It’s time to open up.
No matter what you’re dealing with, you’re not alone.
There is nothing shameful about having anxiety.
Think about this acronym for FEAR- you either Fear Everything And Run or Face Everything And Rise.
The more you confront the things in your past you don’t want to do with, the more you’ll be able to move forward.
So, are you going to run from your fear, or face it?
On today’s episode of The School of Greatness, I talk about anxiety and PTSD with a man who has become an unofficial mental health advocate: Charlamagne the God.
New York Times Best-Selling Author Charlamagne Tha God is best known for being co-host of the nationally syndicated hip-hop iHeartRadio program The Breakfast Club. He is also a social media influencer; an executive producer with his own production company, CThaGod World; and co-host of the popular podcast Brilliant Idiots.
Charlamagne says that refining his life’s mission and examining his past helped him take control of his anxiety.
Don’t allow anxiety or depression to cause you to keep suffering. Learn about Charlamagne The God’s mental health struggles and what he did to restart his life on Episode 721.
Lewis Howes: This is episode number 721 with New York Times Best Selling Author, Charlamagne tha God. Welcome to the School of Greatness. My name is Lewis Howes, former pro 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.
Plato said, “Nothing in the affairs of men is worthy of great anxiety,” and Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Sorrow looks back, worry looks around, and faith looks up.” We’ve got an important interview today with Charlamagne tha God, who is best known for being the cohost of the nationally syndicated hip-hop I Heart Radio program called The Breakfast Club. He is also a massive social media influencer, an executive producer with his own production company, CThaGod World, and cohost of the popular podcast, Brilliant Idiots.
He is the author of the New York Times Best Seller, Black Privilege: Opportunity Comes To Those Who Create It, and the new book, Shook One: Anxiety Playing Tricks On Me. And in this interview, we go deep, guys. We talk about how his struggles with anxiety and mental health led him to want to start opening up and writing about this book and doing therapy. Also, why men need to take off their mask and talk about mental health more.
He discusses the pressures that social media tends to have on us and what it does to us, and how to be authentic and true to yourself when the odds are stacked up against you. It’s gonna be a powerful one, it’s gonna shake you up in a powerful way. Make sure to take a screen shot of this right now, tag me @LewisHowes, [@Chathagod 00:01:59] on Instagram, and let us know what you enjoyed most about this interview while you’re listening to it.
Before we dive in, quick thank you to our sponsor, PayPal.com. Now, I’ve been a big fan of PayPal for a long time, almost 10 years since I’ve been using it for my business, and I still use it today and receive and send payments almost every single day. And once an attorney in New York City, Linda transferred her hobby of locating hard to find items into a thriving luxury consignment company called Linda’s Stuff. And what was once a passion project is now a 100 person company in a 93,000 square foot facility. As a company specializing in high end previously owned goods, reputation is everything. Integrity and trust are a critical part of how the company operates.
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Big thank you again to our sponsors, and I’m excited about this one because we dive in deep right away, and no matter what you’re dealing with, I want to let you know that you’re not alone. There are people that can support you. It’s time to open up and share with other people, and not allow anxiety or depression to make you suffer in pain anymore. Start talking about it, and I think you’ll be a lot more inspired after listening to this interview with the one and only, Cha tha God.
Welcome everyone back to the School of Greatness Podcast. We’ve got my man, Charlamagne tha God-
* * *
Charlamagne Tha God: Lewis.
Lewis Howes: … in the house, man.
Charlamagne Tha God: What’s up, my brother? Thank you for having me, man.
Lewis Howes: Good to see you, man. Glad you’re here. Gary [Vee 00:05:07] connected us about a year ago I think when your last book, Black Privilege came out-
Charlamagne Tha God: I know. Yeah.
Lewis Howes: … and we tried to make it happen, but then you were running around the world and selling millions of books, and we made it happen now.
Charlamagne Tha God: Yes, man. Finally, I’m here. I feel like, you know, I believe in divine, God’s divine timing, so-
Lewis Howes: Yeah, timing.
Charlamagne Tha God: … hey, everything happens when it’s supposed to happen.
Lewis Howes: And this book is awesome, man. It’s called Shook One: Anxiety Playing Tricks On Me. Make sure you guys pick it up right now. Powerful stuff. I mean, you open up in a big way in this. You talk about anxieties and fears and insecurities and all sorts of things … masculinity and what it means to be a man. I mean, everywhere, you go there.
Charlamagne Tha God: Yeah, ’cause I feel like it’s weird, man. I turned 40 this year.
Lewis Howes: 40?
Charlamagne Tha God: Yeah. And I started going to therapy last year, ’cause I just was starting to get overwhelmed and I was starting to question everything.
Lewis Howes: What were you questioning?
Charlamagne Tha God: Just life in general, you know? I was guilting myself a lot, like a lot of why am I here, why am I who I am, why am I so blessed, you know? I don’t have any college degrees. I don’t necessarily have a particular skillset like my mother was a teacher growing up that made $30,000 a year. My father did construction. I grew up in a single wide trailer in Moncks Corner, South Carolina on a dirt road, and the only reason I’m in the position I am is because I believed I could be here.
But then it’s gotta be a little bit more than that, right? And then like everything feels so surreal. I think that I’m so used to pressure and I’m so used to always being under the gun, so to speak, that when everything felt calm and peaceful and serene-
Lewis Howes: When there was no pressure-
Charlamagne Tha God: … when there was no pressure, I was like, okay when’s the shoe gonna drop?
Lewis Howes: What’s wrong?
Charlamagne Tha God: Yeah, and I really was on some Chicken Little the sky is falling type shit. And you know, I got diagnosed with anxiety nine years ago, but I never did anything to deal with it. And when I go back and I think about all the times I’ve had panic attacks and anxiety attacks throughout my life, it started when I was probably like nine or 10, and I remember them up until that point in 2009 when the doctor finally said, “You have anxiety. You had a panic attack. You know, what’s the problem?”
But I didn’t do anything about it, and the reason I didn’t do anything about it was because-
Lewis Howes: It’s not cool to do that, or it’s-
Charlamagne Tha God: Well no, it was … All right. Two times I’ve been to the hospital in my life, thinking I was having a heart attack, right? And the first time I went was like 2007. It was the day Pimp C died, Pimp C from UGK. Rest in peace, Pimp C.
And I’m like a hypochondriac. I’m the type of person that if I see something happen to somebody, I think it’s going to happen to me. So the day he died and they just found him laid out in the hotel room and they didn’t know exactly why he died yet, in my mind, he had a heart attack. So I just was thinking that all day long. I’m going to have a heart attack, I’m going to have a heart attack, I’m going to have a heart attack-
Lewis Howes: Oh my gosh. You willed a panic attack, anxiety attack-
Charlamagne Tha God: Yes.
Lewis Howes: Yeah.
Charlamagne Tha God: So I checked myself into the emergency room-
Lewis Howes: Wow.
Charlamagne Tha God: … the doctor checks my heart, the EKG and all of that, and he’s like, “Yo, you’re fine. You got an athlete’s heart.” He was like, “Do you have anxiety? It sounds like you had a panic attack.” And I was like, “No.” And he was like, “Did you have any caffeine, an energy drink?” I said, “Oh, I had a Red Bull earlier.”
So I blamed it on the Red Bull.
Lewis Howes: Yeah, that was your excuse. Yeah, yeah.
Charlamagne Tha God: And then two years later, I had just gotten fired from my fourth radio gig. So I’m like 31, 32 years old, I’m back living at home with my mom, my daughter’s like two, my now wife is back living at home with her parents, and I remember just driving down an interstate in South Carolina, I-26, and just feeling like I was having another heart attack. I went to the hospital, and same thing. “You got a athlete’s heart. Yo, do you have anxiety?” “No.” “Sounds like you had a panic attack.” “Well no, I don’t think that’s what-” “You stressed out about anything?” I’m like, “Hell yeah.”
So once again, I could point to something else.
Lewis Howes: I got fired, I lost my job, I’m thinking about my kids-
Charlamagne Tha God: Yes. But then, so in my mind I’m like, all I gotta do is get back in position, get another radio job-
Lewis Howes: I’ll be fine.
Charlamagne Tha God: … everything will be fine. But that happens, life turns out great, New York Times Best Selling author and nationally syndicated radio personality, daughters are great, life is good, but I still feel like it’s about to be a home invasion in my house.
Lewis Howes: When was this?
Charlamagne Tha God: This was last year.
Lewis Howes: Last year?
Charlamagne Tha God: Yeah, last year. Like last year. I mean, it’s been getting overwhelming the past couple of years, but I mean, there’s a lot of reasons for that though. I’m the guy who has almost been jumped in front of the radio station. Dudes walk up on me with the camera, points me in the back of the head, just to try to embarrass me because they feel like I’m always trying to embarrass people on the radio, or I go across the street to the ATM to get some money out of the ATM and me and a dude get into a fight. Dude just walks up on me and swings on me for no reason. Or getting in altercations with different rappers when we’re out and about.
So it was just like that level of PTSD was developed for a certain reason, but then you put that on top of the PTSD of just growing up selling crack and getting guns pulled on you and getting in fights in the hood, that never ever, ever leaves you. Like, never.
Lewis Howes: What’s that feeling? Is it kinda like you’re always having to look behind you to see what’s happening?
Charlamagne Tha God: Always.
Lewis Howes: Always?
Charlamagne Tha God: I mean, imagine going to the Walgreens, leaving the Walgreens, driving, hearing bass. You look in your rear view mirror, it’s the car behind you. You stop at the light and immediately you’re looking in this mirror, you’re looking in that mirror. You’re looking to make sure there ain’t nobody running up on the side of your car. And then you pull off, and then the car gets on the side of you just ’cause it’s trying to pass you, and in my mind, I’m bracing myself like, “Oh my god, here come the gunshots.” And that’s based off-
Lewis Howes: It’s just a normal car?
Charlamagne Tha God: It was freaking Logic. Not really Logic, but somebody that looks like … some kid that looks like Logic just driving, you know, playing his music, minding his business-
Lewis Howes: A 16 year old kid just like having fun, yeah.
Charlamagne Tha God: Yeah. But I’ve had dreams where people pulled up on the side of me and shot at me, and you know, I’ve had guns pulled on me in real life.
Lewis Howes: Wow.
Charlamagne Tha God: And when you’re looking at social media every day and people are telling you, “I’m gonna kill you,” or, “I wish you’d die-”
Lewis Howes: Saying to you?
Charlamagne Tha God: Oh, all the time. That’s happened. That happens constantly. So, somewhere in my mind, my brain just got wired to think that the worst was going to happen. Like it’s gotta be all a dream. Life can’t be this sweet, you know?
Lewis Howes: What if life could be this sweet? And what if people weren’t out to get you, but they were out to support you? And what if they were here to protect you and lift you up and celebrate you?
Charlamagne Tha God: Those people are there, you know, but one thing that I’ve always spoken to my therapist about is the fact that why do we focus on the negative, I don’t know. It’s something I’m trying to rewire my brain to do. Like we focus on the negative. You’re absolutely right. There’s people that love me and support me, pray for me, tell me … I got friends that always … They’re like, I’m constantly lifting you up in prayer. And I’m lifting them up in prayer. So they are there for me, but for some reason, human beings, we tend to gravitate towards the negative instead of the positive, and that’s the weird part for me.
And that’s why anxiety is so dangerous for somebody like me, because I truly believe your thoughts become things, and I feel like the things that I want to happen in my life I constantly think about. The things that I don’t want to happen, I try not to think about at all. But that negativity is constantly bombarding your brain. That negativity is constantly filling your brain, and that’s what causes me to have panic attacks, ’cause I feel like if I hold on to this negativity too much, if I think about it too much, then eventually, I’m going to make this negativity manifest.
Lewis Howes: Absolutely, like you have in the past, like going to the emergency room twice.
Charlamagne Tha God: Yeah.
Lewis Howes: Stressing out and-
Charlamagne Tha God: Stressing out, yeah, yeah. Letting all that cortisone off in your body. You know what I’m saying?
Lewis Howes: That’s a lot of stress, a lot of stress.
Charlamagne Tha God: Yeah, absolutely.
Lewis Howes: So what have you done in the last year since you’ve learned about this and really dove into it, went through therapy, through practice, through I’m assuming you might have some type of meditation practice or awareness practice now. What are the tools you’ve learned to support you in not having it take your body over and your mind over, but actually letting it go?
Charlamagne Tha God: Therapy has been the best thing for me. The reason therapy has been the best thing for me is because therapy to me is like you got this real junky closet, and you take boxes into your closet ’cause some things you gotta pack up for Goodwill and just get rid of them. You know what I mean? This don’t serve me anymore. It’ll serve somebody else. And then you take the stuff you do want and you hang it up nice and you fold it neat. Now you’ve even got room for new stuff. I mean, you arrange that.
So that’s what therapy is for me, ’cause I just feel like I have 40 years of a lot of baggage and 40 years of a lot of bullshit, you know, that I never addressed. I suppressed it. I acted like it didn’t exist. I’ve never been afraid to unlearn any BS that I’ve learned in my life, but I feel like sometimes you just gotta take those old blueprints and rip ’em up, and not be afraid to start anew.
And that’s what I feel like happened from … 39 was like the beginning stage of that process, but then like 40 hit and I remember, you know, 40 I was on vacation. I was in Anguilla with my family and friends, and I was drunk off of tequila and my wife played this video of all my friends doing a happy birthday video to me, and I’m like crying … But I could feel my evolution. I could feel myself going into a new realm spiritually.
Lewis Howes: At 40, that moment?
Charlamagne Tha God: Yeah. And I was thinking, I was like, yo, did this happen at 30? Did this happen at 20? ‘Cause I don’t remember. But at 40, I absolutely positively felt it. It was like I was exiting my body and stepping into a new body, just in another dimension. That’s just the best way I could explain it.
Lewis Howes: What was the biggest lesson you learned in that moment, the biggest awakening in that moment?
Charlamagne Tha God: That everything I thought I was, I’m not.
Lewis Howes: What did you think you were?
Charlamagne Tha God: I thought I was fearless.
Lewis Howes: Your whole life or like the last decade or-
Charlamagne Tha God: My whole life, pretty much. ‘Cause you know, when you get those panic attacks, and those panic attacks hit you and you know you can taste … it’s like a taste that anxiety puts in your mouth when you know the shortness of breath and everything, but you still rise to the occasion.
I got a friend that had the type of anxiety that paralyzes them-
Lewis Howes: Cripple them-
Charlamagne Tha God: … cripple them. They’re not leaving the house, nothing. I have those moments, and then I’m like, fuck that. I gotta get to it-
Lewis Howes: Let’s get up, we gotta go.
Charlamagne Tha God: … I always chocked that up to being fearless, but then I realized a lot of things that I’ve been doing, I’ve been doing them because I was scared. Like I feel like my father would always tell me that if I don’t change my lifestyle, I’m gonna end up in jail, dead, or broke sitting under the tree. That scared me. Being in jail, being dead, or being broke under the tree gave me a type of anxiety that made me say, “I gotta do whatever it is I need to do to be successful.”
Lewis Howes: To not be those things.
Charlamagne Tha God: To not be those things. And I was always wise enough to learn from the mistakes of other people. They say smart people learn from their own mistakes, wise people learn from the mistakes of others. I was wise enough to learn from the mistakes of other people, and just realizing at a very early age that my father was right.
When I started to go to jail myself, and-
Lewis Howes: 41 days, is that right?
Charlamagne Tha God: Yeah, for the first time. But then it was just like weekend stints after that, ’cause I would just get locked up for selling dope. Like one time me and my pops was locked up together ’cause they stopped him and he had less than a gram of coke, and then they came and searched my mom’s house, and they went to the trashcan and found some residue. It was less than a gram of coke with me, so they had us both sitting in a jail cell, ’cause they thought-
Lewis Howes: You’re a teenager or you’re-
Charlamagne Tha God: Was I? Maybe late teens, early 20s. Maybe 20, 21 maybe. It was just like, I had all of these different experiences man, and when I started to go to jail and see people around me go to prison, and see people around me actually get killed, that scared me. Those three options scared me, gave me super anxiety, super panic attacks. I refused to be the people … I had older cousins that I thought were so cool, but they were broke sitting under the tree doing nothing with their life. I refused to be that guy. I would have literal panic attacks, literal anxiety thinking about-
Lewis Howes: Thinking about that, yeah.
Charlamagne Tha God: Yeah, so that made me … I’m gonna go get a job. I don’t care that I got felonies. I don’t care that … Have you ever been convicted of a felony? Yes. On the application, so what. It never stopped me.
Lewis Howes: What were the first jobs you got?
Charlamagne Tha God: The first job I got was at a company called Industrial Acoustics Company. It was a warehouse. I got fired after about a month. I remember the supervisor, her name was Gail Cobb. I’ll never forget it. It was my fault. They had this big platform in like a field, and I would get on the platform and act like I was on stage, and just be making the people I was working with laugh. I remember one time Gail was just sitting out there just looking at me, and she called me in there, she was like, “You know, you don’t fit in here. We’re moving in another direction.” All right, cool.
Then it was … Where else did I work? I worked at a flower garden. That was the next job I worked, flower garden. And I worked there for like a week. Like, hell no. 110 degree heat, South Carolina, I’m the only black guy damn near. All the other black guys are like bad off, like maybe crack heads. And then there’s a bunch of Mexicans. Then the school bus is driving by and they’re like, “Oh, shoot, look at Larry, you know me,” ’cause that’s my middle name, but they called me Larry in school.
And then I worked at a telemarketing place called Paragon Solutions. I worked at Taco Bell for a couple weeks, ’cause my sister was the manager there so she hired me. Fired me after two weeks. I worked at a clothing store in the mall called Demo, and then I stumbled across radio by-
Lewis Howes: How old were you?
Charlamagne Tha God: How old was I? I’m so bad with that stuff now. When I stumbled-
Lewis Howes: Mid 20s?
Charlamagne Tha God: No, it was like ’98, so I might have been 20, 20, 21. Yeah, ’cause I started-
Lewis Howes: 20 years ago.
Charlamagne Tha God: Yeah, ’cause I started off as an intern in ’98. Yeah. I started off as an intern in 1998, and I used to want to rap, like most brothers in the hood. ‘Cause you know, when you from the hood, the people that you see who look like you are usually black … I mean, usually in athletics or entertainment.
Lewis Howes: Yeah, playing ball or whatever, yeah.
Charlamagne Tha God: Yeah, so I wanted to rap. I was in this recording studio and I met this dude named Willy Will. Willy Will was a radio personality in Charleston, South Carolina, so I just asked him. I said, “Yo, how’d you get into radio?” And he was like, “I went down there and I got an internship.” And I was like, “It was that easy?” And he was like, “Yeah.”
So, that’s what I went and did.
Lewis Howes: You went and got an internship?
Charlamagne Tha God: Went and got an internship.
Lewis Howes: In South Carolina?
Charlamagne Tha God: In South Carolina.
Lewis Howes: At like the local radio station?
Charlamagne Tha God: Z93 Jamz in South Carolina in 1998. And I mean, that’s how I got my start.
Lewis Howes: Really?
Charlamagne Tha God: Mm-hmm (affirmative). In radio.
Lewis Howes: When was the moment where you felt like, I kinda made it in radio, like I’ve got my own gig, they want my opinion, I’m in a bigger station, like, things are happening.
Charlamagne Tha God: I think I may have felt like that last year, and that’s one of the reasons-
Lewis Howes: Not until last year?
Charlamagne Tha God: Not until last year. That’s what scared the shit out of me.
Lewis Howes: 20 years-
Charlamagne Tha God: 20 years.
Lewis Howes: … and then you got it in the last year.
Charlamagne Tha God: Yeah, ’cause I mean, I’m a guy that’s been fired four times from radio. I’ve been fired four times.
Lewis Howes: Why have you been fired?
Charlamagne Tha God: First time, I absolutely deserved it. I was working at Hot 98.9 in Charleston, South Carolina. I had left Z93 Jamz, started working at Hot 98.9, and truth be told, I was just feeling myself, man. You know what I’m saying? I was a young kid, I was 20 minutes from-
Lewis Howes: Cocky-
Charlamagne Tha God: Yeah, I was 20 minutes from Moncks Corner which is my hometown. We used to go to the club, 10, 15 deep, all my boys were still selling dope so they had the nice cars, and I was on the radio. We was immortalizing the hood by shouting out the hood, and it’s just like, I was really feeling myself, man. Like to the point where I remember going to this club called The Night Life in Kings Creek, South Carolina, and pulling up to this club, and seeing my name on the marquis and being like, “Oh shit, my name’s on a marquis.” Like I never saw that. And mind you-
Lewis Howes: You were just a radio guy, you weren’t like the artist.
Charlamagne Tha God: Yeah, and it was kinda like a … Now when I look, it’s not a marquis, it was just like-
Lewis Howes: Like a sign.
Charlamagne Tha God: … a bullshit sign that you see in front of a juice bar, you know what I’m saying?
Lewis Howes: Right, right, right. Oh, it was like a sign on the ground. It wasn’t like the-
Charlamagne Tha God: Yeah, it wasn’t no huge … It was like, small-
Lewis Howes: In lights, yeah.
Charlamagne Tha God: Yeah. And it said Charlamagne tha God, and I remember this young lady saying, “I’m gonna do whatever Charlamagne tha God tells me to do.” So, they was really treating me like a celebrity-celebrity. And I remember that young lady definitely provided groupie love. And it’s like, I remember thinking to myself, when I got fired, I got fired because of that situation.
Lewis Howes: Really?
Charlamagne Tha God: And the reason I felt like I got fired because of that situation is because I felt like God was upset with me because I was misusing the platform He had gave me-
Lewis Howes: The power or the influence-
Charlamagne Tha God: Yeah. Yeah. So that was like a very humbling experience for me.
Lewis Howes: And the next three times you got fired?
Charlamagne Tha God: The next time I got hired by the big DM 101.3 in Columbia, South Carolina after I got fired from Hot 98.9 in Charleston. I got a mentor, his name is Dr. Robert Evans. Him and his son, DJ Bless, own a record label called Never So Deep Records, but Dr. Robert Evans is such like a well rounded man because he was a 15 year NYPD veteran on the police force. He was a medical doctor, and he was like a millionth degree black belt in jujitsu. He still trains jujitsu to this day.
So it’s like, when I got fired from doing radio, he was just like, “Don’t worry about it. We got this.” So I made this CD called Charlamagne tha God Concrete Champ, and it was all the artists from Never So Deep with me talking on it, and it was structured like a radio show. We started passing that out to all the different radio stations throughout South Carolina, and I ended up getting hired at a radio station in Columbia called the Big DM, which was the biggest station in South Carolina. It was 100,000 watts.
So I worked there, and that’s when I really started to develop the celebrity interview aspect of my game. And then that station went from an urban AC station … I mean, it went from a hip hop and R&B station to an urban AC station, but they bought the competition, which was Hot 103.9 in Columbia, South Carolina. I was working there Monday through Friday, 7:00 to midnight, and Wendy Williams was syndicated on that station.
Lewis Howes: The Wendy Williams Show or-
Charlamagne Tha God: Yeah, the Wendy Williams Show-
Lewis Howes: … before the talk show?
Charlamagne Tha God: Yeah, before her daytime show, she was a radio host-
Lewis Howes: She had a radio show?
Charlamagne Tha God: Yeah. And she was syndicated in Columbia. Her and her husband used to come down, and I just used to show them love. Like you know, we would get them weed, they’d buy us bottles in the club. They would just show love.
Lewis Howes: Support you.
Charlamagne Tha God: Yeah, and I remember we just built a relationship. They asked me to come do their … They asked me to come to a party. I’m skipping a lot. I’m skipping one good part.
Lewis Howes: Yeah.
Charlamagne Tha God: Wendy used to come on, she was syndicated.
Lewis Howes: She used to come on and you used to interview her?
Charlamagne Tha God: Well she used to come on before me in the afternoons, and I used to come on at nights. My man who I used to do the night show with, his name was Bill Black, Big Sexy. He left to go to Georgia. So everybody was like, all right, the night show is eventually going to be Charlamagne’s.
What happened was, Wendy was syndicated in the afternoon, my program director at the time, he was on in the afternoon. He hated that they moved him. And nobody was really feeling Wendy in the afternoon at the time, so people complained. They ended up moving Wendy’s time slot to 10:00PM to 2:00AM. I used to love listening to the show ’cause it was big market radio. I didn’t get that. This was before the internet, so to speak. I mean, the internet was there, but you couldn’t really like just tune in and listen to shows.
So, they started just rerunning the same show over and over. And I was like, why are they keep rerunning the same shows. I didn’t know if it was coming from New York or that was something that was happening in South Carolina. So I called Wendy’s husband and told him, and he was like, “Really?” He was like, “I’m coming down.”
He came down, heard it for himself, went back to New York, raised hell with them, and then there was a club in Columbia, South Carolina … all of this coincides. There was a club in Columbia, South Carolina, where the guy … It was always alleged that the guy was putting date rape drug in girls’ drinks.
Lewis Howes: Oh jeez.
Charlamagne Tha God: The manager of the club, but nobody could ever prove it.
Lewis Howes: Sure.
Charlamagne Tha God: So one time, this girl actually pressed charges on the guy, so the guy got arrested, they had his mugshot up on Richland County website, I saw it, I took the mugshot, put it on my Myspace page, wrote this whole thing about how we need to really ask ourselves if we should be supporting this establishment. We’ve been hearing about this for years, now this guy got arrested, the police went to his house, they found the date rape drug [inaudible 00:26:08]. All of this is in the mugshot in the police report.
Lewis Howes: Sure.
Charlamagne Tha God: This guy sues me. The club sues me ’cause they were advertising at the radio station.
Lewis Howes: Oh man.
Charlamagne Tha God: The radio station settles with them for $2000-
Lewis Howes: Wow.
Charlamagne Tha God: … and demote me to one day a week, on Saturday nights. I was on Monday through Saturday. They demote me to one day a week, Saturday nights, because of that.
Lewis Howes: ‘Cause you spoke up, you shared your voice.
Charlamagne Tha God: Yeah.
Lewis Howes: Yeah.
Charlamagne Tha God: And Kev actually heard about it, Wendy’s husband, because of another young lady I used to work with at the station named [Venom 00:26:36]. And so he called me up, but he thought they demoted me because I gave him the information that they were repeating the show. So he was like, “Yo man, come to New York next week,” and I’m like, “All right.”
So I got on a plane, me and my boy DJ Frothy, we went to New York, and we was in the club with Wendy and Kev, and Wendy was like, “Yo, Charlamagne, what’s up?” She was like, “Yo, come on my show tomorrow.” I’m like, “Excuse me?”
Lewis Howes: The radio show, yeah.
Charlamagne Tha God: “Say what? You want me to do what?” She’s like, “Come on my show tomorrow.” I’m like, “You want me to come on your show? Okay, I’ll be there.”
Lewis Howes: Yeah.
Charlamagne Tha God: So, you can’t tell me stuff like that. I got a DJ Khaled level of annoyance. So I’m calling Kev all the next day, like, “Yo, Wendy told me to come on her show, Wendy told me to come on her show, Wendy told me to come on her show, Wendy told me to come on her show.” He was like, “Aight, aight, aight, aight.” He said, “Let me call you right back.” He called me back, he’s like, “Go over there right now.”
Lewis Howes: Her husband you’re talking to?
Charlamagne Tha God: Yeah. So I go up there, and I was there for 25 minutes, and that night, Wendy … well, Wendy’s husband was like, “Yo, Wendy’s looking for a cohost. She’s trying to make the transition to television. She don’t want no comedian, she wants someone that’s from radio that’s edgy. You fit the bill. We can’t pay you, but we can give you a place to stay.”
I’m like, “Cool,” ’cause I recognize opportunity when there’s not a paycheck attached to it.
Lewis Howes: Sure.
Charlamagne Tha God: So I was out on the next thing smoking.
Lewis Howes: You were in New York at that moment?
Charlamagne Tha God: Yeah.
Lewis Howes: And you stayed there.
Charlamagne Tha God: Well I went back home-
Lewis Howes: And then came back.
Charlamagne Tha God: … gotta tell my girl, like look, this is what it is, and my mindset was, it’s my girl, we love each other, so if it’s meant to be, it’ll be. And we together now with three kids, so it was meant to be.
So I moved to New York. I moved to New York and I worked with Wendy for a year and a half. Let me get to my … My second firing was from the station that I had just left, Hot 103.9, ’cause they was still letting me do one day a week, but then after about two months of coming back and forth, flying back and forth with Wendy, they told me I couldn’t have my cake and eat it too. So that’s my second firing. So I’m gone.
So I’m working with Wendy. I work with Wendy for like two years and a half-
Lewis Howes: Not paid?
Charlamagne Tha God: I didn’t get paid for like a year and a half, so I think I was on payroll for like a solid year before I got fired again for the third time.
Lewis Howes: So how were you making money when you were-
Charlamagne Tha God: I wasn’t. I wasn’t. I would fly home to South Carolina, do some parties, host some parties, come home with a little pocket change-
Lewis Howes: Hustle on the side, yeah, yeah.
Charlamagne Tha God: … that’s it. But I mean, I had a place to stay, that’s all I could ask for-
Lewis Howes: For free, yeah.
Charlamagne Tha God: … Catch the bus into the city, take advantage of the perks of being Wendy’s cohost, getting free clothes-
Lewis Howes: Free food here and there-
Charlamagne Tha God: … free food here and there, you know what I mean, eventually started-
Lewis Howes: Going to the events, all that stuff.
Charlamagne Tha God: Yeah, eventually I started hosting parties, doing a little ghostwriting for people and things like that, like as far as like other talent, and that was it. And so I worked with her. I remember I got fired November 2nd, 2008-
Lewis Howes: She fired you?
Charlamagne Tha God: No, what happened was, it was a combination of things. Wendy’s assistant at the time, her name was Nicole Spence, a good friend of mine to this day, she actually sued Wendy’s husband for sexual harassment and making it a hostile work environment and things of that nature. She ended up getting a settlement for that, and I think that that was all backlash. Plus there was a new ratings system called PPM in the market, and you know, PPM caused Wendy’s numbers to drop, so she went from like number one to number like 25 in the market. It was just a combination of things.
So they just got rid of Wendy’s whole team except for the [inaudible 00:29:54]. But they also fired like 20 people from the actual station that day. So it was just kinda like a mass-
Lewis Howes: You were in it, yeah.
Charlamagne Tha God: … layoff, and I was in it. I was out of radio for like six, seven months, but I was cool because my wife had a job and she was holding it down, going to work. My daughter had just been born June of that year. I was home with her.
Lewis Howes: Yeah, you were in South Carolina now, back there-
Charlamagne Tha God: I’m still in Jersey. We still in Jersey at the time.
Lewis Howes: Gotcha. Your wife moved up, or your girl moved up at that point-
Charlamagne Tha God: Yeah, my girl moved up. I’m skipping a lot. There’s a lot that happened.
Lewis Howes: Yeah. She had moved to Jersey eventually-
Charlamagne Tha God: Yeah, she moved to Jersey. First she was living in Brooklyn with her Grandma, and then she eventually moved to Jersey when I got put on the payroll and I could afford to get us a little apartment in Jersey.
Lewis Howes: Wow. And then what was the next six months, no work-
Charlamagne Tha God: Six months, no work, being at home with my baby, staying afloat by doing the Hood State of the Union web series with my man, Lil Duval. That kept my name out there. Angela Yee, who’s my now cohost, she would bring me on her satellite radio show and have me do stuff on that.
Lewis Howes: And what year is this now?
Charlamagne Tha God: This was 2009.
Lewis Howes: So nine years ago.
Charlamagne Tha God: Yeah, and then VladTV … Oh, VladTV didn’t come into play yet, but this is 2009. Yeah, 2008 going into 2009. And then like around April or May of 2009, I got offered the morning show position at 100.3 The Beat. They wanted me to do my own morning show based off-
Lewis Howes: Pretty big.
Charlamagne Tha God: Yeah, based off of what they had heard me doing with Wendy. And I worked there for like six months, seven months. I had great ratings, I was like number two in the city, and they brought in a new program director named Boogie D, and Boogie D wanted to fire me. But the beauty of the firing was my last interview was with Beanie Sigel.
Beanie Sigel had just put out a diss record to Jay-Z, and nobody could believe it. Like this was like the early stages of Twitter, so all of the artists were tweeting like, “Yo, I never thought I’d see the day Beanie Sigel going in on Jay-Z,” yada, yada, yada. So I’m like, damn, I’m on the radio in Philly, Kay Slay’s playing Beanie Sigel beef record in New York, I gotta get Beanie in the studio tomorrow on the phone.
I got him on the phone. He called in. That call’s available online on YouTube, and he’s just going in on Jay-Z and talking about all his issues and problems with Jay-Z, and that interview went crazy viral, like super, super, super viral. So much so that Jay-Z was on tour and they asked Jay-Z about it at the press conference for the tour, and he had to acknowledge it. And then I come into work that Monday, and I hear those infamous words, “We’re moving in another direction-”
Lewis Howes: You’re fired.
Charlamagne Tha God: “You’re fired.” You know, and I’m like-
Lewis Howes: You just had the biggest, most viral interview of the country-
Charlamagne Tha God: Yeah, and I had been killing on that station for a while. I had been performing on that station. Like I had other viral moments other than that one, so I was like, damn, why am I getting fired? But I didn’t trip. I just sent out a Tweet like, “Yo, thank you Philly for holding me down the last six, seven months. I appreciate y’all.” And you know by that time, I already had known … I knew the routine, so I did have an office, but I didn’t keep nothing in it, you know, because I just never know.
Lewis Howes: You never know.
Charlamagne Tha God: Even now, to this day, that’s part of the PTSD of being fired. I don’t have an office at The Breakfast Club, ’cause I just never know. And actually I know I’m in a much better position now, much more job security now, but I just, you know, that’s just how I felt. And when I sent that Tweet out, immediately it was all of these headlines, did Jay-Z get Charlamagne tha God fired?
Lewis Howes: Wow. That’s actually probably good for you.
Charlamagne Tha God: It was incredible.
Lewis Howes: Because it got so much attention and these radio stations … I want to back this guy, I want to support him.
Charlamagne Tha God: Oh, it just made me larger than life, and I always thought about when Wendy got fired from Hot 97 allegedly by P Diddy, and how that just made her larger than life. And I’m like, I remember doing an interview with VladTV in 2009 and just saying, I said on the interview like, “Man, you know, this is just the game of radio, and one hot second another radio station’s gonna come asking for my services.” I said, “I don’t know if Jay-Z got me fired, but it’s gonna read great in the book one day.”
Lewis Howes: Yeah.
Charlamagne Tha God: And that book is Black Privilege.
Lewis Howes: And it did great.
Charlamagne Tha God: A New York Times Best Seller, you know? So I was fired. I got fired from there, and then I was out of radio for a whole year. That’s when I had to move back to South Carolina, ’cause I just couldn’t afford to live in Jersey. You know, me and my wife … At this point, my wife couldn’t foot all the bills anymore. My wife had to go stand in front of the eviction people, you know what I mean, and explain why we couldn’t pay the rent and stuff like that.
And what was so funny, the day I got fired from Philly, I had all my stuff already packed in my truck because we were about to move into a townhouse in Philadelphia.
Lewis Howes: No way.
Charlamagne Tha God: Yes. We were about to literally move into a townhouse in Philadelphia the day I got fired. I had my stuff in the truck, ’cause after I got off the air, I was gonna go to the townhouse and start unloading stuff. And I got fired that same exact day.
And so we moved back to South Carolina, and that’s when I had that major, major, major panic attack, and in my mind I was just like, yo, as long as I get back in position, I’ll be okay. And I ended up getting back in position, which was with The Breakfast Club.
Lewis Howes: When did that start?
Charlamagne Tha God: November of 2010. So I got fired around this time in 2009, ’cause it was Halloween, ’cause I remember I had a Halloween party that Saturday in Philly. So Halloween was the 31st, so I must have got fired on like-
Lewis Howes: Like today?
Charlamagne Tha God: The 2nd, yeah, like the 1st or the 2nd.
Lewis Howes: Like today.
Charlamagne Tha God: Yeah, what’s today, the 30th? Yeah, so it had to be, yeah, it had to be. Yeah, I got fired and … I’m trying to think. I’m putting the timeline together. I got fired in Philly, yeah, and then I started The Breakfast Club around November of 2010. So it was a whole year.
Lewis Howes: Wow, so you’ve been there for eight years now?
Charlamagne Tha God: It’ll be eight years this December, yeah. It’ll be eight years this November/December.
Lewis Howes: It’s been a pretty amazing ride, huh?
Charlamagne Tha God: It’s absolutely been everything … No, I’m lying. It’s been more than I ever could imagine it to be.
Lewis Howes: How so?
Charlamagne Tha God: Because I always knew that I’d be a nationally syndicated radio personality when me and Envy and Angela Yee came together. I remember my man Cadillac Jack asking me, who would I want to do the show with, and I said Angela Yee. I didn’t even think of Envy in the equation, but they added Envy in the equation because Envy is like the New York staple, the anchor, you know?
And so they put us all together, and I knew we were gonna be syndicated. Like I just knew we were going to be a nationally syndicated radio show. It was just one of those things to where when they put us together and the news of that hit, when the rumors of that started to hit, it was a big, big deal. And the fact that you know, at the time, they had to fire a legendary radio personality named Ed Lover to make way for us. So you know, they fired Ed Lover and then they brought us in, and it just became this like huge deal. We did like a viral video basically saying whose show is it, because even though all of us-
Lewis Howes: You’re all big personalities.
Charlamagne Tha God: Yeah, and all of us come from the background of being cohosts and sidekicks, but then we’ve also had our own shows. I had my own morning show in Philly. Angela Yee had her own morning show on Shade 45. Envy had his own afternoon show on Power 105. So we all came together and did a viral video about whose show is it. It was like we were arguing from the beginning.
I remember we put that out and it got like 700,000 views, some crazy, crazy number of views. And it’s just like, we just were rolling ever since. The first year was a little rough because they were expecting instant ratings results because of what happened with the viral stuff that we did initially, like when we first put that video out and everybody got all excited, but we didn’t have that initial ratings success. That took a while to build and get there.
Lewis Howes: What’s the hardest thing working with other big personalities and other driven people who have their own identities and-
Charlamagne Tha God: Ego.
Lewis Howes: How do you manage it and handle it?
Charlamagne Tha God: You just gotta learn to get out of your own way. As much as you think you’re always right, and a lot of the times I am, you know, especially when it just comes to content and stuff like that, you have to understand that it’s a show, a collective group of people, and we want to do different things, and you gotta give in order to get. Like if it’s us three in this room, it’s me, you, and it’s Tiffany, and Tiffany wants to do something, and we ignore her every time, and then when we want to do something, Tiffany’s not on board. That’s our fault. So we just gotta be on board with each other for certain situations, you know what I mean?
If she gots a topic she wants to talk about, even if I don’t like the topic, give it a shot. What’s the least that can happen, you know what I mean?
Lewis Howes: No, yeah.
Charlamagne Tha God: That’s all. Same thing if Envy want to talk about something and I don’t like the topic, give it a shot. Same thing with me. If they don’t like a topic that I brought up, just give it a shot. And I think that that’s a formula that’s pretty much worked for us, you know?
Lewis Howes: Yeah. Wow. What’s been the biggest lesson you’ve learned through the last 20 years of doing radio? You got fired from four different places, now you’ve been at a place for eight years. You’ve gone through anxiety, PTSD, you talk about struggles of cheating and other things throughout the book that you talk about, which I thought were really powerful. But what do you think has opened up the most for you in the last 20 years?
Charlamagne Tha God: I think truly learning what it means to be yourself.
Lewis Howes: What’s it mean?
Charlamagne Tha God: Being authentic and true to you, not authentic based off somebody else’s standards of being authentic or being true to what other people think of you, like you know? I used to always say you don’t want to become a caricature of yourself, but a lot of times, it’s almost impossible, especially if you’re reading magazine articles about yourself or if you’re looking at what people say about you on YouTube or any other social media-
Lewis Howes: [crosstalk 00:40:06] all the hype. Yeah, yeah.
Charlamagne Tha God: Yeah, or looking at what people say they like about you. Oh, I like Charlamagne ’cause he’s this and he’s that, or he’s the hip hop Howard Stern or like … You get caught up in that shtick and you start doing dumb shit. That’s when you start stimulating masturbation in interviews and talking really wild and reckless to women.
Lewis Howes: Did you do that for a while?
Charlamagne Tha God: Yeah, I definitely had a little scratch of that, definitely. I definitely had a scratch of suck a fart out your butt, you know? I definitely had that-
Lewis Howes: Mentality, yeah, yeah.
Charlamagne Tha God: Yeah. And it’s because that’s what I thought people liked.
Lewis Howes: You’d say that?
Charlamagne Tha God: Oh, 100%. Oh yeah, that was my thing. I had a top five list of women who I wanted to suck a fart out their butt, just ’cause I thought that’s what-
Lewis Howes: People liked.
Charlamagne Tha God: … people liked from me. And then you know, you’ve got your wife checking you like, “What are you doing? That’s not even who you are, and you’re disrespecting me.”
Lewis Howes: Yeah.
Charlamagne Tha God: And you know, you’re like, oh man, we’ve gotta get this money. And then you’re thinking-
Lewis Howes: Gotta get the ratings and for the show and-
Charlamagne Tha God: Yeah, and you’re like, have I become that person? Have I become that person who is motivated by ratings and money and whatever else? And you think you’re being yourself. Like you really truly think you’re being yourself. You’re not. You’re being a caricature of yourself.
Lewis Howes: Oh, interesting.
Charlamagne Tha God: You’re being what you think people want you to be. You’re wearing a mask, you know?
Lewis Howes: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Mask of masculinity, yeah.
Charlamagne Tha God: Yeah. So it’s just like … I can’t wait to read that, by the way. So it’s like three or four years ago, I just realized I was moving all the way wrong, you know?
Lewis Howes: Really?
Charlamagne Tha God: Yeah.
Lewis Howes: What brought you that awareness? Was it your wife? Was it just other people saying stuff to you and saying, “Hey man, this isn’t you.”
Charlamagne Tha God: Combination. Combination of all that, you know-
Lewis Howes: You’re just not feeling good inside-
Charlamagne Tha God: Not feeling good inside, wife on my ass, homegirls of mine like, “What’s up with you?”
Lewis Howes: You’re different on radio than you are in … yeah.
Charlamagne Tha God: Exactly, you know? And I’m like, huh. And then you start to sit back and … Maybe it was watching my daughter get older and having another daughter, and realizing like, you gotta be the change that you want to see in the world for your little girls-
Lewis Howes: Damn.
Charlamagne Tha God: … You know, I don’t want my daughters to see me in the studio doing this. They’re always asking questions, “Daddy, what do you do on the radio?” And what are you gonna tell her, you know, I play jerk off simulation game, you know what I’m saying?
Lewis Howes: Right, right. That’s not inspiring.
Charlamagne Tha God: Exactly.
Lewis Howes: Yeah.
Charlamagne Tha God: So it’s just like, I just started to really realize the power of the platform, which I always knew, I just think I got led astray just a little bit.
Lewis Howes: You feel like you’re back on track now?
Charlamagne Tha God: Oh, too much back on track.
Lewis Howes: And what’s your mission moving forward and using your platform?
Charlamagne Tha God: My mission moving forward is just to empower. I really feel like your true purpose in life is service to others. I feel like I’m a public servant-
Lewis Howes: That’s it, man. I believe the same thing.
Charlamagne Tha God: … you know what I mean? That’s the only reason I’m here. Like I’m not here for anything else. I’m not here for money, I’m not here for fame. Don’t get me wrong, there’s things that I want to do, like I can’t wait to host a late night talk show on network television one day. I feel like I’m going to definitely be in that space. There hasn’t been a black guy doing that since Arsenio Hall. I feel like I’m gonna definitely be in that space, but right now I have all the means and the resources to empower people. I love it. I love bringing new voices on The Breakfast Club that people haven’t heard of, or voices that are really dope and helping them elevate their voice, whether it’s music, whether it’s comedy, whether it’s civil rights activism, whether it’s business. I just love empowering people. That’s what gets me off.
I’m not even gonna front. Like I love executive producing these TV shows and saying, “Yo, let’s hire her. Let’s hire him.” I live for that. Like I can’t even tell you how much of a thrill I get from doing that. So I just feel like from here on out, my mission is service to others. That’s what truly makes me feel good. I like helping people. I like giving to people. That’s what makes me feel good.
Lewis Howes: That’s powerful. I mean, more people need to do that. Mental health. When did you start to really think that like, okay, I need to take control of mental health and start talking about it more, and start embracing it, and not think of it as something that was like, weak, but as something that’s powerful for yourself?
Charlamagne Tha God: This year, because last year when I started the journey that became this book, I did not set-
Lewis Howes: This current book or the last one?
Charlamagne Tha God: This current book, Shook One: Anxiety Playing Tricks On Me. My first book came out April of 2017, Black Privilege.
Lewis Howes: Blew up-
Charlamagne Tha God: Instant New York Times Best Seller on the New York Times Best Seller List like seven weeks-
Lewis Howes: … you were doing a tour, thousands of people at your tour stops. I remember seeing that. It was crazy.
Charlamagne Tha God: Yeah, and that’s what got me so overwhelmed, ’cause I remember being here in LA and feeling like, okay, I’m gonna smoke me some Indica, take this edge off. It ended up being Sativa and the Sativa made my anxiety go through the roof. So I’m like laying in this hotel room literally shaking. Like I’m talking about like-
Lewis Howes: You were literally-
Charlamagne Tha God: … I could not stop shaking, and I just was thinking all the worst thoughts in the world. I’m gonna overdose off marijuana, I just got on the New York Times Best Seller’s List, people are gonna be saying, “This stupid mother fucker just started to achieve a different level of success and look at him, already overdosed on drugs in LA.” And I’m like, you’re not famous enough to overdose on drugs in LA. You’re not gonna trend on Twitter. Like dumb shit.
Lewis Howes: That’s what your mind is thinking?
Charlamagne Tha God: Oh, it was going crazy. And I would like fall asleep and feel like these black shadowy hands was reaching up to grab me and pull me down. I would jump up in a cold sweat, and my wife was high too, and she was laughing at me. And my wife was-
Lewis Howes: You’re scared.
Charlamagne Tha God: … Yeah, and my wife was like, “You’re not about to start running around naked on some Martin Lawrence shit, right?” And I was like, “I don’t know.” So I got dressed, put my Tims on, I’m laying in the bed, and it’s just like I had this massive anxiety attack. And I was like, yo, why do I feel this way? And that’s when I started to question everything. I started to question all my success. I started to question where I was. I started to question am I truly putting the right energy out there. Am I really using my platform the way I need to use my platform.
I remember being on vacation in June, and I was so happy to take vacation ’cause I had just had this whirlwind book tour. Like literally, what I’m about to do now, this whirlwind book tour then we’re going right into the holidays, and I’m done. I’m shutting down, you know? I’m going to Thanksgiving, South Carolina, then I’m going to Africa in the beginning of December, then I’m going to Anguilla at the end of December.
So, just sitting around questioning everything, and I’m on vacation, and I’m sitting by the pool. All my friends and family are there, and I’m getting a haircut, and Jay-Z 4:44 album is playing, and I’m sitting there and I just all of a sudden felt a calmness. I felt a moment of peace. I felt serenity like I haven’t felt in a while. No anxiety, no worry, no stress, no nothing. I know where everybody’s at. We’re on an island, life is good. My nieces, my sister, everybody. Life is good. And I said to myself, “How can I feel like this all the time-”
Lewis Howes: All the time, yeah.
Charlamagne Tha God: And it popped in my head, therapy.
Lewis Howes: Wow.
Charlamagne Tha God: You’ve been flirting with the idea of therapy for so long, you’ve been talking to all your friends about therapy, and your friends have been telling you the benefits of therapy, and you’ve been getting all of these signs that you should go to therapy, and your wife told you to go to therapy. Why haven’t you gone to therapy yet?
That’s when I started the process of finding a therapist. I found me a therapist, and I was writing down everything that was making me anxious, everything that historically had given me anxiety. And then when you’re talking to a therapist, you know, you start talking about the source of your PTSD and-
Lewis Howes: The root of it all.
Charlamagne Tha God: … the root of it all, the root of old traumas that happened to you when you were young. And all this stuff is unpacking itself, and you … I love my father, but then I hate my father. The therapist makes me hate my father, and I love my father again. Like all of that is happening over and over and over and over, and I just started keeping a journal, basically. And then next thing you know, I’ve written all of these things that worried me from parental paranoia about my kids, to social media anxiety, to fear of failure, to fear of not being connected to my roots in my hometown anymore, like I’m outgrowing my friends, we don’t got nothing in common, we don’t got nothing to talk about.
All of this stuff that gives me really bad anxiety and causes me to go on these weird panic attacks, like I was keeping a journal of all of that stuff. I started talking to my man Chris Morrow and then my business partner and I was like, “Yo, I think I want to write about my anxiety. I just want to write. I want to write about all of this stuff I’m learning in therapy. I think that would be really dope.”
And I remember Chris just saying, “This is a book about mental health.” And I’m like, I didn’t even know anxiety was considered a mental health issue. I didn’t know PTSD was considered a mental health issue. When you think of mental health, you think of schizophrenia and bipolar and stuff like that. I had no idea this stuff was under the mental health umbrella. And so when that started to take shape like that, I was like, “Yo, we gotta reach out to the experts, ’cause I’m not an expert at anything. I’m just a man with some experiences.”
And I was trying to transcribe what my therapist was telling me, but it wasn’t coming out right. I felt like what she was telling me was for me, and I was able-
Lewis Howes: Not for everyone.
Charlamagne Tha God: … Yeah, and I was able to explain my feelings better because of what she was telling me, but I couldn’t give any diagnosis for anyone. So I brought in this brother named Dr. Ish Major who’s a black man, mental health therapist, graduated from the University of South Carolina, and he does the clinical correlations at the end of every chapter.
Lewis Howes: Wow.
Charlamagne Tha God: So, I didn’t set out to write a book about mental health, it’s just something that took shape, and now I see the need for it. And being that I see the need for it, I guess I’ve become like an unofficial advocate.
Lewis Howes: Do you feel like before this year that it was a weak thing to talk about mental health and your insecurities and your anxieties, or is it a non cool thing coming from where you come from, or are you just supposed to suck it up and deal with it and handle it?
Charlamagne Tha God: Definitely coming from where you come from, you’re supposed to suck it up, deal with it, and handle it, but you’re only supposed to suck it up and deal with it and handle it ’cause you don’t know what it is.
So you don’t think that you’re actually just … You wouldn’t say suck it up, deal with it when it comes to depression and anxiety, you know what I’m saying, if you knew that’s what it was. But you’re saying suck it up, deal with it to whatever pressures you think you’re facing in the [screet 00:50:49]. That’s where the whole acronym for fear comes into play. Fear, you either fear everything and run or face everything and rise. My homegirl Kate Fox told me that. So it’s like-
Lewis Howes: Ooh, I like that.
Charlamagne Tha God: So that’s what we do in the hood. Like in the hood, you kinda don’t have a choice. But then I think about times where I definitely ran. If I knew I owed somebody some money or like I can remember times I’d be walking down my dirt road, doing nothing but minding my business, see one of my homeboys all the way down the dirt road, have a panic attack about whatever it is that he was gonna try to make me get into that day, and go hide in the cornfield or go hide in the woods till he would pass, you know what I’m saying? Just because I didn’t want the interaction. I didn’t want to be bothered-
Lewis Howes: Yeah, get in that trouble or whatever, yeah.
Charlamagne Tha God: Yeah. So I feel like, like I said, I didn’t plan to write a mental health book, it’s just something that happened, and I feel like it’s something that’s actually bigger than me.
Lewis Howes: Wow. What’s your biggest insecurity and fear now?
Charlamagne Tha God: Biggest fear is … I don’t even like to talk about it, but … and the only reason I don’t like to talk about it is ’cause I don’t like to manifest that energy, but it’s anything something happening to my kids or my wife. I see those stupid stories about human trafficking and school shootings and dumb stuff like that, and I hate it. I would hate to grow up in this era if I was a kid. So I just gotta protect my baby as best I can. That’s my biggest-
Lewis Howes: Fear.
Charlamagne Tha God: … fear.
Lewis Howes: And personal insecurity?
Charlamagne Tha God: Personal insecurity, I definitely would still … I’m still trying not to deal with the opinions of others. And it’s not even the opinions of others when it comes to how they feel about me, I just like … I hate stupidity. You know what I’m saying? Like sometimes you open up social media and you can tell, you didn’t do no research to what the [inaudible 00:52:38] it is you talking about.
Lewis Howes: I know, man.
Charlamagne Tha God: You know what I mean? Like I literally had somebody tweet me yesterday because I did an interview with Buzzfeed I think it was, and Buzzfeed asked me about Kanye West. And I said that I feel like we should have more empathy towards people who have told us that they’re going through mental health issues. I broke down the thing with Kanye and I talked about how Kanye went from embracing the fact he was bipolar to now saying he got sleep deprivation and that’s why he’s off his medication and things of that nature.
And I’m like, yo, I wonder if … I feel like Kanye did that because everybody gave him so much backlash when he initially came out and said he was bipolar and he was on medication and all that kind of stuff like that. I feel like he didn’t like the response from that, so that’s why he backtracked and said, “Yo, I’m not that.”
So I was like, yo, we’re reinforcing stigmas when we have a lack of empathy. And I’m not saying you gotta agree with anything that he’s doing, I’m just saying we gotta take a lot of this with a grain of salt, ’cause this is a brother who was adamant about being bipolar, adamant about being on medication, to it was just sleep deprivation, I’m not on medication anymore, and we’re watching the manic behavior.
So it’s like, yo, let’s all be a little bit more easy when it comes to talking about-
Lewis Howes: Compassionate, empathy, yeah-
Charlamagne Tha God: … our guy, and anybody dealing with that. And the headline said, “Charlamagne said we should be more … have more empathy for Kanye West.” And this guy Tweets me, and he’s like, “You want to have empathy for a guy who literally said he’s not even bipolar anymore? What does that have to do with his political views?” I’m like, you didn’t even read the fucking article.
Lewis Howes: Right, right.
Charlamagne Tha God: ‘Cause I address all of that in the article verbatim. You didn’t even read it. And then when I said that to him, ’cause I can’t resist, my thumbs couldn’t-
Lewis Howes: You gotta let it go, man.
Charlamagne Tha God: … I had to let it go, I gotta let it go, but I had to. I couldn’t resist. I was like, “You didn’t even read the headline.”
Lewis Howes: And then it was like a whole-
Charlamagne Tha God: He sent one more Tweet and I didn’t reply back to him. He said back, “I didn’t read the headline ’cause I’ve never liked your aura.” Shut the … You know what I’m saying? That don’t even make any sense to me.
So it’s like, I just responded back like, “You know, the most intelligent amongst us have been made to look stupid because of headline culture.” And that’s that for me. I don’t pay him no attention anymore. So that’s my biggest insecurity is like the stupidity of people and how they can make me question myself.
Lewis Howes: Your intentions, your … yeah.
Charlamagne Tha God: Yeah.
Lewis Howes: Yeah, I just try to not look at that stuff.
Charlamagne Tha God: It’s hard, man.
Lewis Howes: So hard, ’cause I want to defend myself. I want to like tell them, well this is what really happened or this is what it would mean. It’s tough.
Charlamagne Tha God: We’re in a verbally abusive relationship with our smartphones. We’re in a verbally abusive relationship with social media. You wouldn’t let anybody yell at you, scream at you, berate you, talk down to you, tell you that you ain’t shit the way we allow people to do it on social media. You wouldn’t allow that in your workplace, you wouldn’t allow it at home, you wouldn’t allow that in a personal relationship, so what is the reasoning that we allow it from our phones? And I have yet to figure it out.
My therapist, and she pisses me off when she says this, ’cause she’ll be like, “Could you just put the phone away?” And I’m like, “I pay you $150 an hour for you to just state the obvious to me?”
Like I know I can put my phone away, but I do feel like in the future, we’re gonna see the ramifications of smartphones on our mental health.
Lewis Howes: PTSD from being on smartphones six to eight hours a day.
Charlamagne Tha God: Listen, I get attacked on social media all the time, like every few months they canceling me for something. I get attacked, and that shit does not feel good. You know what I’m saying? You know? Even sometimes I cause it on myself-
Lewis Howes: Yeah, you instigate it, yeah-
Charlamagne Tha God: Yeah, I take the L’s on that one, but then sometimes it’s just like, people be making up stuff, like literally. Like they’ve been Tweeting me two nude pictures of me that’s not me-
Lewis Howes: Nude pictures, yeah.
Charlamagne Tha God: … for years. Like whenever I say something they don’t like, they’ll be like, “Explain this.” I’ll be like, I have no idea why you have this naked man in your phone, looking at the camera with his ass in the air. Just because he’s bald headed and brown skinned, doesn’t mean that’s me. You can clearly look at the picture and see that’s not me. It’s an HD picture. It’s not even pixelated. You can tell that’s not me, but they don’t care. Nobody cares about the truth when the lie’s more entertaining.
Lewis Howes: The lie’s more entertaining.
Charlamagne Tha God: Yeah. They don’t care about what the truth is. So it’s just hard to navigate yourself through those murky waters of social media. And you know, if I was a 14 year old kid and I had to like constantly be perfect because social media gives off this … it paints this false picture of perfection, you know, where everybody’s saying the right thing and doing the right thing. Pastor Steven Furtick says it’s everybody’s highlight reel. You never see the shots anybody misses. You never see any of the setbacks, the losses, none of that.
I think that that right there would drive me crazy. But then the fact that they’re taking that virtual reality and trying to bring it into the real world, and everybody’s walking around and not trying to give off the perception of truth anymore, like real truth, like who you really are. People are afraid to talk about the mistakes they’ve made, ’cause they think they’re gonna be judged for them. People are actually losing opportunities because of mistakes they made in the past, and even speaking on it now. You know how I learned? I learned from listening to everybody else fuck up. That’s why God allowed some of us to go through those experiences and not be afraid to share them, so other people can learn. And it’s like, yo, they’re not allowing people to do that anymore.
So if I was a 14 year old kid and I had to force myself to be perfect all the time, I’d probably kill myself as soon as I make one mistake.
Lewis Howes: It’s stressful.
Charlamagne Tha God: I’d feel so inferior. Everybody perfect on social media, everybody trying to act perfect in the real world. I make one mistake, I don’t deserve to be here.
Lewis Howes: Wow. And that’s why we’re seeing a lot of stress and a lot of anxiety for kids these days, a crazy amount.
Charlamagne Tha God: 100%.
Lewis Howes: I’ve got three final questions for you, but you talk a lot about your mistakes, a lot about the lessons you’ve learned, a lot about your mess ups in all areas of your life, which I’ve thought are really cool, how you open up in this book. Make sure you guys get it. It’s called Shook One: Anxiety Playing Tricks On Me. It’s really inspiring. Get a copy for your friends as well, give it out to them as a gift. I think it’ll help a lot of people.
Three final questions I have for you. And make sure to follow you … what is it, at-
Charlamagne Tha God: @cthagod.
Lewis Howes: C Tha God on-
Charlamagne Tha God: C-T-H-A-G-O-D.
Lewis Howes: On Instagram-
Charlamagne Tha God: Instagram, Twitter, Facebook-
Lewis Howes: It’s powerful stuff, yeah. And Breakfast Club-
Charlamagne Tha God: @BreakfastClubAM is all our Instagram, Twitter, all that stuff like that. YouTube page.
Lewis Howes: Three questions that I hope that are the final ones because I respect your time. One is, if you could have any dream to create the life you want moving forward, any type of career, I heard you say like late night talk show host, like what would be the exact thing you could have? If you could manifest anything in your career for as long as you want it to be, what would that be?
Charlamagne Tha God: Exactly what I’m building right now. A multi media conglomerate, because Malcolm X said thee person who controls the media controls the minds of the masses, and I just feel like I want to put all the positive energy out into the universe via people, people who have great stories to tell, who have great stories that people can learn from … the experts in various fields.
I feel like I’m doing that now slowly but surely. I have a lot of different things under my umbrella. My man [Noriega 01:00:11], we got his show On The Run Eating, which is like he’s just a black Puerto Rican guy with his crew, going from state to state, restaurant to restaurant eating with your favorite celebrities. I have a documentary coming out with my man Bakari Sellers called As I Breathe, I Hope, or As I Hope, I Breathe. Either way, it’s a great documentary. It just played at New Orleans Film Festival, and it’s playing at the New York Documentary Film Festival coming real soon.
And I mean, I got other projects. I got scripted projects that I’ve developed. We got a movie coming out on November 2nd called Bodied that I’m a consultant producer in and I’m a star in. It’s produced by Eminem, and it’s a movie about battle rap, but it’s actually just exploring freedom of speech.
Lewis Howes: Wow, that’s cool.
Charlamagne Tha God: So yeah, and I’m building this conglomerate, and I know eventually that’ll turn into my own late night television show, which will become a staple in the culture. And they’ll be like, wow, it’s a black guy on late night network television now.
Lewis Howes: Can’t wait to watch it.
Charlamagne Tha God: Yeah, so it’s just like, that would be my ultimate career thing is multi media. You know, books, podcasts, radio-
Lewis Howes: TV, everything-
Charlamagne Tha God: … TV … and not even just me being on these platforms, just creating these platforms to be able to empower other voices.
Lewis Howes: I like it, man. That’s powerful. The second question I have for you is … it’s called the three truths. I ask this to everyone at the end. Imagine you’ve done all that. You’ve done everything you want to do. Everything you dream of, it’s happened, as I believe it will for you. You get to choose the day that’s your last day on earth. As many years away you want it to be. It could be hundreds of years. Whatever you decide, but you gotta pick a day eventually. This is the last day … hypothetical.
You go back to your roots. You go back into the radio station one last time to share one final message, and these would be your three truths. And all the work you’ve created, you’ve got to take with you when you leave, so no one has access to the content you’ve created in the past. But you get to flip on the final radio switch, button, whatever it is at the time, you got the mic out in front of you, and seven billion people put on headphones and they get to hear your final words, your final three lessons you’d share with the world, your three truths. What would you say on the mic?
Charlamagne Tha God: My three truths. Wow. I think that I would tell everybody that I hope I served you all well. I hope that I impacted you all in a positive way. For those I impacted in a negative way, don’t die feeling that way about me, ’cause I’m not about to die feeling that way about you. I’ve let my hurt go, you should let your hurt go too. And then I’m gonna tell everybody to keep God first, stay humble, and keep working, ’cause that’s all I ever did, and now I’m about to clock out.
Lewis Howes: I like it. Simple.
Charlamagne Tha God: That’s it.
Lewis Howes: I like it. Well I want to acknowledge you for a moment, my man, because it’s been fun to watch your career over the last year since Gary introduced us, ’cause I didn’t know who you were before that, about a year ago. And it’s inspiring to see your evolution of impacting people and using your platform for a positive message, and really … ‘Cause there’s so many kids out there, people listening that look up to you, and they mirror you and the actions you take and the message you say.
So for you, putting out content like this when it’s probably not the most popular thing or cool thing to do or whatever it may be, is really inspiring. So I acknowledge you for putting yourself out there in a big way and showing up every single day, man.
Charlamagne Tha God: Yeah, and you know, what’s so funny about that content, they’ll give you flack for that as well.
Lewis Howes: Absolutely.
Charlamagne Tha God: Another thing I’ve learned in my life is that when you’re in this position, nobody thinks anything you do is genuine.
Lewis Howes: No. Oh, you’re doing this for this reason, you’re doing it for-
Charlamagne Tha God: Exactly. Like I literally saw somebody Tweet yesterday, “Charlamagne tha God is doing with mental health what Kim Kardashian is doing with criminal justice reform or prison reform.” And I’m like, really? And then they were like, “He needs to bring such and such and such and such on his platform and help elevate their voices.”
One of the guys, I already had on my platform talking about mental health a couple years ago. So you weren’t paying attention. Then I said to her, ’cause I couldn’t resist-
Lewis Howes: Here’s a link.
Charlamagne Tha God: … I said to her, “He came on my show already, and number two, so I’m supposed to not talk about my anxiety? I’m supposed to not talk about my experiences with therapy just because I’m who I am? That makes zero sense to me.” Once again, I am only here because God has allowed me to experience some things, so I can use that experience to teach other people. Like I truly believe that.
So, I kind of fell into this situation, ’cause I really feel like this whole situation is bigger than me. But the universe is conspiring for us to have this conversation, and I’m here to have it.
Lewis Howes: I love it, man. And what’s the thing you’re most proud of that most people don’t know about you?
Charlamagne Tha God: I’m proud of being a good father and a good husband. You know, I know this may sound crazy, but it feels good to say I haven’t cheated on my wife in three years. My wife and I have been together 20 years though, and like we’ve been together since we was high school sweethearts. And I mean, she’s cheated on me. She’s done dirt, you know? And I’ve done dirt. I just did my dirt most recently. And I think there’s a number of reasons for that, like you know, just like with anything else … Chris Rock told me one time, Chris Rock said, “Yo, every superhero’s gonna test their super powers.”
So just like 20 years ago when I was in Charleston, South Carolina and I saw my name on that marquis, even though I’m not gassed up like I was back then, 20 years later, when you in a different position and there’s women that you’ve looked at your whole life on TV or whatever, music videos-
Lewis Howes: And now you have an opportunity.
Charlamagne Tha God: Man. Bro. What do you want from me? What does Tyrese say? What more do you want from me? But you realize, man, none of that is nothing at the end of the day.
Lewis Howes: Yeah.
Charlamagne Tha God: You do it, it’s done, and now you’re like, man, now I gotta go home, and I want to be home. And so like I live vicariously through a lot of my homeboys now, and it’s like, their life is too stressful, bro. Like I don’t-
Lewis Howes: You don’t need another anxiety attack.
Charlamagne Tha God: No. I wake up in the middle of the night listening to yelling in the hallway, and I’m like, what the hell is going on? You hear one of your boys’ voice and you just peek out the door and you see him and a girl. “I’m not leaving.” Like I don’t got time for that.
Lewis Howes: Yeah.
Charlamagne Tha God: It’s exhausting. It’s stressful. I like being 40 and being at home with my wife and my kids. I like finding new ways to love my wife. I like finding new ways to keep our relationship exciting, you know what I mean? That is what makes me feel like a man nowadays.
That’s what I talk about in the book, and that’s why I can’t wait to read your book, The Mask of Masculinity, ’cause that whole definition of masculinity is trash. Like what does that even mean? Every way they taught us how to be a man was absolutely wrong, and that’s why it’s a Me Too Times Up movement right now. And we’re lying to ourselves as men if we’re not saying, “We caused that.” You know what I’m saying?
Lewis Howes: Right.
Charlamagne Tha God: We are the ones that put women in those positions, that put women in those threatening positions all of these years, and the best apology is changed behavior. So it’s just like, everything I think of when it comes to being a man was absolutely wrong, and I know for a fact I was just feeding my ego when I was out there sleeping with a bunch of different women and cheating on my wife.
So now, I feed my ego in different ways, ’cause we all got a ego. You got your … My man Ryan Holiday is up there holding the book, Ego Is The Enemy-
Lewis Howes: Ego Is The Enemy, yeah.
Charlamagne Tha God: … We all got a ego, it’s just about what you feed your ego and how you feed your ego. My ego gets fed through service to others. And it’s not even about-
Lewis Howes: I love it, man.
Charlamagne Tha God: … bragging, that I’m doing such and such for other people. I know, and that’s enough for me.
Lewis Howes: Yeah. That’s good. Final question, what’s your definition of greatness?
Charlamagne Tha God: My definition of greatness. Realizing your full potential as a human being on this planet, and finding what makes you happy, and doing what genuinely makes you happy. People that are great to me are the people who wake up every day and they love what they do, and they do it to the best of their ability. To me, that is the pure definition of greatness.
You ever been to Chick-Fil-A?
Lewis Howes: Yeah.
Charlamagne Tha God: Are those Chick-Fil-A workers not the nicest people you would ever meet in your life?
Lewis Howes: Nice, man.
Charlamagne Tha God: Those people go to work every day and want to be great.
Lewis Howes: They get a day off every week.
Charlamagne Tha God: That’s what I’m saying.
Lewis Howes: The Sunday they get off.
Charlamagne Tha God: They get Sunday off-
Lewis Howes: Benefits, probably.
Charlamagne Tha God: … benefits I heard. Like whatever it is that Chick-Fil-A is offering, people love it and they enjoy it. So it’s just like, that’s greatness to me. Like yo, of course you got people like LeBron James is great at basketball, or Drake is great at rap. But I’m talking about, what about the guy at Starbucks who your day is better ’cause you’re going in there to order your latte or whatever, but he makes your latte just right. You know why? ‘Cause he’s great at making lattes, and he probably enjoys making those lattes for other people.
Like to me, being great is just doing what makes you happy. That’s my problem with America nowadays, we got this like unreal obsession with celebrity, and we think that success and celebrity go hand in hand. We equate success to just celebrity, but that’s not the case. It’s a guy right now in LA making $50,000 a year or $60,000 a year. He got a nice crib and his family’s good, and his kids are happy, he got food on the table, and most importantly, he’s happy. He’s living a great life. That’s greatness, to me.
Lewis Howes: Charlamagne, thanks brother.
Charlamagne Tha God: Lewis, thank you brother. Appreciate you for having me, man.
Lewis Howes: Get the book, guys.
Big thanks again to my man, Charlamagne tha God. Again, make sure to check out all of his stuff. Check out his book, follow him on Instagram and on all the places on social media. Make sure to tag me, @lewishowes and @chathagod over on Instagram and let us know what you enjoyed most about this.
Take a screen shot of this, link it up to your fans on Twitter and Facebook, Instagram, or text a couple of friends that you think would resonate with this message. Again, if you are dealing with something, anxiety, overwhelm, stress, or any type of suffering emotionally and mentally, you don’t need to suffer anymore. I want to remind you this. I want to wake you up in a way, and I hope that you’re listening that you don’t need to suffer anymore, that we’re all in this together, and that people are here to support you. Even if you feel like you haven’t found those people yet, there are people out there that can support you, and I want to let you know that you are fully loved, you are fully worthy, and you are fully enough.
I’ve been through different struggles in my life, through anxiety, overwhelm, burnout, where I’ve felt like there was no way out. And sometimes those thoughts can lead to darkness, and that darkness can lead to bad decision making. And I don’t want you to lead down that path anymore. I don’t want you to think that there’s no way out.
If you don’t feel like there’s any friends or any family that supports you, then you can reach out to a therapist or to a coach or to a trained expert, a licensed expert who can support you. They are going to be there for you. So, I am sure that you could reach out to someone and they will support you. I mean, talk to a stranger, talk to anyone, just don’t hold it in anymore, ’cause I want to let you know that you’re not alone, and you are fully loved.
I hope you enjoyed this interview. For me, it’s very powerful when we get to open up about these things, the things that sometimes aren’t posted about on social media or aren’t talked about at the dinner table, or out at the bar, or out at the club. These things aren’t talked about, and I think it’s important for us to continue to open up about them, privately, small group fashion, and publicly if it resonates with you.
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Lewis Howes: Again, big thank you to Charlamagne tha God for doing this. Love his work, love what he’s up to, love his honesty here. Big thank you to our sponsors. Again, PayPal.com/growth. You can set up a free business account today. They have been supporting me for almost 10 years since I got started in business, and they still support me today. PayPal.com/growth. Great way to make sure you protect your business from fraud, even when selling internationally. Give your customers more confidence, more trust, all the things you need for your business. PayPal.com/growth. Set up a business account today.
And our good friends over at DesignCrowd.com/greatness. If you’re looking to optimize your design for social media, for your website, for your logos, if you’re looking to create a logo, they can do it all, guys. Go to DesignCrowd.com/greatness. Use the $100 VIP offer that only School of Greatness listeners get, and you can go to DesignCrowd.com/greatness to get that right now.
What a powerful moment for us. What a powerful interview. Super grateful for this. Again, Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Sorrow looks back, worry looks around, faith looks up.” Where are you going to be looking? Are you going to be looking back, looking around, or looking towards a greater purpose and vision for your life? Start looking outwards, start looking upwards, start focusing on something greater than yourself.
And Plato said, “Nothing in the affairs of men is worthy of great anxiety.” Nothing. Let the anxiety go. Stop allowing anxiety to cripple you. Stop allowing it to hold you down and hold you back because you were born for so much greater things in your life. You were born to make a bigger impact than to allow anxiety hold you back.
I love you so very much, and you know what time it is. It’s time to go out there and do something great.