Episode 237 | Posted on

Marketing through Adversity with Joe Polish

Social isolation has brought on so many challenges because we are social, human creatures who thrive on connection, so people are really looking inward and figuring out how to adapt to this new reality, and still connect even if it’s just virtually. 

My guest today is someone who has connected me to so many other amazing people, and he’s done this for countless others, in life-changing ways. He is truly a super-connector. I’m excited to have Joe Polish join me on the show today. Joe is the founder of Genius Network, which I have been a member of for the past several years. It’s a high-level group of entrepreneurs, bringing some of the most successful and dynamic innovators together to collaborate, network, and do great things in the world. Joe is a force of nature, and a force for good, too, with his Genius Recovery Foundation; working to change the global conversation around addiction and recovery to really help people on a deep level so that they can move on from addiction and get to a better place. 

In this episode Joe and I deep dive into the topics of networking for a higher purpose, making meaningful connections, overcoming addictions and other challenges, the importance of gratitude, and responding vs. reacting, breakthroughs vs. breakdowns, and so much more. It’s a real privilege to have Joe with us today, so without any further ado, on with the show!

In this Episode

  • [00:29] – Stephan introduces Joe Polish, the founder of Genius Network, one of the highest level groups in the world for Entrepreneurs. He’s also a bestselling author, podcaster, and philanthropist.
  • [03:49] – Joe lays down what to expect for businesses that rely heavily on in-person workshops or conferences once we can all go outside and live a ‘new normal.’ 
  • [07:57] – Why context beats content and why comprehension is better than communication if you want to build stronger communications. 
  • [15:11] – It’s all about perspective and where to focus your energy. Joe explains the power of implementation once you’ve acquired knowledge.
  • [19:53] – Joe shares a Genius Network exercise that can help you figure out what’s important to you.
  • [22:48]At the end of the day, are we ever fully prepared for anything?
  • [32:36] – Joe shares an inspiring story about his late friend, Dr. Sean Stephenson.
  • [37:41] – If you want to feel grateful, go out and volunteer.
  • [53:39] – In marketing, a compelling offer is 10 times more powerful than a convincing argument.
  • [55:06] – Learn more from Joe Polish’s advocacy when you visit his website, tune in to his podcasts, read his books, and attend his workshops etc.

Jump to Links and Resources


Joe, it’s so great to have you on the show.

You too, Stephan. Thank you so much, I appreciate it. It’s funny hearing that introduction, it reminds me of some of the things that I have done and off to see if I can live up to a good intro. Great to be here, I’ll be as helpful as I can possibly be. Ask me any question you may want, and hopefully, your listeners, I can help with some stuff.

I was just in attendance at the recent Genius Network virtual event because you’ve had to go virtual, like all the different masterminds, conferences, and so forth. You’ve had to pivot and you’ve done it very quickly. You’ve actually delivered more value than I could possibly imagine for a virtual event. Your Genius Network is all about connections, collaborations, and so forth. That’s a lot harder when you have 100 and some people on a Zoom call with their tiny little pictures and maybe not even having their video turned on. It’s a different experience for sure, but you’ve really squeezed the juice out of what Zoom offers and provided a lot of value to the membership.

I’m curious. Where do you see this going in terms of your business and many other businesses that are having to pivot in a certain way? They’re relying heavily on conferences, trade shows, masterminds, workshops, and in-person venues. Now, it’s got to be online for the foreseeable future because social distancing isn’t just going to go away in whatever number of weeks when the economy reopens for business and non-essential businesses can go back to work. There’s still going to have to be quite a lot of social distancing which is really going to put a wrench in things.

Yeah, a lot. It’s a good question. The answer is, I don’t 100% know but what I do know is that we have to be as adaptable as humanly possible. We are forced to look at innovative ways in order to make things work. Even today, because I think you’re way more technically adept than I am, I’m kind of a moron when it comes to certain things and even recording today, you’re walking me through and teaching me some things about the difference of recordings between Zoom and Skype as an example. All of a sudden, I’ve learned something in the last five minutes right before we started recording here.

But you know what, you and I are both learners. We love to learn and grow and we’re constantly learning new stuff. I am a bit of a geek, yes. I taught myself Assembly Language programming when I was a little kid, so that’s how geeky I was, like hexadecimal. I just learned three days ago about an Applescript that keeps refreshing the Whole Foods Amazon check out process until you get a delivery time. I had no idea that was even a possibility. That is ninja, so I just kept hitting on the Amazon server every minute until I finally got time to get the goods delivered, and now I’ve got a whole bunch of stuff delivered from Whole Foods. We’re always learning new stuff.

I don't want to be the smartest person in the room. I want to be in a place where everyone's getting smarter. Click To Tweet

That’s great stuff. I think it’s a necessity-is-the-mother-of-invention sort of thing. I think what’s going to happen is that there’s a cloud period with everything new where everyone’s like, “Oh, this is kind of cool,” but I do believe, though, that people may get sick at looking at screens, then it becomes what’s the subject matter once a novelty has worn out in certain areas. Then, who are the real experts using the tools, in the same way, that who’s an expert writer if you’re just reading printed words or who’s a talented musician and what do you like watching, hearing, what does it do to make you feel good? I believe that everything that I try to represent in my world and what I personally seek out is connection.

A connection is either you’re in communication or you’re trying to escape. Those are the experiences that people have. I used to tell the story like you’re at a cocktail party, you’re at a seminar or something and a lot of people think of me as the social guy. I’m really an introvert who forced myself to go out and do extroverted things or at least appear that way because if I didn’t put myself out there and didn’t talk to people, then how am I ever going to run a business, learn anything, meet anyone, or discover something?

I have this natural curiosity and simultaneously, shyness and the fear of going out and talking to people. That’s how I grew up because I grew up incredibly shy, really introverted. But I also discovered that if I want to have anything happen in my life, I better go out and take initiative. You’re either frozen stiff or moving scared. Right now, we may be moving scared not knowing how to do something, not knowing how it’s going to work out, but you know what? That’s where courage comes in.

I think it’s going to require a certain level of courage for some people to go back to the state where you’re either in communication or you’re trying to escape. I would say if you’re with someone face to face and you find yourself looking over their shoulder, wanting to get away, versus someone you’re really leaning in to, you’re really enjoying it, and you’re not feeling intimidated or feeling like, “What am I going to say next?” it’s just flowing. I think people are going to gravitate towards the people, the organizations, the content, the connection that makes them feel that way because, at the end of the day, we all want to feel a certain way.

Content is important, but I think context is infinitely more important. Communication is valuable but comprehension is more valuable because you can communicate things to someone, but if you’re not able to comprehend it to the level where you feel connected to it.

I think where this is going to go is we’re going to just learn things that we don’t even know that we don’t know yet. I’m not saying that as a cop-out. I mean, I really am waiting to discover how this plays out. For instance, we just did the Genius Network virtual meeting. Your wife, Orion, gave an amazing presentation, in which we’re even going to do an expanded thing and then we’ll invite people. We’ll do it as a podcast episode because she shared some really great hacks on how to deal with what’s going on right now for stress reduction and how to even feel connected. I think during the lunch meetings, we would take a break and we would play videos and stuff of interesting interviews.

What I want to do during the next Genius Network meeting is to have lunch with each other. We’ll break people up in the break out rooms and during lunch—if they choose, they don’t have to—they can go have lunch, sit and eat, almost like a virtual dinner table. I’m learning this as we go along and I honestly think that this is going to connect people at a much deeper level once we can start getting together in person. I don’t think people are ever going to not want to be in person. Certainly, I’m speaking for myself, of course. I don’t know about the rest of humans. I know for a lot of introverts this is like a dream come true because I never liked to go in crowds anyway.

What I think is going to happen is that we’re just going to realize how important human connection is, we’re going to look at the different technology tools, and hopefully, utilize them in better and more productive ways. Of course, there will always be people that are using technology tools to enslave and get people addicted to gambling, gaming, porn, and constant scrolling in various other things, but I think there’s going to be a lot of really amazing innovations that will come out of it. I’m curious to hear what you think is going to happen?

I’ve been learning so much about the nuances of Zoom and of other sharing platforms, collaboration platforms. There’s a really great tool called Around that I just heard about; it’s in private beta. Have you heard about this thing?

Yeah, but tell me more because I think it was Nick at Leverage that was. Tell me about it.

Around.co, you have each person in a little bubble or multiple people, let’s say there are five of you, you’re all collaborating on the same document, the same workflow or Google Doc, whatever it is. You know how there are, let’s say in a Zoom environment, let’s say five people sitting at a conference room table and there will be one camera and there’ll be little heads sitting at this conference room and you wouldn’t be able to really see any of their facial expressions. Then, there’ll be somebody who’s beamed in from some remote location and they’re just right in your face because they’re very close to their webcam. It just doesn’t put everybody on a level playing field.

What this tool does is it brings them all together on this kind of the same screen in a similar layout where they’re in each of these bubbles and it zooms in on their face and tracts their face. If they move to one side, the center readjusts and puts back in the middle again. This whole collaborative environment, it’s really cool. That’s one example of something that I’ve seen as an innovation that I was not aware of.

It’s not the strongest of species, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change. – Charles Darwin

Another is you can actually hook up your SLR camera. Let’s say you got a really nice Nikon or Canon, use that as your webcam and then you can change the F stop to something really small like a one-point something and have everything in the background blur. You’re not trying to hide it with one of these funky virtual backgrounds that have all these weird effects where let’s say that you’re wearing a color of clothing that matches closely the background then it’s going to be a real mess, you’re going to look like a floating head. Not to worry about any of that because you’re going to have this really elegant, high definition look to you because you’re using this awesome camera. You get this hooked up to a virtual battery, it plugs into the power instead of using a battery. I learned about that.

I learned about how you can do really funny pranks on people with this Zoom video backgrounds and have yourself in the background sneaking in on you. There’s this one, I shared it on my Twitter just the other day, it’s one guy who is punking the other people on the Zoom call where he walked in on himself, opens the door and says, “Oops, sorry!” closes the door and it’s him. It was, “Wait a second, you have a twin brother? What the heck?” so that sort of stuff. There are so many little nuances and fun things that you can do to really up your game.

Marco Tempest, I saw him, he’s a pretty famous magician and he was giving all these magic tricks and virtual reality sort of experiences on his presentation at the Medal Group which is now virtual on Saturday. That was amazing.

I really want to up my game in terms of the whole virtual thing and by the way, I’m an introvert. It does drain my batteries to be interacting with people. I need to take some time, chill out, and recharge those batteries on my own. But I don’t want to just avoid everybody and hang. I work from home. I’m continuing to work from home, but the difference here is I’m working from home with this cloud over me. I can’t go outside if I want to, well not really that far. We’d go around the block with the baby and take a walk or something, but we don’t feel free to just go wherever we want. We can’t go out to the movies or something. It feels very different. It’s actually stress-inducing not relaxing to be holed up in my home office like normal because of the context. As you said, context totally beats content.

It’s great. I’m glad we’re doing this episode right now because I’m learning things while you’re having me as a guest; that’s great. Here’s the thing, though. The question becomes, what’s going to happen? It truly depends on how you use it. What are you listening to? What needs to be solved in your life? Were you seeking it out? Who cares about you? Who do you have a relationship with? And how do you use that to further expand it? We’re either expanding or we’re contracting. There’s a lot of cool things that are out there. It just depends on where you’re focusing your energy, is being devoted, and where’s it being dissipated.

What’s that quote of focus?

Focus goes where energy flows.

Exactly. No, energy flows where focus goes. I forget, but anyway your focus essentially creates your reality and that’s where you channel your energy. That’s where outcomes happen. If you’re focused on all the negative stuff like you’re spending all this time on the news. I was just going down this terrible rabbit hole of this Telegram group. It’s a Doomsday Prepper Telegram group and the guy who runs this—his handle is Aries—we don’t know what his real name is, but he’s like ex-military intelligence. This guy is in the know on stuff.

We were, months ago, getting the inside scoop on where things were going and it was fascinating, terrifying, and depressing, all at the same time. The first time I got on to that group, I saw a young lady’s dead body in the street in China. Within a few seconds starting to scroll, and like, “Okay, I can’t handle this. This is not for me.” I put it down for at least three or four days. Then, I came back to it and I’m like, “I need to know where the shortages are going to be and what we’re in for.” 

Do you have a spare freezer, for example? Do you have three months of food? All these different things were not in my purview, were not on my radar, and now it is. It’s crazy where things are going and how quickly this is all happening. You need to have some sort of glimpse into these potential futures so that you can be prepared and I think that comes full circle to what we originally started with, talking about, is how do folks get prepared for the worst without being caught unaware but also not being so darn pessimistic.

One of my kids was telling me on a recent phone call, “You know? I don’t like talking to you lately because you’re a downer every time.” I’m just trying to convey to her the importance of stocking her fridge, pantry, and stuff, and I’m a bit of a Debbie Downer, but I don’t want to be. I want to be so hopeful, enlightened, and a beacon of light for people, but I also want people to be prepared. With all that said, what do you think are the musts that folks need to do to prepare for a coming storm and what things are nice to have?

There are different ways that I would think about approaching that from what you’re saying because I’m just pondering what you just mentioned about a daughter and someone you have a relationship with. It’s kind of funny. Family members are usually perceived differently than someone that you might have read their book but you don’t know anything about the human because one of your kids is only going to know you from every area of being a parent and what they like and what they dislike, and there’s going to probably be a built-in sort of rebellion anyway and who gives a sh*t about what dad says.

Then, the other thing is I don’t need my father freaking out and it’s really hard to be this person who loves and cares about this person that their level of concern is not going to be perceived as per se concern and protection of love. It’s going to be perceived as, “You’re just trying to tell me what to do.” It’s a complicated situation.

Your past is just your raw material. You can use it to create something great or to completely ruin your life. Click To Tweet

However, I have this saying that any problem in the world can be solved at the right Genius Network. You’ve seen this tool that we use in Genius Network. It’s called My Genius Network and it’s usually used for business or figuring out how to launch a book, build a website, in your particular expertise—SEO—or you’re going to write a sales letter. It could be used for fitness, exercise, or parenting, and the whole key is that anyone can do this on the back of a napkin, on a sheet of paper, or whatever electronic device they want to scribble on.

By the way, I love the reMarkable tablet.

Yeah, so does Dean Jackson loves the reMarkable tablet. I bought one once and I just didn’t give it enough time, I think. I gave it away before I spent enough time having any level of literacy with it.

You can try the new version 2. It’s coming out in a couple of months.

Really? Okay, cool. I just like paper and ink, it’s funny.

Me too.

I swear. I constantly tell people just a regular notepad and a pen, the batteries never run out.

And it’s good for your brain to handwrite stuff and I keep it in my handwriting rather than OCR it on the reMarkable tablet. Because I like reading my own writing and it just feels more real to me.

Right, exactly. There’s a tactile sort of thing with it. This exercise—My Genius Network—where you list the eight most important people in your life is one way to do it. Or if you want to get better in physical shape, you draw eight circles out from the middle. You’re in the middle and then you draw eight circles. Then, you put a line across horizontally. You put the name of the person at the top of each circle and you put their skill, their capability, or what they do or what they represent to you on the bottom part.

What I would say is if you want to get better in physical shape, you may want a personal trainer, you may want a yoga instructor, you may want a nutritionist to give you nutritional advice, you may want a massage therapist, whatever. All these things right now that people can’t go out and have in person, but you can get some of these things virtually. You can get nutritional advice. You can certainly do exercise, work out, and get advice on sleep. You can look at all kinds of different things and you would list who you want in the Genius Network.

To go back to your question on what are the most important things, I almost think like if I was in the middle like I just need to survive, who are the most important people in my life right now that I would want on that boat with me if I can only have X number of people to help me. The way that I do the exercise and it’s the way that I actually do what I call Genius Networking. Not just networking. It’s not about going out and just meeting people. It’s about finding people that have skills and capabilities. If I don’t know how to do something, I know somebody that does. 

For instance, I can’t fully answer in any complete context your question of how would someone get through all this. I can maybe give advice on marketing or how to think about business but I don’t know how to build a generator, I don’t know how to cook with a solar panel. What’s that little device I have in my car that you could put polluted water through and it will still—

The Lightstream?

A light straw. I have a couple of light straws in my car. Believe it or not, I have that sort of stuff. But if I didn’t have those, boil water? If I didn’t have a lighter—

Do you have a bug-out bag?

No, I do not.

Oh, you need a bug-out bag.

A bug out bag?

Yeah, it’s got all the essentials. Let’s say that you need to be out of your house within 30 seconds, you got to get out fast, what are you going to grab? You’re going to grab your go-bag and it’s got whatever, like first aid stuff, survival knife and all that sort of things. You need to have that.

I have some of those things but not all together in one bag but I do have a little survival.

It needs to be in one bag. That’s your go-bag.

Now I know why you’re daughter’s like, “Dad, you’re freaking me out.”

The Book of Survival by Anthony Greenbank

At the end of the day, though, are we ever fully prepared for anything? I guess we can be and I’m not saying there are certain elements where you do the best. I do have the book, The Book of Survival by Anthony Greenbank which is written years ago, and he has a quote that says, “In order to get through an impossible situation, you don’t need the reflexes of a Grand Prix driver, the muscles of a Hercules, or the mind of an Einstein. You simply need to know what to do.” Of course, I have that quote memorized because I’ve thought about that in many applications where if you’re in an impossible situation, you don’t need to be superhuman; you just need to know what to do.

My whole thing is, if I don’t know how to solve something, I start thinking about who does. Someone knows how to do this and if I am aligned with them, I can call them, I can be close to them, or I have access to them, and I can learn from them, then I can get through situations. It goes back to what needs to be solved.

My Genius Network has a lot of different individuals with a lot of different skills and capabilities. When it comes to life in general, all I know is how do you solve one problem that solves a thousand problems. If you’re not sleeping well, you’ve got dozens of problems that are in your life right now because you’re fatigued and lack sleep. You’re making dumb decisions, your brain’s not working well, your nervous system is jacked up, you’re not in the pair of sympathetic state, and you’re stressed out, then your immune system is lowered, you’re more susceptible to catching a virus or just not being healthy.

There are so many things that can be solved by just taking care of the number one asset that we all have in our lives, first and foremost, which is you. Whenever I’m responding to life, I’m doing well. Whenever I’m reacting to life, I’m not doing well. You mentioned Genius Recovery Foundation. I created Genius Recovery because I know the suffering that comes from being an addict. When I was 18 years old and in my worst state, I weighed 105 pounds from freebasing cocaine. For three months straight, I was nearly dead. I’d wake up every day to do drugs, I do drugs to go to bed. I’d wake up to get high, I’d get high to go to bed. I was on uppers and downers, smoking pot and cigarettes, drinking alcohol, taking speed, snorting cocaine and freebasing cocaine, doing psychedelics quite a bit, not for therapeutic purposes, which actually could be useful in the right set and setting as Timothy Larry would say back in the day, or it could be for entertainment and destructions.

When I was an active addict, I was not responding to life, I was reacting because I was triggered and didn’t know how to cope with the pain and the trauma of my past childhood, which is filled with abandonment, rape, molestation, abuse—physical, mental, spiritual—you name it. I sort it through recovery, 12-step meetings which there are many great support groups that are free. We list a lot of those on geniusrecovery.com where people can go for addiction. I’ve built myself in a lot of ways to handle stressful, chaotic situations because a big portion of my life was spent not pursuing harmony but pursuing chaos and getting myself all screwed up in the process. Living with guilt, shame, despair, grief, anxiety, loneliness, depression, suicidal thoughts and all kinds of stuff. 

Where focus goes, energy flows. – Tony Robbins

In a lot of ways, I just want to reduce human suffering. I can only do my part a little bit. What I do know is we can’t do it alone. Silent battles are the hardest battles to fight. If someone’s anxiety-ridden, depressed, or suicidal, show some courage as much as you can because when you’re feeling like sh*t, most people don’t want to reach out for help. That is the time you have to reach out for help, even allowing yourself to do that.

I know that’s difficult for many business owners that have employees or parents that have families and people that are in a leadership position where they have many others that are looking to them to lead them. Deep inside, they’re crying, they’re hurting. That’s why it really is important to get sleep, take care of yourself, drink water, meditate, breathe. You are the asset. You are the number one asset. You’re the million-dollar racehorse.

If you have a million-dollar racehorse—you heard me say this—you wouldn’t shove fast food down its throat, deprive it of sleep, overwork it, overtrain it, let it run through broken glass. You would take care of that horse. You’d give it as much care, nurturing, and rejuvenation as possible. In the middle of a war, that’s really freaking hard to do. It’s more important, though, to do it in those particular situations. 

The strongest person in the world—if they’re massively fatigued—is not going to function. They’re going to screw up and they’re going to lose their sh*t. You want to do your best to not have that happen to you. “Every passing moment is another chance to turn it all around” is a crazy line from the weird-ass movie of Vanilla Sky from years ago.

It was a wild movie.

I always remember that line, “Every passing moment is another chance to turn it all around.” No matter where you’re at right now, in your business, in your life, if you feel like you’re losing or you don’t know what to do, it’s all how you direct that energy. It’s all how you direct that mind. A lot of help is simply a phone call or screen away if you reach out.

Yeah. You got to put on your own oxygen mask first. Also, there’s a misquote, I think, of Charles Darwin which it’s not really a survival of the fittest, that’s a misquote. It’s survival of the most adaptable. If you get through this, not just in the survival kind of mindset, but more of a, “I’m going to adapt.” Are you familiar with the book Antifragile?

Yes. I haven’t read the whole thing but I’ve listened to a part of it on audio. It’s great.

This concept of you’re not just dealing with a resilient system but an antifragile system. If it’s an economic system, an immune system, it’s mother nature. These are all antifragile because they don’t just survive, they thrive in the chaos. They actually need chaos in order to grow and blossom.

I think of my own psychology and my identity as antifragile. I used to think of myself as resilient because I went through hell as a child myself. I had a very tough childhood. I’m not just resilient because of that. I’m antifragile. It’s like I’m bulletproof. 

Antifragility, I think, is really a great concept, something to aspire towards, and to think of this as an opportunity for you to grow massively. All of the growth that came out of those really dark times that you were describing, when you were freebasing and everything, correct me if I’m wrong, but wouldn’t you say that all those really tough, traumatic experiences were gifts in the end?

Yes, as long as I use them that way. My friend, Dan Sullivan, is the founder of the company called The Strategic Coach. I’ve worked with him for years.

He’s amazing.

He’s in my group. Your past is just raw material. You can use that raw material to build something great or you can use it to destroy yourself. Your identity can be attached to it. The problem is a lot of people—most people—at some point in their life, especially as children when they didn’t have the ability to fight back, run away, and ask for help, were victims.

As we become adults, we are victims of things. If you’re in the middle of a war, you’re a victim of the war. You’re a victim of an economic thing. You’re a victim of a drive-by shooting. You’re a victim of decisions that other people, governments, societies, or mother nature has. Whatever has happened, the challenge, though, is in that victim mode. Part of it is I don’t know anyone that has really done enormously great things, which if you were to reverse engineer it, it didn’t come out of adversity. 

Communication is valuable, but comprehension is what connects people. Click To Tweet

If you have a great experience, you can layer on top of that. There are all kinds of ways to take something awesome, say, “Okay, what if I learn this awesome here? Let’s scale this. Let’s translate it. Let’s do more of it.” Certainly, everyone has that. However, if you think in your own life, the things, the big breakthroughs, in order to have a breakthrough, you have to break something. 

Almost everything good in my life, there was some crazy adversity or some frustration that happened first, that in the moment I was hating it, like if you have a break-up that just rips your heart out of your chest, or you have some injury, some medical thing, an addiction, some near-death experience, or some betrayal. Your ability to transform sh*t  into fertilizer, to transform pain into lessons, you’re either winning or you’re learning. Some people are losing. They don’t learn from it, so they lose. Then, they go down a bad spiral. 

Part of it is being able to utilize the incredible direction abilities of your brain to not have upsets or losing, define and destroy you, but better to use it as raw material to create a different future. There are a lot of different ways to do that, and in the moment, sometimes we get stuck. 

When you’re hurting, you’re focused on the injury. You’re focused on the pain and hurt, but when you can bring distance to it and you can look back, like my dear friend, Sean Stephenson, who passed away last year. I was with him in the hospital when he, unfortunately, died of an accident. He had a brittle bone condition. He had over 200 broken bones in his body before the age of 18. 

This guy’s life was just growing up in incredible pain. He had wonderful parents, Gregg and Gloria Stephenson, then his wife Mindie. He FaceTimed me when he was in the parking lot in the hospital saying, “Can you come down here? I fell out of my wheelchair.” I thought he would be okay. I went down there and the last words that I heard him say to me before he went into an unconscious state were, “This did not happen to me.” I’m like, “What?” He’s like, “This didn’t happen to me. This happened for me.” 

I heard that before but man, hearing it in that context when he was in excruciating pain, then two hours later he was dead, it was incredible. At the same time, that guy up to his death still was able to see that, share that, and leave that message that has now been heard by hundreds of thousands of people in that story. Of course, I spoke in his service, the outpouring of love and everything. His whole life was daily having to translate. He never walked a day in his life, he got made fun of as a kid, and he became an incredible public speaker. It impacted millions of lives. I would always think, “What would Sean do? How did Sean translate all of that stuff?” Whenever I find myself, “I can’t do this,” I’ll think, “What would Sean do?” 

Sometimes you have to borrow strength from others. I think he lived probably the most incredible life that I could even imagine that someone like that could live. I’ll tell you, when he was broken down and when he was hurting, me and him, back and forth, we did have calls where he’s crying and I’m crying. We’re going through sh*t, we would vent with each other. It wasn’t sunshine and kittens all the time. It was painful. A lot of it was really painful. When I look back at it, it almost had to happen. We have to go through those moments. We all have those moments. We always will and it’s part of life. 

My other friend who’s paralyzed from the chest down, Dave. He has spent half of his life in a wheelchair. He has this line, this creed where he says, “Things are seldom as bleak as they seem when they’re going wrong or seldom as great as they seem when they’re going well. Lighten up; you’ll live longer.” The more we can keep ourselves in that state of mind, the better. 

Stillness Speaks by Eckhart Tolle

One last thing Eckhart Tolle has this interesting statement. I think it’s Stillness Speaks. “Here’s the spiritual practice for you. Don’t take your thoughts so seriously.” Feelings are not facts. You may feel like sh*t right now. You may feel like you lost everything and you could say whatever everything is. You haven’t. If you’re still breathing, if you’re still alive, you haven’t lost everything. 

I have to do things like read Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl, Eckart Tolle, Michael Singer, and all these different sorts of things when I’m in the downstate. They give me perspective. More than anything, have a perspective. Feelings are not facts. I felt at times that my life was over and I wanted to disappear. You remember I had that breakup, and I just could not imagine how I was going to crawl out of bed? I’ve had massive betrayals in my life. 

The thing is, if you want to be miserable, compare yourself to other people. I wished I had that. If you want to compare yourself, compare yourself to how great you have it to someone who doesn’t. If you’re going to use comparison at all, use it from where you’re at now versus where you used to be. There was a time where you’re dealing with stuff that you couldn’t even imagine you would’ve dealt with in your past but you did it anyway. You got through it, it worked out, and I think it’s good to be able to use the past as raw material because almost every good thing in life usually comes out from some bad thing.

Yeah. It’s an impetus for growth. Orion says this really beautifully when she explains it, “It’s just a gift, but the bow may be on the bottom.” 

Exactly. That’s a great way of looking at it. It’s true, yeah.

Speaking of The Strategic Coach, for a few minutes, you’re talking about Dan Sullivan. He’s got a tool called The Positive Focus. It’s so straightforward and obvious. You just start your (say) staff meeting, your day, or your planning session with finding something good and mentioning it to the group or just mentioning it to yourself. Keep a gratitude journal; something that starts you on the right track because there’s always something to be grateful for.

Exactly. If you have a hard time being grateful for something, go volunteer. Now, I realized it’s really hard to volunteer in person. Years ago, I wrote something, How to Have a Great Day According to Joe. I wrote this thing. It was like an exercise in the morning. If you’re feeling sh*tty, write yourself a positive letter and mail it to yourself, call a friend, work out, do push-ups. A whole variety, like to go to the library and focus. I wrote all these things.

The very last thing I wrote was a PS. I said if none of this is working for you, volunteer at a homeless shelter, a burn unit, an assisted living home, a children’s hospital because whenever you can focus on someone else’s suffering and help bring some sunshine or some light to someone who’s in darkness, it just instantly makes you feel better. When someone feels bad, it is because so much of the emphasis is on my life. 

Don’t be tone-deaf. Have empathy for those who are genuinely suffering right now.

That’s one of the challenges I’ll tell you with self-help and personal development. So much of it is about my life—personal versus helping others. I’ll tell you, being of service to others, like 12-Step groups is an example, some people like them, some people don’t. They help millions of addicts with recovery. It’s not the only way to do recovery but it is a great community. They do have the community aspect right. 

One other thing is the mutual suffering. There were Vietnam vets. In Vietnam, a lot of them will go to a therapist but they won’t be getting better. The moment they put them in a room with other veterans that have been in the trenches, that have been through the war, have been through the pain of that, the mutual suffering is what established a rapport with them that they, for whatever reason, could not get that type of connection. It does come back to a connection.

There’s a lot of people out there that are in worse positions than almost everyone. You can always find someone in a worse position. As weird as it sounds, as counterintuitive as that sounds, I think it’s one of the best ways to pull yourself out, to help yourself is by helping others. Even when you feel you have nothing left to give. What’s interesting is if you have that mindset, you’re probably not going to go there. You’re probably not going to get to a place where you have nothing left to give. 

Look, if we get to a point where you’re going to die, you’re on your last day, your last breath, if you live your life, hopefully, in a connected way, I hope that that transition from most people can be the least amount of pain. Although, I don’t think there’s a way to avoid it. 

Like my friend, Tim Ringgold, who is a music therapist, plays music to people in hospice centers. I’ve sat with my father. My mother died when I was four. My father, I was his primary caretaker until the last year of his life. 

My dear friend, Dr. Janice Dorn, when she was dying, I’ve been in a couple of situations where I’m just watching the fear, the anxiety, and stuff. Some people will have the transition of peace and they’ll have a level of surrender. I think a lot of life is just surrendering at times. Some people keep fighting and fighting and fighting. Sometimes, the fighting is not what’s getting you there. That’s what cost you the pain.

Yeah. What’s the Serenity Prayer again?

Meditations for Miserable People by Dan Goodman

“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” But I’ve got such a twisted sense of humor where there’s one from a little book called Meditations for Miserable People that want to stay that way. It says, “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the thing I can, and the wisdom to know I can’t do either.” 

Of course, I think humor, at the end of the day, if things are just such sh*t, figure out how to make yourself laugh because laughter, sometimes, is the only way I’ve dealt with just situations my brain could not figure out how to deal with. I think it’s really important to watch comedy right now, tell jokes, bring some levity.

That was one of Orion’s mindset hacks that she shared in her presentation, it’s laughter, which is different from gratitude. You should be grateful, of course. It’s wonderful, it’s healing, and it’s lots of different hormones that get released when you’re grateful. You get into an alpha wave state and so forth. It’s all great. But laughter is a whole nother animal. When you laugh, even if you’re not feeling it, you will get there. 

There’s something called Laughter Yoga. I forgot the guy who founded Laughter Yoga but if you go to laughteryoga.org, I’ll put in the show notes. I’ve experienced Laughter Yoga at a Tony Robbins’ Platinum Partner trip and the founder of Laughter Yoga was there. He was getting us all to laugh. It becomes contagious. It just changes people’s outlook, their biochemistry, and everything. That’s so incredibly powerful. 

Watch some funny movies. Do something, Laughter Yoga, that lightens your mood so you can get out of the funk, do some good in the world, and be focused on others not just yourself. It’s hard to be depressed if you’re focused on doing good in the world and helping others instead of yourself. You’ve got to be inwardly-focused in order to be depressed. At least, that’s what I’ve learned from Tony Robbins. 

If you could give your vision of what the new Genius Network might be, let’s say a year’s time. Let’s say that we’re still having to social distance. We’re still having to avoid things like movie theaters, sports events, conferences, trade shows, and all that sort of stuff, which is not an unlikely future, but let’s say it’s a year from now and we’re still in that space. You weren’t able to put on the annual event in-person. None of the events were physically in-person events. A year from now, have you reinvented Genius Network so that it is as powerful, as meaningful, and valuable to the members even more so, perhaps, than it was when people were meeting in person in Arizona?

That’s a good question. Here’s the way I would think about it right now. I’m always trying to better my best. One thing about me is every time I do a conference—I’ve never had one or I’ve not had someone come up to me and say, “This is the best thing that you’ve ever done,” who’s been to many of my previous ones—I always put myself in a position where I’m judged on my most recent performance. I’m always trying to start with a beginner’s mind. If I do this all over again, how would I do it? Don’t rest on my laurels. I learned that from addiction recovery. While you’re resting on your laurels and everything’s going well, your addict is in the front yard doing pushups, waiting for you to come out to pummel your ass. Part of it is don’t rest on your laurels. I’m always having DOS conversations. Now, I’m deepening the DOS conversations.

What does DOS stand for?

It’s a Dan Sullivan concept. It stands for Dangers, Opportunities, and Strengths. The DOS of my clients and the DOS of your clients are always changing. Everyone who’s listening right now has dangers in their life. There are real dangers. It could be cash flow, losing your job, running out of supplies or food, illness. There are a lot of dangers. 

Content is important, but the context is more valuable. Click To Tweet

Then, there are psychological dangers, like I don’t know if I can learn marketing, I don’t know if I can keep a business going, I don’t know if I can pivot. Of course, you can. You just haven’t yet learned how to do it. I would venture to say that people are listening to this because they’re dealing with some DOS issues versus watching some conspiracy theories on YouTube or something. What are the dangers? What are your opportunities? What are your strengths? 

Although Genius Network is focused on building a better entrepreneur—that’s where my focus always will be—I sell people what they want and try to give them what they need. What they think they want is more money, better clients, status, New York Times bestsellers, all of these business aspirations, better conversions, how to do better, more focused advertising.

Greater retention, all that.

Yeah, and all of that is important, certainly. It makes running the business. What I know is that if you build a better entrepreneur, they’re going to do all those other things a little bit better. Health, wealth, and ELF is my focus. “Here’s she who has her health, has a thousand dreams. Here’s she who does not, has only one.” That’s a Proverb that my buddy, Christian Cotichini, first shared with me. There’s a focus on mental and physical health, then there’s wealth. Not just making money but keeping it. 

Right now, we’re really in the survival stage, which is why like on geniusnetworkinsights.com, I put all of these free resources for people simply because right now, they may not have any money. They may be stuck. 

People are tone-deaf. A lot of people are tone-deaf saying, “I’ll go out and build a great big business.” Some people that’s going to be attracted to, but for some people, just surviving, functioning, and not losing everything is going to be a win. There are different ways of how you interact with money.

ELF. Do things that are easy, lucrative, and fun. You can have an ELF business or you can have a HALF business which is hard, annoying, lame, and frustrating. Part of my emphasis is based on the DOS of my clients, I will do things to help them with their health, wealth, and ELF in Genius Network. I will continue to learn and discover new things. I pay attention to all the meetings that we do, what people want, what they need solved, and deliver that to them. My job is to be a detective in determining what the DOS issues are and being able to provide solutions and results. No one wants to join a mastermind group, listen to a podcast, come to an event, or be on a Zoom meeting. What they want is they want the results. But in order to get a result, they need to learn skills and capabilities.

Sometimes, the result is that people just want to laugh. They don’t want to learn anything. Like in recovery, I didn’t learn to be sober. I actually had to unlearn my patterns and behavior that caused me to seek out behaviors, drugs, alcohol, sex, workaholism, and all of these chaos-creating stuff. Unlearning is more important than learning. I smuggle that in as much as I can. That’s more of a subconscious thing than a conscious thing. 

Luckily, I don’t have to do this all myself because Genius Network is filled with incredibly bright people like you. Someone wants to know anything about SEO, I’m not going to tell them. I’m just going to say, “Read your book,” or, “Watch his talk.” That’s how we help each other. It’s a connection network. I don’t want the Genius Network to be known for Joe Polish. I want to be known for people in Genius Network because I don’t want to be the smartest person in the room. I just want to be in a room where everyone’s getting smarter. If that’s a virtual room, it’s still a virtual room if we can’t do it in person, if we have to navigate, and change things, everything that I can discover along the way that’s useful, I will add that in as best as I can. Everything that is not working, I will discard it. It’s constant editing. It’s like the Marie Kondo version of virtual things. Does this bring joy? Does this work? Is this useful? If it’s not, get rid of it.

Bring the joy, it’s out there. One thing I can be sure of is that whatever happens, you’ll be upping your game and you’ll be overdelivering to your members. I look forward to that. 

One of the most critical things I want our listeners to get from this talk—you just briefly touched on it, but it’s so critically important—is to not be tone-deaf. This is the time of great fear, anxiety, uncertainty, and tragedy. If you’re just out there marketing like normal, you haven’t even adjusted your messaging, you haven’t made any edits to your website or your email campaigns while we’re going through this pandemic, through the economic downturn, and tens of millions of people are out of work, that is, by definition, tone-deaf.

Exactly. That’s really an important point. What are people responding to? What are they not responding to? Part of this is you just have to be aware. You can’t be all wrapped up in yourself. Sometimes people were like, “What should I do? What should I do?” I’m like, “Sit down with a notepad and just ask yourself some questions. Use Keith Cunningham’s Thinking Time.” 

What should I do right now? What’s the best way that I can serve my clients? What am I doing that’s working? What am I doing that’s not working? What is my DOS? What are my dangers? What are my opportunities? What are my strengths?

No one reaches their opportunities if you can’t eliminate their dangers. Your clients, you could very much benefit from what it is that you’re selling or offering them, if you’ve got a job and you lost your job, or you’re in a startup. You have opportunities. Whatever your skills are, your efforts, your contribution, your work, there’s an opportunity for someone but if you can’t overcome their dangers, they’re not going to pay you for it. They’re not going to be able to be open to buying it.

The same thing goes with you. You’re not going to reach your opportunities if your dangers are so great. Those are the things to focus on and think about, how do I overcome my own dangers? When you don’t know what to do, you borrow from your strengths. What are the things you do well? Who’s your network? What do you actually know? 

Part of the way to figure that out is not in the frantic state. It’s to sit down and just write. There’s something about slowing the brain down. I say this from an individual who’s incredibly ADD. My buddy, Dr. Gabor Mate, who I interviewed before is incredible. He believes ADD is a response to trauma. Distractibility is the protection mechanism. I tend to believe that as very valid. I believe addiction is a response to trauma. The question that Gabor says, “The question isn’t why the addiction, but why the pain.” So, get into your pain. When I say get into that pain, it doesn’t mean sit down and get yourself in a hurt state. What I mean is just tell the truth. “Here’s what’s going on, take a look at it.

Dr. Edward Hallowell who’s the top ADD, ADHD Psychiatrist in the world is a good friend of mine. He has a three-step worry plan. Don’t worry alone is the first one. Get the facts, and have a plan. Some people are like, “I don’t want to go to the doctor and see if I have cancer because if I do…” You can’t make a plan if you don’t know. Don’t worry alone, get the facts, have a plan. It’s not too difficult to do. You can sit down. Anyone can do that in five minutes and make some progress towards it.

You are your best asset. Give yourself as much care and rejuvenation as much as possible. Click To Tweet

That’s all really good stuff. So, slow down, take stock of all the gifts, and all the blessings that you have. Get into a receptive thinking state. Keith Cunningham even has a thinking chair that he only sits in when he’s doing his thinking time. Maybe you even have your own special thinking chair. Think big picture and get rid of those dangers for your clientele, your customers, so they can be focused on their self-actualization or their business’ self-actualization instead of being at the bottom of Maslow’s hierarchy, which is just survival. Good stuff.

Totally. When it comes to marketing, I know I didn’t talk too much about marketing. What I would say is think of marketing as storytelling. Think of selling as influence. If you just tell a better story, a more effective story, if your life depended on it—you had to write a sales letter, record a video, or come up with an offer that people had to respond to—you would put an emphasis on it. So, put yourself. What do your clients need to hear now? What do your prospects need to hear right now? What are you offering them? How can you create a result for them in advance? 

Part of what my buddy, Dean Jackson, who I do my I Love Marketing Podcast with, has a great line where he says, “A compelling offer’s 10 times more powerful than a convincing argument.” So, don’t try to convince people. Come up with what’s going to compel them. Sell things to people that are looking for those things. It’s not what people need, it’s what people want. It’s like finding the need and filling it. It’s more like find the want and fill it. Find the pain and eliminate it.

Sometimes, you don’t need to talk them into buying anything from you. Sometimes, you can just go create the result for them, and it’ll cost you less money to create the result for them than it will to convince them to buy it from you to create the results. I know that’s a weird, bizarre way of thinking about it, but if you know how to create results for people, maybe just go do it and see how many people will be happy to pay you for it.

Yeah, results in advance. I loved it. Awesome. If folks want to follow you, look into joining Genius Network, donating to Genius Recovery, following or listening to your podcast I Love Marketing or 10xTalk—you’ve got multiple podcasts—where’s a good place for them to start their journey?

The Miracle Morning for Addiction Recovery by Hal Elrod, Anna David, Joe Polish, & Honoree Corder

You know, it’s funny. I’ve got my books here. If anyone’s struggling with addiction, I’ve got one book, The Miracle Morning for Addiction Recovery that I did with Hal Elrod and Anna David. It’s all about how to use the morning as a way to help with your recovery. It’s a great book.

I’ve got a couple of other books I haven’t released yet. This one I just put out as a free book. It’s joesfreebook.com. It’s Life Gives to the Giver. It’s free. You don’t need to buy anything. There’s no opt-in that’s going to put you to some subscription service. The digital version is free. If you want the printed version, you pay for the shipping and handling. There’s no upsell. It doesn’t put you to an upsell funnel. I just put it out for free right now. Right now it’ll help people.

joepolish.com links to everything. It links to my podcast, it links to geniusnetwork.com, it links to 10xTalk—my podcast with Dan Sullivan—and I Love Marketing. For people struggling with addiction, geniusrecovery.com. We don’t sell anything there. It’s all free resources from podcasts that aren’t even mine that we link to, to videos, interviews related to addiction, and all different types of meetings all over the world for every type of addiction. From alcoholism to drug addiction, sex addiction, gambling, co-dependency, on and on, you name it. 

There’s an open letter. Someone wants to know my views on addiction, there’s a short letter I wrote. If you click on the open letter or just type into Google, Genius Recovery Open Letter, that’s been really helpful for people that have addictions or family members that have people struggling with it. I just try to create an educational platform for that.

Life Gives to the Giver by Joe Polish

Half of my life is spent on helping entrepreneurs, the other is spent helping people who struggle with addiction. Truthfully, many of those are the same people because workaholism is a respectable addiction. When everyone’s out there doing their thing, just make sure you take care of you. If you don’t know how to take care of you, then that’s why you connect with other people that are trying to help you take care of you. In a lot of ways, that’s why you’re doing this podcast right now. You’re just trying to help people. 

I hope people appreciate that and see the people that are out there really trying to have these conversations right now. That’s a good form of marketing, kind of what you’re doing. You’re out there just putting out content and hopefully, it’ll resonate with some people and they’ll say, “I wonder, can I give this guy money because he helped me with an idea there?” This is a good way to do business. 

Yeah, business karma.


Yeah. Speaking of which, you have some really great free resources that you put on geniusnetworkinsights.com for anybody and everybody in this time of crisis. They can get some incredible resources, some Genius Network talks that would normally be behind the membership wall. For all these great resources for free, it will help you turn your business around or grow it and take it to the next level. Through this struggle, you can be antifragile, take things through to a whole nother level, and be strong for it.

Yeah, exactly. I’m glad you even brought that up. It’s so funny. In the midst of everything I’m talking about, I forgot that I have this one page that I’ve been funneling all the most recent stuff related to the virus, with doctors, to how to navigate the CARES Act, to how to run your business, the things related to Keith Cunningham on KPIs and key metrics, it’s just so funny. I’m glad you mentioned that. That’s in Genius Network Insights. Thank you.

Yup, all right. Thank you. Listeners, now, it’s time to take some action. Do something that is calibrated with your audience, not tone-deaf. Reveal some light, make a difference for people, and turn adversity into gifts. We’ll catch you on the next episode of Marketing Speak.

Important Links

Your Checklist of Actions to Take

☑ Remain open to modernizing my ways by staying knowledgeable and up-to-date with current trends in society, business, and technology. 
☑ Take more initiative in personal development. Don’t hesitate to share my ideas with others, especially if it can make my current situation better. 
☑ Take things day by day, but also be prepared to some extent. It’s essential to stay present, but what’s better is finding the balance between living in the moment and being ready for a rainy day.
☑ Respond, don’t react. There’s a vast difference between the two. A reaction is typically quick, aggressive, and done without a lot of thought while a response is more thought out, calm, and non-threatening. 
☑ Don’t be ashamed to seek help and connection. I am never alone, and it’s more than okay to borrow strength from others.  
☑ Be resilient. Accept challenges and failures are a part of life, and I become better when I let myself thrive through adversity. 
☑ Lighten up. Feelings are not facts, and most of the time, humor is the best medicine. Don’t forget to incorporate some comedy into my day, even if things seem dark.  
☑ In every new opportunity, don’t forget to implement the DOS conversations. It stands for Dangers, Opportunities, and Strengths. 
☑ In every business venture I attempt, evaluate if it’s an ELF (Easy, Lucrative, and Fun). If these three are checked, it means I love what I do.
☑ Check out Joe Polish’s website to access his resources such as his books, E-Leap tools, Genius Network, his podcast, and more!

About Joe Polish

Joe Polish is the Founder of Genius Network, one of the highest level groups in the world for Entrepreneurs. He curates the Annual Genius Network Event, Genius Network ($25,000), and GeniusX ($100,000), all three groups being home to some of the most successful Entrepreneurs alive, and is considered one of the most influential Connectors in the world.

Joe has also helped build thousands of businesses and generated hundreds of millions of dollars for his clients. He has been featured in INC, Fortune, Forbes, Success, U.S News & World Report, among others, and has spoken at Stanford University. Joe also hosts three of the top-ranked marketing and business podcasts on iTunes, including iLoveMarketing, 10xTalk, and GeniusNetwork. He’s also changed the lives of many others through his charitable causes including: The Make-A-Wish Foundation, Artists For Addicts, Genius Recovery, JoeVolunteer.com, as well as being the single largest contributor to Sir Richard Branson’s charity, Virgin Unite.

His documentary “CONNECTED: The Joe Polish Story,” premiered at the historic TCL Chinese Theatre (formerly Mann’s Chinese Theatre), and his documentary “Black Star” won the Audience Choice Award at the Sedona Film Festival. Joe’s mission with Entrepreneurs and Genius Network is “to build a better entrepreneur”, and his mission with Genius Recovery is “to change the global conversation of how people view and treat addicts with compassion, instead of judgment and to find the best forms of treatment that has efficacy and share those with the world.”



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