Joshua Miller, author of I Call Bullshit, wants you to be happy. Not just getting by, and not being successful by society’s standards, but can’t wait to wake up every single day happy. If you’re shaking your head, convinced that this is impossible for you, Joshua calls bullshit. The life that you want is attainable, and Joshua believes that you simply need to reconnect with the person you really are.
In this episode, Joshua takes some of the overly complicated advice that’s presented by the self-help industry and distills it down to its basic principles and reveals how you can use those to help you become your authentic self.
If you’re suspecting that your life maybe doesn’t have to suck, this episode is for you.
Joshua Miller: I grew up in New York City, in a time where I was surrounded by uber-wealthy people and raised middle class, you know? This is what I was surrounded by and what I knew. It was always kind of this false narrative when you’re surrounded by this. It’s kind of misleading as to where you want to go in your life.
Growing up, I had two loving parents who are artists and an older brother. I went off to this high school that I never fit in. I went to this private high school that I was the outlier. I wasn’t the smartest kid, I was a C plus, B minus student, but everyone else was an A plus student.
I was the creative art guy, and everyone else was the mathlete or whatever you want to call it. And so, I, for the most part in my high school life, I just never felt like I fit in. I went off to college and struggled to get my communications design and advertising degree because that’s what I was most passionate about, but I unfortunately just was not prepared for it.
“The call that changed everything for me came my senior year.”
Working two jobs and to get my act together, I got a call from my mother and my father. My brother was on the phone that my dad was sick, and they weren’t really being truthful with it, about the situation. He had cancer. It was really bad. I knew it was bad, but I also knew they weren’t telling me the truth.
It hit home when Thanksgiving break came, and they were like, “We’d prefer you not come home,” which was unheard of. I went to a friend’s house, and obviously, I was concerned and when Christmas break came by, they thought, you know what? You probably shouldn’t come home as well, which tore them apart.
Stumbling Into a New Life
Joshua Miller: My father was literally falling apart in pieces with chemotherapy and stuff.
Here is a man who, this is my idol, my father, my dad, a leader, a friend. Someone I looked up to. And he was withering away and fighting for his life.
“I was fighting to just graduate, and it was a dark time, a tough time for me.”
I had to dig deep to focus and graduate college. I was blessed and feel grateful that my father was miraculously able to turn around and, through chemo and stuff, show up for my graduation. He did not look like the man that I knew when I went off to my senior year in college, but there he was. He stood by me in graduation. It was one of my most proud moments. I mean, in my life.
Shortly thereafter, he passed way.
It changed everything for me. My whole concept of time, my concept of family, my concept of what’s important. Even just talking about it, I get emotional because I miss him a lot. I mean, every day, I think about him. I strive to be the best father, the best husband. I have two sons, and even the book is dedicated to him.
That call that I got really changed my perception. I was on this path because I thought that’s what I was supposed to do. That’s what I enjoyed. I went off and graduated and I jumped right into a very successful advertising career.
For most people, on paper, it would look like I was living the dream. You know, early 20s, living on my own, New York City, making money, but I was so unbelievably miserable. I felt so dispassionate and soulless. I hated where I worked.
“I was one of those people that couldn’t wait till Friday.”
As soon as Friday showed up, I was dreading Monday. That was the life I had. Somewhere between that dread between Friday and Sunday, I was trying to fit in a life. After about six years of working, there was an event that happened and I wrote about it in my book. that literally changed my life. It’s probably the second thing that was a pivotal shift in my entire life was when I was walking out of my office, and I wasn’t paying attention where I was walking.
Someone knocked into me. I spun around, I fell into the sidewalk, I broke my nose in two places. This is rush hour on a Friday, and everybody’s walking by, over me, literally, people are stepping on top of me.
This is New York, and one woman says, “Excuse me, are you okay?” You know, honestly, if I was coherent and probably not in like a semi reduced coma, I would have said, “Yeah, I’m fine,” and gotten up and gotten on the train and went home. But I wasn’t.
I said, “No, I don’t think so.” She helped me up and pulled me to the side of the street and she was cleaning up my face, was all bloody. She’s like, “I’m going to call the ambulance,” I said “Sure.” She’s like, “Do you want me to wait with you?” I was like “Yeah, sure.”
“Everything about that went against the grain of what I knew growing up in the city.”
I wound up talking to this woman, and she was sort of an angel. I mean, she was kind, she was gracious. I was like, “What is it you do?” Of course, I had to know.
She’s like, “I’m an executive coach.” I go, “What is that?” She goes, “Well, I make people better, I make people happy.” I said, “Make people happy?” That’s a job? She’s like, “Yeah.”
I was like, “You get paid to do that? How the hell do you do that?”
She’s like, “Well, it’s not an easy answer.” I’m like, “We’ve got time, there’s no ambulance coming here” and we kind of laughed about it.
A Brand New Concept
Joshua Miller: Meanwhile, I’ve got blood dripping all over me and we’re starting to have this deep conversation about you know, how to be happy, right? Finding your purpose is really what we were talking about. It wasn’t under that umbrella.
We started talking, and she started telling me about what she does. I literally felt like this was it, this is divine intervention. I was meant to break my nose, unfortunately, and out of eight million people on a side walk in New York City, she stopped to help me.
It could have been anybody. I asked her if she would ride in the ambulance with me, which she did, and I just kept asking her questions and questions. I’m like, “How did you do this? How did you learn this? How did you do that? That’s a real thing?”
Finally, after I was discharged and she went home, she was like, “Look, if you ever want to talk again, I’d be more than happy to.” I said “Yeah, absolutely, tomorrow, what time?”
Because that’s how I was, you know? I met her the next day, I have a picture of – gauze pads in my nose, I have a black eye, I have a big bandage around my face, I mean, I look like the end of Rocky I. It’s bad. We sat in the Starbucks in mid-town. I remember I borrowed her pen, I didn’t bring a pad of paper.
“I was just on the edge of my seat.”
I wrote down every single thing, more or less, that she said, on six different little Starbucks napkins. White napkins. I still have them framed in my office today. That was my road map on how do I change my life. I still keep in touch with her today and she’s kind of like a defacto – I don’t even know—mother, spiritual religious figure, coach, mentor, I don’t even know what you want to call it.
I look at those napkins at least once a day to remind me of where I’ve come from, which I think is really important. To remind myself of why I do what I do and to never give up. Those are some of the messages I talk about in my book, because inherently, that’s what I believe.
As people, as human beings, it’s important to not just get out, wake up and go do things, but be passionate about what you do.
More importantly, remember and stay present. Why are you doing it? Because life is going to purposely try to trip you up, literally and figuratively, and challenge your beliefs every single day. You really say you want to lose weight, how badly do you want to lose it? You really want to make money? How badly do you want it, right?
That’s how we’re tested. I was tested that day, and I believe that we’re being tested every single day. We’re just not looking for it. We’re not aware of it, or we’re not engaged. I look at that roadmap, the framed napkins, and it’s just a reminder. It’s very symbolic in so many ways for me.
That’s kind of my story, you know? How it all changed.
A Solar System for Your Life
Charlie Hoehn: What specifically was on the napkins? Is that getting too granular?
Joshua Miller: No, well, being a creative person, you can imagine there’s more graphs and charts and smiley faces and arrows. If you looked at it, you’d be like, “Looks like your two year old started to learn how to draw,” you know?
To me, it all makes perfect sense. It’s almost like a solar system for your life, right? There are different pathways. Here’s where I am in one circle or quadrant. How do I get to that next one, right?
Is it a straight line, is it a dotted line?
I’m kind of letting you in on how I think and what’s the pathway to get there. Is it close or far away? Just think about it in terms of like, we can only technically get to the moon, now we’re trying to get to Mars.
“We have to figure out, how do we extend the ability to go further in life?”
I kind of looked at it as, “Okay, here is where I am in the creative world. I want to pivot pretty hard to go into this kind of coaching/learning and development world that I know nothing about.”
You could think about it like a lily pad, right?
How many lily pads as a frog am I going to have to jump or hop on to get there? What it looks like is a lot of dots and lines with a lot of notes and notations. Here is where I am, here is where I’ve got to get to. Here are the steps in order for me to achieve it.
Live Your Own Life
Charlie Hoehn: The subtitle of your book is Live Your Life, Not Someone Else’s. Where do we need to get started?
Joshua Miller: It’s a great question. I’m going to answer it in two parts. The first is, authenticity is definitely at the root of the book; however, it also is a word that is used, I think sometimes in the wrong context and maybe even over-used in the wrong circles. You know, Live Your Life, Not Someone Else’s is a nod to being authentic, right?
Which a lot of people struggle with. What is authenticity, right? You could argue that, hey, the way I’m living right now is authentic.
It’s not so much about being authentic.
Let’s take authenticity off the table and just say, what is it that’s going to make you happy? Are you actually truly happy right now? Forget about successful, because that’s kind of different, right? Are you happy? Whatever it is you’re doing. If what you’re doing is making you happy, awesome, great. Because, that alone is what people, I would hope, aspire to achieve.
Unfortunately, people are driven by different status and motivators and money and so on and so forth.
Living your life not someone else’s is also about, hey look, I know we’re all going to measure our success against someone else’s highlight reel. That’s a slippery slope because you don’t know how that person got to where they are. Unless you engage and ask them and they’re honest with you, you truly don’t know.
“What you see on social media, even what people tell you is not the whole story.”
It’s very easy to be seduced and even possibly manipulated into believing that well, I should be there or I should be in the corner office or I should be IPOing or I should be the CEO at 25.
It’s great to have these kinds of conversations, but you have to put them in context. I think a lot of people tend to forget where their true north is. It’s easier to say like, “I like what he or she’s doing, I want to do that,” right?
That part of it is just natural. You can want to do what somebody’s doing but you got to stop and ask yourself and to answer your question, where do you begin, you have to ask yourself some pretty powerful questions that only you can answer.
This is a big premise of my book. In the back of it, I put over 200 questions in the book, and in total, there’s probably close to 300 questions in the book in its entirety. And the reason it’s laced and embedded with questions, their thought provoking questions that are going to purposely put you outside your comfort zone but inside your heart. Not your head, your heart.
Because what I’ve learned after 20 years of coaching people from all over the world is that up in our heads, we’re all really smart, right? We are all experts. When we start to have conversations around our heart, that’s where we get scared. The answers lie down there. Not upstairs, downstairs.
I firmly believe that when we start asking ourselves some really powerful questions about what makes us happy, how will we define success, what are we afraid of, those types of questions are how we spark real growth and transformation and ultimately, find authenticity.
Joshua Miller’s Key Technique
Charlie Hoehn: What are two or three of your favorite tools and techniques?
Joshua Miller: I have a few tools and techniques, and I wrote about them in the book. I think probably one of the biggest ones from an eye opening standpoint is the concept of the ‘be-do-have’ versus ‘have-do-be.’
This has been around for a while. I think there’s different iterations and I see people talk of and teach about it differently, but I put it in the book because we are almost hardwired to live in a world where I have to do something.
In order for me to have something, I have to do something. And then I can finally be happy or I can be successful or I can be rich or be married or be in love or whatever it is.
“It’s this carrot and stick conversation.”
And so you are constantly in service of, “I’ve got to do this in order to get that, I’ve got to do this.” And what I found is that when you live inside of the context of I have to do this, you are starting off, it is almost like, “If I don’t, something is going to happen.”
What typically happens with people is we start up putting things in opposition.
I can either do this, or I can do that. I can’t have both, and what I find is that we start living in this world, it is a context of either or. It is not a world where you are creating a life of robust and abundance of ‘and.’ “Hey can I have this and that? Do this and that.”
And so the concept around be-do-have is that when you start to take on being the things that you want, you start being or adopting the behaviors and embodying them around the things that you want, you will take the action and you will have the stuff that you crave.
And I wrote about it, because I really think that the concept is a powerful one. It takes some work, I am not going to lie, it takes some work but that is probably one of my favorites.
Choosing Better Words
Charlie Hoehn: So tell me how that’s played out in your life? You said it is not easy.
Joshua Miller: I don’t think any of this stuff is easy. I hate the word hard because people always say, “Well if it is not easy, it’s hard.” I had talked about that as well. There is a whole chapter around bankrupt language.
We use words every day, we throw words around like they’re just bubbles. We just blow them out of our mouths without really even thinking about it.
“In reality, our words are incredibly powerful.”
Think about it, the words that you say if someone is listening to you, are going to anchor their reaction and ultimately, maybe the reaction that you are going to get in terms of what you are trying to achieve. So Yoda always says it is either do or don’t, there is no try.
Although that has been quoted to death, it’s really true. It is powerful, right? You either go into commit and take action, or you do not. Don’t say you’re going to try to do something.
So the concept of hard is another thing I talk about. I always tell my clients when I talk to them, “I can’t do that it is really hard.” I say, “Really? Can you go to a store and say, “Hey what aisle is hard?” or “Go to a restaurant and say I’d like to get a bowl of hard?” No, you laugh because you can’t.
“We’ve used the word in the wrong context.”
So I ask you not hypothetically, what’s a different word? A more empowering word you could use versus hard and where people typically land, ultimately, is challenging.
When you say something is challenging versus something is hard, it evokes the possibility and the potential of a different outcome. When you say something is hard, it’s like done.
So the concept of ‘be-do-have’ versus ‘have-do-be’ and bankrupt language are two things I am incredibly passionate about. I believe they anchor us either in a way that is going to help us move forward or complacent, for sure.
Charlie Hoehn: You talk about I think what is the most important part of existence of being a human, which is relationships. What is your advice for relationships?
Joshua Miller: So I’ve taken some lumps and I have learned some hard lessons. I think every single one of those people that gave me the opportunity to beat myself up and fall on my face, because I don’t think I wouldn’t have written the book without it.
So there are a couple of pieces around this. There’s relationship to others and relationship to self. A lot of people think of relationships just in terms of the other individual, partner, lover, friend, or family, but you can’t forget about the relationship to yourself.
It obviously, begins with you. The strongest relationship that you will ever have will be with yourself. So if you look at any relationship externally and say, “Oh it is not happening. It’s not good, it is not as strong as I’d like you to be.”
“Look at yourself first.”
Identify what your weak points are and work on that and as a result you will strengthen every other relationship in your life. That is the first piece.
The second piece is, “Make sure that the friends in your circle are also in your corner.” It’s really, really important.
We live in a world where it is all about likes and followers and we get manipulated and seduced all the time about, “Well, I’ve got 100,000 followers so I am pretty special and popular.” Okay, maybe but at 3:00 in the morning when you’re lonely and you need someone to talk to, do you have somebody to call? Do you have somebody to write to? Do you have somebody to text? More importantly, are they actually going to pick up the phone?
“This is where a lot of people go silent.”
It is important to make sure that you’ve got the right people in your life that are going to support you. They are going to be honest, they’re going to challenge you, but they are ultimately champions for your success and happiness and I talk about in the book there is doing relationship auditing.
I do this at least once a quarter, if not more, where I take all the priorities, the big things I am working on in my life inside of relationship, finances, career and wellbeing, and then I look at my life and list out all the friends, and I say, “Okay do I have the right people to help me? Who are the people currently I have supporting me? Are these the right people?”
When you start to get granular and specific about who’s in your life, you will clearly be able to see if you are surrounding yourself with the people you need to hit your goals. To be happy, to be successful.
I encourage all my clients and I encourage all of the readers, if you are playing a big game and there is something you are working towards and you are finding that hey, maybe you have hit a plateau or a bump in the road or you just can’t get off the ground, write out all of your friends.
List all of the people in your life and then see out of that list who are the people that are currently helping you?
Maybe they’re the people you should ask and you haven’t. Or maybe they are the people that are helping you and that could be a part of the problem.
So that is really, really critical when it comes to being happy and successful is check your relationships and audit them frequently.
Success from I Call Bullshit Principles
Charlie Hoehn: Could you share your favorite success story with a client or the biggest impact that you have made that you are most proud of?
Joshua Miller: There’s a lot, but there was an individual. It was about five years ago. He had retired. He was a CEO of a company, and he just wasn’t sure what to do with his time. After a few conversations, it became evident that his heart and his head was into giving back in a philanthropic point of view around schools around education.
“He had to work incredibly hard and smart to get through school.”
He had a tough time at it and wasn’t given a lot of fair shakes, but was able to be successful.
So where he decided or he was going to put his passion as well as his money and his time is in developing a whole entire school system in a remote part of Africa.
And this, what started off as just a conversation, about a year and a half later turned into a reality. It’s now funded, and he is working on branching that out into a broader type of school system. And working on other types of infrastructure in the area of this remote part of Africa.
It is touching for so many obvious reasons. The thing that means the most to me was that here was somebody who had so much to give and literally just didn’t know where to go with it.
It was like a matter of time before it almost exploded out of him.
Working with him to really understand where is this coming from and why it’s important to him, and then just get out of his way and watch him create this has been unbelievably beautiful to watch. That is one of the biggest, proudest moments. It really is.
Connect with Joshua Miller
Charlie Hoehn: Are you taking new clients that you’re coaching?
Joshua Miller: Yeah, I am. I always have a few spots in my practice open for clients, of course. I have a vetting process. It is not incredibly scientific. It really comes down to someone’s interest in working with me. We set up a time and have a conversation and see if it is a match. So yeah, absolutely.
Charlie Hoehn: How can listeners get in touch with you if they are interested in that?
Joshua Miller: Yeah, well there are a few different ways. Through social, I’m on LinkedIn and I happen to be an influencer there. So I am usually around, you can find me under Joshua Miller.
Then of course on Instagram, I’m @coachjoshmiller as well as on Twitter @coachjhm, and on Facebook, Joshua Miller as well. People can definitely reach out to me.
Then of course my email, which is email@example.com. I answer every single email I get from my readers and followers.
Charlie Hoehn: Before we part, can you give our listeners a challenge, something they can do this week from your book that will have a positive impact on their life?
Joshua Miller: Sure, a challenge would be when you wake up tomorrow morning, the first thing I want you to do is nothing.
I challenge you to not reach for your phone and to go online. To not reach for a cup of coffee. I challenge you to actually stay in bed for 30 seconds or longer if you could, and just focus.
Just focus intentionally on how you want your day to go.
“Imagine that you absolutely get to control how your day goes.”
It starts with focusing and making yourself a priority, which is something we don’t typically do. I challenge everybody every morning. If you could just do it for 30 seconds. Close your eyes, just think about what is the day going to be like for you?
What is the emotion, right? Imagine yourself, and that will set the day and the tone for you in a way that you may not have ever thought was possible.