Ali Jafarian

Reclaiming Our Creativity with Erik Hardy

Episode Number 018
Duration 51 min

I’m pumped to share this awesome episode with my new friend, Erik Hardy.  Erik is a creative entrepreneur and recent author of “The Being Equation ” – a book I thoroughly enjoyed.

In this episode Erik and I explore the topics of creativity, education and self exploration. We discuss his story and a variety of his pursuits that have helped him reclaim his creativity.  His book and life lessons are a powerful inspiration for how we all might reclaim our own creativity, analyze our being, and then ultimately understand ourselves better.

Erik also has an awesome side project going called LITTER-ature, which we discuss at the end of the episode. You can check the details out here:
https://www.erikhardy.com/litterature

Guest details
Erik Hardy - Writer, Entrepreneur and Creator
Erik Hardy

https://www.erikhardy.com

Links
Transcript

[00:00:00] Ali: Welcome back folks. Ali here with another episode. Today I have a very special guest, Erik Hardy. Erik and I know each other by way of, a very, let's say unique and special coaching group that I'm part of what which he's more a veteran of and through his wife, I read his book and reached out and here we are today in a very natural, organic way. And he offered to be a guest on the show, which I'm extremely grateful for and excited about. So Erik welcome. How would you like to introduce yourself today?

[00:00:36] Erik: Ah, thank you. I really appreciate the opportunity of being here. Boy, how do you introduce yourself? That's a great question. I guess what I would say is besides the group that you know, I kind of fall in the category of writer, entrepreneur, and just a general creative type. So those are the different types of passions that I follow is creating new things and trying to bring those into the world and in numerous different forms.

[00:01:01] Ali: Awesome. And I'm going to jump right in with questions. Have you always been a creative type?

[00:01:10] Erik: You know, that is interesting as I think back on that, very early in my childhood, I was very creative. Even in school and things that I can remember you know, you'd be asked to write poetry or come up with short stories or, participate in a school play or do something in that nature. I would do those things. And I had ideas, and I got involved in that. And then, you get into those early teenage years and for whatever reason, I think that that creativity kind of dropped away a bit.

And then there was that long period from those teenage years through college and then carrying on into the work world every once in a while creative ideas would pop up, but you know, something else was always too busy taking up the time. And so I don't think I ever, ever really pursued that. And it wasn't until I would say early forties, really, where I really started getting back into the creative mode and when I had the time and space would start creating stories or write poetry, do those different types of things.

[00:02:08] Ali: Totally man. Not only can I relate, but to exactly what you said in many ways, I'm watching my four and six year old exercise their creativity which is in full abundance. It's everywhere. Sometimes the point where it's overwhelming, where I'm like let's calm down and shift into some rest instead of the constant let's draw, let's play, let's run.

There's this beautiful exercise of creativity from children. And to your point, I think teenage years is exactly when it starts to become serious. Where it's like, I'm not sure I have time for that because I had to do this or social influence from peers, sports, work, all that stuff starts to kick in.

[00:02:55] Erik: Absolutely. I think creativity is one of those things that People don't always value. I think, especially the way that let's say the educational system is built. It is creativity when you're just doing a creative endeavor, like maybe writing poetry, writing a short story, whatever it may be.

If it's viewed as quote unquote creative work and you're not producing some product that then you can monetize or is useful for the job or whatever it may be, it's not valued as much. I do feel like that's starting to change fairly recently with the publicity of it through things like, Elizabeth Gilbert, or even YouTube, Instagrammers. You know, those are all creative works first and that's really what grabs people attention. And so people now are getting rewarded for it because it's new and unique and we're seeing a big resurgence, but that's definitely not something that's taught in a traditional education system.

[00:03:50] Ali: A hundred percent, hundred percent. Are you familiar with Sir Ken Robinson, now the late Sir Ken Robinson?

[00:03:58] Erik: Is he the person that did the Ted Talk?

[00:04:00] Ali: You got it.

[00:04:01] Erik: Yes. That Ted talk was phenomenal.

[00:04:04] Ali: For people who aren't familiar, he's an English gentleman who passed recently. He has one of the most viewed Ted Talks of all time. Not only does he have some emphasis on how school kills creativity, but he made a really good point. Whether it's in that Ted talk or not, because I'm fairly well-researched on him.

He explained that as the baby boomers were coming into the education system. So years ago, back in like the fifties sixties, at that point, it was a completely different schooling system than it was today. And even different than when it was when you and I were probably going through the primary education system. And what was interesting is that the head of the school, so the people above the principals who actually kind of dictate and send down curriculum, high level strategy, they were seeking advice from CEO's of Fortune Five Hundreds on what should we teach? What should the curriculum be?

So they're going to like the Ford, the GE, the GM. The big companies of the world and asking them, "What do you want us to teach?" How should we design it so that the students can be prepared for the workforce? And that's a long winded way of me sharing a little bit of historical knowledge, but also agreeing with you that that does not yield creativity.

[00:05:29] Erik: No. And just to be clear, I'm a huge proponent of education and this isn't like bashing the education system or teachers. My mom was in education, my dad was in education, my brother's in education. So, I completely support all of that. I just think there's just such a lag effect in education because everything comes dictated from the top down as, as what is needed, but you know, it takes a while for everything to work for the system.

So the education system we're really living in now was built around what was needed you know, 10 to 20 years ago, which it needs to almost be the other way around as to look out and see what kids need now and what they need to develop into, and then build the education system that way. And it's just not set up that way, unfortunately.

[00:06:13] Ali: Well said. And I agree with you. Yes, school definitely has value, but those are some excellent points.

Something else I want to ask as it relates to sort of getting to know Erik better. Tell us a little bit about your journey. So you gave a really nice dictation of well there's early childhood, then teenage, then work years, then forties of really re-exercising creativity. Share what you think is important as part of your journey, because I'm privy to know you have a very interesting background and how you got to today.

[00:06:46] Erik: Yeah. I think one thing that really fundamentally shaped me from the beginning was I grew up in a very small town in Virginia, like a town of a population of 200 people. My mother had grown up there. My grandparents obviously lived there. And so what people especially to grow up in a big city may not realize is that you not only represent yourself with the actions that you take, but you represent your entire family. You know, generations backwards.

And so people know you as, oh, you're so-and-so's child or your grandfather was so-and-so. I mean, that's the connection that people make. And so there's a big level of responsibility just in that type of system to not do things I think that reflect poorly on your family. And I think in that sense, it's a huge positive. And it's definitely something that I've carried forward in terms of realizing my actions don't only affect me, but they reflect on my larger sphere.

And so that kind of childhood, also because it was a small town, everyone knew you, so we could leave our house in the morning as kids, as young kids, 10, 12 years old, and literally be gone all day. No checking in, no anything. You know, everyone just kind of watched out for you in the general vicinity, we may be a mile away from home, but it really didn't matter. And so from that sense, it was a very free childhood, which is something I think a lot of kids obviously don't experience today. So I feel fortunate from that standpoint.

Another thing I think that really shaped me was as I mentioned, my mom was in education and she was actually the assistant principal of my high school. And then the principal at my high school when I was growing up. And so, you know, there again, that's kind of a big influence, big pressure to, you know, quote unquote, do the right things and, and not, not get into trouble. Maybe not push the boundaries as much as, as some people do during their teenage years. And I think that was one of the things that may really have influenced a little stifling of that creativity and just making sure that I was doing the right things academically and fit into the right molds and playing sports and checking off all those boxes.

And it, was probably more of a, a subconscious level. Like I didn't consciously think, okay well, I'm trading one thing for another. But now as I reflect back on it, I definitely think that shaped this idea that I had to show up a certain way in life. And I couldn't maybe express myself as fully, take as many chances, you know, put things out there that maybe don't follow the status quo as much as someone that didn't have that influence in their life.

[00:09:14] Ali: Totally man. And then this led to a lot of variety in different careers that you experienced, right?

[00:09:23] Erik: Yeah, it really did because I, came out of high school, not having a clear direction of what I may want to do for a living for a career. And so going into undergraduate I chose biology and kind of that field just because I enjoyed biology in high school and I was good at it, but I didn't necessarily know what I may want to do with that. And so ended up getting a degree in biology and not exactly know what to do with that. As I said, my mom's a teacher, dad's a teacher and the answer to not knowing what to do or wanting to advance your life was always to get more education. And so ultimately after a few years with an undergraduate degree and not really knowing what to do, I decided, well, I guess I need to get more education and move on.

And so I went back and did a master's degree in ecology out in Colorado State University. Enjoyed that, worked in that area for a number of years, worked for the federal government as an ecologist, and enjoyed that time, but there again, it was something I kind of fell into. I didn't necessarily have a driving direction. And after seven, eight years of doing that, I got burned out. I thought, okay, what's the next thing I need to do. And I fell back to the same trope of more education and ended up going and doing an MBA, a master's in business administration at Colorado State University while I was still working full-time for the federal government.

Just with the idea of, hey, you know, the most applicable degree that, that you could apply to a lot of different fields without knowing exactly what you wanted to do was an MBA. At that point in time, it was very marketable and so that's that's how I ended up with a master's in ecology and then a MBA. And of course now I would probably say, I don't really use either one of those specifically and ultimately where I've ended up um, I think I had one, you know, one English class in my undergraduate career and that's about it. And, you know, writing is what I enjoy doing the most at this point. So it's kind of ironic that that's the pathway things took.

[00:11:21] Ali: It is. Yeah, it is ironic. I think that as I listen, there is a, a fairly obvious instinct for a lot of us to think that more education will let's say, solve something or lead to another path. And it certainly will lead to other paths. But it doesn't necessarily mean it's going to solve that really deep itch of what do I really want to do, or what am I meant to do? The purpose, the fulfillment type questions.

[00:11:57] Erik: Yeah, society definitely sets up our just the way our educational system is set up. There are these milestones that you think, okay, well, at this point in time, I need to know what I'm going to do next. Your senior year of high school it's like that. Okay. , you're 16, 17, 18 years old. And that's the milestone at which now I'm advancing into either more education for the career I want, or I'm moving into the career I want. And I just don't think everybody reaches that knowledge base at a specific time.

I did know people that at 12, 13 years old knew what they wanted to do. I had a friend that knew he wanted to be a fighter jet pilot, and then he knew his pathway was Air Force Academy. And now he's a pilot . I knew Kristy, my wife, really was into medicine and wanted to be a veterinarian. And that's what she ended up doing, but I just did not have that awareness. And I think there's a whole lot of us out there that don't have the awareness than do.

[00:12:49] Ali: I would agree. Yep. I don't know as many people that are doing the thing now that lights them up, really exercising their gifts, their contributions, who made a conscious decision about that when they were younger. I met a lot more people who are starting to do the work to figure that out now, but at some point, including myself, got lost along the way. At least that's the story I tell myself.

So then we transition to where Eric is today and that's that you just recently launched this book, The Being Equation, which is amazing. I'm just going to give you props here and recommend that anybody who's curious about a lot of the things we're describing, like unleashing your creativity, finding out how to exercise your true gifts, could benefit from reading this. I'm trying not to say should and tell people what to do, but rather suggest that this created a lot of value for me. So thank you for writing it first and foremost.

And tell me about this. I don't even know what questions to ask other than I loved the book. It was easy for me to read and the way that I'll summarize it, is that it gave me a really interesting formula to put together an understanding of who we are. Is that anywhere close to how you would describe it?

[00:14:19] Erik: I mean, that's, that's spot on. The book really came out of my really 15, 20 year journey of trying to answer that question of, well, really the two, Who Am I? and What Am I Meant To Do? What am I meant to do driving it? And I always thought of that - What am I meant to do from a work standpoint? You can apply that question to your whole life. And I think that's really one that people struggle with.

And so this book, The Being Equation is, is a compilation of everything I've read, everything I've taken in, podcasts. You name it over the last, like I said, 15 or 20 years, and all that was kind of bouncing around in my head. And I think this is where the creative side of my brain kind of met up with the more scientific side of my brain, and for whatever reason, this idea of an equation came to mind.

And I really look at that equation as once you understand those variables, the five variables, then you know what makes you, who you are, the person at this very moment, what has shaped you into who you are. And then you can use those variables and kind of back your way into what you want to be. So once you have an idea of the person, you know, I'm hoping to be X date in the future, then you can start using those variables in the present day to turn, turn yourself into what you hope to be in the future.

[00:15:39] Ali: One of the things I loved about the book is that there was this a nice combination of, as you just laid out, science and let's say emotional intelligence. Which for me, it was being someone who has this like creative slash engineering mind, I was like, holy cow. He like made a way for us to calculate this. Some of the really interesting things, when you start talking about egoic interpretation.

[00:16:08] Erik: Right.

[00:16:09] Ali: And also one of the the areas I want to give you some praise for that really stood out to me is how you explained a bit about the concept that we are inevitably a product of our environment. I think that's something that perhaps has been known, but what you did, which I hadn't really heard before is you're saying, and it's a culmination of every single experience. Right? Cause sometimes it's easy to be like, oh, this one thing happened when I was seven and created a trauma or created a direction my life and that's fair.

But what I really took from reading that part of the book, I was like, oh, but it's actually every single little moment, every single experience, hence sort of the equation and how the science and the math became very fun to just continue learning.

So what do you think are some of the key points for someone who may not read it and just listens to this. Like I just mentioned a couple of them, egoic interpretation and the variables you mentioned. What other big things or highlights do you think come from being able to write that book?

[00:17:18] Erik: You know, I think understanding each of the variables is very big. The other piece and I definitely didn't start out, in the beginning of writing with ultimately realizing this, this end point, but you know, that question of what we are meant to do or what am I meant to do? I think the reason it is so hard is because we've been trained that there's a single answer to that question.

Like you will find your life path you're meant to, you know, be a doctor, be a lawyer, you're meant to start the charity that ends up saving 5,000 people, whatever it may be. You have this idea of, I will find this one thing. And then once I get on that path and pursue it, that'll be what I'm meant to do.

And we've been trained to think that, and I think that's completely wrong. You know, some folks, as I mentioned before, I think get, I don't want to say lucky in the sense, but they find that one thing that lights them up and maintains their passion for, 30, 40, 50 years. Their entire life maybe.

But I think the vast majority of people, you may never stumble upon that one thing. And that's because I think you're meant to do so many different things. And so it's not a single answer to a question of - What am I meant to do? It's kind of multiple answers and those change as you change as a person.

The Being Equation's powerful because it shows you what makes you you in the moment. You can kind of use it and look backwards and say, okay, I kind of reacted that way. I was really interested in this one thing, because that's where I was in my life. Or maybe let's take like a sport or something, you know, you grew up in the mountains and you're really into skiing, right.

And you've never surfed a day in your life. And all of a sudden, you're 23 years old. You go to the beach, you have your first encounter with surfing. And now surfing is the ultimate passion of your life. Whereas before maybe it was skiing. And until you experienced surfing the first time, how would you ever have a clue that surfing was what you're meant to do, or it was really something that lit you up so much? Well, it's like that with everything.

Maybe you find a computer programming language that all of a sudden, man, this is just the thing. You're exposed to a course in college and math is your thing in college or something. And that one thing happens to you and it switches. So there's no way you would know that you're born to be a computer programmer in fourth grade when you maybe never been in front of a computer. That's dating me I guess, now everybody in fourth grade is in front of computers and you would come around to all of us in ninth or 10th grade. So that tells you something.

But until you're exposed to it, you can't decide if something is a passion of yours or not. So how could you even know? And so I think we could expose to new things and some things really resonate and that kind of maybe starts taking our life in a little bit different trajectory.

[00:20:01] Ali: That's powerful, man. And it's so true for me in the sense that for a while, I was very enamored by the thing or playing the game of getting to this, then to get to that, instead of being a bit more receptive in which I'm embracing as we speak now in surrendering to kind of see, well, what's coming my way. And maybe experimenting, giving different things a shot and not being so single focused on the one thing. Cause you're absolutely right. That's what we do as humans. It's like, well, I've been conditioned. I've got to go for this thing or I have to become X and sometimes it's revolved around an identity.

[00:20:49] Erik: Absolutely.

[00:20:50] Ali: And that is, dangerous in the sense that you just get so consumed by it. And you lose track of some of the things we've been discussing. You lose track of creativity, of authenticity, of really honoring who you are at your core because of what you've described. Like the one thing. It's pretty powerful that this can grab you and I would agree that most people kind of let this take control. Wouldn't you say?

[00:21:22] Erik: They do. And you know, it's one of those things too, that the way life is kind of structured, unless you make kind of a conscious decision to maintain your flexibility in life, then you may not be free to follow these different avenues that all of a sudden bring out that curiosity or bring out that passion. I mean, you get a good job. You're getting high up in your field. You're getting very well paid. And all of a sudden, you know, you have the very nice house and maybe a nice car, you're kind of living right at that threshold. And all of a sudden you don't have the financial flexibility to switch to a different field, a different career, take a pay cut, move.

You know, you get locked into certain places and especially if you've invested a lot of time and energy in getting to where you are. That activation energy, really becomes hard. It's a high hurdle to jump. And so then it just becomes, well, that's going to take away too much effort. And then you start saying, you have people relying on you, especially if you have a family and children and you want to provide to a certain level. It could be really hard to change lanes when you're mid career, especially as you mentioned, identity is a perfect example.

If you get known as the guy that is great at X and all of a sudden, you're going to go into some field where you're not going to be that great at it when you just start out, your identity is tied up in that. And that can be, a pretty painful switch to make, unless you've really planned for it or you're conscious of it.

[00:22:42] Ali: Absolutely. Pain, fear. I see a lot of fear that keeps people locked into whether it's identities or jobs or commitments. Myself included. I've definitely operated from fear and uncertainty because it is, it is scary when you sort of, let's say, quote, unquote, wake up and you start to become a little bit more aware and in tune with what you really want or what lights you up. And then the emotions we just described kick in. The fear comes, the self sabotage, the doubt, like, nah, you can't do that. You've got all these other things to consider. So another powerful insight. Yeah. Did you have some else?

[00:23:23] Erik: Yeah, I was going to say 100% that's it. You nailed it. I mean, that's exactly what happens. And I still do it and I try to be more conscious of it and I still know that there's fear and doubt. All those things hold me back every day from, from jumping on some things. And it's, it's just that one time or the one morning you wake up and sometimes I think the best thing to do is, is, take action before you even think about it. In certain scenarios, it's really good to follow your spontaneity and then other times not. But sometimes it's just like, uh, okay, I'm just going to hit the button or I'm just going to do this before you even think about it and I'll figure it out, which is, it's hard to do. That can sometimes be the saving grace.

[00:24:02] Ali: That's a great life hack. Yep. That's so true. Is that if you can get ahead of the fear, because we learn a lot when we embrace the fear, but often just getting into it and overcoming it is the challenge as you've described.

[00:24:20] Erik: Yeah. I suffer from analysis paralysis a lot of times, you know, I'll, I'll say, okay, I can do X, Y, or Z. And here's the pros and cons. Sometimes it's like, you're never going to figure it out that way. Just like do something, see if it works out or not. And then, adjust course from there. Right. It's never going to go the way you think. So just kind of plan on that and say, all right, I know I can get to this point. And then from this point, I'll figure it out to the next point. Yeah.

[00:24:48] Ali: I can relate, man. You strike me as, a good and possibly deep thinker, which I like to claim that attributes sometimes to my detriment. Where, like you said, I can just overthink things and get lost and then be like, what even happened here. My current coach has really encouraged me to, let's say, keep the mind as a contributing party, but tune more into the body, the heart, the soul. And be like, well, what are they telling me? Cause like with fear, we can really feel different sensations, whether it's fear, anger, sadness, some of the stronger emotions, like you'll feel in different parts of your body.

And I've noticed that when I kind of tune my mind down a bit and say, hey, stop with all the logic and all the speculation and the calculations, right, just feel this. It's actually very different. And it's been teaching me things around decision-making, like you mentioned. It's very liberating instead of my usual pattern, which is just, oh, just think your way through this.

[00:25:54] Erik: Right. It's uh, and I'm going to get the attribution wrong because I think I've heard it from a couple of different folks, but it's, it's kind of the idea that the mind is a powerful servant, but it's a very poor master. And what I really take from that is that, again, we've kind of been conditioned to pay attention, to use our head, to make logical decisions. But, there's instinct and a quote, unquote gut feeling for a reason, right?

Like I think your body and your heart and your gut, you know, that knows what's right. And oftentimes our mind kind of logically starts to override that. And if you can get to the point where you feel the decision first, before your brain gets involved, before the mind gets involved and then use your brain to execute the decision and say, hey, there's a great role for you brain. You're the best at figuring out how to do something, but you are not necessarily the best at figuring out what to do. And so let you let your body, as you said, that feeling be the driver of that, and then allow your mind to take control and execute on that feeling.

[00:27:00] Ali: I love that. Thank you. I also love that quote.

[00:27:02] Erik: I think I've heard something similar from Elizabeth Gilbert. I'm a huge fan of her and her book, Big Magic. And maybe even you mentioned, Philip McKernan. I think he definitely circles that in one way, shape or form.

[00:27:16] Ali: Totally. Yeah. Phillip is an amazing human that we've both, got the pleasure of meeting. You even more than I have. And, I think that he's an amazing advocate for really listening to, let's say, what your soul, your heart is telling you and not overthinking things.

Okay. We talked about your background, your journey. You just published an awesome book. So now I have to ask what's currently in focus? What are you pursuing now?

[00:27:53] Erik: That's a very interesting question, namely, because, I haven't really talked about this anywhere publicly, but I've had an interesting journey. My mother was diagnosed with cancer in mid-October and so, I've been with her on that journey. She started treatments in early November and, you know, knock wood she's through her treatments. It's just a matter of kind of recovery and seeing how well the treatments did. But, I think this book, the actual launch date was maybe November 4th. And that was literally a couple of days before my mom actually started her first treatment.

And so I've almost just shut down everything related to that and focused on helping my mom through that journey. And what I'll say the huge blessing of all this is, when do you get to spend that much time? I've spent the last, nearly four months with her and you know, I'm 47 years old. When do you get to go back and spend four months with an elderly parent where you're with them day in and day out for that kind of timeframe.

So that's been a beautiful gift and I've had to allow myself a little space and say, you know, you don't always have to be pursuing something and putting things out there. Sometimes there's just an incredible power and being where you are and realizing, okay, I'm in a little bit different season, right at the moment. And those things will be there and I'll get back to them, but this is where you need to be and what you need to do right now.

[00:29:20] Ali: Wow. Well, first off thank you for sharing that. I appreciate you opening up and it also warms my heart to hear that it sounds like things are going in a positive direction. That's a heavy life event and, man, the way that you answered that couldn't have been more perfect in terms of just, you're being right now. You're exactly where you should be or have been recently. And that is more than okay than saying, oh, I'm pursuing this.

A lot of times when I ask that questionnaire, Erik, someone's like, well, yeah, I'm going after this. Even myself, like I'm pursuing the Pursuit of Something because I want to be creative again and talk to interesting people like you. Whereas you had a very let's say different, but amazing answer in saying, like, I don't know that I need to do it right now because I'm exactly where I should be, which is with your mother recently and creating the space for that is awesome.

[00:30:18] Erik: No, I appreciate that. Yeah. Thank you.

[00:30:20] Ali: Of course. I have one other big question and then maybe we'll get into some fun stuff. Maybe this'll be fun too. I know from your book and a little bit of research on you that you used to live in the city. And you traded that with your wife. You could tell me how long ago. To have a little bit more land and I believe a farm type environment, which I'm extremely intrigued about because I joke, but in a very semi-serious way about wanting to farm.

I'm an amateur gardener of vegetables and intensely seeking how I can expand and turn my backyard into a farm. So, tell me about this. Whatever feels right. Like what was the impetus for transitioning and then what does it look like today?

[00:31:11] Erik: Yeah. Thanks for asking that question. This actually circles back to one of the variables in the book is, I have this big belief that your environment, we've talked about your environment, that how it shapes you. So Christie and I lived in kind of the old town part of when you say the city we were in Fort Collins, Colorado. And so the population's roughly 180,000 or so, but you know, we lived in town. My wife is very much a horse person, big into horses, and she's had horses her entire life. And so we had the opportunity to purchase a 15 acre property.

It's only five miles outside of town, but it's a very different setting. It's very rural, it's on a dirt road. On there, there's a horse barn and literally the downstairs is uh like four stall horse barn. And upstairs is a one bedroom kind of apartment that's all one level. We decided to move out of our place in town. It took me a little convincing. Took my wife, convincing me after we had it for a little bit. And then she convinced me to do this. And so we moved into this one bedroom apartment above our horse barn. And the difference in terms of lifestyle, even though it's only five minutes apart, it's still in the same town. And the way I think and feel is, is incredible.

In town, you know, your neighbors are close. We lived on a nice tree-lined street, so it wasn't like I was in a high-rise or something. I mean, it's still outside every day. And there was a park across the street, but just the, I think the feeling of space and openness, it started to kind of gotten to my brain once I moved out to the farm. And then, you know, you look out and you have pastors and then you have the mountains in the distance. And just that feeling of space and openness, I think really freed the mind to expand and really think about possibilities and creativity. And so just that much of a change in my environment really affected how I think, and just being around the animals.

Horses. I didn't grow up around horses, but after being around them for a long time and now like kind of living in the same space, they are incredibly powerful, energetic animals, and they really communicate through the energy and the vibe that they give off. And it's amazing when you start to get in tune with that, what you pick up and I don't know if you have a dog or a cat, you can kind of start to pick up the same thing and, you know, just as well as anyone that they have different moods and you can tell kind of, if they're in a good mood or bad mood, or they're feeling a little off if you're in tune to them. Well, magnify that times 10 with a horse. And, it's just an incredible experience to be in that space and, and take those things into account. So it was a big shift and a big life lesson for me.

[00:33:57] Ali: Yeah, man. Thank you for sharing. I remember reading that part of the book and you described it very similar in terms of being able to look out your window. You were a very impactful writer for me in that moment cause I felt that and I really, in a way I wanted that. I shared with you before we jumped on and hit record that my wife and I are, are currently seeking land a little bit further from what I call, I call this uh, town like Fort Collins, the city. I call the suburbs, like the hustle and bustle.

So if I were to live in the like actual city, oh my goodness. That's way too much. So in a way, I was sort of experiencing through you what that would feel like, and it just felt so refreshing. One of the questions that comes to mind, which we touched on a bit ago is was there some natural fear there in, in making that transition?

[00:34:51] Erik: Yeah, there definitely was because where we lived in Fort Collins for me, was an ideal location. We could walk or bike to almost anywhere. And I kind of thought, geez, like I'm at my ideal, why would I want to move somewhere where, I can still run my bike into town and I do, but it's not nearly the same level of access to restaurants and things, as opposed to just walking out your front door and be in there in five minutes. So I thought, geez, everything I really love about that I'm kind of given up by moving outside of town and then once I was there for a bit, it's a great lesson.

And you think you have the ideal. And then as we were talking about before, all of a sudden this new experience pops up and you're like, oh, wait a second. This is way better than what I thought my ideal was. And you would never know that, right? Like I did not set out with a life goal of living in a horse barn. But that's where I ended up and all of a sudden I'm like, I couldn't have chosen that, but now it's fantastic. I really wouldn't want it any other way. It was a great life lesson for me.

[00:35:53] Ali: Totally. Yeah. Well, congrats on doing that. Cause I think a lot of us will have some resistance. And I've even, I've navigated that. Cause we're currently looking at like, well, we have a very nice spot in the Denver suburbs, but we really want several acres. And like I said, I want to unleash the farmer and have my space and then choose when I want social interaction instead of being exposed to it by default.

So I want to honor that you and Christie made that decision and pushed through it because when I bring it up, a lot of people talk about it, but very few people do that and actually transition because the natural fear. For me, it's like, well, will my kids still have access to friends and decent schools, et cetera. All these games start processing in my mind, and this is encouraging. Yeah. An inspiration.

[00:36:46] Erik: Something else that sometimes people think it's like an all or nothing thing. There's a bit of obviously headache involved, but you know, do something where you rent your house out for a year and try to find a place that you can rent that may at least let you to experience that lifestyle a little bit. And then if you're like, nope, this was definitely not for me. Okay, you've invested a year, you scratch that itch and you know it's not the thing for you and you've gained clarity. Right? And what are you out? Well, you had a great experience for a year on a different place than your house now, and you'll learn.

But until you take that step, like we were talking about before, take a little action and see how it feels. , you're always going to wonder. And it's like that with jobs, it's like that with places to live, it's like that with so many different things. Just try it. You're not committing to it for the rest of your life. You're committing to it for one time to the ski slope or one time to renting your house out for a year. Okay. You can get over that if it's not the right decision. But I think you'll be surprised at what you find out when that happens.

[00:37:41] Ali: Mm-Hm. Sage advice. To your point, you're not losing anything. You're gaining. Just experience more internal wisdom.

[00:37:47] Erik: More clarity, you know the answer to the question now, before you don't know right. Until you try it, you don't know? That's the gist of it.

[00:37:56] Ali: Okay. You want to finish with few fun questions?

[00:37:59] Erik: We can, you know, if you have just a second. So I told you about my mom, but then I'll throw out there, because it relates to creativity and that's what we were talking about some before is that I just in the last few days, and I'm just trying to push it up to my website and mention about it is, this is a completely fun creative pursuit, but I had this idea. I was actually taking a walk and I found a plastic mechanical pencil and a plastic pen, a couple of feet later. And it was just on this dirt walking path.

And so I've bent over and I picked them up and as I happened to be walking, I was also just starting to pick up trash. And then this idea came to me that I start using these things, whatever I find out on my walks as trash on the trail, I'm going to turn them into short stories. I call it LITTERature - L I T T E R A T U R E.

The idea is that as your out on a walk, whatever trash you may find, for me to accomplish this is two goals. A - you're cleaning things up and B - it's like kind of the perfect combination of you and the universe working together to come up with an idea. And you're building it out of trash and so there's no, no feeling or obligation that whatever you create has to be any good. Right. You're only creating it just for fun and it can be three sentences. It can be three pages. There's no time commitment, no work commitment, but I just thought it's incredibly fun. And talk about a shift in the way you walk now. The way I walk around now is I'm looking for different pieces of trash, because they can have an incredible story.

You find the most random things. And all of a sudden that becomes a great piece of creativity. So in the last week has been something that's just lit my world up with excitement and it's for no other reason than it just feels fun to do. And it's just another way to tickle the creative itch. So that's something I'm going to be putting out there soon and we'll invite everybody to participate and to create their own literature.

[00:39:58] Ali: That is amazing. Wow. Not only is it creative, but this resonates directly because one of the things we've been doing recently is when we walk our dogs around the neighborhood, my kids will want to come and they instinctively start asking about trash and we're sort of educating them about littering. All these other questions start coming. And so we started playing this fun game around picking up trash, which as parents, you know, the serotonin is released. We're so proud. We're so happy. Like, yes, let's pick up trash, but now you've given me this extra ammo to say, AND we're going to write a short story about this trash cause my son is learning to read, he's writing so this was a gift and I support this man. I will be watching the blogs for this.

[00:40:51] Erik: Awesome. Yeah. What could be more fun than not only, after you do your, your evening walk and then you can make up a bedtime story together. And you don't even have to write it down. Maybe it's just a bedtime story you tell each other about, you know, using each piece of trash or like couple little pieces of trash and you put together just a fun, little creative story and what you're teaching your children about creativity just by doing that would be fantastic.

[00:41:13] Ali: Beautiful. The other thing I like about this is that normally with littering, it's perceived as a negative societal action. Right. But this is a way to flip it and not focus as much on that, but be like, huh, what's the story behind this? And how can we have fun with it like you said.

[00:41:32] Erik: Yeah, exactly. I've had a lot of fun, my wife, and I've been talking about it. And so now literally I told her about it a couple of days ago and the walks we've gone on. Like, it's so silly, but we're really getting excited about like, oh, look at this, like this little random sign we found. And then we were walking the other day and for whatever reason, we found 11 lottery tickets right in a row, you know, different scratch off. And then, and then they were spaced out over about a quarter of a mile. And it's just like, how many times do you get excited about finding 11 lottery tickets just laying on the ground and what kind of story can you make up with that? And so it's really put a whole new spin on our walks as we pick up trash.

[00:42:09] Ali: For sure. And you're already a talented author, so I'll plant a little seed that this could be a children's book. There's all types of stuff you could do with this. Wow. Okay. Love that. And yeah. Now let's fire some rapid fire. We'll choose a few of these.

So, first one I have to ask, given your background, what's the best book you've read lately?

[00:42:34] Erik: Even for me, this is a strange one, but, I had it on my nightstand, so I grabbed it and I'll hold it up. The Essential Jung. I don't know if you've ever read any of this of Carl Jung. So it's an anthology or kind of a selective work, by Anthony Storr. I really knew very little about him other than hearing his name here and there.

Parts of it are dense, but what's really great is that the editor Anthony Storr just went through and picked out representative works on some of these big influential areas of Jung's life. And so you get a really interesting smattering without having to dig into the prolific number of pages that he wrote over his lifetime. I mean it's just incredible how much he wrote. I've just found it fascinating and it introduced me to a whole new world of topics that you hear in personal development, but you don't necessarily know where it came from. And I think this introduces you to a lot of different things that are, you actually see the origins of it. So it's been fascinating for me.

[00:43:41] Ali: Very cool. That's one I will likely check out. So thank you for that.

[00:43:46] Erik: Absolutely.

[00:43:47] Ali: Next. What animal are you most scared of? Probably not a horse, right?

[00:43:52] Erik: No, no. This technically does not fall into the animal category, but spiders for me are the thing. I have no fear once I know where the spider is. What gets me about spiders is not knowing where they are, you know, accidentally like walking into the web and feeling that feeling on you. That is what freaks me out about spiders. It's not the creature itself.

[00:44:20] Ali: I can agree. They're so fast as well. As a child and even, probably until when did it change? Maybe it changed when I became a parent. So for the majority of my life, I was very scared of spiders. And I'll say it takes a lot to scare me. I got rushed by a moose when I was hiking alone years ago, which was scary. But for whatever reason, not the same level that spiders used to scare me, especially fast, larger, more vicious looking spiders.

So I can relate with that, but it has gone away. I think as I've embraced nature a lot more and just realize that they have a place in everything just like us. And usually with rare exception, don't want to come after us. But no, that said when I see a large, fast brown one, I still do get a little spooked and I haven't completely shook it. Like my dad will go pick it up with something and treat as like a friend. Whereas like I respect spiders and try to help them instead of previously, like frantically trying to kill them. But yeah, they're still spooky.

[00:45:33] Erik: Yeah. I will pick them up in a glass and move them outside. Like I said, once I know where they are I'm great. But that feeling of walking into a spider web or having something crawl on you and not exactly knowing, that's what gets me, it's the unknown. They're actually really beautiful. I'm in Georgia and Georgia, Florida area at the moment they have the big orb weavers. And so you're out walking in the woods and they have monstrous webs. And then you'll see in these spiders are large. Maybe three, four inches, you know, leg to leg. And they're just absolutely beautiful. But man, the idea of walking into one of those webs in the dark and just, oh, forget it.

[00:46:10] Ali: I'm with you man, I'm with you brother. Spiders out of the way. One more. I want to ask you is how would you spend $10 million dollars if you couldn't use it on yourself or anyone you loved?

[00:46:25] Erik: Okay. So can I give you two answers to this? Awesome. Answer number one. And it's funny that you asked this question because this is something I've always thought it would be really cool to do is I would put the $10 million in a trust account or something that's going to kick off. I think it probably kicked off 4 to 5% a year, so it would be 400 to $500,000. And I thought it would be amazing to basically travel around and as you met different people and you came across situations where somebody just needed a couple of grand here, they're trying to fix up a community center there. This school needs a little bit of money here. Just randomly give out money in that sense, almost on a, just kind of take it as the universe, giving you a sign and putting you in front of somebody that needs the money at that time.

And maybe it's just giving $10 to somebody you pass on the street. But whatever it is, just having that freedom and flexibility. Hey, I'm going to give away $400,000 this year in one way, shape or form. And it's going to be these random things that I come across, where I just really feel like I want to be able to help out. And I think that would be amazing, absolutely amazing to be able to do. That would be one thing.

And then, I've always had a love of trees, like really big trees. And we were actually just on the west coast of Canada where they of course have some redwoods and what are they, spruce fir, giant fir? I can't remember now. But it would be amazing to take that $10 million and buy pieces of land with the sole purpose of protecting some really big trees, because the feeling that you get when you're walking through one of those cathedral groves that are just giant and immense, it definitely gives you the sense of awe. And I think I really want to be able to share that with other people, by having this protected area, essentially turning it into a park or something where people could go and just experience that, have that experience for themselves.

[00:48:15] Ali: Amazing answers. Yeah, both of them, man. I think your travel idea is so cool. And if there were more people in the world doing that, they would yield some pretty awesome energy. And trees, not only is there a tree on your book, which is very nicely designed, but, the trees, man have such an important role in nature. And essentially can't live without them yet, we take them for granted and to plant more trees is only going to yield a better world. That's my perspective, at least. So that's a really cool use of funds.

[00:48:58] Erik: Thanks. Yeah. There's something about when you're in those trees, some of those trees we saw were 3000 plus years old. And so when you realize that that tree is 3000 years old and you're here for, you know, if you're lucky a hundred, 120 years. And this thing is 30 times your lifespan and we have the power to either protect it or cut it down. It's mind blowing to me to think about that. That's something can be that old right there in front of you, another living creature.

[00:49:23] Ali: That is unreal. I agree. Where did you say that was? What park?

[00:49:28] Erik: That was this place called Cathedral Grove on Vancouver Island, between Victoria and Tofino, but you know, it's the same if you've been on the California coast, there's a number of different Redwood groves, I think even in Seattle and Olympic Peninsula, that area. So, you know, anytime, if you ever get the opportunity to be around some really big trees and you've never done it, just take it and just spend an hour and you won't be the same. That's for sure.

[00:49:56] Ali: I'm with that man, I am with that. Trees, nature. Thank you for that last piece, Erik. Thank you for being here. I appreciate you, man. This was awesome beyond words. And anything left unsaid before we wrap up?

[00:50:12] Erik: No, just thank you for the opportunity to spend some time with you, it was great. I really enjoyed it.

[00:50:18] Ali: My pleasure brother. Thank you Eric, until the next time, we meet again.

[00:50:23] Erik: That sounds great.

[00:50:24] Ali: Bye-bye.


Ali Jafarian

Ali is a father, husband and serial entrepreneur with a deep drive to create. He writes, records, codes and builds things to inspire the artist in all of us.


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