Humble The Poet (@humblethepoet) — aka Kanwer Singh — is a rapper, spoken-word artist, poet, and author of Unlearn: 101 Simple Truths for a Better Life.
“You want to see light at the end of the tunnel? Start digging!” -Humble The Poet
What We Discuss with Humble The Poet:
- How your upbringing can prepare you for success (or failure) later in life.
- Why being satisfied with less is different from simply giving up on achieving more.
- How real growth and struggle differ from tacky, self-help fluff.
- Why, if you don’t have a secure self-concept, the media (even if it’s just social media) will build it for you.
- How to build a moat around your psyche so you don’t let in mismatched influences.
- And much more…
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In this episode, we talk to Humble The Poet (aka Kanwer Singh), a spoken-word artist, poet, former elementary school teacher, and author of Unlearn: 101 Simple Truths for a Better Life.
He tells us about the unique perspective he, as a Canadian artist, has of the world from embracing his Sikh heritage, how the world has reacted to him as a result of his convictions — for better and worse — and why he felt compelled to write a book designed to help us all legitimately lead better lives rather than pump us up with feel-good, self-help nonsense. Listen, learn, and enjoy!
Please Scroll Down for Featured Resources and Transcript!
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More About This Show
Unlearn: 101 Simple Truths for a Better Life author Humble The Poet came into this interview wearing a shirt that simply says: “Don’t Die Dumb.” It’s not meant as a knock against dumb people as much as it’s a reminder to anyone who feels like they don’t know everything (let’s be clear: that should be all of us) to keep learning throughout life.
“The only parts of my heritage that I really feel are the most important to continue moving forward is lifelong learning and service…live your life accordingly; just be self-aware, learn as much as you can, and focus on being of service to others — whether that’s through the form of running a business or whether that’s spending your Saturdays at the soup kitchen,” he says.
While he was born and brought up near Toronto, it’s his Punjabi Sikh heritage that makes Humble The Poet — or Kanwer, if you like — stand out in most crowds you’ll find in the Great White North. Donning a turban since he was eight years old, letting his hair and beard grow in the time since, and wearing the distinctive kara bracelet that marks him as a devotee of his faith, he’s had his fair share of run-ins with people disinclined to respect his distinction — people who might very well “die dumb” at their own choosing by fearing the unknown instead of trying to understand it.
Luckily, Kanwer has learned to take these brushes with unvarnished ignorance as an opportunity to grow stronger in his convictions and sense of self. These days, the struggles of the past seem to be paying off in unexpected ways.
“All the racism I dealt with as a kid kind of looked like a down payment for all the reverse racism I’ve benefited from as an adult,” he says. “When I became a teacher, they hired me because of the way I looked.”
In writing Unlearn, hopes to share what he’s learned about taking personal responsibility and growing even when the world seemed determined to break his spirit — all while reminding himself not to take himself too seriously.
“I’m trying to write stuff that I consider extremely important, but at the same time I’m also a character on a very popular YouTuber’s vlogs and her videos. For me, I’m doing it for fun, but now all of a sudden more people know me as ‘that silly, goofy guy with the beard’ than this author.
“And for a while, that took a big hit on my ego until I really woke up and said, ‘Hey, you have an opportunity to connect with people, you also never wanted people to take you too seriously to begin with.’ I don’t want people to read my book and think I’m Osho! I’m a regular guy who can put words together very well. Self-help gets really fluffy and hollow and you can hear something and feel good for five minutes or five days and then it wears off. I wrote this book because I was sick of that. I was sick of the Tumblr quotes. I was sick of the promises. I was sick of the ‘Just have faith! Things will work out!’
“The overall message [is] self-responsibility. Take ownership for this. You want to see light at the end of the tunnel? Start digging!”
Listen to this episode to learn more about the basis and trajectory of Humble The Poet’s unique Sikh style, how social media influencers unwind away from their customarily insane level of constant scrutiny, what Joffrey Baratheon taught Humble The Poet about the downside of fame, what his mother thought about being recognized in public after appearing in a video with him, why wanting less is better than getting more, the importance of learning from bad experiences and seeing them as gifts rather than just trying to live positively and comfortably, the power of shifting from a mindset of win or lose to one of win or learn, and much more.
THANKS, HUMBLE THE POET!
If you enjoyed this session with Humble The Poet, let him know by clicking on the link below and sending him a quick shout out at Twitter:
Click here to thank Humble The Poet at Twitter!
Click here to let Jordan know about your number one takeaway from this episode!
And if you want us to answer your questions on one of our upcoming weekly Feedback Friday episodes, drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Resources from This Episode:
- Unlearn: 101 Simple Truths for a Better Life by Humble The Poet
- Humble The Poet’s Website
- Humble The Poet at Instagram
- Humble The Poet at Facebook
- Humble The Poet at YouTube
- Humble The Poet at Twitter
- I’m Punjabi. That Statement Means so Much to so Many Different People. by Humble The Poet, Tumblr
- 70 Years Later, Survivors Recall the Horrors of India-Pakistan Partition by Vidhi Doshi and Nisar Mehdi, The Washington Post
- 10 Ways Sikhism Differs From Islam: A Comparison of Sikh and Muslim Faiths by Sukhmandir Khalsa, Learn Religions
- Introduction to Sikhism, Sikhs.org
- The Beliefs and Practices of Rastafari by Catherine Beyer, Learn Religions
- Soho House, West Hollywood
- Panjabi MC’s Website
- Lilly Singh’s Website
- Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs by Saul McLeod, Simply Psychology
- Jay Shetty’s Website
- The American Meme, Netflix
- YouTube Will Disable Comments on Most Videos of Kids Because of Pedophiles by Valentina Palladino, Ars Technica
- I Binged “Wild Wild Country” and Then Found My Own Osho Moment in Berkeley by Liz Melchor, Medium
- Lilly Singh Goes to Hollywood by Emily Landau, Toronto Life
- Kill Jay-Z by Jay-Z
- Jack Gleeson aka King Joffrey from Game of Thrones Answers Every Question Ever, University College Dublin
- My Mom Reacts To My Music, Tattoos, and Gives Me Relationship Advice by Humble The Poet, YouTube
- The Aubrey Marcus Podcast
- “Kick Off” (Freestyle) by Eminem
Transcript for Humble The Poet | 101 Simple Truths for a Better Life (Episode 189)
Jordan Harbinger: [00:00:00] Welcome to the show. I'm Jordan Harbinger as always, I'm here with my producer Jason DeFillippo. My friend Humble The Poet is a true hustler. He comes from a sick Indian immigrant community in Canada. He was artistic, became a rapper or a clothing designer and a writer. Basically every immigrant family's worst nightmare. Today we'll discuss how our upbringing can program us for success or failure later in life and how being satisfied with less is different than simply giving up on achieving more. We'll also set real growth in struggle apart from self-help fluff, which is so popular these days. This is a topic, you know, I love. We'll also explore the idea that if we don't have a secure self-concept, the media will be the one that builds it for you and the media is probably the single worst place to get a sense of self. But it is one that we find ourselves relying on more and more these days. We'll learn how we can start to build a moat around our psyche so that we don't let in these types of negative or mismatched influences.
[00:00:57] By the way, a lot of you wonder how I managed to book all these great guests and have such an amazing network. Well, I'm teaching you how to do this for free. jordanharbinger.com/course is where we've got Six-Minute Networking. This is having a great network is honestly the best insurance against life work and business mishaps and money cannot buy it. So check out what we've got for you at jordanharbinger.com/course. In the meantime, here's Humble The Poet.
[00:01:21] One of the primary foci of the show is to educate people and to help people on critical thinking skills and mental models and things like that, instead of just telling them that they should feel good or try to inspire them for five minutes and then they go back to their old ways of thinking. So I love the idea like don't die dumb. Look, being dumb, one, can kill you but, two, you can just stay dumb your whole life. It's really not that hard to stay dumb your whole life, a lot of people doing it these days especially. So I like this shirt that implores you. Like figure it out, learn something, just pay attention.
Humble The Poet: [00:01:57] I'm not here to judge you where you're at. If you're currently dumb, fine, but now where are you deciding to head. That was the idea.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:02:05] Decide not to be dumb.
Humble The Poet: [00:02:07] Yeah, exactly. Decide not to be dumb.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:02:08] It's a choice. Now with all this information for free shows like this, all the things online, Wikipedia, being done now is a choice.
Humble The Poet: [00:02:17] Completely optional.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:02:18] Yeah. Yeah. Completely optional. Exactly. What is that island or the continent?
Humble The Poet: [00:02:22] This is Punjab. So Punjab exists now in the Northern part of India, the Western part of India, and then a bigger chunk is in Pakistan. To be Punjab used to be existing in both realms. So my mom's from the Indian side and then my dad, I guess his grandfather before Pakistan existed was on that side.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:02:45] Oh, wow. Right. Because I keep forgetting Pakistan. People don't remember that Pakistan/Bangladesh/India, all of that was sort of crafted by the Brits in a way.
Humble The Poet: [00:02:59] Everybody was one big dysfunctional family beforehand. And then the Brits made it much more dysfunction.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:03:05] Right.
Humble The Poet: [00:03:05] With clear borders.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:03:06] Yeah. They drew lines that are like, "Hey, fight over this for the next couple of centuries.
Humble The Poet: [00:03:09] Yeah, exactly. And everybody drank the Kool-Aid.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:03:13] Yes. It's got to be tough. How many times per day, by the way, do people just assume that you're a Muslim?
Humble The Poet: [00:03:19] Oh, very regular.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:03:20] Like every single day.
Humble The Poet: [00:03:22] Yeah. I remember recently I was at a basketball game and there was an actor and his girlfriend was like Middle Eastern Muslim. And then he had made a comment like where he didn't know the difference and he's dating a Muslim girl.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:03:36] Oh man.
Humble The Poet: [00:03:37] It was just funny that I forgot what he was saying, but it was something along the lines of like, "Oh, now there's two Muslims here or something like that.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:03:43] Oh man.
Humble The Poet: [00:03:44] Yeah.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:03:44] Just getting still one.
Humble The Poet: [00:03:46] But it's always impressive. There are people that do know the difference and it is what it is, I guess.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:03:51] I learned it in college because I remember going, "Oh Hey man," to this guy who was also Sikh. And I was like, "Oh, why do you have?" He had like a knife on his necklace and I guess it's part -- well, actually tell me what Sikhism is. Because I don't think a lot of people have any idea.
Humble The Poet: [00:04:10] So I pronounced it as Sikh, but there's a lot of history that I'm learning now, where British in the 1700s were calling them Sikhs.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:04:18] Oh, okay. So I'm saying it wrong.
Humble The Poet: [00:04:20] It's, however, people understand it. But so for me, it's Sikh and then Sikhi. Sikh means student, pretty much students of the truth, students of life. And the philosophy grew in the 1500s and India at the time was ruled by the Mughal Empire. So people that were like descendants of Genghis Khan, and then they happened to be Muslim but the majority of the people on the land were Hindus. So the Muslim minority ruled the Hindu majority, and then Sikh philosophy kind of came out of there. It was very marshal. It kind of was like, "Hey, let people live how they want to live. Stand up for yourself." Guru, gu means dark and ru means light. So the first guru, the first teacher of the philosophy stood up to the King, spent some time in jail for it. And then as the following grew, we kind of mobilize, organize. And then by the sixth guru, we had our own army because the guru started having political influence. It's like a really interesting episode of Game of Thrones. So pretty much the instilment of like non-passiveness was really instilled into us. And then by the 10th guru, we had land, we controlled different palaces and what have you. And then he kind of set up a system where he said, "Hey, everybody, everybody needs to be armed. Everybody needs to know how to protect themselves. Everybody should be able to be mobilized at a moment's notice."
Jordan Harbinger: [00:05:53] It's like Israel kind of in a way.
Humble The Poet: [00:05:56] Yeah.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:05:56] Everyone's got to be part of the reserves.
Humble The Poet: [00:05:57] Yes.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:05:58] So that's why because the knife on the necklace used to be, you have to carry a sword.
Humble The Poet: [00:06:02] Yes, it's supposed to be carried a sword. And then, you know, me personally, I believe that should have evolved as well to carry whatever weapons necessary now. Yeah. But I mean, I think the line ti'āra rahō means always be prepared. So I think it's more along the lines of knowing how to defend yourself, self-reliance, being of service to other people too. So if you're in a position to defend yourself, you can also help defend other people who may need it. So, we had a strong heritage of sort of fighting and learning how to fight with the sword. I think we were probably one of the great fighters on the tail end of that before the gun and the canon and everything else came in. So from that perspective, I know out here, folks, they're learning about guns and learning how to be responsible gun owners and how to be shooters. And again, really kind of keeping this mindset of -- we've always been the minority. So like up in Punjabi Sikh, Punjabi is being the language we speak from the state of Punjab. We represent two percent of India. So, I'm a minority there. I'm a minority here. We're minorities everywhere. We don't have the history of even understanding the idea of a safe space or anything like that. So we've always kind of thrived in chaos and being the other. So it's just kind of being prepared mentally and physically at all times, knowing your environment and having a respect for that.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:07:23] I heard that the one reason that you all never cut your hair is because you can bun it up in the turban and it ends up being essentially like a helmet before they had like metal helmets and it was good because it could blunt impacts. Is that true or is that just like some urban legend?
Humble The Poet: [00:07:40] I don't think it is an urban legend. I think there's a lot of stories. One of the stories was turbans were considered royalty. They were actually outlawed for common people to wear. So then in defiance, it became like, "All right, since we're not allowed to do it, let's do it." The style I'm wearing is definitely what the fighters wore.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:08:00] Yeah.
Humble The Poet: [00:08:01] And then they were metal rings around it as well to protect themselves from the sword.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:08:05] Oh yeah, because I was thinking how does hair protect against the sword. This is not checking out. You put metal in there, all right.
Humble The Poet: [00:08:09] And then some of the guys, they'll tie their hair in a bun and they'll iron bowl on top. Then they'll tie their turban.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:08:19] Oh wow. People still do that or that's ancient.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:08:20] More decoratively. Like I know guys that do it now. Because now there's different sec. There are the frontline guys that are called Nihangs. And these guys, they dress up really colorful and their belief was, "We're the frontline, we're here to marry death. We're here to go first." And they got their whole different things going on.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:08:39] That's pretty badass.
Humble The Poet: [00:08:40] They're very badass and they have certain ancient arts of fighting and what have you. I've met a couple of guys in India but I've also met like now like British born guys. By day, they work at pharmaceutical companies. By night, they're training and fighting. It's super interesting. One is a collector and he travels the world buying art from museums that don't know what they got. And so it becomes super interesting in that sense. But I think the overarching idea of what it means to be a Sikh is to be a student, to be forever learning, a lifelong learner, to be non-passive. If you got to stand up for yourself, stand up for yourself. Stand up for others and focusing on service. So we have an idea called Sēvā and then service can be anything from going to the temple and cleaning people's shoes to going to skid row and handing out meals to everything in between.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:09:29] That's a really interesting culture that people still retain. And I think whenever a culture is really oppressed, which you guys have like been since the beginning of time, it tends to stick together a lot better, which makes sense that people still uphold a lot of this because you can always identify someone who's Sikh pretty readily unless you think they're Muslim of course. You can always check it out and the bracelet is a pretty good deal.
Humble The Poet: [00:09:49] Yeah, like iron bracelets as well.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:09:51] Even the guys that don't wear a turban or grow their beard out or like, "All right, I can do the bracelet, mom. I can do the bracelet." What's the bracelet symbol?
Humble The Poet: [00:09:59] Same thing. I mean, depending on who you speak to. I know, in the '70s, there's a lot of people in America who really adopted Sikhi and I feel like they were like hippies evolved.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:10:09] There's a lot of that.
Humble The Poet: [00:10:09] A lot of that here and they talk about chakra and all that type of stuff. For me, personally, I look at it as more heritage. I look at it functionally. Again, they used to wear like a whole bunch of them. So they wear a bunch to protect them. Then I also was told, you know, it's made out of iron so the iron just continues to rub into your skin, so that's good for you. Then as a kid, I was told this is your handcuff to the divine. And then I was told that it's eternal because it's a circle. So there are a million different reasons, but I think now as an adult, I look at it as like, this is your heritage, this is what people in your heritage look like. And you know, people wear silk ties around their neck to look professional.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:10:50] Hey, I'm not judging.
Humble The Poet: [00:10:51] Yeah, no, no.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:10:52] You're right. That is weird.
Humble The Poet: [00:10:54] You're like, "Hey, to look professional, I got to tie a piece of silk around my neck and tie it a certain way and now people think to take me seriously." I realize like, "Hey, it's not even about having these functional practicals." I was like, "Hey, this is what heritage is." And I mean even like the heritage of the turban way before Sikh people and people in the Middle East were wearing it. It was like to keep your head cool in the hot sun. So meaning has evolved slowly over time and I think that's where it is. But I think this became an identifier for Sikh folks.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:11:21] That makes sense? Yeah. I want to make a dad joke because my wife is pregnant. It does contribute to your Sikh sense of style.
Humble The Poet: [00:11:27] There you go.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:11:28] Ding! There's a reason this isn't a comedy podcast. I don't have too many more of those. Don't worry.
Humble The Poet: [00:11:31] Yeah, no more puns for the Punjabi.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:11:34] Oh, dang, you meet me where I am. I like that about you. I think that the unique style that you have, which is large as a result of your heritage and your own additions to it. Because I don't think I've seen a purple turban.
Humble The Poet: [00:11:49] Yeah.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:11:50] Maybe. Are they usually just like black?
Humble The Poet: [00:11:53] I just got a bunch of colors.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:11:54] Got it.
Humble The Poet: [00:11:54] And I work with dope stylists and everybody else is like, "Now, you have this outfit. Can you find a purple turban to go with that?"
Jordan Harbinger: [00:12:00] So match it with the clothes that you're wearing.
Humble The Poet: [00:12:03] Yeah.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:12:03] That's awesome.
Humble The Poet: [00:12:04] I mean I used to just wear black and just to be simple and keep everything going. And then just recently I was gifted a gang of different colors. The thing is turban is made out of cotton, it's like a baseball glove. You got to work them in. You got to tie them five times before they'll even fit to your head. You got to wash them a few times. So for me, it's always like, "Oh somebody gives me a brand new one." It's like, "Ah, I got to go through the motions to get this." I would just say, "Oh I got a whole bunch of black ones, I just steal one from my dad or whatever." And then just recently I got gifted a bunch and I went through the whole process of soaking them, wringing them out, beating them up.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:12:38] Do you think that since you had to grow your hair, you had to have a beard, you had to wear a turban, you had to wear the bracelet. I don't see a necklace. That's probably the only thing.
Humble The Poet: [00:12:47] It's supposed to be the dagger. I'm not wearing it. But you're supposed to wear the dagger and then that transformed into the necklace because like no one's letting you on a plane like that. No one's letting you into any offices like that.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:12:56] Yeah, that makes sense. Do you think some of your expressiveness and our artistic expression in other areas comes from the fact that a lot of your appearance is sort of prescribed by your culture?
Humble The Poet: [00:13:07] Yeah.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:13:08] Like there are certain things that you have to do in order to adhere to the culture and if you break those, you break your tradition, so your expression comes out in other ways. Does that make sense?
Humble The Poet: [00:13:17] It does make sense. It's probably the exact opposite. I grew up as a mushroom cut kid, like a bull cut kid, and my parents had no intention of having me wear a turban or anything.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:13:28] Really.
Humble The Poet: [00:13:28] Yeah. I was born and raised in Canada and my father wore a turban, but his brothers came here and they immediately cut their hair and there's a lot of assimilation. Everyone is just trying to blend in, mix in, not deal with racism or what have you. And what it actually was my mom -- and my parents weren't even into the spirituality of Sikhi. So they just did the bare basics. We probably just wore the kara, which is what is called then. The same way somebody wears a cross around their neck, whether they go to church or not. And what happened was my mom worked at the Kellogg's factory. We had moved to a house and she lived around the corner from this factory and it was like her dream job. She could walk to work in five minutes. She was getting paid, everything was great. My dad was a cab driver, and life was wonderful for two years. And then my mom injured her shoulder and then she couldn't work anymore. And then she kind of fell into her own funk of not being able to be contributing to the family, being injured, not feeling good. Feeling bad that she moved the whole family to a different part of the city just for this job. And she found one of the local temples in the area. And then I think that's when she adopted her relationship with it. So I was about eight, nine years old before I put a turban on my head. So for me, I remember life when I felt like everybody else, and then I remember a life where I stood out. Everywhere I went, people would stop and stare at me. And even as I got older, like I remember taking a vacation with my buddies, going to Cuba. You're 20 and you go to Cuba with your buddies and going to the local market --
Jordan Harbinger: [00:14:51] Yeah if you're Canadian.
Humble The Poet: [00:14:52] Yeah or if you're American, you fly through Canada. But, yeah, and I remember just like going to the local market, it was a festival and like everyone's stopping to stare at me and then realizing that I can never be a fly on the wall. So for the longest time, I resented it. I didn't like it. And there's a lot of guys my age that got frustrated. They thought they couldn't get girls and they've cut their hair, they do different things. And I think for me early, I realized that all that resistance was building strength. Probably after high school and finding different people, different cultures. At some point, people are like clean shaving is what makes the guy look handsome. And then you start meeting people from like North Africa to like, "You know, you look like a child unless you have a beard." You start to realize there are different contexts for different people. And I think that helped me find myself and then a friend of mine got really heavy into Rastafarianism and then he started really showing me quotes from the Bible about Jesus and talking about keeping long hair and power being in the hair. I think a lot of that emboldened me. And then I think slowly, even just society-wise, all the racism I dealt with as a kid looked like a down payment for all the reverse racism I benefited from as an adult. Like when I became a teacher they hired me because of the way it looked.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:16:05] They were like, "Okay, diversity. This guy checks a lot of boxes."
Humble The Poet: [00:16:09] And I mean even recently, I was at some mega private club here in LA. For people who don't want to go to Soho House, the next level club. And the guy I was with was trying to get his brother a membership and his brother is a very popular person in the industry. And the owner of the club said, "Hey, it's the time for straight white men over 35 is up." And then he pointed to me, he goes, "If you want a membership, you can have one."
Jordan Harbinger: [00:16:34] Wow.
Humble The Poet: [00:16:34] And it's really ironic like, oh, I can see like, you know, the wave is changing in a certain way. So I think I'd been noticing that, but also on a regular basis now I don't notice it. I don't even realize sometimes like, oh, shit, you're wearing a purple turban and you stand out. And in LA everybody stands out. I can wear a rainbow turban and 10 inch high heels, walk down in Melrose and people aren't going to look at me because there's somebody else louder than me across the street.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:17:00] That is for sure.
Humble The Poet: [00:17:01] Yeah. So I think for that, I mean in terms of face tattoos and all that type of stuff, probably because I'm a little bit older, so I haven't done any of that. But there was a lot of resistance when I first started within the community. People like, "Oh, you rap, you make music and you're swearing, you've got girls. You're representing us and you're showing us in a negative light." Then I slowly realized that they were just projecting their insecurities on me, realizing that, hey, I'm becoming a public figure. I might be the only person of Sikh heritage that somebody is ever exposed to. So they're afraid of what message I'm putting across. So then I quickly realized that, hey, I don't have to adhere to culture or heritage. I'm actually writing it now. I'm re-appropriating it for what it needs to be today. And if I do it with pride, I don't need to really worry about the people who are clinging onto the past of what it should be. And as I said, we were talking about weapons. They held the dagger but that should have evolved. It's just like that last scene in the last samurai. When they're running with their swords and the guy just pulls up the machine gun, waste everybody. So I think from that side, the only part of my heritage, I really feel that the most important thing to continue moving forward is lifelong learning and service. And I think above and beyond that, if you want to wear a turban on your head, cool. If you don't, you don't have to live your life accordingly. But just be self-aware. Learn as much as you can and focus on being of service to others, whether that's through the form of running a business or whether that's spending your Saturday in the soup kitchen.
Jason DeFillippo: [00:18:29] We'll be back before you know it with our guest Humble The Poet here on The Jordan Harbinger Show.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:18:34] This episode is sponsored in part by Calm. With stress and anxiety, many people often feel exhausted during the day, but then it's time to go to bed and then he can't fall asleep. That sounds like you, I mean, it sounds like me too half the time. If worries affecting your days and your nights, it's going to definitely affect your overall health and that's why I like Calm. This is a meditation app, but it's more than that. It's the number one app to help you reduce your anxiety and stress and it helps you sleep better. More than 40 million people around the world have downloaded this. If you go to calm.com/jordan, you'll get 25 percent off a Calm Premium subscription, which includes things like guided meditations that reduce anxiety, stress, and focus. There's a brand new one each day, so you don't just have to play the same old-ish over and over. And I love these, they're called sleep stories. They're basically bedtime stories for adults designed to help you relax so you can go to the magical lavender fields of Southern France. It's got Steven Fry, so you're like, okay, legit good voice doing this, or moonlit jungles of Africa with Leona Lewis and they've got soothing music. They've got all kinds of stuff in there for a plane rides to sleep it in your own bed. So Jason, tell them where they can get a deal on Calm.
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Jordan Harbinger: [00:19:57] This episode is also sponsored by Ship. So this dating app is fun because, well I'm married so I don't really use a whole lot of dating apps. And what Ship does is it lets your friends play along and essentially gang up on you in a fun way. So, my brother-in-law, he's dating, of course, a bunch and I love playing matchmaker and Jen and I are like, "Hey look, why don't you date this one?" Or we're looking over his shoulder as he's on dating app Ship. We'll let you download your own version of that. And then you swipe for your friends and family. So obviously that gets rid of the FOMO of a dating app, but it's really fun because it creates a crew which has like a chat room for me, Jen, my brother-in-law and any other friends who are in this to swipe for my brother-in-law. So you get like a whole team thing going. You can see who's selecting who for him and then you can see who matched him. Talk about living vicariously. It is really, really fun. And in a way that's kind of shocking because you get to pick for other people and you get to see what their reaction is. I don't know. I love this novel idea for an app. What I thought was pretty funny about this app was I saw, of course, a pic in Machu Picchu and I was like, "Wow, Machu Picchu." And then I realize that every single person on every dating app has a Machu Picchu photo in their profile. So no wonder you can't go to that place anymore. Everybody's, they're taking their freaking dating selfies. Jason.
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[00:21:37] Don't forget we have a worksheet for today's episode so you can make sure you solidify your understanding of the key takeaways from Humble The Poet. That link is in the show notes at jordanharbinger.com/podcast. And thanks for listening and supporting the show. To learn more about our sponsors and get links to all the great discounts you just heard, visit jordanharbinger.com/deals. If you'd like some tips on how to subscribe to the show, just go to jordanharbinger.com/subscribe. Subscribing to the show is absolutely free. It just means that you get all of the latest episodes in your podcast player as they're released, so you don't miss a single thing from the show. Now back to our show with Humble The Poet.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:22:14] When you started pursuing art and rap and a style, that's an immigrant parent's worst nightmare. Right?
Humble The Poet: [00:22:22] Yes.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:22:22] Your cab driver dad, your mom worked at the Kellogg's factory, and they're like he's going to be doctor, lawyer, engineer.
Humble The Poet: [00:22:29] That's the one job.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:22:30] Doctor, lawyer, engineer?
Humble The Poet: [00:22:32] Yeah one job.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:22:32] Yeah, it's one occupation whichever one you do doesn't matter.
Humble The Poet: [00:22:37] It doesn't matter. Yeah.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:22:37] Yeah. I mean, how did you get through that? They must've just been like, "Are you kidding me? We came here and now you're going to be a freaking YouTube influencer. Get out of my house?
Humble The Poet: [00:22:45] I mean, shut out to the old school patriarchy that is in South Asian culture. So I have two sisters and I think like they stuck to the script much more. They went to university. They got jobs that I still don't know what they do for corporations. I still don't understand. They got married, had kids. They stuck to the script. So I think, my father was like, "Okay, my girls are taking care of. I'm not really worried about what this boy does." And I think they also kind of figured out that I'm not going to be really listening to many people. I stuck to the script myself. I went to university. I got two degrees, started working as a teacher. They were already not happy with me being a teacher.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:23:27] Really?
Humble The Poet: [00:23:27] Yeah. Because school teachers, they don't make too much.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:23:30] It's like be of service but just be of service where you make a bunch of money.
Humble The Poet: [00:23:33] Oh no, the immigrants and my parents were just, "Hey, make sure you have a safe and secure job." They were like, "Well at least it's a government job at least. That's cool." And I think for a good two, three years, I was teaching full, I was also tutoring high school kids for extra cash. And then I was doing my art and Humble The Poet and all of this stuff that I loved on top of that. So the really only thing I was sacrificing was sleep at that time. And they saw all of that. So when I said to them, "I'm going to make this move and be a full-time artist." They already knew that I was going to work at it because they saw the work I was putting in. They were worried about it. My mother probably and rightfully so. The first four years were very, very hard. I went into debt. I didn't have money. I was struggling. That's pretty much where the book came out of. But my mother just continually said to me, anytime, anything good happens, she would be like, "But are you making any money? Maybe you've had your fun, maybe you should go back to your job. It's such a good job. You have a pension." You know she is concerned. And then when I started making money, I started showing them my checks.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:24:33] Yeah, you have to.
Humble The Poet: [00:24:34] But then her story just immediately changed. She's like, "Well, what's money going to do for you if you don't have kids and a family?"
Jordan Harbinger: [00:24:39] Wow. Moving the goalpost.
Humble The Poet: [00:24:41] They just move the goalpost, whatever. And I became aware of that. My father was cool from the beginning. He just pretty much said, "Look, do whatever's going to keep you healthy up here." And he believes that artists go nuts. So he was like, "I'd prefer you to stay a teacher because all artists I know go nuts." I said, "I'd go nuts if I don't become an artist."
Jordan Harbinger: [00:25:00] I think that's part of it for sure. Or they're already nuts. That's where the art comes from. Art drives you crazy.
Humble The Poet: [00:25:07] Exactly. The thing is a lot of people say to me, "Who did you get it from in your family?" And I don't know. None of my parents, uncles, aunts, grandparents ever had the luxury to explore being creative.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:25:18] It's not that they didn't have the talent, they just never went down that road.
Humble The Poet: [00:25:21] So I wouldn't even know from that. I'm one of the first entrepreneurs in my family. I'm definitely the first artist to be doing it. And then in terms of South Asian culture, in terms of Punjabi culture, there's less than five humans on this planet who are full-time artists, especially in North America.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:25:38] I mean, I'm trying to think of other people that I know that are Sikh that are artists, Panjabi MC, and that's my whole list, right?
Humble The Poet: [00:25:43] Yeah, exactly. And out here me, Lilly Singh, and then Rupi Kaur. Yeah, that's probably the three that I know and we're all from the same city and we all just try to figure it out together.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:25:57] That's funny. You all are in the same area but it makes sense, right? You come to a country where you don't have to worry about getting blown up or stabbed or something now can focus on something that is higher on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.
Humble The Poet: [00:26:10] Exactly.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:26:11] Not worrying about where you're going to get your food from, et cetera.
Humble The Poet: [00:26:13] And you need a level of stability. And I can go as far as saying luxury to explore art. And you're right, the Northern part of India that's been the gateway of invaders since Alexander the Great. So we've had, we haven't had a lot of stability there even now. The moment we crossed the pond the first generation picked up the yarn and ran with it.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:26:35] Good. Yeah. I think it's ironic that your mom had to take a cab to the hospital when your dad is a cab driver because he was working. Why didn't she just call the cab company where he worked and they would've been like, "Hey go home. Your wife is having a baby. Definitely, he was in the car."
Humble The Poet: [00:26:50] I think he probably got that call and had to go to the hospital and apparently it was a Sunday night. Apparently, they have to wake the doctor up as well too. It was a challenging time.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:26:59] You were not well off growing up.
Humble The Poet: [00:27:01] No.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:27:01] And you compare yourself to the less fortunate a lot, but then realize that wasn't sustainable.
Humble The Poet: [00:27:07] Yeah.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:27:07] So do you find yourself doing this now? I mean on YouTube it seems really easy to compare yourself to other people because there's literally a number next to every single video that you create that shows kind of where you are compared to your friend who's doing it. Like Lilly Singh, I looked at her channel and I know that she's like your BFF. She's maybe doing so many different things that you and your friends so you don't do it as much, but like what if someone's got 10,000 more subs than 100,000 more. It's really easy to go like, "Dang, I should be there. I should be doing that." It's too easy to see how "valuable" you are compared to everyone else and it would drive me crazy to do that.
Humble The Poet: [00:27:46] No, you're absolutely right and I think it was Jay Shetty that helped me kind of put it in perspective. He's like, "We'll always identify the gaps in our lives in relation to whoever is standing in front of us." And it's not just a YouTube view. They could be seeing somebody with lower body fat, seeing somebody with a healthier family dynamic or anything. You see somebody like, "Oh, that's helping me remember that I don't have that in my life." Um, 1000 percent I've had that for a long time and I think a lot of it had to do with when you don't know yourself. You can only try to figure out yourself in relation to other people. So you're like, "Oh, you know, I'm living with this, with this superstar who's making videos. She gets more views in a day than my entire channel will get in a year. And I'm sitting there like, "Okay, I got to be like her." At the same time, we have conversations all the time. She's like, "Look, you're making rap music. I make comedy." You know, everybody likes to laugh.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:28:38] Yeah.
Humble The Poet: [00:28:38] It's going to be a niche market of who likes to make rap music. It's like but you have to be authentic to yourself because the challenge is you can focus on what's going on at work. But if what works, it doesn't feed you or bring you any type of fulfillment, now you're just trapping yourself in a situation where it's pretty much any other job that people don't like to have. You're like, this gets me paid, but it doesn't make me happy.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:28:59] Right. The problem comes when we optimize our lives for like you said, what works, so now the numbers. I sort of rail against cheesy self-help or like feel-good inspirational content on the show because I feel like it snaps people out of their real issues for like a minute. Because they're like, "Oh I saw this picture of this guy standing on a beach that says you can do it. So I feel good for a second." And then they go, "Oh, but I can't do it and I'm not doing it. I'm even worse off now. So they're kind of addicted to that stuff, but it doesn't actually help them. And then they go in a business situation, it'd be really easy for you and how to optimize for the numbers. You could go, well I really love rap and I really love music, but I'm going to switch to prank videos where I dump paste on someone's head because that gets more views and then suddenly you just hate yourself because everything that you create that is artistic is just like in your opinion garbage and your audience is all 12-year-old kids laughing at it. And then someone else comes along and is doing the same thing. They're just diving in that pool of what everyone else is doing. So now you're competing with even more folks doing the same thing and hating it. You see these guys on Instagram often doing this. There was a documentary and I can't remember, I think it was called American Meme. Have you seen this?
Humble The Poet: [00:30:14] Uh, no.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:30:15] It has like Paris Hilton and all these meme people, but one of the guys, his name is Kirill. Do you know who this guy is? He goes and he pours champagne on girls at clubs and he takes pictures of it and it's ridiculously popular. But they get down to his life and he just hates himself because he's like, "I have to go drink again for 150th night in a row in like Boise, Idaho because I'm getting paid to do that." And he just hates every minute of it. But it worked and he went and optimized for that and now he kind of can't do anything else.
Humble The Poet: [00:30:49] That's the thing I think. And that's where I found, you know, I have a lot of gratitude towards Lilly because what ended up happening was her success created an environment for me to take my time. So we started together in Toronto and her movement grew much quicker. But because we started together, we were coming out here and we'd be splitting Airbnb and she'd be doing her thing. I'd be doing my thing. And then things went well for her, so she bought a place and then she's like, "Hey, I got a room for you. Anytime, You want to come here, do it." And then it came like, "Hey, stop worrying about trying to win. Worry about what you're trying to do. Everything else is taken care of. Just focus on that." And she created this environment for me to really take my time and really focus on being the artist that I wanted to be. And I learned very quickly cause I was hanging out with a lot of these folks. Meeting guys that were like making a hundred grand a month, but they were miserable and being like, "Why is this guy sad." "Oh, they got popular doing something that was cute when they were 21. Now, they're 27 and they hate it, but they can't get out of that rut.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:31:52] Imagine where they're going to be in 10 years.
Humble The Poet: [00:31:53] Exactly. And it's hard, I won't hold it against anybody, not everybody has that.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:31:58] It's an accident.
Humble The Poet: [00:31:59] It's an accident. And a lot of these people, especially on YouTube, that generation, they got popular doing what they loved. They did something they love, they put it on camera and all of a sudden, it blew up and they were being very reactive to it and now they're trying to find their space and figure it out. And some of them have found it, some of them haven't. And then all of a sudden outside of all of this, a little switch in the algorithm happens and then everything changes. All of a sudden you can't get discovered anymore. You know, I know guys who lost 80 percent of their income off of changes in the algorithm.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:32:33] On YouTube,
Humble The Poet: [00:32:33] On YouTube, especially after people started finding bad content on YouTube. They started cracking down. And even now, YouTube is talking about cracking down on comments.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:32:43] Comments?
Humble The Poet: [00:32:43] Comments. So like, you know, there are situations where a family is just posting a video of the family at a picnic and with their kids and everyone. It's just a very calm, regular video. But now all of a sudden people are leaving comments that sound like pedophiles.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:33:00] Oh weird.
Humble The Poet: [00:33:02] But now YouTube was like, "The only way we can stop that is we're going to stop monetizing the video and we're going to stop the discoverability of the video." And the creator did nothing wrong.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:33:11] Right. That's really scary because it's basically allowing the worst elements of the audience to decide what people are allowed to see through their actions.
Humble The Poet: [00:33:20] And it's hard. And then you kind of being like -- I guess they're trying to figure it out, but you're talking about hundreds of hours every second being dropped on this platform. So I think the really interesting thing from that perspective, and I think for me, I definitely went through those struggles for future releases. I've written about the struggles a lot. Because sometimes, you know, I'm trying to write stuff that I consider extremely important, but at the same time I'm also a character on very popular YouTubers, vlogs, and her videos. And for me, I'm doing it for fun, but now all of a sudden more people know me as that silly, goofy guy with the beard, and then this author. And for a while that took a big hit on my ego until I really woke up and like, "Hey, you have an opportunity to connect with people. You also never wanted people to take you too seriously, to begin with." You know, like, I don't want people to read my book and think I'm Osho.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:34:07] Yeah, especially not Osho.
Humble The Poet: [00:34:09] Yes. I'm a regular guy who can put words together very well. And when he learns a lesson and just as you said, self-help gets really fluffy and hollow and you can hear something and feel good for five minutes or five days and then it wears off. And I wrote this book because I was sick of that. I was sick of the Tumblr quotes. I was sick of the promises. I was sick of the "Just have faith. Things will work out." It's like no.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:34:33] Sometimes they won't though but I'm not putting that.
Humble The Poet: [00:34:34] Sometimes it won't though and finding the overall message is being self-responsibility. Take ownership of this. You want to see light at the end of the tunnel, start digging and then you'll have light at the end of the tunnel.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:34:47] That's a good Tumblr quote right there.
Humble The Poet: [00:34:48] There you go. We're going to redefine Tumblr quotes.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:34:51] That's right.
Jason DeFillippo: [00:34:53] You're listening to The Jordan Harbinger Show with our guest Humble The Poet. We'll be right back after this.
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[00:37:06] Thanks for listening and supporting the show. Your support of our advertisers keeps us on the air. To learn more and get links to all the great discounts you just heard, visit jordanharbinger.com/deals. And don't forget that worksheet for today's episode. That link is in the show notes at jordanharbinger.com/podcast. If you're listening to us on the Overcast player for iOS, please click that little star next to the episode. It really helps us out. And now for the conclusion of our show with Humble The Poet.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:37:33] I like that you brought up on another show, Jay-Z says, "You can't heal what you don't reveal." And that's what I think is a big problem with a lot of the influencer or any sort of creator is we put things out there that make us look good. And in fact, a creator, not people, are doing this because we want to paint a rosy picture, especially in social media. It makes us a million times worse, of course, but it causes us to try to hide things in the public eye. You can't really expose things well in your private life and examine them if you're spending all this time trying to look polished for everyone else. It's rolling in two separate directions.
Humble The Poet: [00:38:09] But do we want it to go the other way either? Like, do you want to be scrolling through your feed and have people -- like, "Hey, today, a bird took a shit on my head," or, like, "Hey, my girlfriend broke up with me."
Jordan Harbinger: [00:38:20] It depends. It's got to be a balance I think but I also understand that -- for guys like you and I, it's a branding thing, but for the average person, they should put on there whatever the hell they want, I think, you know.
Humble The Poet: [00:38:34] Well, I'm learning this idea now of Finterest. Have you heard of this? Sorry not Finterest, Finstagram, a Finsta. So like a public persona that was hanging out with a couple of popular people yesterday. They have second Instagram accounts, which are just as basic and crazy and as ratchet as they want. And they only have eight followers. It's just their friends. That's where they leave their mean comments. That's where they troll people.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:38:57] No kidding.
Humble The Poet: [00:38:58] I have a friend, she's a popular model on Instagram and she's doing really well. And then she has a second account that has like eight followers and that's where all the outtakes of her pictures are. And that's where her bad posture or food on her face. And she said that's helping her like, you know, really kind of maintain her sanity. And I'm just like, "That sounded like double at work."
Jordan Harbinger: [00:39:19] But I guess one is not curated, so it's not really that much work.
Humble The Poet: [00:39:22] I learned this early, I learned this before social media. I learned this in a class I had where a professor said, "You know, every picture you take as a manufactured moment. Unless they're capturing it and you don't know." Posing for a picture, and he's talking about like even at a birthday party. He's like, "You're creating a moment that didn't exist. You're creating a smile that didn't exist." And he goes, "Now, you're trying to capture that and pretend that was the moment that happened at that birthday party." And that always kind of stuck it in my head. So I think what ended up happening now is in the beginning with social media, whether it was like High Five or Facebook or MySpace, it was like, "Yo, I want my 25 friends to know what's up with me. I want them to see a picture of my new shoes." Now, it's like, "Oh, maybe I have a couple of hundred and these people don't know me. How do I want them to know me?" I'm lucky because I just post a lot of my writing and I figured I can write until the end of my days and people would be okay with that. I don't really have to manufacture anything there. And if I have a cool picture, I'll post a cool picture once in a while. But that idea of like branding, everyone has a brand now. Everyone is trying to project whether they, whether the audience is invisible or lurking or not. It takes such a big toll on people. And I learned that from Jack Gleeson, the actor that played King Joffrey on Game of Thrones. He explained why after Game of Thrones, he quit acting.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:40:41] Really. Oh, because people treated him poorly because he was a bad character.
Humble The Poet: [00:40:45] No. He'd been acting since he was five. He was, "I got into acting because I enjoyed pretending to be somebody else for half a day. It was fun." And he goes, "Now the level of celebrity that has come to me. People don't realize the pressure that puts on you."
Jordan Harbinger: [00:41:02] That's interesting.
Humble The Poet: [00:41:03] And he went in deep and it's actually an Oxford Talk and he's talking about our natural need as humans to look towards a leader to worship and look for something. But he goes, "We don't realize what consequences that has on the object of worship."
Jordan Harbinger: [00:41:17] I'm interested in this because I know that you got recognized. Oh, your mom even got recognized and she didn't like that so much.
Humble The Poet: [00:41:24] Yeah. Because, you know, she's from a generation that doesn't care about any of this stuff. She got recognized at the mall. And I think she went to the optometrist, she got a discount for getting recognized and she still didn't like it.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:41:35] Oh even then. I thought maybe, she’s like, "All right, it's cool if I'm getting a discount."
Humble The Poet: [00:41:39] Oh no, not my mom. My mom was just like, "I don't like any of this." Because I think she just worried if people are going to judge me." I don't think she took the discount as well. Like, "I don't want people to think that I can't afford my own glasses."
Jordan Harbinger: [00:41:48] Wow. That is totally a generation. Is this after the video of you in the car with her, playing your music and being like, "What do you think?"
Humble The Poet: [00:41:54] It was after that and I made a second one for the book and I had reading chapters from the book. So I think at that point, and it was in my neighborhood, so I was like, you know, I'm a hometown hero, so like I understand why people are going to recognize me. But yeah, she wasn't a fan of that.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:42:08] Wow. So what do you think about that pressure? I mean, obviously, you knew that was part of the deal because you're already visible. Now you're a media personality. You're hanging out with other people who are really well known and you're from this probably kind of a small-ish community of people. There's not a whole lot, like you said, of Sikh folks that are blowing up on Instagram, YouTube and everywhere else.
Humble The Poet: [00:42:31] Yeah. Yeah. I think I've been slowly over the years making the adjustments to make it healthier and better. It's just about learning yourself. It was like, all right, stop taking pictures of yourself in a business class seat. Stop tagging with the city you're in. You know, because they got to the point where if I mentioned I'm in Los Angeles and the amount of -- even just friends that are hitting you up. Because I'm here to work. If I'm here for seven days, I probably have nine days' worth of work to get done. And they'll be like, "Hey, let's go out, let's do this, this what have you." And if they see me, you know, at the all-star game, if they see me somewhere cool, they think that I'm just living this high life. But like, "Hey, half of that is count as work as well." We're doing social media obligations or whatever we're doing. So I think I learned just to kind of be reactive and pay attention to it. And I think for me it was, "All right, what is the relationship I can have with the general public that I'm okay with? Like what does that contract?" And I think for me, "It was okay. My ideas and my thoughts." And I don't feel the pressure to like, Oh, I have to write something. I've written a lot. I've organized myself where it's like, all right, if I want to disappear for a month, I can still make sure stuff is going up and our relationship is still getting strengthened and all the stuff that I write is something near and dear to me. And now I'm at that space where I'm understanding my job as a creative is to keep digging deeper into myself telling my story, which empowers others to tell theirs.
[00:43:55] Again, that's not the case for everybody else. Also, you know, there are benefits to being a guy. I don't have to spend so much time on makeup, face tuning and all of that type of stuff. That's not the main reason people are following me right now. So I mean, there's a lot less pressure in that context. I've had popular people, you know, post pictures with me in them and they were the least flattering pictures of me, whether it was a bad angle or showing whatever it was and I survived. Like it wasn't the end of the world. So that stuff doesn't worry me anymore. And beyond that, I live a pretty simple life, so I'm not really worried about too much in that. But I do think people have to be very mindful of that living for display purposes, what matters in all of that. And I think, it's just at the point where I've reached, and especially with some of the circles that I'm traveling in now, it's not classy to do that anyways to pull out your phone. You pull out your phone in some of these situations and you're not getting invited back. So I've had some really amazing situations where it would've not been cool to pull out the phone. And I was like, "Okay, you know what? I can tell my friends, 'Hey I went to this party and I was rolling skating with Beyonce.'" And they know I'm not lying, but I'll never have that selfie with her. I'll never have that picture and that's okay. Because I don't also make me ask the question, "Why do I need to prove this to anybody as well?
Jordan Harbinger: [00:45:12] Right. Yeah. Because it's kind of for you, but kind of for people that you don't know.
Humble The Poet: [00:45:17] Yeah. And I've got those kinds of treatment too where you get people like, "Oh, I'm not sure who you are, but I'm going to take a selfie with you and I'll figure it out later." And then benefit from the social currency that's going to come from that.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:45:29] Yeah. That is incredibly uncomfortable. There's a friend of mine who -- I can't remember exactly where he was maybe at like an MMA. Oh, right, he was at a fight. It was like Conor McGregor versus Mayweather.
Humble The Poet: [00:45:41] Oh the boxing fight.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:45:42] Yeah. And he took a photo of himself and Mike Tyson was behind him. And Mike Tyson's face is just like, "I'm going to kill you if you take that picture." And he was taking a selfie. But, of course, Mike Tyson rightfully assumed that he's just trying to take a picture with me in it and he was pissed. It's a really funny picture because my Tyson looks like he's going to explode. And my friend is like this on assuming guy who is like, "I'm in the front row. Oh, Mike Tyson's behind me." It was really, really funny.
Humble The Poet: [00:46:08] You have to be cognizant of that. I think I learned that very quickly and it was like, "Hey, people are people," and even a lot of these big celebrities, they want to be in a space where they can just kind of let loose and they're not worried about cameras being pulled out. And if you're that guy who does it, then you're not getting invited. And we've had that, we've had that ourselves. Lilly hosted parties and small things like small get together and somebody gets a little too generous with their filming and you just say, "All right, that person doesn't get invited back."
Jordan Harbinger: [00:46:38] Yeah, it's an interesting sort of unwritten rule of culture now when you're with other people that have a public profile. You kind of almost have to be like, "Okay, we're at this event together. Everyone's filming." Then when we go to the bar, we go to someone's house to hang out. You can text somebody but no pictures, no videos. How many people are doing shots with me, and now I'm like in a video doing that.
Humble The Poet: [00:47:03] I remember recently I was playing one of my friends, he was a big YouTuber. We're playing chess and I just said, "Do you mind if I document." And I'm going to take a little video of us playing chess and write something mean about how I'm going to beat him. And just saying that like, "Is it cool if I document this?" Because you don't know where people are at, how they're feeling. And some people, especially out here, they know they've signed up for it and they can be on camera all the time. It takes a toll as well. I saw something interesting about why there's so much violence on reality shows and it's not simply to get people's attention and get ratings.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:47:36] Really, I assumed that's what it was. Just the negativity bias that sucks people in.
Humble The Poet: [00:47:40] And I'm sure that that plays a big part, but there's also this idea that when the camera's on, you're on and because you're on, the longer you're on, it starts to exhaust you. And when people are exhausted, they're more irritable.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:47:52] I mean, that's true for me, 100 percent.
Humble The Poet: [00:47:54] And I've seen that. You go to a wedding and everyone's dancing at the wedding and then the camera kind of pans away, everyone's posture gets better and then they start looking a little bit better. And I understand that idea about being on, and now imagine being on a reality show where you're on eight, nine hours a day. Maybe at the end of the day, you're just exhausted and somebody crosses you the wrong way and just like forget it. Let's go for it.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:48:15] What are the things in the book that you seem to be fond of saying is wanting less is better than getting more. And I don't have a good segue for it, so I'm just diving into that. But I love the idea because there's always more, but when we are happy with the less, we don't have to drive ourselves so crazy trying to achieve more. But how is being satisfied with less or being happy with less different than say giving up on achieving more?
Humble The Poet: [00:48:39] I think so for me it came from going broke. It didn't come from -- it was involuntary minimalism.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:48:46] Involuntary minimalism. Okay. So you went broke. What happened? You don't have to tell us exactly, but I'm curious like how did you end up with debt?
Humble The Poet: [00:48:55] The quick story is I was working as a teacher and then somebody presented me with a record deal. So I was making music and somebody came up to him and said, "Hey, we can write music for these artists. You can make a boatload of money. Here's a six-figure deal for about like 10, 12 songs. You can do this and live out your dream." I was like, "All right, awesome." So I quit my job and I had a condo that I had purchased as a real estate investment that I had a tenant in. So I immediately kicked my tenant out and I moved into this condo and I started working on the music. And then it took me about six months before I realized that, "Hey, I haven't received any money from the deal. I was doing other work as well and staying busy, but I was like, "Oh, it's coming. These things take time. They take time." You know, I knew that. And then it took about a complete year before my denial completely went away and realized this isn't happening. And I lived off credit cards, line of credit for that entire year. Plus when I was working as a teacher, I wasn't the most responsible spender. I had debt, but it was manageable because I had a salary coming in. Now I had no income coming in and what ended up happening was, it was the end of 2011, I was about 80 grand in debt. I had no means to make an income. I had no idea how creatives made money at that point. And so my first thing I had to do was start selling everything, including the place. I had to sell everything and move back in with my parents. And then all the things that I thought I was going to miss, you know, like a year later I was like, "Oh I didn't even think about those things anymore." It didn't matter if I had a Burberry scarf anymore. Or even equipment, there is certain equipment that I had to give up and sell and that I needed for recording. And I've figured out ways to get stuff done without it. And I was like, oh, it wasn't so bad living life without these things. I was really afraid like I'm used to living a certain lifestyle. How can I ever go back? And it helped me realize what was really important and not. Now, you know, I'm very grateful that things are significantly better and I never jumped back into that world of, "All right, let me get back into the nice stuff." Like I wear my own clothes and I live a pretty simple life.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:51:00] You mentioned depression and some of your videos, it sounds like you have experienced that. Is that related to the debt issues?
Humble The Poet: [00:51:06] Actually, it's related probably before. When I was young, much younger, I had gone to the doctor and I just said, "Hey, I'm always tired." I'm a vegetarian. My sisters were like, "All people who are vegetarian often have low iron and you're probably tired because of that." Doctor ran some tests and then he actually said, "Hey, do you know if you have depression in your family?" And I'm like, "I'm not sad." And he goes, "Depression doesn't mean you're sad." That was the first time I got exposed to this idea and then he put me on meds. That was an experience that happened way before any of this. I was probably just a first-year teacher, what have you. And I think that's kind of made me realize, "Hey, there's a chemical element to this. There's a hereditary element to this." I didn't do the meds for too long. I wasn't a fan of the anti-depressants I was given, but it was never a mood issue for me. It was more of an energy issue for me. And I think as I become more cognizant of that and try to do things accordingly. When things hit the fan with me with this, it definitely brought me to the lowest I'd ever been and that I was definitely medicating, mostly relaxers, NyQuil. Just doing everything to just completely feel numb. Until I had a moment where I just like, and you got to sink or swim. It's a sink or swim. No one's coming to save the day. No one's going to come to bail you out of this. You're going to have to do this or die and also realize that you want to give up on this Humble The Poet thing, by all means, give up but people in the neighborhood will call you Humble The Poet for the next 10 years. So that'll probably drive you mad. So let's just decide to do this. And if we can only do this for two more years before we go into the dirt, let's do it for two more years or let's do it until we're 90. And I'm definitely having to have those honest conversations with myself. I felt a certain way and I'd be reading the Tumblr quotes and they weren't helping. I was reading a lot of other people's stories and seeing the gaps of, "All right, how did they go from being in the pits to being where they are now?" And they never really discussed it.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:53:03] They don't. They go, "Oh well here's a meme or quotes to look at." And it's like, "Wait a minute. This sort of self-help fluff is no substitute for real work on this." Did you go to therapy? Like what did you do?
Humble The Poet: [00:53:15] I didn't go to therapy. What I did was I started writing until what I wrote actually felt good on a practical level. As I said, I sold all my possessions and that took a little bit of chunk out of my debt. I moved back home. And then I started focusing on how creatives make money. I met an artist out here actually who was a small-time rapper, but he was like, "Hey, I make a lot of money at my shows because I sell t-shirts. I sell the tablecloth of my display at the end of the show." He goes, "It's all about the product." And then I was like, "Oh man, I should make t-shirts." And then at the same time, I was still writing and people were like, "You should write a book." And I was like, "Well, I'd feel a lot better if I paid 20 bucks for a book at a show than if I'd just bought a t-shirt." And so I had actually written the book to sell it to shows.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:53:59] Oh interesting.
Humble The Poet: [00:54:00] That's what kind of prompted me to understand the economics of things. And at the same time, I was like, "All right, where else can I find the money?" And I would make lists. I was like, all right, creative grants. I had a pretty good resume as an artist. So I started getting grants.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:54:14] Who gives grants to artists?
Humble The Poet: [00:54:16] I mean I'm Canadian so we're a little bit more privileged but I think some exist out here too. But I mean I'm talking about grants. I would take gigs, I would take gigs I didn't want to do anything for the money and spending a lot less. And as I said, it took me -- end of 2011 is when I had my wake up. You need to get your stuff together at the moment. And I didn't get completely out of debt probably until early 2015.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:54:42] Wow. Well, thank you for saying this because I think a lot of these influencer people are like they really do want to post a quote or a meme or like, "Here's a photo of me looking cool somewhere." But it actually makes people's problems worse later because it makes you feel good for a second. You're like, "Oh that person's inspiring and cool," but then you just go, "But I'm not that person. I'm this person." So, in my opinion, it actually makes it worse for a lot of people.
Humble The Poet: [00:55:06] It does. And I think, also avoiding -- the idea of always think positive. Your negative thoughts, your negative memories, your physical pain, they all serve a purpose. These are all messages and there's all value to them. And for me, there was a lot of kicking myself and the person that gave me this deal, I should've seen all the warning signs. And some of the people in my circle were like, "Oh I knew he was shady from the beginning."
Jordan Harbinger: [00:55:31] Okay. Thanks for telling me.
Humble The Poet: [00:55:32] Yeah, thanks for telling me what your hindsight is. And I really wanted to avoid the memory because it made me feel like garbage. Not realizing at the time like no, the reason that memory is "hunting" you is because there's something to learn from it. The moment you learned from it, you won't make that same mistake again. And now that memory is not a bad thing, that is a gift. And I think when I had that perspective shift, I was able to now move forward being like, hey, I'm about to step into something I don't understand, but even if I mess up, what I'm going to do is I'm going to learn from it and I'll move forward and I'll see the value in it. And being able to change my mindset from win or lose to win or learn, this wasn't something that was fluffy. It was like, look, either it's going to go the way I want it to go, or it's not and I'm definitely going to learn something. And the only thing in my control is my attitude, my effort, and my expectations. I always have control over those. Nobody can control that for me. Let me focus on that. And I always reminded myself, blame and power go hand in hand. Take the blame so you have the power. So these mindset shifts made a difference. Again, in no way, shape or form is my life, sunshine and daisies and rainbows all day, I have low moments. Sometimes those low moments might just be being angry. Sometimes the low moments might be low iron. Sometimes it could be what I received from my family, you know, in my genes. And sometimes I'm in a situation where I'm like, "Look, you should be completely grateful for what you have, but you feel like trash." Now I'm like, hey, feel like trash. Write it out. You know, just type it out, sing it out, scream it out, dance it off. Do something, just don't do nothing. Movement is medicine. Make something happen. So I think for me it's always about the pragmatic side. And it has to be a practical application. I don't want to sell fluff to anybody. I don't appreciate anybody selling fluff to me. It's a lot of work. And I think what I was able to do with this book is to make it simple to understand, but remind people that it’s going to be challenging to execute.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:57:35] Yeah. It's a lot of bite-sized stuff in the book. Probably because you are a school teacher and kids' attention span which is like 10 minutes long.
Humble The Poet: [00:57:42] Every chapter is only two pages. You don't have to read the book in order, you can open it up anywhere. And as I said, I've been challenging people just open up the book to any page and you're going to find something you immediately connect with.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:57:52] I like the idea that life doesn't actually get easier. We just get stronger as a result of our experiences, whether we like it or not. I mean that's the only choice we really have. And I think that there's a lot to learn from all of the crap that I've been through, and of course everyone else too, but it is hard to not just sit in it for a while. That's the challenge is not figuring out that there's something to learn. It's knowing when to go, "All right, I should probably figure this out now instead of just feeling sorry for myself."
Humble The Poet: [00:58:20] And as well as being, hey, maybe you got to sit in it for a while and that is self-compassion. But maybe set a time limit on that. No different than like, you know, I just got back from India after a long trip and I'm saying, "Hey, tomorrow I'm not going to be productive. Tomorrow, I'm just going to binge on Netflix," and just kind of get my internal clock ready. It's the same thing. You go through a challenging time, you go through a heartbreak, you go through some loss, give yourself some time to heal. And I always equate it to having a broken leg. There's not much you can do to speed the healing, but there's plenty you can do to mess it up and slow down the progress. So I think for me, even when I was, I stayed in bed for about a week and self-medicating, making all the wrong decisions. Looking back at it now, there was an element of self-compassion there. I was doing it, thinking I was going to be doing it forever. Now, looking at it, it was like, "Hey, maybe you got blindsided and you were still in shock and you were hurt and you were hurt by somebody you really cared about. You needed that week to heal." And because the moment I did get up, I haven't stopped and that didn't come from some inner strength, I think that came from healing. I'm like, "All right, you got your rest now get up and now let's see what we can make happen."
Jordan Harbinger: [00:59:34] You have this idea that if you don't have a six-year self-concept, media will build one for you. I'd love to hear what you have to say about this because I feel like this is a huge problem with people right now is they don't really know who they are. Many of us don't in fact, but then back in the day, we used to go travel or learn something or study something or build something to learn that. Now, we're just looking at like Instagram or watching YouTube videos and we're like, "Oh, I guess I have to be that way." And it's dangerous. It's bad for us.
Humble The Poet: [01:00:05] It is, and I mean if you went back to the ‘90s, they always talked about the models and the magazines. And all you had to do was not open a magazine. But now social media has inundated us so much and it's such a part of our lives where again, we're filling in the gaps in relation to what's in front of us.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:00:22] Right. How do we build a moat around our psyche so we don't let those types of influences in?
Humble The Poet: [01:00:25] I feel like self-awareness is that only moat where you're just kind of like, "Hey, did I care about having abs yesterday? No, I only cared about having abs after seeing Aubrey Marcus' topless picture."
Jordan Harbinger: [01:00:37] Yeah. Thanks, Aubrey. Your source of all my problems when it comes to --
Humble The Poet: [01:00:40] Eat a Popsicle, bro.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:00:41] Yeah, yeah. Have some carbs.
Humble The Poet: [01:00:45] And it matters, again, even just hanging out with people or me coming in here and be like, "Oh, look, this guy's got a three-camera of podcasts. You've got lighting. And he's got a person listening for a sound, so we're not going to find out if this is messed up at the end of the episode." And now, me thinking, "Oh man, I need to get a podcast going." And then being like, "Hey, this isn't a priority to you. It's only a priority to you today because you're in front of somebody that's doing it. And you have to figure out what's actually important to you." And I think knowing our priorities and even being open to the idea that our priorities and specifically our obsessions may not be something that we can choose. And I'm realizing this going back and be like, "Oh, I was writing stories and sharing, and performing when I was like eight, nine years old in front of my class and loving it." And you know, knowing other people that I'm like, "Oh, you've been doing this since you were a kid. Like this was almost coded into you." And trying to be aware of that and be like, "Hey, pursue that." Pursue the thing where when you encounter a challenge you get excited. And I was always thinking about my accountant because this guy is such a dweeb. When I was independently publishing this book, I was getting checks from Europe in euros. I was getting UK pounds, getting American dollars, and Canadian dollars. And at the time, he was like, "Oh, I've never had a client who had so many different currencies." And he goes, "I don't even know how to do this." And he smiled. He's like, "I'm excited to tackle."
Jordan Harbinger: [01:02:06] Good CPA, accountant.
Humble The Poet: [01:02:09] I was like, you're such a nerd. But I love the fact that this type of stuff excites you. Everybody in the world has that. We don't know what it is. It might know for some people it might be skateboarding, for some people, it might be electrical engineering. For other people, it might be making electric cars or, or coming up with a new way to make an eggless cake that doesn't taste bad. It could be anything. There are a billion problems in the world that need to be solved. And there are people who are excited to solve them. When I think about my accounting, I want to curl up in a ball and not deal with that. So you find somebody who's excited for that. And if you think about a guy like Eminem, he's very excited to put words together and rhyme new things and the more you challenge him the better. And I think that's what we need is we all need to find that thing where the challenges don't feel bad, they're exciting. The same way we get excited playing a video game or playing basketball or whatever it is. And that requires internal dialogue, internal exploration and that requires a little bit of time away from all the external stuff.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:03:09] Yeah, good point. I think it goes along with your idea that we don't overcome a fear to move forward. We move forward to overcome the fear and through action something that people -- I don't know exactly why this resonated so well -- but I said something kind of a throwaway where I said action ends suffering. Because when I was going through a series of hard times last year, it was like a blender with a top off. And everything was splattering out and I was going crazy. Then I was like, "Wait a minute. If I work on rebuilding my business, rebuilding my show, doing what I need to do to get everything back in order." Then it's like a laser. The energy is focused in one direction. I felt a million times better than I did where the energy was going everywhere. I wanted to just run my head through a wall. It seems like that's a lot of what you're saying as well. It's like, look, you need to find that thing, that challenge that excites you. Otherwise, it's like you're just not focused enough in the right way. And it feels bad to the creator, it feels bad to you. It feels bad to the artist, feels bad to whoever.
Humble The Poet: [01:04:10] And it also re-appropriate other elements of our lives. So, for example, if you're like, look, my obsession is painting pictures of apples and I want the world to see how beautiful apples are just as I do. Now all of a sudden you're like, working at that day job. It is no longer a burden to me, that is my source to pay for all my equipment to paint these apples. So that's a part of this. And now I can go in with enthusiasm every day because that is part of this process because there is no job in the world that doesn't have these unsexy elements.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:04:42] Oh, for sure. Yeah. People go, "Oh, I love that you're doing what you love with the show." And I was like, "Whoa, before you turn your hobby into a job, realize that the second you do that, it's going to be cool for like a month and then it's a job. Don't ruin your hobby unless you just can't avoid that."
Humble The Poet: [01:05:00] You're not looking forward to it.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:05:01] Right. Yeah.
Humble The Poet: [01:05:02] And I think that was a big thing where I see a lot of people who didn't do that. Some of the guys that work with music were like, "No, I don't want to be a full-time musician because that's going to suck the fun out of the music.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:05:12] Totally.
Humble The Poet: [01:05:13] And I need this music to maintain my sanity. This is my happy place and I can go through a long day of work knowing that I can go home, and hit the drums or hit the keyboard." And I was like that makes a lot of sense because now I'm sitting there trying to, hit a deadline or make a client happy or do anything else.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:05:29] It's a toothpaste jangle and you're like, "Why the hell am I doing this BS? I don't care about this product." And I understand that. I have ads on my show, but I try to make them fun. I try to make them interesting. I'm luckily in a position where I can turn down sponsors that I think are just lame or bad for people. I don't have e-cigarettes, I don't have gambling on the show. Nothing like that because this is really antithetical to the influence I'm trying to have on people. But I understand when you're first starting off, if someone was like, "Hey man, we need a rap and it's got to be about organic tea." Well, organic teas are the least that you could. Something that is horrible like gambling online.
Humble The Poet: [01:06:09] I did three Musketeers once.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:06:11] That's not even as horrible as like gambling, right? Or like online --
Humble The Poet: [01:06:15] Or trying to get kids to smoke.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:06:17] Yeah. Trying to get kids to smoke bubble gum flavored e-cig. We need a rap about that. And it's just like, what have I done where this is my job now? It's better to work at something you don't love and then keep the thing that you love separately.
Humble The Poet: [01:06:29] Yes, definitely. And if you, if you're already in that position where you're a full-time artist, full time creative and you've converted your passion into a job. Find another art. Like, go color in a coloring book, go to an improv class and figure something else out because the labor needs to be the reward. The rainbow is the pot of gold. And that's what we all need in our lives and that can be anything. Whether it's you're building little tiny ships in a bottle or whether you're painting naked people or whether you're knitting. Like for me, an example was my mom made fun of me for having distressed jeans and then I showed her a YouTube video of how they actually get made and it intrigued her. She used to sew a lot and now she's making me buy her jeans so she can distress them because she has fun doing it and she works on these long-form projects. I get her paint by numbers as well. And she's, you know, she's retired. She spends her time working on these projects and does the beginning, middle, and end, but she's enjoying the process. She's not just thinking about the final product, and I think that's what we need to do. We need to understand that we're going to be going through these challenges forever, so let's find challenges that are exciting.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:07:42] Humble, thank you so much, man. This has been really interesting.
Humble The Poet: [01:07:44] I appreciate it.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:07:45] Yeah, this has been awesome.
Humble The Poet: [01:07:46] Thank you so much.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:07:46] Big thank you to Humble The Poet. The book title is Unlearn. And if you want to know how I managed to book great people and have such a network full of people that are achieving great things and honestly have really super interesting stories and, of course, have each other's back. It's always really nice, check out our Six-Minute Networking course, which is free over at jordanharbinger.com/course. I know you're busy. I know you want to do it later. You cannot make up for the lost time when it comes to relationships. You have to dig the well before you're thirsty and I know that you're thinking, "You've said that before and I keep meaning to do that." Just go to jordanharbinger.com/course and do it. It's just a few minutes per day. I really wish I knew this stuff years and years ago. jordanharbinger.com/course. Speaking to building relationships, tell me your number one takeaway here from Humble The Poet. I'm at @JordanHarbinger on both Twitter and Instagram. And there's a video of this interview on our YouTube channel at jordanharbinger.com/youtube.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:08:42] This show is produced in association with PodcastOne and this episode was co-produced by Jason "Humble Pie" DeFillippo and Jen Harbinger. Show notes and worksheets are by Robert Fogarty. I'm your host Jordan Harbinger. Remember, we rise by lifting others, so the fee for the show is that you share it with friends when you find something useful, which should be in every episode. So please share the show with those you love and even those you don't. In the meantime, do your best to do apply what you hear on the show, so you can live what you listen, and we'll see you next time.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:09:12] A lot of people ask me which shows I listen to and one that's in the regular rotation is Art of Manliness and my friend Shane Parrish was actually on that show in Episode 471 so I brought Brett McKay here, the host of Art of Manliness to tell us a little bit more about that episode. Brett, Shane is a really smart dude. I'm excited to hear what you got out of him.
Brett McKay: [01:09:30] Yeah, I've been following Shane's blog, Farnam Street, for years. I don't know how you discovered it but what I love about Shane, he's a former Canadian intelligence officer and he wanted to learn about how to make better decisions in his career. So he started looking at people who made really good decisions and that included Warren Buffet and Charlie Munger and from these guys he was inspired to explore this idea of mental models. Mental models are basically patterns you use to think to make hard decisions. Oftentimes they're very simple, but they're super profound. Some of the things we talked about, sometimes speed isn't all that important. Things you need to slow down and just make time for thinking. We talk about how you can combine mental models to get what he calls Lollapalooza effects, so as to sort of compound the benefits of mental models. So a lot of great insights. If you're just interested in how to make better decisions, how to lead better, how to think better, you're going to find a lot of insights with this episode, with Shane
Jordan Harbinger: [01:10:25] And we'll link to that episode in the show notes. Thanks a lot, Brett.
Brett McKay: [01:10:27] Thank you.
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