultimate thing. The ultimate is gratitude, which is simply saying thank you and being mindful and having that expression that pulls you out of a negative spiral.
Hal Elrod: Yeah, I’ve found that, for me, gratitude is just the foundational lend that I experience every moment through, including the difficult ones. Like when I had cancer and I was on chemotherapy and I was sick and I was in pain, I felt terrible, I was even in tears at times, and I was expressing gratitude for every moment, for the pain, for the growth because growth comes through pain. And also, you can be grateful for the challenges in the midst of the challenges, I think it takes the sting out of it. In fact, more than that, it reframes the entire challenge. It creates a new context like, wow, this is hard. In fact, it’s the hardest thing I’ve ever been through, but I’m grateful for every moment because it’s shaping me into the person I’m going to be the rest of my life. Thank you for this pain. Thank you for this time. And I want to ask you– go ahead.
Louie Schwartzberg: Just a quick note that people always use this phrase, it’s not a cliché. A cliché is a truth told many times, but you always look back at a situation like that or even a lesser one is, you call it a blessing in disguise. You got fired for that job and you got a better job, or somebody broke up with you, you got somebody better. And in that moment, it’s like terrible, that’s hard. But then when you look back, there’s this common phrase that it’s a blessing in disguise.
Hal Elrod: Yeah. On that note, like the phrase “hindsight is 20/20,” you’re talking about cliché, hindsight is 20/20. I’ve always thought, wait, but why wait until some distant point in the future to look back and see the perfection of this moment, the gift in this challenge? Why wait? For me, I want to bring that hindsight into the present always and go, what’s great about this moment? How can I learn, grow, evolve because of the challenge that I’m experiencing right now? Yeah, so I wanted to ask you kind of an interesting chicken or the egg question regarding gratitude. This came up for me when I was watching the film. So, here’s the question. What comes first, gratitude or things to be grateful for?
Louie Schwartzberg: I think I would probably say that in a moment, things to be grateful for inspires your curiosity and your sense of wonder and your engagement. For me, gratitude is usually a reflection of looking back and savoring that experience. It warms my heart. I can always feel that appreciation is what I feel in the moment, the difference between appreciation and gratitude. And gratitude is something when I have a chance to look back and go, wow. Like last night I had dinner with my family for Yom Kippur. And it was really beautiful. I know I’m going to have memories of last night’s dinner with my grandchildren. That’s going to warm my heart and would I have that feeling, I’m going to be really grateful.
Hal Elrod: Well said. The film talked a lot about the correlation between gratitude and happiness. I’ve pondered before that relationship, that correlation. And at one point, I came to a, I don’t know if conclusion is the right word, but kind of a conclusion, I go, I think gratitude might be the highest form of happiness. Like when you’re, hey, I’m happy, but when you’re, but I’m grateful, it’s like you’re going, I don’t know if highest is the right, it’s more deepest. The deepest form of happiness is a heartfelt, soulful gratitude.
And one of the things that was talked about in the film is that the more we have, in fact, I wrote this down. I don’t know the gal’s name, but she said gratitude is an interesting thing because it arises naturally in conditions of scarcity. It was the idea that when you have so much, I got all the things I need, you start to take them for granted. The more you have, the more you take things for granted. The less you have, the more you appreciate and feel grateful for the little things that you have.
And I think in today’s society, even a person living near the poverty line has more than somebody living 100 years ago. And so, often, we’re complaining about what we don’t have versus being grateful for what we do have. So, I wanted to ask you about that correlation between gratitude and happiness and just hear your perspective on it. And obviously, that’s, I’m sure, been informed by the documentary that you made.
Louie Schwartzberg: Yeah. Well, again, I think happiness is a feeling. It’s a momentary feeling, but like, I think Brother David says, what we’re looking for is the lasting happiness. And I think that’s what gratitude is. And I feel like you’re really right about the point of scarcity. I mean, if you’re hungry and somebody gives you a meal, you’re totally grateful because a lot of us are not very mindful when we’re having a meal, like where did it come from? And what was the effort behind it?
Because most people now in America can have a meal and not feel like they’re starving to death, they don’t even appreciate it anymore, the fact that they’ve got food. I feel that that’s sort of the goal is to just become more present, more aware, and just to appreciate the fact that these things shouldn’t be taken for granted. I mean, COVID was a good example, where you took for granted having dinner with friends and family alone.
Hal Elrod: Being able to leave the house, a lot of things.
Louie Schwartzberg: Yeah. Did we ever think that was a big deal? If anything, we hate it, oh, f*ck, again, I have like, a family’s coming over, you know what I mean? Now, it’s like a precious thing that’s come back into our lives that you can gather or go out. And then when we had fires here for a while in California, we lost blue sky, another thing we took for granted. So, it’s when things disappear, and then you talk about your health, you got a trillion cells in your body that are working in harmony, and only when things go bad do you realize the gratitude, the fact that it’s all working miraculously, that it’s all in harmony. How does that happen? But when things go wrong, then you become aware what a miracle it is that you’re alive, right?
Hal Elrod: Yeah. You said something a minute or two ago on being present. I think that that is such a crucial component of gratitude, and it’s slowing down in being present. And anybody listening right now, like really think about how this can apply to your life. For me, that’s why I need a daily gratitude practice. Like that’s number one, every morning during my Miracle Morning, I start every day by journaling some things I’m grateful for, and I try to get obscure. It’s easy to say my family, this, that, I try to like get not obscure, but real specific and real– like the bite, the first sip of my smoothie I get to take this morning. And that’s an interesting point, too, is I’ve actually tried to, hey, you’re drinking the green smoothie there. There you go.
But I’ve actually tried to express and experience gratitude for things that haven’t happened yet. And that smoothie sip is an example. I’m grateful. And I put my hand on my heart. I’m grateful for the first sip of smoothie that I’m going to have in about 47 minutes. And then I’ll literally sit there for a minute and feel it. And then what that does is it transforms the impact that that first sip of smoothie has in my life. All of a sudden, I feel the texture on my tongue and the cold on my mouth. Like it’s this amazing, miraculous moment.
And so, it’s being present to that moment, but then that kind of advanced gratitude practice of going, I’m going to be grateful of something that has not yet happened, that I’m going to make happen later today, or I’m going to be grateful when my kids, I’m grateful for that moment that I get to wake my kids up this morning or have them come downstairs, I’m grateful to kiss my wife. Express gratitude not just for things that have already happened or are happening now, but the things that are going to happen in the day. And for me, that morning gratitude practice is so important because it’s kind of a foreshadowing of being grateful and present for things that are to come. I’m wondering if your gratitude– well, what your gratitude practice is, if you have one, and how it might have changed or been informed by the film.
Louie Schwartzberg: Well, I never really thought about the fact that it’s a gratitude practice, but my morning practice is I do go down to my studio and I take a look at my time-lapse setup, and then I look at whether or not the flower opened or not or whether it’s still in frame or whether it’s in focus. And if it did open, how beautiful is it? Because that puts me in sync with life flow energy. I want to be part of that energy of organic plant energy that think I’m alive, I’m going to flower, I need to reproduce. I love being part of that. So, I love to garden, to be part of that energy. So, that’s how I kind of start my day.
And like you, I do think about all the little things, but in a way, when you talked about being grateful for something about to happen, when I look at that flower and I realize, that flower someday is going to become a fruit, for example, and that’s going to be a strawberry that I get to eat when that flower evolves. And I understand the incredible symbiotic relationships between the animal world and the plant world, how insects pollinate these flowers, and we are the beneficiaries of that. All of that is in the future. So, I’m looking at more than just the beauty of the flower. I realize that it is going to be food for me to eat. It’s also going to be food for the bees to take home to feed their babies. And I’m just aware of this enabling of lifeforce energy being shared from one kingdom to another.
Hal Elrod: I love that.
Louie Schwartzberg: It’s big.
Hal Elrod: Yeah. Something that just came up for me is that if someone is listening to this or you, Louie, or me, that to transform our quality of life internally, mentally and emotionally, that gratitude can do that, that presence can do that. For example, if you just, like, I’m going to eat the food so I can get to the next thing and then check my email. And you’re just rushing through each and every day, which so many of us do without being present, without being mindful, that’s a really limited quality of life because you’re not really experiencing life. You’re just focused on what’s next, what’s next, what’s next, what’s next.
But if you could imagine and just imagine taking a bite of food and being in a state of gratitude, like think about gratitude is a state of mind. And as you take that bite of food and being so grateful as you watch it coming toward your mouth slowly and then as you scrape it off the fork with your teeth and then you close your eyes, you feel the texture, you taste it, how much richer was that bite of food? Because you were in a state of gratitude as you consumed it versus a state of rushing, a state of stress, a state of whatever. And eating is an end to a mean versus the experience itself.
Louie Schwartzberg: Right. But Hal, there’s another, I think, joint benefit from that, certainly being present and appreciating the moment of that experience. But I think being grateful for me, especially, it can also stop you from being in a negative spiral of ruminating or something that’s bothering you because you can’t just stop thinking about it, but what that can do is go, what can I be grateful for? And what that does is it stops that negative energy because that can do both at the same time. So, also think, well, wait a minute, it kind of puts it on pause. They go, what can I be grateful for? Well, I got fingers that move. I’m breathing. Oh, wow, look at the sun coming through that tree over there. How beautiful is that?
And then before I know it, I’ve stopped that energy of obsessing, ruminating, being in a rut because somebody said something negative to me or because somebody scratched my car or because of something bigger than that, you know what I mean? And so, for me, it’s an amazing tool because we all experience these negative moments. It’s easier for the brain to go negative than it is to go positive. And that’s why we’re talking about this thing about gratitude. It is a muscle, it’s a practice that you’ve developed. It’s like a workout. You got to do it and develop it because the primal brain, it’s easy to go to fear, it’s easy to go to things that are negative for survival. And then all of a sudden, the sun did come out. Did you see that?
Hal Elrod: I saw it. I saw it light you up.
Louie Schwartzberg: Oh, look at that. That’s pretty amazing. Looking through the window, I may have to pull the shade up. But then all of a sudden, like when I was saying it, it shifts your point of view. And what a great thing to be able to have something in your back pocket and look out. Right now, I’m stressing. I’m having a bad time. We all have it. I have it. You have it. We all have it. But how do you flip the switch on that and to have something that is your go-to that works, that is a miracle.
Hal Elrod: You’re totally right because like gratitude and stress, for example, can’t really coexist simultaneously. And like you said, if you’re feeling stressed or upset about a situation and then you go, what can I be grateful for? You immediately just flip it. It’s like you’re swapping the detrimental mental or emotional state with a really positive, empowering, calming, peaceful, emotional state in gratitude.
And I think about it, like what you said made me think about in a relationship. Let’s say, you’re fighting with your significant other and you’re upset at them and oh, they drive me crazy. And then somebody was to come in and go, hey, what about them are you grateful for? I don’t want to think about that. I’m mad, and go, okay, but if you had to get in that state of gradual– well, gosh, dang it, they take such good care of me and they’ve been here. They’re so loyal. All of a sudden, these angry feelings towards this person, you’re just switching it, as you said, with, gosh, they are pretty great. This is a moment in time, not a life, right?
Louie Schwartzberg: Totally.
Hal Elrod: I love that.
Louie Schwartzberg: That’s why depending on the therapist, I’m not a giant fan of couple’s therapy. It forces people to come together sometimes and talk about what they don’t like about each other.
Hal Elrod: Totally.
Louie Schwartzberg: And do all the things we don’t like about each other. And so, what they rarely do is what you describe, look, let’s talk about what we do like about each other because it’s never a perfect relationship and that’s what has to happen as opposed to trying to dig out the dirt.
Hal Elrod: Yeah. And you think about that, like if you imagine couple’s therapy, right? And years ago, my wife and I, we did them a couple of different times. But you think about if a couple is complaining about each other, they’re getting mad. I’ve been there, where she’s talking and you’re like ah, and you’re just biting your tongue because you’re like, that’s bullsh*t. Like, that’s not what happened.
But if you picture a couple on a couch and the therapist goes, what do you really love and appreciate with each other? Picture how that energy between that couple completely shifts, completely changes as one person shares what they’re grateful for and appreciate with the other person. So, the person sharing feels that gratitude and they get to experience it. And this was talked about in the film that when you express gratitude, both people benefit. You’re expressing it and experiencing it. And then so, the other person is as well. That couple on the couch, the person sharing, well, I guess I really love and appreciate this and this. They feel good sharing it, and then the person, of course, feels great receiving it. So, yeah, gratitude, it’s such a magical quality that I think is underutilized.
Louie Schwartzberg: And to add a little nuance to that point, so you can express gratitude to somebody else, you’re saying, thank you. I really appreciate who you are or what you did. But at the same time, you’re also saying you gave some of your time, some of your energy to me. So, it’s self-validating yourself because you were able to dedicate your presence to me. Therefore, I must be worth something because you were willing to give me something. I’m thanking you for that, both ways.
Hal Elrod: Absolutely. Another thing that was said in the film that I wrote down, it’s so funny. One of the reasons the film took me three days to watch it, I was taking so many notes that I kept pausing it and rewinding it and playing it, writing some down. But this woman said, a person’s happiness is best predicted by the breadth and the depth of the connections to the people around them, their social ties. So, I’d love to hear your perspective on the role that relationships and community play in our overall mental and emotional well-being, how that ties into gratitude, but really just talking about relationships and community.
Louie Schwartzberg: Yeah. Well, again, with the pandemic, what did we discover other than those that got severely sick and die, most of us suffered from the idea of disconnection. And that disconnection created a tremendous amount of despair, and we didn’t– again, something we took for granted, not being able to get together with friends and family, workers, whatever it was. So, we need that.
And also, when you study the blue zones, people research these areas of the world where people live the longest. One of the tenants of what works in these areas is their connection to community, and that’s why people live over 100 years old. So, we’re hardwired for connection. It’s in our DNA. I mean, if you look at the human species, we don’t accomplish much on our own. You wouldn’t build New York City on your own. I mean, what humans are really good at is cooperation and adaptability. We’re not the strongest, we may not be the smartest, we’re not the fastest of all species on this planet, but we are really good at cooperation and working together. And that’s one of our, I think, not only a skill set but a need. I mean, the worst thing that could happen to anybody in prison really is torture, is solitary confinement. That’s the worst punishment they give somebody.
So, anyways, connection is important and that does enable not only people, but when I did Fantastic Fungi, I showed the mycelial network underground, how there is this underground network that connects trees and plants to each other. So, it’s a shared economy where ecosystems flourish by being connected, not from greed, but by sharing. And that’s what we also need. We are part of nature. We need social structures and governments and systems and societies that mirror that, that when we all benefit, everybody benefits. And that’s an example of a forest. It’s a community, it’s not a bunch of trees. It’s a community.
Hal Elrod: Yeah. You’ve mentioned COVID a couple of times and something that came up for me, kind of on behalf of our listeners, I know that a lot of people have had a lot of relationships broken as a result of COVID, and all the other division in the world, politics and all this and right and left and this and that. How might gratitude heal a relationship?
And I ask that question, I see it from two perspectives. So, one is what we talked about earlier, which is if you change your perspective and if you’re upset about someone, this person, how could they do this and how could they have abandoned me or how could they judge me or how could they– and then you shift to gratitude internally, you can feel different about that person and change how you experience them. My other thought is I’m wondering how expressing gratitude to the people in your life that may have said you’re not allowed to come to Thanksgiving or whatever, but actually, instead of hating on them because of what they did, almost forgiving them, expressing gratitude as a way to reconnect. So, this is coming up for me, and I’m wondering what your thoughts are on how gratitude can be a bridge.
Louie Schwartzberg: I think the film is a great bridge, first of all, because I did shoot a lot of people in “red” states in the south, etc. And we get to realize that you’re just another version of us because they may sing differently, eat differently, get together differently. So, first of all, I would say that when you’re challenged like that, then you could be grateful for the fact that they’re giving you a challenge. Here’s someone who’s talking to me, maybe about gun control. Maybe I’ve got an opposite point of view.
And so, I have to be grateful that I get to hear his point of view and that I need to be able to– it’s a challenge for me to understand and a challenge for me to bridge to see if I can get him to understand. And one of the ways of doing that would be to say, you know what? I really think that it’s great that you get to go out hunting with your kids and stuff. But if we don’t protect that lake from pesticides going into the lake, we’re not going to have ducks to hunt anymore. So, you have to find a bridge that says that we both love our children. We want that. We agreed.
But one of the things I’m trying to share with you is we have to be mindful of how we take care of the environment. So, it’s better than me coming on to him as a Hollywood Jewish environmentalist, which is making like react, and I hear a word that I’m saying. I’m saying no. I think it’s great that you want to share your culture, your upbringing, your history, and you want your kids to have the same way of life that you do. I respect that, I really do, but let’s all kind of work together to ensure that you can do that. And one of the things we have to be careful of is we want to have a sustainable environment so that your kids can eat the food that you eat, can do the activities that you do. That’s a way to create a bridge.
Hal Elrod: Yeah, I love that. And I know, I think for me, when someone expresses that they appreciate you or what they’re grateful for, you feel connected to them. And so, that would be my thought for anybody that’s listening that has any relationship that they really want to repair or if you have any that you thought you didn’t want to repair before this episode, but now, I’m inviting you to consider, well, hey, maybe the relationship is more important than being right, maybe the other person is doing the best they can with the knowledge and the information that they have, even though you might think you know better.
So, really coming from a place of compassion, but then expressing gratitude, hey, mom, I know we’ve had some difficult stuff, or hey, brother or sister, whatever, neighbor, but you know what? I was really thinking about you and what you’ve meant to my life. And I’m so grateful for X, Y, Z, for this experience, for this thing you did, and I just want to let you know how much, when I think about it, I’m so grateful for the relationship that we’ve had. And then if you want to go further and say, and I wanted to get back like that or whatever, but just expressing that gratitude can be so healing in a relationship.
Louie Schwartzberg: Hal, I think when you come to a fork in the road and you have to choose between being right and being kind, choose kindness, always.
Hal Elrod: Amen. Well said. So, for anybody listening right now, that’s thinking, yeah, this all sounds great, but I don’t have a lot of things to be grateful for right now. I lost my job and my spouse left me, and my kids won’t talk to me. I mean, we’re all suffering in different ways. We all have our own challenges. I’ve been through periods in my life where I’m like, are you kidding me? How bad can it get? And that for me was actually, for what it’s worth, that was when gratitude was the most important if that makes sense. That’s when it was like– and it goes back to that quote about gratitude is often easier in scarcity because you’re like, but anyway, so my point is, what would you say to anyone listening or watching right now who may desperately need to feel gratitude in their life and feels like there are so many things going wrong that there’s nothing to be grateful for?
Louie Schwartzberg: Well, again, start at the basics, I’m breathing. I got to be grateful for that. I got to be grateful that these trillion cells in my body are working in harmony without me having to micromanage it. You mean, come on, I can walk. I mean, those basic things are a starting point. And once you can get into that, then you can find more and more things to be grateful for. The fact that you’re alive, it’s a miracle, and to be able to be present with that and nurture that and savor it. So, it helps get you, again, out of that negative spiral because the problem with the negative spiral is we ruminate.
And when you ruminate in the brain, it’s like erosion. It’s easy to go through these neural pathways. It’s like it digs deeper and deeper. And in a way, it’s comforting for a lot of people, myself included, to feel bad because if you’ve done it a lot, it’s something that you know, it’s a homecoming in a way. It’s something you’re comfortable with, that you feel bad. My feelings are hurt. It’s familiar. That’s the word I guess I’m looking for.
And because it’s familiar, it can actually suck you into it, and you do it more and more. So, again, what’s beautiful about gratitude is you just got to break that pattern, break that neural pathway, create a new neural pathway, find something that catches my eye, that builds my curiosity, so being that that can distract me from that negative spiral, and that to practice. it takes up– for me, beauty is a practice, finding beauty. What is beauty? What turns you on? It could be a fire hydrant. I mean, I go around with my camera, I can walk in inner cities, I can walk down an alley, and I can find beautiful things to film that you wouldn’t think would live in that world. It doesn’t always have to be a beautiful thing, like in “nature.” I can find beauty in a rusted plank on a garage door.
So, it’s like being open to that and looking for that. And then it really activates the brain to be present because I’ve got to be aware of what is it that’s engaging my sensory receptors, whether it’s my vision, my smell, my hearing, whatever that might be. That’s what being present is about. Let’s make sure that all those sensory receptors are on and aware because I might be turned on to something I never thought I was turned on to.
Hal Elrod: Yeah, I love that. For me, you talked about finding the simple things to be grateful for, I’m taking a breath. I mean, imagine if you could attach a feeling of gratitude with every single breath you take. That’s a lot of gratitude in the day. I don’t know how many, I’d have to Google how many breaths we take, but many, thousands, I guess. That’s a lot of gratitude, and it’s available. That’s what’s interesting. That’s available. Literally, that is available to all of us at every given time is you can be grateful for every single breath you take, and then you’d be grateful all day long.
I know when I was in my car accident, and if you know that story, but when I was 20, I was hit by a drunk driver and told I would never walk again. And I made the decision as I was in the hospital, came out of the coma, and I said, if I’m in a wheelchair the rest of my life, I will be the happiest, most grateful person that you’ve ever seen in a wheelchair because I’m in a wheelchair either way. And I would encourage anyone to consider whatever your circumstances are, as difficult as they might be, that choice is available to you. I will be the happiest, most grateful I have ever been while I endure the most difficult time in my life because what’s the alternative? It’s to be miserable while you endure the most difficult time in your life. Either way, you’re enduring that time, it’s just you’re either going to be miserable or you’re going to be grateful. And that’s a choice for all of us.
So, if you’re listening right now, going through tough times, I encourage you to consider making that choice for yourself. Louie, the film is Gratitude Revealed, a fantastic documentary. Where is the best place for people to find it? And how can they watch it?
Louie Schwartzberg: Go to GratitudeRevealed.com, and currently, we’re in like 15 or 20 different cities. So, you can watch it in the theater or you can also watch it virtually. So, when you go to the website, there will be a button Live Cinema or Virtual Cinema, meaning you can screen it at home, you can do it either way.
Hal Elrod: Oh, that’s cool. I love that they have the opportunity to see if there’s a location. I’m going to go check and see if it’s playing near me. That’s awesome. Well, Louie…
Louie Schwartzberg: The reason why I love to see it in the theater too, one is it’s really great to see on the big screen because the fact that it’s beautiful isn’t like pretty, it’s more about what’s the message, okay? Then I’m turning you on. I’m seducing you as I’m hearing all these words of wisdom. But the other thing is it’s building community and enabling people to come together to have a conversation after the film. Even before the film, people go, oh, I haven’t seen you in a long time. And so, it’s like bringing us back together, and that’s a beautiful thing. And also, it’s a shared experience. You can feel the vibration, the room, people laugh and cry during the movie. When you hear others doing that and you’re doing it together, it takes it to a higher plane.
Hal Elrod: Yeah, I got choked up this morning. Yeah, I got choked up this morning watching it. Well, Louie, you are a gift to the world, brother. Thank you for the work that you are doing. Thank you for this film. I am so grateful Josh connected us and I look forward to continuing to see what you do next. In fact, any exciting projects that you’re working on now?
Louie Schwartzberg: Currently, I’m probably working on a film about wonder, just about wonder. And they challenge me, take one word to go, make a film about gratitude. I go, what? How do you do that? Well, I’m going to do one about wonder.
Hal Elrod: You’re going to wonder. So, Fantastic Fungi, Gratitude Revealed– what did you say?
Louie Schwartzberg: I mean, wonder is the intersection between art and science.
Hal Elrod: Fantastic. Awesome, brother. Hey, good catching up with you. And we’ll do this again sometime. Thank you so much, Louie.
Louie Schwartzberg: Okay, take care.
Hal Elrod: Bye-bye.
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