What am I meant to do with my life? If you don’t know, you’re not alone. Too many people struggling for years with that question without making any real progress, all because they’re not asking the right question which is, “Who am I?” In his groundbreaking book, The Being Equation, Erik Hardy identifies what defines each of us as human beings, exploring the subconscious filters and assumptions that block us from becoming our true selves.
Discover the truths you picked up as a child that weren’t true for you, leading you down the wrong path over and over with the same unsatisfying results and then, step-by-step tear down those barriers and reconnect with the powerful human being you were born to be. Get actionable clarity on who you are at your core. Discover what you truly want and start creating the life you were meant to live.
This is The Author Hour Podcast, I’m your host Benji Block and today, I’m thrilled to be joined by Erik Hardy. Erik is the author of a new book titled, The Being Equation: Discover Who You Are, Create Who You Want To Be. Eric, we’re so glad to have you here on Author Hour today.
Erik Hardy: Benji, it’s a real pleasure to be here. Thanks for having me.
Benji Block: Absolutely. Erik, right off the top here, just for listeners who may be new to you and your work, can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your background?
Erik Hardy: My background— I grew up in a very small town in Virginia, actually, a town of about 200 people.
Benji Block: Wow.
Erik Hardy: That childhood really influenced how I look at a lot of different things and I think I carried that forward into essentially who I became— those values and how everything fits together in a small town. I went from that small town where actually, ironically enough, my mom was my high school principal.
Benji Block: Oh no.
Erik Hardy: Yeah, it actually turned out to be a great thing but I went from there, a very small town, small high school, to college at James Madison University in Virginia. From there, moved into graduate school and just kind of progressed out, eventually ended up in Colorado at Colorado State University, where I did two different advanced degrees and that’s where we’ve been living the past 20 years.
Benji Block: Amazing. Why was this the right time to write this book, Erik?
Erik Hardy: It really came down to— a question you get frequently is, “Oh, who did you write this book for?” and if I’m being honest, selfishly, I actually wrote this book for me because these were the challenges, this was really the big dilemma, I was facing in my own life. Really, the book was me getting those ideas out, really codifying them by writing them down in paper, sorting, sifting. The only way I could really figure this stuff out was putting it down on paper and by the end, I had a book and I thought, “Geez, if this can help others which I certainly hope it can and I think it can, then it seemed well-worth putting it out into the world in this book form.”
Benji Block: Yeah, I love that. I often tell people that that’s the reason I got into podcasting—there was an external reason, I do hope people listen but really, selfishly man, it was like, there is an internal [reason]. I want to learn and grow myself, so I love hearing that. When you think about the person that could benefit most from this book, who do you imagine? Who is that reader on the other side?
Erik Hardy: You know, I imagine, anyone that is really struggling with that question of “What am I meant to do or why am I here?” It’s funny, I can think of different friends and family and almost anyone you meet have mentioned a couple of times, what I’ve been working on or what I’m writing and it seems like everyone’s like, “Oh, I wish I knew the answer to that question” or, “I’m excited to try to figure that out.” I think there’s a part of all of us that is really searching to answer that question of, “What am I meant to do?”
If that’s a question that tickles your fancy or one that you’ve been working on, then this book is hopefully will be helpful for you too.
What Am I Meant To Do?
Benji Block: You talk about years where you spent asking that question, “What am I meant to do?” and then this realization that maybe you had the questions out of order and there was this – “Who am I?” question that comes before “What am I meant to do?” Talk about your internal struggle and maybe that lightbulb moment of, I’m asking the questions out of order.
Erik Hardy: Right. I think that really was a first for 42 years of my life.
Benji Block: Wow.
Erik Hardy: I really spent—well, I shouldn’t say that. I mean, till the time of 15, all I was really doing was going to school, playing outside, having fun with my friends and you never really are hit with that question of “What am I really meant to do?”
Then you get to that age where you have to go to— I was going to go to college and all of a sudden it’s like, “Well, you have to pick a major”, you have to start thinking about what you want to do for a career. All these things start to build up and then all of a sudden, that question really hits you.
Really, I think from the age— I started thinking about that around 15— when you’re starting to think about college all the way until I was 42, 43 years old. I never could answer, “What am I meant to do?” and what I ended up doing was, kind of bouncing around, following what society thinks you’re supposed to do or maybe what your friends and family think you’re supposed to do and never really— it just not landing.
I did all those things and I think in a lot of ways, from the outside, you look at what I did— and I felt fairly successful in terms of the career I had. My marriage was great; I was married to a beautiful woman and we were doing well by all standards. I would wake up and every morning I’d still be like, “I cannot believe this. Is it like this still does not feel like I’m what I was meant to do.” Then, around the age 42-43 years old, all of a sudden, I realized, “Wait a second, I don’t think I know what I’m meant to do” because truthfully, deep down, wake up in the middle of the night I can’t tell you who I am.
I can’t answer that question. So, that’s really where those all came from. You have to be able to answer who I am first before you can really get the core of what you’re meant to do because the who I am question really derives and creates what you’re meant to do. And I think we have those out of order for society because we don’t ever ask or teach or have kids to really start— everyone asks what you’re going to do when you grow up, blah-blah-blah but no one’s like, “Yeah, here are all the tools to understand who you are first and then we can start talking about what you’re meant to do.”
Benji Block: Right. You’re at this age where you have this realization, “Okay, I don’t know who I am.” I think there is probably some waking up, I would say, in our society to trying to answer that question or like you said, you have these friends that are like, “Oh, that’s a good question. Who am I, what am I meant to do?” Then you can get overwhelmed, right? By, where would I even start? For you, as you start to realize, I don’t know who I am, I would love to know who I am and start to find that, what becomes some of those first steps you take?
Erik Hardy: I think I was pretty lucky that I got introduced. One thing that was a catalyst for this is, I switched careers. I kind of bounced around, not knowing what I was meant to do. I got involved in real estate and luckily, the company that I started with, there was a man there named Larry Kindle. He has this amazing real estate installation system that even though it’s real estate, I think it’s really a personal and development system.
I started in that company. My first four days was attending a training by him and in that, we started learning these questions of how your brain works and just things I hadn’t ever learned before. I think that starting to understand those things and how we work as humans, really started me on this path that got into other tools that have become popular, much more popular over the last 10 or 15 years, including like meditation, mindfulness, some of these tools and some great authors, great podcast. I mean, Eckhart Tolle, Deepak Chopra, Oprah Winfrey…
There was that whole whirlwind or that whole kind of snowball that happened in the 2010s, 2015s and really started getting into that. I think those tools, in conjunction with some great mentors, started me on the path of getting to that question of who am I but it took a couple of years to really get there.
Benji Block: The people we surround ourselves with, the voices we listen to, definitely start to play like a crucial role in where we head and the type of clarity we can get around these questions. When it comes to this book, it can be a great resource. Let’s talk about how you broke this book into— there’s three sections, right? You’re giving an equation and then you talk about being, and then you talk about solving the equation.
Now, I find the way that this equation hit you in a sense, to be particularly interesting. Talk to me about the process of having this sort of epiphany and these different elements that are included in the equation.
Erik Hardy: It just kind of hit me and on my best days, what I usually do is I start; wake up early and I’ll do a 20-minute meditation and some journaling. Coming out of one of those meditations, I was starting to journal and one of the questions that popped up in my mind, that I was really thinking about was, “What makes everyone different?” Like we all see differences. That’s how we’re taught to see the world.
Then, I started thinking about, “What makes everyone the same?” Ironically, the equation came out of that idea of looking at differences and then I realized, “Oh wait. These five things, these five variables, are really what defines us all living beings.” It took me a while, I don’t think of equations. I’m definitely not a math guy and it was really interesting to me as to why this came out as an equation.
That actually took me another couple of months to figure out and then I remembered in graduate school, a huge influence on me, there [was] this— of all things— a soil scientist from 1940s named Hans Yeni and he actually came up with an equation that defined every soil type scattered all across the globe. Thousands of different soils and all different climates and ecosystems and from that, I think my non-conscious brain said, Wait a second, If an equation can define all these different soil systems all around the globe, it’s a very simple equation. It’s only five individual variables.
It can be a great thing to use to define who we all are as beings and what makes us who we are. I think that connection happened in my brain and then ultimately, I realized that it was the power of the non-conscious connecting two— what seems like completely disparate topics— when you talk about a very esoteric question like, “Who am I?” Then you mix it with a mathematical equation especially in soil science, it seems very— it’s a very strange connection.
Benji Block: Yeah, strange connection but as you read the book, it makes so much sense and they are common areas that I do think impact all of us, and I thought you did a great job of distilling it. We won’t hit on all five here but I do want to hit on a couple. The first one that I would love to hit on is this element of spirit. It’s a practical question, I guess is kind of where I’d like to start.
When you talk about spirit, anytime spirituality comes up, it can be a hard topic to try to tackle, to keep people from whether it’s divisiveness or maybe just checking out. Why did you feel it was so important to include spirit so early and what makes it so important to you and to the equation overall?
Erik Hardy: Yeah, you know, that is a great question. When people pick up this book and read it, one thing that’s interesting about it or different about it is a lot of the information I have in there comes from these conversations I have. I do journaling as I mentioned, every morning and the way I journal sometimes is I literally almost— it’s like I’m having a conversation back with what I’m calling source. Literally, I sit down with my journal and I write my question, and I kind of wait. I get an answer and then we start this dialog back and forth— which to a lot of people, that’s going to sound very woo-woo but I think we all have this connection you call whenever you want, intuition and this deeper knowing.
Because so much of this came from those dialogs back and forth from my understanding, it felt very important to me to start the book with the spirit variable. I know, a lot of people, as soon as you mention spirituality then it gets kind of mixed up with religion and I think it’s super important not to confuse those two. You can be an extremely spiritual person and have a spiritual connection and it can have absolutely nothing to do with an established religion.
Understanding The Differences of Interpretations of Life Experiences
Benji Block: Yeah, talk to me a little bit about that because I would say, there is a need and a move over the last several years sort of in some ways, a way from established religion here in America. It’s a move away from Christianity, you’re seeing a departure from organized religion but there’s still, if you look at statistics, a general interest and awareness and actually, a rise in the number of people that would call themselves spiritual after maybe the late 2010 area when the rise of atheism was so high. There’s some sort of move back to spirituality but talk to me about how those things are different in your mind and how religion and spirituality kind of are different?
Erik Hardy: Yeah, I think the reason you’re seeing this— as you mentioned, return to either if you want to call it non-dominant or denominational spirituality or whatever it may be— is because, as I mentioned in this book or point out, everybody has a spirit and a spiritual body within them. So, everyone feels that and when you try to cut that out, I think if you cut that out of your life— and a lot of people have cut it out by saying, “Well, I’m not religious because I don’t believe in those particular religions”— but you cut that out then there’s this disconnect from that part of your body and there’s a longing to reconnect to it. I think that’s why we seen a resurgence and the spiritual elements.
I’m definitely not here to say that anyone needs to be religious or prescribed to a particular type of religion. I don’t believe that at all but what I do think is that you have to remember, all the different religions in the world, whatever they are, including like Native American religions, they all arose at a point in time and in a history and in a culture that is very different from what it is today. They all arose because folks felt that connection to their spirit and they’re trying to express it and put it into words and they did that through the context of the world as they understood it.
I think all of the religions have a truth within them and then what happens over time is that you have the human influence come in and people start to try to use religions and take them away from maybe their original context, their original meaning, and kind of transform it into something they can use as a little bit of element of control over one another. As soon as a religion goes from being just about true spiritual connection and the lessons learned through spirituality to, I’m going to have this doctrine and I’m going to use it to control you and say what’s right and wrong. You have to do this or that and it’s us against them. I think that’s where religion starts to get dangerous. And I think people see that and that’s where you see that move away from religion.
Benji Block: Yeah, I could talk to you about this for the whole podcast. It’s incredible but I highly suggest to people to just go read it and it does not come off to me as woo-woo. I do think that the back and forth between you and source and your journaling is really interesting and we’ll probably ask a couple more questions about that towards the end as just a practical how-to but, let’s keep the conversation moving.
A large component of understanding who we are is based on our interpretation of life events and life events is another thing that comes up as one of these five. You say this, you say “all life events are neutral. Imagine the perspective of a third person, an unbiased observer, an event happens neither good nor bad, positive or negative, it just happens.” There’s a lot wrapped up in it. You talk about the egoic interpretations of life events but let’s talk a little bit about life events and their role in us figuring out who we are.
Erik Hardy: Sure. I think at first when people first hear that idea, it feels very strange because we automatically process life events in terms of the story we place them into. It is just default in nature that we want to assign good and bad to them but in actuality— and I talk a bit about perspective in the book as well that ties in there but it really— the good or bad element comes from how whatever occurred impacts you or at least impacts you in relationship to your story.
I use the example in the book of a life event of having a million dollars of cash sitting in front of you on the table— and this also illustrates perspective. A million dollars in cash in front of you on the table could be— it is just a neutral event. It is just a million dollars sitting there. If for some people that is going to be a tremendous amount of money, it could be a huge windfall. The vast majority of people are going to feel that way.
Then if you took Warren Buffett or Oprah Winfrey and said, “Hey, that one million dollars in cash on the table in front of you is all the money you have left in the world,” all of a sudden for them, that life event [is] of [them] down to their last million dollars—
Benji Block: Right, the sky is falling.
Erik Hardy: That is a negative thing, right? That is an extreme example but life events happen like that all of the time. I mean, you hear things about it could be kind of like the butterfly effect but not really. I mean, maybe you think, “Oh geez, I got…” In Fort Collins, we have trains that drive through town all the time and come up traffic. Well sometimes, you’re like, “Man, I got stopped by this train and I am going to be late for this meeting.”
Then you finally get through and you think the train delay was a bad thing when actuality, maybe that train delayed you enough that you missed the accident you were going to be in five minutes ahead because you were running five minutes late. It really is just our interpretation of what happens and how we assign that story that becomes critical and understanding how to process life events.
Benji Block: How has that awareness maybe changed the way you see things over time? People might say, “Okay, I understand this has a concept but when it comes to my actual life, can I change the story I am telling myself?” What does that process look like?
Erik Hardy: I think that starts to get into egoic interpretation a little bit because of the story element but I think that is really the crux of a lot of this. Those life events do happen and changing the story around them is really how you change your life because you really— it comes down to you having a choice, right? Something happens and you are the one that ultimately assigns whatever egoic interpretation or story that you placed to that.
You can decide to have the positive perspective, make it as positive as possible, or you can decide to have the negative perspective. What most people don’t realize— and I definitely didn’t realize before I really sat down and thought about this— is you have the choice to do that. Most people just non-consciously— it just happens automatically that you assign a good or a bad moniker to everything that happens to you.
That is really what allows you to change your life because you can go back and look at things in the past that you thought were a negative experience and now you can actually see, “Oh wait a second, no, there was something very positive I took away from that” and then all of a sudden kind of re-pulling that up in your memory, replaying that life event and assigning a new egoic interpretation or a new story to it, really changes your perspective moving forward.
Benji Block: Do you have one that maybe you’d be willing to share of something negative that you’ve intentionally sort of reframed?
Erik Hardy: I mean, I have lots of them. Think about what would be the best one to share. The biggest one for me— and it is a very personal one that comes up— I won’t go into specifics but I made a decision when I was 17 years old that really impacted me for the rest of my life moving forward. My father had recently passed away from cancer and I made a decision related to my extended family that really alienated me from that family for 20, 25 years.
I carried that with me and I always viewed it as it was so bad and I made such a poor decision there. I really beat myself up based on that for a long, long time and it was only after working through this that I was able to go back and look at that decision, put it in context, see everything that had happened, and realize that I was a 17-year-old kid. There are a lot about high pressures, I would never make that decision again.
I was able to go back and see it with that new perspective and kind of change my egoic interpretation of that decision and realize, you know what? Anybody else in that same situation would have probably made the same decision that I had. And it just relieved so much burden in my current life. I am 47 years old now and all of a sudden, all of that guilt and shame and from that one decision lift it off and my life literally changes by consciously working through that process and making the decision to change the story around that.
Clarity and Consciousness
Benji Block: Amazing. So, there’s five total variables and then you move into this section on being— which is part two of the book— and you discuss the importance of clarity, and one way that you personally get clarity is through these conversations with a source like we were talking about and you actually write this in your journal. I wonder what you would say to someone who is looking for that type of clarity.
You have journaling and then are there other ways that you would recommend people try to find that sense of clarity as they are trying to work on who they are?
Erik Hardy: Yeah, I think a really critical element in that is whatever you can do to remove outside distractions so that it’s you. As I said, a huge fan of journaling for a number of reasons. I think there is just something about pen and paper and the speed at which you can write. It actually forces you to slow down and really think and consciously move through things as opposed to typing on our computer, punching it to your phone, or doing something.
I think creating an environment where you remove those distractions and then the other thing is kind of setting yourself up for success as part of that environment. You know, whatever you feel the best; if it is getting a little recharge in nature, maybe you decide to go to a park and sit on a park bench and do some journaling, any quiet environment… Sometimes I actually like to go to a coffee shop. First thing in the morning just grab a coffee and sit down, not let the rest of my day or any of those other distractions start to overwhelm me, and just have that time and a clear mind where I don’t have a bunch of other things spinning out of control in my head already to start searching for and finding clarity.
Benji Block: Yeah, that’s so good. I think that finding that space and taking that time, you start to really hone in on what matters to you, and getting silent in such a loud world is definitely vital to developing any sort of inner self. One excuse that I think is baked into humanity is our natural kind of passive approach to feelings and to emotions. I feel like we’re just along for the ride and you actually say otherwise.
You say with some intentionality, we can actually change our feelings and you give two ways we can do that. One, which we’ve hit on, change the egoic interpretation of the story around a given stimulus, and then two, gain awareness and control over our physical response. Talk me through what that would look like to gain awareness and control over our physical response.
Erik Hardy: Yeah and the caveat I’d even say before— I worked through an example on this— is that you have to be really careful when you start trying to control your feelings or controlling the physical response because it definitely does take energy. It can take a little bit of a toll on you if you do it all the time and you’re always controlling your response.
But, a perfect example is the example I think of all the time; somebody either you have an interaction with a colleague or somebody leaves you a voicemail that really amps you up or you’re really angry about. You can feel the anger starting to bubble up and instead of meeting like firing off an email or saying something you really don’t want to do, you’re conscious.
That’s meant to saying just coming up on me, okay. I just see you take a few minutes, take a breath, change, whether it be changing your environment, go for a walk outside, do something and because now you’re conscious of the anger and so okay, what am I going to do to decrease that emotion, to decrease that feeling? I am going to go outside, take a few minutes and reset. Just by doing that you’re starting, you’re controlling that emotion of anger and starting to reduce it because you’re taking the steps necessary to do so as opposed to, you know, saying or doing something you’re going to regret doing.
Benji Block: Right, yeah. That sometimes the time just between something in action and then the response is like the most important thing to actually know, “Okay, what is going on?” and internally and then responding accordingly.
Erik Hardy: It can literally just be, you know, all of a sudden walk away but it can literally just be a breath. I mean, just to pause and think to yourself, “I need to control my response here, and then you can respond to as opposed to just going off without thinking at all.
Benji Block: Well, this book provides a ton of knowledge, and then it also gets really practical at the end. Really, you got to do the work to apply the equation to your life. Could you give readers just an idea of what to expect as they sort of finish the book portion and then you have tons of questions and exercises for people to work through, right?
Erik Hardy: Sure. I think there’s that big difference between book knowledge and then applied practical knowledge. My hope is that when you get to that third section of the book, you’ve gotten all the background knowledge you need and now you’re ready to take action and start to implement of these things in your life. So really, what the third portion of the book is, is a series of exercises to walk through the different five variables of the being equation so that you can understand all of the past life events and egoic interpretations and everything that happened to you to create who you are in the present moment.
Then you can also project and look forward and say, “Okay, I know who I am now. What life events, egoic interpretations— what needs to happen to me in the future to create the person that I want to be in the future?” So that book or that section is set up to walk through at the pace of one variable per week and there is a series of questions and prompts— usually five to six questions for each of those variables— and you kind of take one a day and you work through in past, present and future.
The idea is, hopefully, by the end when you’ve worked through all the variables, you have a really great idea of everything that made you who you are in this present and also a plan, a road may going forward to kind of create the person that you want to be in the future.
Benji Block: Which is so cool because I think when people work through the exercises, they do gain clarity— and you talk about the importance of clarity quite a bit in the book and the power that comes from having clear vision just like in real life, if your vision is blurred or skewed, it is going to be really hard to get to where you’re trying to go. And then the same thing internally when you don’t really know what’s going on and you lack clarity, it’s really confusing to know who you are and who you want to be long term, right?
Erik Hardy: Right, exactly. And you know, one other thing about this book is, as I mentioned in the beginning, this was really me working through and starting to understand these things. For me, I don’t have university degrees or a bunch of training and all of this, so I don’t have the typical language and knowledge that you would expect from like a psychologist or someone that is really delved deep into these things and had a lot of training.
This is very much a beginner’s mind approach and so I think what’s neat is that it is on a very basic level. You don’t have to know about psychology and meditation and all of these different things. It is literally like, “Okay, starting from square one. How do you think about these things and work through it?” I mean, hopefully, that made it really approachable for others as they start to go through this process.
Benji Block: Well, as we start to wrap up here, Erik, when a reader finishes this— they may do the exercises— and they get to the end, what do you hope like they feel when they’re on the other side of working through this book?
Erik Hardy: I hope they feel a sense of empowerment and clarity around this notion of who they are in the world and through understanding who they are and what makes them them. Now, they’re in a position to really go out and essentially create who they want to be. You know, a big thing as I mentioned, that question of what am I meant to do was one that really drove me to some dark places because I really couldn’t answer it.
I think hopefully by the end, people will realize that there is not some golden path out there– that once you find it and you get on that path and if you stay on the path for the rest of your life, you will end up exactly where you’re supposed to be— when in actuality as you get really clear on who you are, you actually create that path of what you’re meant to do as you live your day, as you live your life kind of in alignment with who you are.
That’s really the crux of things as that there is no one thing that we are meant to do. It is all about understanding if you’re living in alignment with who you are and you understand that, you will create exactly what you are supposed to do in this life.
Benji Block: That’s so good. For those that want to connect with you further, you know, check out the book but where can people connect with you, Erik?
Erik Hardy: The best place is my author website, erikhardy.com. That’s erikhardy.com.
Benji Block: Amazing, cool. Well, it’s been such an honor to discuss the book with you, great work, and thanks for taking time to be on Author Hour today. I know, The Being Equation is going to be a great resource for so many.
Erik Hardy: Thank you, Benji. I really appreciate your time and it was fun to have a conversation with you.
Benji Block: Awesome man.