Growing up, I had more imaginary friends than real friends.
I would play games with myself to keep myself happy. I was very lonely.
I felt insecure.
But as I got older, I was able to find meaning and purpose. That allowed me to feel connected to the people around me.
We need to have hope and meaning. It’s what makes us human.
On today’s episode of The School of Greatness, I dive deep into why humans are always searching for a “why:” Erwin McManus.
Erwin is an iconoclast, artist, and cultural thought leader known for his integration of creativity and spirituality. He is the founder and Lead Pastor of Mosaic, a Los Angeles based church of faith recognized as one of America’s most influential and innovative churches.
Erwin says that people who have false hope are actually better off than people who have no hope.
He became the person he is today when stopped using his imagination to hide from the world and started using it to create a better world.
So get ready to learn all about man’s search for meaning on Episode 763.
Lewis: Episode number 763 with Erwin McManus. Welcome to the school of greatness my name is Lewis Howes a former athlete turned lifestyle entrepreneur and each week we bring you an inspiring person or message to help you discover how to unlock your inner greatness. Thanks for spending some time with me today, now let the class begin.
Charles Dickens said “Reflect upon your present blessings of which every man has plenty – not on your past misfortunes of which all men have some.” And Eckhart Tolle “Acknowledging the good that you already have in your life is the foundation for all abundance.”
Welcome to a special episode of the school of greatness podcast where we have Erwin McManus who is an artist, a cultural thought leader known for his integration of creativity and spirituality. He is the founder and lead pastor of Mosaic which is a thriving church based in Los Angeles, recognized as one of America’s influential and innovative churches. And in this episode we talked about how Mosaic came to be and Erwin’s up and down relationship with religion. The difference between just surviving and truly being alive and thriving and how you can tap into that thriving mentality in a moment. The power of gratitude and how it benefits your attitude and thinking. The big 3 beliefs that we all share and so much more. This one I did not want to end guys, I’m telling you I was captivated the entire time. I didn’t look at any notes I was just so excited to dive into this. For whatever reason when I have this types of conversations on spirituality, the meaning of life, why are we here? What is the reason for our life? Why is our purpose and mission? I just go and loved the discoveries that I find and I think you’re gonna love this as well. Make sure to share this with your friends’ lewishowes.com/763 with Erwin McManus.
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Big thank you again to our sponsor and I am so excited about this interview guys. This is someone that I didn’t about before until a few weeks prior to interviewing him and now I want to interview him all the time, I want to meet with him and hang out with him I’m telling you you’re gonna love this. Without further ado the one and only Erwin McManus.
Welcome everyone to the school of greatness podcast we’ve got Erwin McManus. Good to see you.
Erwin: It’s so good to be with you.
Lewis: Great to meet you in person and I’ve heard about Mosaic the church that you are the founder of here in Hollywood. Since I moved here I would go by it and there’s a beautiful church in the corner over in Hollywood and there’s always people outside doing things and they’re always the most attractive looking people, they’re like smiling and I was like there’s some energy here.
Erwin: You belong there.
Lewis: Right I belong there. And I had lot of friends go there who love it and rave about it and a friend of mine told me “You’ve got to interview this guy.” And I didn’t even know who you were but I knew the reputation of the church and as I started doing research about you I really said “Okay, this is someone I got to interview” even though I never heard about you personally but I heard about your work.
Erwin: That actually really makes me happy. The fact that you knew about the church but didn’t know about me is really the church should really not be by the person.
Lewis: That’s true. And you grew up in El Salvador.
Erwin: I was born there and went back 10 years old.
Lewis: You were a film maker as well right?
Erwin: Which means I couldn’t hold the job.
Lewis: But I love your fashion man, I need you to like restyle me. I wear like the same black shirt every day just simple. It seems like interesting all these pastors in churches they have like these style, it seems like the trend of a lot of guys and ladies who are like leading a message or messenger but they’re leading with a fashion forward, innovative approach.
Erwin: Yeah, I would say when I’m 60 years old. So, I was doing this 40 years ago I think some of it is pastor growing up in church and they grew up in really conservative environments and they grew up with almost like a narrative like you should be against culture. So, they really were not connected to the world around them. I grew irreligious I never walked into a church in my life and so when people are asking “How did you become or whatever fashion for.” I was actually normal this is what normal actually looks like if you haven’t been told you shouldn’t.
Lewis: Why did most I guess traditional and conservative churches tell people to hold back when they express themselves? Or maybe they don’t say it but it feels that way. You kind of feel that judgement walking in when something nice on is kind of looked down upon.
Erwin: Yeah, I think if you just objectively look at it historically religion tend to attract people who are late [?]. People who are afraid of change, people who really hold on to the past and so whether it’s a Synagogue or Mosque or a Church or a Temple they tend to reflect the past rather than to create the future.
Lewis: Really? Why is that?
Erwin: I think people often times are driven by fear. So when I became a person of faith I felt I was a liberated to create a future. To imagine and to dream and that if there is a God he is the most creative being in the universe. And so it’s just a very different view of reality, like I always tell the people at Mosaic the church should be the epicenter of imagination, the epicenter of beauty and wonder. And so yeah I love film, I love art and I love fashion and I feel as alive when I’m directing a film than I did, you know when I’m speaking on Sunday. And I think we’ve created this unnecessary divide between what happens on Sunday, Saturday and on Friday depending on the person’s faith.
Lewis: So did you grow up believing in God?
Erwin: I was often on kind of person.
Lewis: Some days are like okay.
Erwin: Yeah the best way I can describe it is my grandfather was an atheist who believe in reincarnation. So, I remembered him driving us to a house and a little boy has died and that was him, he believed he was reincarnated from that young boy that died but lot of times you realize it Buddhism is like atheism, it’s spiritual but atheistic. So, my grandfather was that and my grandmother was Roman Catholic but we never went to mass. So it was like so many people where.
Lewis: Christmas merrier.
Erwin: And then my mom she was always on a spiritual journey, so I remembered one time she brought home a Buddha and so mind became a Buddhist and she was reading the writings. I could tell she was like always processing and trying to figure things out and I said, he was like a good solid pagan. I don’t think he ever had a belief system in life, he worked in like what we call creative underground economies and so he had an alias, many different aliases and many different family.
Lewis: Wow creative underground economy.
Erwin: A lot of non-traditional economic form of development. So that was the world I grew up in and so I started reading 2 things that really affected me. I read every mythology book in the library before I was in 6th grade. I am not sure why but maybe in mythology I could figure out who I was and why we were here, because I was really young when I started to feel a sense of disconnection and probably from age 9 or 10. And so I ended up in a psychiatric chair when I was a kid, I was in and out of the hospital and I remember hearing my mom said “We need to send him to psychiatrist we don’t know what’s wrong with him.” And nightmares for years and years and just you know some of the stuff that everybody goes through that leaves you broken and shattered and disconnected from the world and I found these writers Robert and Isaac and Andre Norton. They’re all science fiction writers and physicist and I found these imaginary worlds and imagine you could travel to the world you go to and species you can find. And in my own heart it began hoping that I was from another world and that this was an accident. And I know it sounds pretty bizarre but when I was 10 or 11 years old I convinced myself that I must be like a social experiment from another species.
Lewis: Oh my God.
Erwin: So I was a really troubled kid and you know what I discovered is I don’t know who said this it’s almost like every story is true but they are not all real. I had to create a story inside my head just to try and survive and a huge part of it for me has been this realization that people search for God they’re not just trying to search for themselves.
Erwin: You know I’m trying to find who they are, if their life matters, if they have significance. So, I never deluded myself I never really try to find some abstract reality I was trying to make sense of me.
Lewis: I think a lot of us do that in times right?
Erwin: I think that’s search we’re all on. Then that became a part of the mix of it all. So, when I became a person of faith, everybody talks about heaven and hell that was sort of irrelevant to me, why even think about after this life when you can’t even survive this life you know. I wasn’t looking for something that help me after I took my last breathe, I was trying to live a life that would leave you breathless.
Lewis: So what do you think is the reason we’re all here?
Erwin: I know this is the school of greatness, I actually believe there’s greatness inside every single person. I think every human being is created in the image of God and because every human being has an intrinsic value and that we’re created to create.
I read a book years ago called the artist and soul and it’s an anthropology and what they argue in that book is what makes human different from every other species is we can actually materialize the invisible. There’s no other species that can imagine reality design, created, and existed and we don’t even realize as humans because silkworms just create silk they don’t wake up in the morning and decide what they’re gonna do. And when I looked at this I think human ideals is the best evidence of this, like for me one of the best evidences of God are human ideals because there’s phenomenon called ‘phantom paint’ where if you lose an arm you feel the pain the arm for years and years and you have the psychological memory not of that arm but that arm is still there, but you cannot have phantom pain if you don’t lose something that wasn’t once there. And I looked at the world and I think we struggle for human ideals like peace, we’ve never known peace. Human history has never known peace but we have the ideal of peace, we have the human ideal of a world without poverty, a world where no one is hungry. We have these ideals but we’ve never known that reality and a lot of people say “I can’t believe in God.” It’s like this ideal and I’m like “You believe in ideal every second of your life.” And so every time you do a school of greatness you’re actually experiencing phantom pain, you’re saying there’s something inside of you that there’s no physical evidence of. But I believe it’s there we have to pull it out of you. I am convinced that human ideals are so phantom pain that somehow we remember what it feel like to be like human and I think humans were created for love, we’re created for goodness for community, otherwise why would we long for these things that are so difficult to attain and sometimes almost unattainable.
Lewis: Why do we suffer so much though if love is what we want, intimacy connection why do it seem like a lot of times people are going through so much anxiety, depression and disconnection?
Erwin: I think that’s probably the most fundamental human question is how it is possible the thing we need most is the thing that’s most elusive. We long for intimacy but we fear it.
Lewis: We sabotage it, we mess it up.
Erwin: I think love is one of the reasons why I have a hard time believing in pure evolutionary theory because if we were just the outcome of evolution we would have eliminated love a long time ago, because love makes you vulnerable and love is what gets you killed. How many times have you failed at love, been damaged by love, been betrayed by love? Then you wake up the next morning and you’re going ‘I need to find love, I need to be loved.’ For me it is probably most powerful driving and intrinsic proof that there’s more going on than meets the eye because we can’t seem to extricate love from us. You remember Star Trek the Vulcans were supposed to be evolution of human development, finally emotionless and yet somehow we know that that’s not life, that’s just existence. If humans at their core longing to be alive what I know is that you feel most fully alive when you’re most fully loved.
Erwin: If you have all the success in the world measures and you feel failing to love and someone to love you you’ll feel as if life is a failure. So to wrap it all back to this little statement that Jesus said that God is love. So, I think that a lot of us aren’t searching for God we’re searching for love and we crash into God.
Lewis: Say it one more time.
Erwin: I said we’re not searching for God we’re searching for love but while we’re searching for love we crashed into God. I think that’s what happened to me, I wasn’t searching for Jesus it wasn’t on my radar in any way. I was searching for love, I was searching for meaning and in that journey I found myself in a counter that I would’ve never imagine. I still get into platform at Mosaic and a lot of times I’ll get up and I’ll go ‘I still can’t believe I am up here.’
Erwin: I just have these moments ‘did you guys know how unexpected it is for me to believe?’ and I think when we’re at our worst all the negative voices become our identity and a huge part for me was like I have this voice in my head and they’re always questioning.
Lewis: Even today?
Erwin: Which is why I think my message works on the corner of Hollywood. This is not a conversation from someone who doesn’t wake up in the morning and asking everything. I wake up every day and I am hunted by a number of endless questions, I’m never under the illusion that I found all the answers. But what I do know is that in some odd way without all the right answers, without all the complete answers I experienced what it means to be alive and that matters more than being right.
Lewis: What does it mean to be alive?
Erwin: You know when you’re alive when you’re in love everything gets heightened, this is what it means to be alive because one time this journalist ask me “What does it feel like to believe in God?” I go “You know if you ever had that moment in your life where like the food taste better and the romance are clearer and the colors are just brighter.” I remember when I was driving and younger and I didn’t know any glasses. The first time I put on glasses I realize leaves were distinct individual pieces on a tree.
Lewis: Not just blur or shadows.
Erwin: I always thought they were beautiful, I didn’t know that they were astonishing. That’s the difference between surviving and being alive when you’re alive you see the details and beauty and the wonder, you know a person who is just existing every day they struggle with fear, depression, anxiety and everything. They are haunted by all their disappointments and they have not one more disappointment and the person.
Lewis: When someone is going through this feeling of not feeling alive just surviving: depression, anxiety seems like the world is against them whatever. What’s the first question they should ask themselves? To help move them out of that position.
Erwin: I think when you’re in that space one of the most difficult things to do is to get perspective, because when you’re ready to [?] when you’re feeling anxiety and you’re overlooking fear, that means that you’ve been in there for so long that your world is now being consumed by every negative factor around you. So, I would say is pick one thing that you can identify that’s worth living for, just pick one thing that you can be grateful for. 20 years ago I actually wrote about gratitude which seem to be almost like philosophy or you know light-hearted anthropology, but now and neuroscience and I actually had this phrase from a neuroclinic ‘gratitude is the oil the brain.’ So when a person struggling with fear, anxiety or panic attacks the first thing you have to do is to find something you are grateful for and then step into that gratitude and then if it’s a person go thank them. Whatever it takes find some way to express that gratitude and it’ll begin to lubricate your brain.
I remember one time years ago my son Aaron he’s 30 now, but my wife was an orphan and I never knew my dad and you know grew up in that kind of combustible family system. So, we knew like our first kid was an experiment and one time we’re in New York years and years ago and when we got into the taxi I didn’t have a lot of money and I realized I left my wallet and my son said ‘Dad I got you covered’ he was like being a man you know. So we took this taxi to Manhattan and he paid this taxi and then he left his wallet in the taxi. So, we’re in Manhattan at like 1 in the morning and with no money, no ID, no credit cards, no phones we have nothing and he started like panicking because we were like probably 45 minutes’ walk to our hotel. And as we are walking he was getting a little panicky and nervous and he was so upset that he made this mistake and I said “All right buddy you have this part in your brain that’s kind of like the reptilian part of your brain and right now it’s now. You’re afraid, angry and almost kind of this cute sense of danger” and I said “You can’t solve part of the problem right now because that part of your brain is taking over and if you can’t let go of the fear and anxiety you can’t access the part of your brain that unleashes imagination and creativity.” So as we walked through this hour we spent the times talking about how to solve problems.
I think there is this kind of dynamic when a person is under the [?] the part of, I don’t even want to use brain, the part of your essence that you activate is the part that you leave paralyze and if you can actually step away from that fear and that anxiety and begin to see there’s wonder and beauty all around it begins to activate the part of your brain that’s full of imagination and creativity and beauty. I made a decision when I was around 12 because I could feel myself disappearing into the eternal world because I created an imaginary world inside of me that I felt was safer than the world outside of me. And I created a world inside of me that’s much more interesting in a world that I fit in better, and I felt like I was having a hard time coming out of that world and slipping back outside. I would go to school and I would disappear and the class will be gone and the teacher will just give up.
Lewis: You were in another world?
Erwin: I was literally in another world and every year I go to school and go “This year I’m gonna do well.” And by the third or fourth day I couldn’t remember my classes, I just really couldn’t connect to the outside world. So, I was a straight D student and I lived in this internal world and I couldn’t explained it and I tell my wife to this day I was so comfortable in that world that the characters in that world are as real that you interact with every day. But I made a decision that I was either going to get lost in this internal world, use my imagination to hide from the world or I could use my imagination for a better world. And that’s a part that shifted in my life because everything that you have is really your resource, you try to be self-protective or to create something more beautiful for other people.
Lewis: Wow that’s powerful. I felt like a lot of people can relate to that maybe not as deep as the world that you’re in but I remember being like, you know people like have imaginary friends and like they want to hang out with more than real people. I used to have play games all the time with myself because I felt very insecure and alone as a kid and struggled in school as well, I couldn’t really read and write it was like a struggle my whole schooling. So, I was just like I always played games with myself to try to keep myself happy and try to find some sense and purpose. I remember to get in trouble a lot in school and I would go to the principal’s office and I would just say it over and over “I wish I were dead.” Then I felt like I had a meaning or purpose. I think a lot of people are struggling on the sense of meaning and purpose and I’m curious that you’ve been through so much in your life and you said that there’s this questions that haunt you still today, what are those 3 big things that haunt you every day or on a consistent basis?
Erwin: I think it’s the beings that we asked and less number of questions that are voodooed in some very core fundamental issues. Years ago I wrote in a book called ‘Soul Cravings’ that every human being has 3 intrinsic cravings that unites us all together. A lot of it because you know Trans actual analysis and you know young and Atler and all these guys. Everyone is trying to understand what motivates human action and everyone had different answers but I thought the questions are really important. So, when it became a person of faith I was really not, most people study the bible for theology. I think what I came to is that there are 3 intrinsic drives, every human beings has intrinsic needs for love and there are endless number of words you know.
Erwin: All that every human being has an intrinsic need not only to be love but for help and every human being has to believe that tomorrow can be better than today. The moment that you stop believing that tomorrow can be better than today you actually in despair.
Lewis: Why is that?
Erwin: See I think these are proofs of God. I think these are designed in a certain way just like you’re design to eat food, drink water, and to breathe air. But we just happened you know just because some mathematical probability we just happen to need exact air that we have, we just happen to have this liquid that this earth is full of that comes from the sky like sounds like magic.
Lewis: The alchemist.
Erwin: We just happened to be able to eat the food that’s on this planet and I think it’s the same way with love that I think every human being driven for love and I think almost all of human history can be able to understand to love and hate and the way that we interact with each other. And so the great wars in history are not by people who are different from each other but people almost exactly the same. I mean you have the north and the south in civil war you think that we are so fundamentally different that’s why we don’t get along.
Lewis: So for the saying why can’t we get along?
Erwin: There’s the questions that we have to deal with. And then we this also intrinsic drive for progress like every human being has to believe they can become more. Think about this your school of greatness is a declaration of human intrinsic because you can’t pull out of people anything that isn’t in them and I think this is for me a fundamental problem with faith. A lot of faith is trying to shove something down people’s throats and I’m pretty much you know ‘if I can’t pull it out of a person then I shouldn’t be trying to put it into them’ because to me that’s coercion, that’s manipulation. You want to pull out of a person what they’re longing for what they’re searching for because then you don’t have to worry, there’s a difference between giving a person something to drink and drowning a person in water.
Lewis: Forcing it trying to control it.
Erwin: A lot of religion feels like waterboarding not being given the cold drink.
Lewis: That’s one of the reasons why a lot of people step away from religion.
Erwin: And think about this for a moment when you talk about like faith. Hope only exists in the future.
Lewis: Something a potential better than what I have now.
Erwin: Yeah because if hope is in the past it’s called regret because you can’t change the past and oddly enough in the bible says “When something gives you hope once you attain it it’s no longer a source of hope.” Which is really a profound answer insight. And so hope actually causes human to be connected to the future and this is what is so odd to me when I became a person of faith the way that Christians, especially thought about the future like so fatalistic, so deterministic that might as well been atheist. If you look at deterministic atheism it says the future is already set through mathematical probability and like that’s the same thing with a lot of Christians say. And I think the future is dynamic and we affect the future and so when I looked at hope it means that humans are designed to be connected to the future and if you are connected to the past and disconnected to the future you actually lose all hope.
The questions that matter for survival are what, when, where, how like okay how did you got away when he got eaten?
Lewis: How do I put a fire when I’m freezing to death?
Erwin: And the question why is not an evolutionary question.
Lewis: Then why do we ask it so much?
Erwin: I think because you’re created with eternity inside of you like there an electrical circuit that’s catalyzing your heart to beat and sounds like magic that your electricity being formed into flesh and blood. I think that your spirit and your spirit is telling you that you need to know why you exist and why you’re here, because really if all we have is 80 years why would why matter at all? And look as humans I think we are meaning machines, we not only give meaning to meaningless things we make meaningful things meaningless.
Erwin: I think a huge part of your podcast is trying to align meaning for people, stop wasting your life in the things that are meaningless and start spending your life in the things that are meaningful.
Erwin: Think about it as of right now we’re communicating, this is what it’s called right? We’re translating meaning but all we are actually doing is creating sounds and we as a species learn how to create sounds that we’re able to transmit complex and detailed images into the other person’s brain.
Lewis: Crazy and a feeling emotion.
Erwin: And all of these are sipping through us and we’re actually transmitting something real. I mean what’s more real we’re passing to each other or me handing you a book or passing you a fork or giving a thousand dollars, because if I give you 10,000 dollars that’s always outside of you. But when I speak into your life it goes into the essence of your soul. When you [?] it changes me and it becomes a part of who I am. So something really powerful going on here and we humans are meaning machines, I mean think about it there are tribes in Africa. The moment I changed my language it no longer translates meaning to you and we humans have this incredible way or creating meaning at everything so colors have meaning, I mean behind me the word love it’s not, it’s how it is written. Love tends to have always soft and round feeling because you’re not gonna write love angles with images, you’re gonna write love because it’s kind of feel because we give meaning to everything.
We humans create meanings every second of our lives and that for me is the fundamental question not what you’re doing to try and get love, not what you actually believe is bringing hope because you know what it’s odd a person who has false hope is actually doing better than a person who has no hope.
Lewis: Right. They have something.
Erwin: And they do and it drives them forward.
Lewis: Gives them purpose and work harder and happier.
Erwin: See this is more pragmatic in the line, this is how powerful hope is even false hope works. Then you actually find something you should be hopeful for and it changes everything. And all of us have this drive to find meaning or to create meaning to make our life meaningful.
Lewis: Why do we care so much about meaning?
Erwin: See that, again it’s an intrinsic proof that you are time dated, that you have something eternal within you because meaning is an eternal question it’s not [?] question. It’s not a question that [?] man and I think this is a part of what makes us fundamental unique as human beings and I think it’s part that almost drive us to madness too because I have thought of meaningful that were not.
Lewis: Like what?
Erwin: You know when you’re young, I played sports you know and when I’m from [?] I should be playing soccer but my stepdad insisted that I play football and I’m not physically created for football but I thought football was the most meaningful thing in my life. And when I stopped playing football my mom actually called the college to make sure I was not so depress and I wouldn’t do something harmful. Because it was a meaningful thing in my life and I mean I broke a bunch of bones in the back of my hand, I played 4 more games with those 4 broken bones without going to the doctor.
Lewis: The same thing right.
Erwin: It was life.
Lewis: What position you play?
Erwin: I play running back. I didn’t play in college I just played in high school. I thought it was the most meaningful thing in the world and then all of a sudden I realized why am I doing this? Like there’s no meaning in this and in fact there’s almost tragic to think that I thought it was so meaningful and wasn’t that significant. I was coaching my son he was playing hockey when he was 10 years old, I know nothing about hockey but I was his coach you know. But he was the best player on our team, he really wanted to be a good teammate and doesn’t want the other kids to be upset because he was scoring all the goals. So one game he said “Hey dad I’m just gonna pass the pucker I’m not going to score because I want other parents to like me.” So we’re playing and he’s passing and we’re getting killed because our kids just couldn’t score. And I said “Aaron take the puck and score” and he looked at me and he said “Dad in 20 years this game isn’t gonna matter.”
Lewis: That’s crazy that a 10 year old has that perspective.
Erwin: He’s been listening to the wrong messaging, he’s been listening to what I say to adults not what I say to children. And I remember saying “Could you go out there and pretend it matter” he goes after and pretends but he knew intrinsically that this wouldn’t matter but that was a gift in that moment that most of us we give ourselves wealth and fame and power. I mean how many times people just given their whole life to be famous rather than life to be not known but be worth knowing. And how many times people mistaken greatness for fame? And fame for greatness? And I think in this book actually talked about how famous what you do with yourself and this is what you do for others.
Lewis: It’s powerful.
Erwin: You know when you ask yourself sometimes the wrong thing and think about have you ever made a mistake in your life and you just feel like your life is over?
Erwin: I’ve had moments, even in high school I remember in junior high thinking I don’t want to wake up tomorrow I just want to die, and I would have to tell myself then in 20 years this isn’t gonna matter.
Lewis: I never had that perspective, I was just like so deep in the pain and suffering that I was like ‘what am I gonna do tomorrow to survive’ it wasn’t until much later you know in the last 10 years of my life where I started to learn like this isn’t gonna matter this is gonna pass, like everything isn’t gonna matter in 6 months or whatever. But most people I think struggle with perspective and finding something to be grateful for. For me gratitude is one of the cornerstones of my life especially when things are wrong or seeming wrong. A lot of it is just illusion on the story we give, the meaning we give this experience and I started to look at more and more challenges in my life as beautiful experiences and lessons to make me stronger for the futures, and they actually give me more hope.
Erwin: It’s ironic almost kind of psychological dynamic of putting your eggs in one basket and we don’t often times realize it that we maybe the basket we put all the eggs in. If our whole lives about us being love and our whole life is about us having a future and hope, our whole life about us having meaning. My focus would be loving be people and just the love that I need to come my way and focus my life on loving people, I’m going to focus my life on giving other people hope, I’m gonna focus my life in helping other people in serving others and not they serve me then you actually diversify. A lot of us don’t have a psychological diversified portfolio.
Erwin: Our whole life about ourselves. And the way I look at it every day of my life someone I love is well, every day of my life someone I love is moving forward. And so there isn’t a day in my life there isn’t something to celebrate because it’s not all about me.
Lewis: It’s interesting when I’m going to a hard time I have the perspective to not think about like I need help right now. I need to get out of this feeling and this experience like someone throw me a bone. That’s the time when I think you feel the most challenge, the most insecure, the most doubt and anxiety overwhelmed. The best thing you can do is call through your 5 friends that you care about and just like you said ‘call 5 people that day and tell them what you appreciate and acknowledge about them’ like be a listening person to them and give them love, hope. Tell them they’re doing a good job like get out of yourself and serve other people and you’re gonna feel a thousand times better.
Erwin: That’s a good nuance you have there because a lot of people call through the 5 friends to tell them what they’re going through, rather than calling them to give them support.
Lewis: We still want to talk about challenges we’re going through because that makes us human and allows us to like process and express certain things. I don’t think you just mask all your feelings and emotions, but I don’t think you should sit them too long and focus out, like the more you just give to other people the more you can help people. I think it was Zigzigler in the person development space if you want to achieve all your goals help everyone else achieve their goals. It’s like focus out as much as you can attract the love you’ll attract the meaning.
Lewis: What’s the biggest question do you wrestle with the most? Is it because you connect with me and if we’re so similar why do we always fight in the world? Is that one of the biggest question you wrestle with?
Erwin: I mean sometimes it’s very practical to every day stuff of how do I help people I love move from a deep sense of inadequacy to a place where they have this internal strength to know that they have everything they need to live the life they created to love and I wish every day I wasn’t trying to answer the big questions of life, a lot of times I just try to help people that I care about.
Lewis: How do you help who maybe always seems to be a victim or struggling or that never seem to get a hold of their purpose or mission and you just want to see them thrive but they continue to suffer year after year.
Erwin: I think one thing you have to realize when the person is in a perpetual pattern negative pattern that they almost can’t hear you right away, like wherever you and I agree communication happens easily and naturally, if we disagree we have more difficult time understanding each other. If we violently disagree you will distort what I have said and I will distort what you said and turn it into a more violating response. You know so when a person in a really bad place you can’t make the mistake that they’re unteachable because they don’t respond well to what you are speaking to their life and you have to realize that a lot of it is almost in a distortion zone, where they are just re interpreting everything negative. And I think sometimes we are just too hard on each other.
Lewis: Yeah, we demand a lot from each other.
Erwin: You know and I’m like “Hey just get some food get some sleep because you’re inside of this body and if your body is not doing well you’re not gonna do well.”
Lewis: You’re not gonna think clearly.
Erwin: Yeah. So a lot of times people look just realized you have to stop and take care of yourself, just eat and sleep. Like I’m a person who doesn’t sleep well at all.
Lewis: Why not?
Erwin: I never slept, I mean my whole life I have to work at sleeping.
Lewis: Practice every day.
Erwin: And getting sleep and things and a lot of it because I process so much stuff and I do all my work in my head so it’s hard to not be at work and you’re running all that stuff down. So, I know like to be in this space. My wife says to me “It’s too loud in bed I could hear your brain.” And she was just turn it off, I just can’t turn it off. So, I think I’m [?] I know that I can just go boom and all shut down. It really almost like practice where you have to go and just be alone and decompose and just get into my space and I do think historically why prayer meditation is so important. Whatever you choose to do you just got to find some way to block out the outside world and get in touch with what is going on inside of you. I think some of it when you’re not paying attention to your inner world it’s almost like out of control, everyone screaming and yelling you have to step in and say you’re in charge.
Lewis: I think when you’re not in control of your inner world every little thing in the outer world becomes amplified and like you said everyone whose stop at a green light you get mad at and you react to, everyone who honks at you want to flip off and fight everyone that says something to you and you respond with fear and anxiety.
Erwin: And by the way that is why I actually wrote the way of the warrior was that I don’t write books that will sell, I write books based on what are the real things that we are grappling with. And I found even with my own life with a 27 year old daughter and a 30 year old son, me being 60 and knowing that they’re struggling through the same stuff that I’ve struggled to, they face crisis and challenges you know they have moments of deep internal and my kids are really thoughtful and intelligent.
A huge part of the process of moving forward toward peace is slowing yourself down and allowing your inner world to be organize the way you want it express in your outer world. It’s funny because my kids always tell me I’m like Zen because I just don’t lose my temper, I mean it’s probably been 40 years since I lost my temper. But when I was a kid I had a violent temper.
Lewis: All the time yeah.
Erwin: I was the guy punching the wall.
Lewis: Me too. Every moment I felt like defensive. I wanted to fight or scream.
Erwin: I was that guy and I realize was that anger, rage was me proving I was powerless.
Lewis: So powerful.
Erwin: That powerful people are never out of control, its powerless people who are out of control. So when you see that person being violent or expressing a rage or cussing that person out.
Lewis: I’ve been that guy before.
Erwin: They’re not just out of control they’re powerless. And that’s their powerlessness manifest and what I decide with my life was that I would not allow any circumstance be more powerful than my internal world, I will not allow the external world to be more powerful than my internal world. And if my internal world is stronger than the world around me then nothing in the outside world can affect me. If people say I don’t know what got into me I said “Nothing got into you, it got out of you.” And just as the circumstance it pierce to your soul.
Lewis: I think Victor Frankel talked about that in his book about when he was in concentration camps and you know people would always do horrible things to him and just kept the sense of peace and focus on his reactions.
Erwin: that’s ‘Man Searching for Meaning’ which is originally called existentialism, but that’s not a selling title.
Lewis: That’s not and then I heard stories about Mandela when he was just treated horribly in prison and yet from what I understand always responded with a sense of peace and love and the fact after he got out welcome those guards into his home and dinner something like that. So, for me and then Martin Luther King talks about you know ‘never getting angry at someone’s hate towards you’ you know because you lose your power around that, you give someone else the power when you react.
Erwin: So you’re creating a human narrative whether you realize it or not. Talked about Mandela and Victor Frankel, Martin Luther King and Gandhi, and you’re just naturally painting a picture of human ideals. But if there is nothing beyond the material world then they’re not in any way different than Mussolini and Genghis Khan and Hitler, but yet nothing in your soul tells you that those are desperations of what it means to be human. Think about this just by going back to the early conversation because I thought about it like “You ever some act and you thought it was inhumane?” But the only species that can commit inhumane act is human. When you look at a tiger eating you don’t think it’s inanimal you know. But when a human does something that an animal does in the wild we intrinsically know it’s inhumane. How is it possible for a human being to be so self-aware that something a human does seeming naturally would be unnatural? And that’s why Lewis I think there’s a divine narrative in us, our souls actually keep whispering to us there’s more inside of you than you know.
What I would say is you are exactly right you are aspiring the great, not just your greatness but for the people. So then you believed there’s this tread throughout the human spirit that interconnects us all together that it is more than that.
Lewis: You talked about ideals and beliefs in the beginning like this belief system and ideals. What would you say is a core ideal that you think is the most aspirational ideals and beliefs and how often do your beliefs evolve overtime?
Erwin: That’s a good question because I think that. I think a part of it so often times we put data and truth in the same category or information and truth. I was a person who didn’t find it easy to commit to truth so I was never a dogmatic person. So a lot of people are highly dogmatic they go through dramatic shifts of I believe this now, I believe this. I was always more fluid like I don’t know you know I could see value in everything. Again, studying Greek and Romans and Egyptian mythology, never read them with any level of judgement, like I never thought to myself less valuable than this and that. I always was looking for what where’s the story that I meant and what make sense to me and it’s kind of odd like every mythology seems to have the good guy, bad guy, and the dad who’s trying.
Erwin: And isn’t that what seems to be going on inside of us. There’s that part of us that aspires to be great and go ahead and part of us just want to consume and take and then there’s this almost other voice trying to call us to who we are created to be. I don’t think my beliefs change in terms of, in a dogmatic way I think my beliefs are always growing and evolving and changing. I think some of our beliefs are hopes like I didn’t have a lot of proof that the world was good, but I believed the world was good. In fact a lot of it before I ever had any belief in Jesus Christ I had this aspiration to end poverty in the world and aspiration to do something truly humane in the world. I think every human being aspires to do something good unless they’ve been so broken and corrupt and I don’t think it’s the way humans are intended to be, I think that’s the deviation. I actually think we’re created for good and that good just feels right.
Lewis: It feels good.
Erwin: It does you know and you’re healthy when you’re there. I mean obviously coming to faith of Jesus it was huge both psychological and world [?] for me.
I remember studying philosophy in college I was one of those guys no reason to be in school just study philosophy. We studied Christianity like 5 minutes and my professor get up there and we spent so much time on Socrates, Aristotle everybody got a lot of time but Christianity got like 3 minutes. The guy said this is the book called ‘the passage of love’ he said “Isn’t it ridiculous how in the world could this feed the God of love.” He laugh and I laugh and in my mind that’s not a bible, it took me like 2 or 3 minutes to decide Christianity was not a viable option for my life. So when I began to [?] this message of Jesus it was disruptive and I would argue with people who believe in God and they were terrible at arguing.
Lewis: Bad at it right?
Erwin: So bad you know.
Lewis: Kept justifying why you’re right.
Erwin: Exactly. So in college I would just go believe in God and there is God and if they believe there is God I would argue, I’m just gonna like. And really a lot of it for me was I keep losing the argument, I mean keep winning the argument but I like them better than myself. So I wish I could tell it was intellectual or rational or academic but a lot of it wasn’t, a lot of it was essential because what kind of human do I want to be? And at that point I was pretty much a person who believe the wrong thing than be the right kind of person and believe the right thing and become the wrong kind of person. A lot of people who believe in God are so judgmental and dogmatic and condemning. But then I knew a lot of my atheist friends who are like arrogant and judgmental and condemning and it was just both, and that was a huge shift for me, but I don’t know why it didn’t feel like a shift in belief because I always want to believe that humans have intrinsic value and I wanted to believe that we matter.
So some of it is really pragmatic for me, I look and go what’s the view of reality that makes me fully alive? And allows me the most good in the world.
Lewis: The most beautiful, creative and expressive.
Erwin: And then when I believe that you’ve been imagine to imagine and created to create, that you’re both a work of art and an artist of work it just changes my whole view of reality. That is why I started Mosaic, I mean Mosaic is just an art form of broken pieces that are rod together to create something beautiful especially when light strikes through it. So I said “Hey, look we’re all broken and fragmented, we’re the irregular pieces of the world and we’re come together and believe that God created something beautiful especially when he strikes his light through us.
Lewis: That’s beautiful.
Erwin: That is why I started Mosaic and I said look “If you need to pretend you’re perfect this is not the place for you. If you need to pretend like you really gather, if you need to follow someone who pretends they’re perfect this is not the place for you.” My wife always telling me to quit telling people that you don’t know what you’re doing and don’t know where you’re going. I don’t write about ideals that I’ve never experienced, I write out of the essence of struggle and reality of my whole life and I’ve needed piece in my life and I’m so angry about the condition of our culture right now and how people just attack each other and destroy each other.
So I’m a straight D student first to 12 grade and couldn’t get to college, my English teacher my last day of high school said “You will never make it.”
Lewis: Million copies later of books.
Erwin: I just want to be a metaphor that it’s never too late and everyone has something of value inside of them.
Lewis: I love that I feel like I can connect with you a lot on your story, your life and your experiences. I have a few final questions for you but this book is called ‘The Way of the Warrior: An Ancient path to inner peace’ and the reason I’m attracted to this is when [?] told me about this I said okay, I got to read this in this interview because for my whole life I was focused on success and accomplishment and achievement to gain love, because when I would win in sports I would get acknowledgement. Friends would like me, so I just said I have to win it all at all cost. Everything I do that translated into relationships and that’s never a good thing. I came from a very loving compassionate place until something was on the line and I really needed to win, then it was just like nothing else matter we are winning at all cost. Up until I’m 30 I’m 35 now turning 36 I was so accomplished but never sense the inner peace and then I went on a journey for the last 5 or 6 years of like reinventing myself, rediscovering what is greatness. And I told Maria when I have her on it’s like for me you can’t achieve greatness without inner peace, it doesn’t matter all the money and success and accomplishments if you feel a lack of inner peace I don’t think you’re living a great life. So for me greatness is really around cultivating the gifts that we have on to pursue our dreams and in that pursuit making the maximum impact the people around us but also finding that inner peace, that’s why I love that you talked about being a warrior is finding inner peace in the back of your book, just everything you talked about resonates with me. So, I’m excited about this, I want everyone to get a copy because I think this is very powerful for you. So the book is out now you guys can go get it at bookstores.
Erwin: You can go to Erwinmcmanus.com or Amazon.
Lewis: I want to make sure you guys get this book and get one for a friend as well. In order to get ready for a battle I think you must learn peace and I think that is what we’re seeking the most. You know facing daily wars around us whether it’d be trying to find a new job or career or build our business and we’ll always gonna be struggling if we don’t find peace within us.
Erwin: Absolutely. By the way when I wrote the book it was crazy I was driving down Hollywood down vine and I was with my wife, I had a vivid imagination I heard this voice and I heard the first line of the book and it was “The warrior is not ready for battle until they have come to know peace.” And I looked at my wife and said I have my next book. And I love Japanese culture I used to go to Japan a lot and love all the Japanese films and it was.
Lewis: Last Samurai.
Erwin: I got a last samurai poster in my house. I wrote this book as if it was an old samurai writing to a samurai passing on the wisdom. II think the problem with people who are at war but they’re not at peace and so I want the answer individual and a global question because the world will never know peace until we have peace. War rages across the world because war rages within our hearts and the only way we’re gonna have world peace is inner peace so this is a battle for world peace one life at a time.
Lewis: We didn’t even get to like, you just had cancer a couple of years ago you went to surgery and now you’re cancer free, I love to know what cancer has taught you about life.
Erwin: I would give you my quick answer, I was always free of cancer because it never owned me.
Lewis: That’s great. Real quick answer then what has that experience the illusion of having cancer taught you about.
Erwin: It wasn’t illusion it was all reality, but we’re all dying but some of us are grip by the fear of death and I think the only reason we’re afraid of death is because we’re afraid to live. And what I discover when I was told I had cancer was that I didn’t know how long would I live was this beautiful realization that I was not [?] with regret because I felt like I’ve live every day of my life fully as I knew how, and I can tell you I never felt afraid, I never felt angry and bitter and I gave myself permission to feel all this. To me human is permissible I don’t need to pretend being a pastor or starting Mosaic, they don’t need me to pretend they need me to be real. So, I took them to the process with me and I started wondering why am I not afraid? Maybe something is broken inside of me and I realized there’s a difference between sad of losing something afraid like I want to see my kids grow up, get married and have kids. I want to see the world become a better place, I still believe humanities best days are ahead of them. There’s so much I want to experience but I didn’t feel fear and I think most of us are afraid of death because we realize that we only existed.
Lewis: That we haven’t truly live. So this are called the 3 truths imagine you get to pick the day when it’s the last day for you on earth. Let’s say you’ve accomplished everything that your imagination wanted to create in the world, you’ve done everything good you want to do, you’ve seen your kids do everything you’ve had the life. But for whatever reason time to go and you got to take all of your work with you, all of your writings and content and video. Any content you put out there you got to take it with you so no one has access to any information anymore, but you have a piece of paper and you get to write down 3 things you know to be true from your whole life experience, from all the crazy worlds you were living in, all the experience and lessons you got to write down 3 final lessons or truths you would share with the world, what would you say your 3 truths?
Erwin: I would say that the [?] of all things is love and that people are the only true value that exist in the world and that when everyone else things that you’re gone you’re just getting started.
Lewis: Interesting. Make sure you guys get this book ‘The Way of the Warrior: An ancient path to inner peace’ it’s gonna change your life I already know. How can we connect with you online personally?
Erwin: I love Instagram I love taking photographs and of course right now my son and his little media team are helping me get the book out. We’re gonna put a lot of video content on Erwinmcmanus.com so we’ve shot through every chapter of the book and it’s all content that’s not in the book. In the book I might have 10% of my content and 90% of the content doesn’t make it to the content, so the best place to go is erwinmcmanus.com or go to the Mosaic app because all my talks are there. So I guess you guys have like 2 million people on your podcast and it’s incredible. We have a podcast and its 2: 1 is my talks on Sunday at Mosaic door, and my son and I have a podcast called battle ready and I came out of it when I had cancer.
Lewis: That’s cool.
Erwin: That became our theme battle ready when I had cancer because when I told him I had cancer I said “Look you just need to be battle ready.” So, we’ve been doing that podcast and it’s so raw and honest and I’d love for people to join us there.
Lewis: That’s cool. I want to acknowledge you Erwin for being just a fresh breathe of air, for bringing so much love into this moment and so much soul and spirit and giving people a sense of hope who maybe don’t feel it right now. A lot of people are listening that are succeeding but I feel like are missing that moment of inner peace of hope of like is there going to be a better tomorrow even thought I am succeeding. So, I acknowledge you for being battle ready and for continuing to have a positive attitude through life threatening experiences and constantly being in service to humanity, I feel like that’s the greatest measure of a human is how much they can continue to want to serve. So, I acknowledge you for all that and for just showing up today man that’s very powerful.
Erwin: I have wanted to be in your podcast when I heard this school of greatness, I thought one day I would love to have this conversation with you so I want to thank you so much you’ve made my year.
Lewis: I appreciate it man. This is the final question what’s your definition of greatness?
Erwin: Well, I have a whole chapter of that in the book on greatness and I would say that the definition of greatness is what you’ve done for others.
Lewis: Thanks man, I appreciate you.
Erwin: Thank you.
Lewis: There you have it my friends I hope you enjoy this one all about love, spiritual progress, and the way of the warrior with Erwin McManus. If you enjoyed this share with your friends, tag me on Instagram @lewishowes and @erwinmcmanus as well because this need to go far and wide. Do yourself a favor and help someone today send them this podcast, send them a message. This is all about progressing together don’t do it alone, share it to a friend, send this to someone that you want to see grow in their life as well.
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We are just getting started guys this is episode number 763 I’m so excited about everything we have going on and we had an amazing interview in the previous week, the previous 2 interviews with Terry Crews talking about toxic masculinity and his rise to success and everything else he was able to create. We have Bubba Watson 2 time Masters champion on go check out last week’s interview. We’ve got so many great interviews as well in the past and coming up, I am so excited of who we have and I can’t wait for you to see them. So this is your first time here subscribe to the podcast, leave a review over on our podcast. And leave us a review, a rating, follow us on Instagram all the good things guys and as we started on the beginning Eckhart Tolle “Acknowledging the good that you already have in your life is the foundation for all abundance.” If you fixate on what you lack you will continue to create more lack in your life, if you focus on what you are grateful for you will attract more good things in your life. Remember these simple principles and apply them to your daily. As always guys I love you all so very much, you matter to so many people in the world it’s time for you to step up and start mattering to yourself and as always you know what time it is, it’s time to go out there and do something great.