Life on earth can be a beautiful experience but it also comes with heartache, loneliness, and discouragement. Reoccurring problems cycle through every generation, discrimination, civil unrest, political hatred, and conflicts among nations. In his new book, One People, One Planet, Mike Glauser lays out a clear path to help us all increase our happiness and live peacefully on this planet.
He presents six universal truths gleaned from the founders of the great world religions, world-renowned philosophers, and cutting-edge researchers in the field of positive psychology that can help us unlock new levels of happiness, improve relationships, and have a more fulfilling community. The book helps you discover the inspiring stories of remarkable individuals who have transformed their lives from dark despair to authentic joy and you’ll learn how to apply the same principles in your own life.
Drew Appelbaum: Hey listeners, my name is Drew Appelbaum and I’m excited to be here today with Mike Glauser, author of One People, One Planet: Six Universal Truths for Being Happy Together. Mike, thank you for joining. Welcome to the Author Hour Podcast.
Mike Glauser: Thank you, Drew. It’s great to be with you today.
Drew Appelbaum: Mike, help us kick off the podcast. Can you give us a brief rundown of your professional background?
Mike Glauser: So, I’ve spent about half my career in the business field. I’m an entrepreneur, I’ve built a number of companies and sold those companies. I’ve also spent the other half of my career in academics, teaching entrepreneurship. Now and for the last few years, I’ve been the executive director of the Center for Entrepreneurship at Utah State University and I also direct our poverty alleviation program, it’s called SEED, which stands for Small Enterprise Education and Development, and we travel around the world and we help lift people out of poverty by teaching them business skills and self-sufficiency skills.
So, I’ve had the opportunity to mingle with many different kinds of people all over the world; that interest kind of led to the book that we’re talking about today.
Drew Appelbaum: So, why was now the time to write this book? You’ve been doing this for a while, did you have an “aha moment,” did enough people tell you, “Hey, you need to write this down, you need to spread this message to the masses?”
Mike Glauser: I’m concerned about a couple of things right now. I’m concerned that we have the epidemic of despair around the world. I work with college students and millennial-aged students as well as executives and organizations and what we’re seeing is the incidents of anxiety, depression, loneliness, suicidal thoughts are really greater than they’ve ever been in just about every age group, and they’re particularly troublesome in the high school and college age group.
You know, a recent study shows that about 40 percent of high school students say they feel hopeless and 20 percent of them think about suicide often — and at the college level, we have about 60 percent of our students say they’re lonely, they don’t have friends…really troubling. I just heard for the first time, the suicide rate amongst teenagers, the death rate by suicide is higher than the death rate by auto accidents.
Then also, the millennials that I work with, in organizations, the mid-managers and so on, there’s just this feeling of despair and anxiousness and loneliness and so that was one of the things. And then the second thing is, I’ve been concerned about this kind of epidemic of incivility or even hatred that we’re seeing between religious groups and racial groups and political parties and nations and so the book is really about how we can become happy ourselves but how we can be more civil with each other and be happy together.
The subtitle is, How We Can Be Happy Together on the Planet and I’ve been gathering this information for years in my travels around the world and had a lot of great background data from people that have really transitioned their lives from sorrow to really, genuine joy. And so I just had everything that I needed to sit down and say, “It’s time to write it.”
Drew Appelbaum: Now, you’ve been doing this for so long, you’ve seen so many things but when you actually sat down to write the book, to put everything down on paper, maybe by digging deeper into some of the subjects, maybe by doing some additional research — which I saw the appendix of the book, you did a ton of research here. Did you have any major breakthroughs or learnings along your writing journey?
Mike Glauser: I think some of the breakthroughs I had were along the way in my career. I had been a student of world religions for many years. I lived in the Middle East and studied Arabic and studied the Islamic faith after doing my PHD and I’ve studied Hinduism and Buddhism, and an “aha moment” I had was that if we strip away the mysteries and the superficial, the things like, did we live before life, will we live afterwards and what’s heaven and hell like and what’s the nature of God…
If we strip away all that and we read this ancient religious text, the original texts, we see that their teachings about personal happiness and civility, living in communities are almost identical. And so that was really exciting for me, that there’s this body of knowledge that’s been around for thousands of years and it says the same thing from very different generations and different periods of time and different leaders about how we can be happier and how we can have civil communities.
Then just my travels with the people that we work with in Philippines and in Africa and in Latin America, I’ve seen them discover these principles of happiness and they’re some of the happiest people I’ve ever known and worked with in my life — and yet, they’ve come from poverty and so, all of these things, experiences that I’ve had along the way and you know, to be honest, I’d been thinking about the book for some time when COVID hit, that first summer I had my entire summer planned with trips all over the world and I had to cancel every one of them.
So I had time to pull out this research and actually start writing it. I wrote half the book the first summer of COVID, and the other half the second summer of COVID. So that timing was helpful in actually getting it done finally.
World Religions and Ancient Wisdom
Drew Appelbaum: Some good had come out of it with some free time. I do want to talk about what you mentioned in the first part of that statement because I did learn from the book that, you say that 75 percent of the world’s population is really affiliated with one of the four major world religions and you kind of took a deep dive into them and you mentioned that they’re more alike than they are different.
So when you really did do that deep dive and you found this out, how much of a shock was that to you and do you feel like people know that at this point? Why don’t we know this, thousands of years in to all these religions?
Mike Glauser: Yeah, it’s absolutely amazing. Those ancient texts are really beautiful and the leaders were amazing and have had more impact on the world than any other group of leaders in our history, but we don’t know that because we see all the different breakaways and the different sects in the groups that kind of quarrel and argue in every faith—but if you go back to those original writings, it’s just amazing. I was raised Christian and so, living in an Islamic country, I had the opportunity to study with a religious leader there and he agreed to teach me Arabic if I’d study Islam with him, which I thought was a pretty good trade.
I was just amazed that many of the prophets in the Bible are in the Quran, many of the same stories are there and the same principles for peace and happiness are all there. I just saw so much more in common than I ever thought existed and then I found that same thing in the other religions. Again, if you look at kind of the mystical and the supernatural that we really don’t understand — life before birth, life after death, the nature of God—they’re obviously differences but the basic teachings of how we can be happy on earth are pretty exciting.
Then I also, from studying the philosophers, there’s a concept called perennial philosophy that evolved during the European renaissance era and that concept says that there’s a force for good in the universe. It’s an energy field or it’s God or whatever you want to call it, but it teaches us how to live civilly on the earth and if we seek those answers to happiness and civility, we basically all get the same answers. And so that was kind of an “aha moment” that evolved over time as I looked through all of these data from philosophers and religious leaders.
Then what was exciting, you know, a lot of people don’t like organized religion and even though 75 percent of the world’s been influenced by these four religions, many people have left those faiths, but they’ve still been influenced by the teachings and the culture. But the exciting thing was that positive psychology, which looks at human happiness and human civility has now documented for twenty years, these exact same religious principles, philosophical principles that scholars would have never looked at twenty years ago because they came from religion or philosophy.
We have this trifecta; we have the great religious leaders, we have the philosophers, greatest renowned philosophers and now, sound solid empirical research saying, “You know what? These things really do work, they have an immediate impact on our mood and our state of mind. They work in real time.”
If we implement any of these six principles today, we’ll be happier today and if we keep implementing them over time, they’ll become a more permanent part of our character, and move more from these dark stages we find ourselves in to a greater, brighter light and more joy and civility in this world.
Drew Appelbaum: Now before we dig into what the path is and what those six principles are, you actually start really early in the book and say that you can share a path. You could help all of us increase our joy and live peacefully together on the planet and it works for everyone and so, my big question for you is, do you mean everyone-everyone? And who have you taught these lessons to or who have you seen follow the path in all walks of life that you could fill us in on?
Mike Glauser: Well, I think that’s another “aha moment” but it didn’t come all at once, it came over time. I’ve worked with convicted felons that have spent years in prison and I’ve seen them completely turn their lives around and become very, very decent people. Some of my greatest role models have spent twenty years in prison. They’ve overcome so much more than I ever had to face, with their early life and their upbringing and they’re the happiest people I know.
I also work with women all over the world that had been rescued from the slave trade. They’ve been kidnapped as teenagers or even at eight or nine or ten years old and spent a dozen years as slaves around the world, and they’re some of the happiest people that I know. People I work with that live in poverty in various nations have become some of the happiest people that I know.
So, I was seeing these principles implemented by these unique people who had harder lives than I’ve had, and they work for them — and so they’ll pretty much work for any of us, is what I’ve concluded, and I’ve actually seen.
Drew Appelbaum: You do mention that the path that these principles were on have been around for thousands of years. If they have been around for so long, how come we don’t learn from them? How come we don’t all know them and think about them on a daily basis and how does this cycle of ignoring these truths keep happening?
Mike Glauser: Well, I think if you’re raised in one particular religion, you are generally not too interested in another phase. We don’t look at other world religions. I think that not a lot of us are real interested in reading philosophy. It is kind of heavy and sort of deep at times and we just don’t — not many people are talking about these concepts, and they’re not talking about the common principles, and they are not talking about unity among faith and races.
We all want it but not a lot of people are talking about how we find it, where it is, and are willing to invest the time. I am sitting in my office here looking at my bookshelf and you know, I have read thousands and thousands of books over the years. Thousands and thousands of pages and I think people don’t take the time or aren’t interested in doing that. They aren’t interested in looking beyond what they have been taught or what they learned and yet, we all want to be happy and we all want to have similar relationships.
Drew Appelbaum: So who came up with these six principles that you feature? Who are the sources of the deep knowledge in the book?
Mike Glauser: So it goes back to the very beginning. The Hindu sages almost 5,000 years ago formed communities where they were searching for meaning in life and the purpose of life and ways to overcome suffering and be happy, and thousands and thousands of pages that were recorded later that were teachings from these Hindu sages and you know, next Buddha came to the world scene, and he taught many of the same principles.
Then we had Christ come between the AD and BC, which we now call before common era and the after common era, and then Muhammad came another 500 years after that. And so people have been talking about these things for a long time and I didn’t come up with these. I didn’t make them up, they are not my discovery. I just found that they existed, and they were available for people to find and see. And then the great philosophers.
I tended to focus on Confucius in Asia, the most prominent philosopher in Asia that’s had an impact on billions of people. Greek philosophers, you know, Socrates, Plato and Aristotle and then the Romans, Cicero and Seneca and again, they have hundreds of pages of writings on civility and happiness, and they say pretty much the same things. And then positive psychology is kind of interesting.
It’s only been around for twenty years. Before this, psychologists studied mental illnesses and how to overcome them but no one really studied how we can be happy, what principles lead to happiness. But we now have two decades of research and so I glean all of these principles from those three sources and they basically were revealed to me as I studied those documents and that research, and I just basically gave them names and put them together on paper for people to see.
The Six Principles
Drew Appelbaum: Well, we have teased it long enough I think, so can you tell us the names? Can you tell us what those six principles are and then—you don’t have to break them all down because you wrote the book on them, but maybe take one of them and do a little bit of a deeper dive into it and what it really means?
Mike Glauser: The first one I say, give up the ego. And we think of the term “ego” referring to people that are really proud, really cocky, really full of themselves, but all these writings really refer to ego as our self-perceptions. It is a composite of all the perceptions we have of ourselves that make us who we are, and these perceptions really come from messages we have been given from other people from the time we were very young, you know, that we’re talented or we’re not talented.
We’re athletic, we’re smart, we’re not smart, we’re tall, we’re handsome, we’re thick, we’re thin, and so we carry around what they call this fabricated ego, which is not who we really are or who we could become. And when we realize that these perceptions set bounds and limitations on us and that we have the ability to do more and to be more and if we let go of that, we’d become very free to explore and try new things and do new things and gain new skills.
I really believe that we have so much more potential when we find this true self and we let go and give up this self-perception that we call ego. It is really, we’re on a claustrophobic treadmill of self-centeredness. We think about who we are and what we’re like all the time, from the morning when we wake up to when we go to school or we go to work and we go to parties, and if we can let go of that — the Buddhists call it egolessness or the non-self, where you let go and just say, “I’m a work in progress and I can do many more things than what I’ve come to believe about myself.” That’s the first one, you give up the ego.
The second one is refrain from judging others. When we realize that we have all these self-perceptions that aren’t real, we realize that other people, our perceptions of them are also fabrications. What we do is we see very superficial cues like race or color or nationality, or education, religion, and then because our minds are limited in being able to perceive all of reality, we then fill in all the pieces and kind of assign characteristics to people that aren’t real.
When we learn to let go of those perceptions and really try to find out more about who they are and we see that we are a lot more alike than we are different. And so as we quit judging, we develop more friendships. We enjoy relationships more. The next is very simple, it is just doing good deeds, getting up in the morning and rather than thinking, you know, me-me-me all day long, think, “How can I help someone else today?”
Then looking for opportunities to just do kind, random deeds with people that we see in need. There is so much research to show that when we get outside of ourselves and do good deeds, we get an immediate rush of certain chemicals in the brain that just are feel-good chemicals and life is better today because we did something good for someone else today.
The next one is to give up our anger and grudges and forgive people. If people offend us and we hold a grudge, it doesn’t really hurt them. It is like a poison that we drink and then we’re waiting for that other person to die. And it kind of cankers our souls and so, learning to not take offense and not hold grudges and forgive. You know, I’ve got some amazing stories here of people that one family, their son was murdered and they finally, after years, were able to forgive and give up that hatred and what it did for them.
The stories are amazing in the book. I teach the principles through the stories. The next one is attachment to material things. That there is so much research that shows that if we become quite obsessed with owning and holding and hoarding things, they tend not to bring happiness over time.
In fact, we devalue them, and so if we are really generous and we share what we have and we give up things that we value that other people might need, there is so much research that shows that if we give up something for someone else that we value or we have money but we give it away to someone rather than using it ourselves, it produces a greater rush of these feel-good chemicals and helps us be happier and also obviously benefits our relationships.
Then the last one, all of these great philosophers and religious leaders, and even modern psychology shows that we’re really all connected and if we help people in need in our community, those that are suffering, we really help ourselves. And we help the community be stronger and often, as we help those in need get on their feet, they become very generous givers.
I have seen this around the world, in the Philippines and in Africa and the Dominican Republic, where people that lived in poverty, we help them and they develop modest means, and then they become very generous givers and sharers of what they have as well.
So those are the six concepts. They are kind of all interrelated. If we finally give up our ego and we quit judging others and as we stop judging others, we’re more inclined to do good deeds and then when we’re more involved with others. We offend each other, so we have to learn to forgive and forget and so this cycle just goes on and on, and they influence each other until we slowly develop better moods and we become happier and we become more civil and our organizations are more enjoyable.
Drew Appelbaum: You put this book out in the world, you put so much into it. It’s from so much you’ve learned throughout your life. And so what impact do you ultimately hope it will have on a reader and what steps do you hope they’ll take in their own life during or after finishing the book?
Mike Glauser: Well, as I mentioned, you know I am concerned about this epidemic of emotional illness and this epidemic of instability, and my hope is that people will read the book and apply these great concepts that I have learned, that I have applied, and that they will see their lives go from a little darker period to a little lighter period and then their example will be seen by others and say, “Hey, how are you doing this? You seem happy and fulfilled.”
They will share those principles and then we can just kind of pass them on and help raise us up to a little bit higher level. The one thing that is unique and interesting about this book is that the assumption of all of these great leaders and these studies show that the highest level of happiness really occurs in the context of relationships with other people, and if you read the great books on happiness that are out there, you will read a lot of things that are pretty insular.
They say set goals, get control of your morning, accomplish something each day, work on your health—and those are all really important and they’re great first steps, but they’re pretty self-centered. And it’s relationships that make us happy, that give us the greatest form of happiness even though they are hard and we have to work through them. That’s what brings us the greatest amount of joy, and I think it’s kind of the isolation of this technological era that we’re in.
We are more connected to others than we have ever been, but we are more isolated because those connections through social media are rather superficial. They are not the deep meaningful friendships and intimate relationships where we spend a lot of time face to face and one-on-one, and so I just hope it helps. If it helps a small group, that will be awesome. If it helps a broader group of people, that will even be more awesome, but that’s what I hoped to share when I wrote the book.
Drew Appelbaum: Well Mike, we just touched on the surface of the book here. There is so much more inside of it. I just want to say that putting a book out there to help us and really help others along the way is no small feat. Thank you for putting this together and congratulations on having your book published.
Mike Glauser: Thank you so much. I really enjoyed speaking with you today.
Drew Appelbaum: Mike, this has been a pleasure and I’m excited for people to check out the book. Everyone, the book is called, One People, One Planet, and you can find it on Amazon. Mike, besides checking out the book, where else can people connect with you?
Mike Glauser: I have my own website, mikeglauser.com, and we have a website, onepeopleoneplanet.com, that will feature not only the book—we have many, many videos of the people we have interviewed and the video-based training program. We have school courses and all kinds of material on that site. They are being built out right now. They’ll be ready when the book is released.
Drew Appelbaum: Well Mike, thank you so much for coming on the show today and best of luck with your new book.
Mike Glauser: Thanks so much.