To be light, you first have to be solid. Have you ever tried to find peace and joy by simply being or do you take a different path instead, wondering down the frustrating road of always doing? Our pursuit of meaningful personal growth can be elusive and difficult to sustain. We search for an approach that feels natural and organic but our success is often short-lived. What if we had a foundation of values that remove this weight of expectation, emphasize the strong basis for living?

In The Unicorn in You, Joshua Kramer identifies a sensible path to peace and joy based on the fundamental principles of kindness, gratitude, integrity, humility and acceptance. He outlines practical, actionable steps for reconnecting with these universal qualities, demonstrates how our potential extends beyond what most of us envision in our daily lives. The Unicorn in You is an inspirational guide and powerful reminder to step out of your head, build a foundation for being and take the path less traveled to unlock a more peaceful, joyful life.

This is the Author Hour Podcast and I’m your host, Frank Garza. Today, I’m joined by Joshua Kramer, author of a brand-new book, The Unicorn in You.

Joshua, welcome to the show.

Joshua Kramer: Great, thanks so much for having me.

Frank Garza: To kick things off, could you please share with us a bit about your background and how that led to you writing this book?

Joshua Kramer: Sure. Well, I’m from Northern New Jersey. I grew up just outside of Manhattan had a very happy childhood, loving family, spend time in my formative years in Washington DC and Miami and New York City. I guess over the past 25 years or so, I have always been a student and reader of self-help books, mostly in the personal growth and development space.

I always felt like there was something that I was cultivating on my own, something that I probably wanted to say and it wasn’t until really, the onset of COVID, perhaps a couple of months before that I felt that a perspective was beginning in my mind and that was sort of the genesis for my book, The Unicorn in You.

Frank Garza: You mentioned the book that you spent some time searching for a certain kind of happiness and that ultimately, you realize that what you were really seeking was peace and joy. Can you talk about that distinction between peace and joy versus happiness?

Joshua Kramer: I think for me, I had years of struggle with depression and sadness and it was something that was so pervasive that I never could get out of my own head that I was looking for in my mind, the sense of happiness, not even understanding that there were different types of happiness.

As I came to understand this process of mine that didn’t feel like a process, it was the idea that peace and joy was itself, a type of happiness. It was more of a balance and a harmony within rather than this very abstract, very ambitious sense of just general happiness. For me, peace and joy had to do with something more about how I felt on the inside, rather than what I was trying to attain on the outside.

Frank Garza: Makes sense. Who did you write this book for, who is your target audience?

Joshua Kramer: Candidly, I wrote it for myself and initially, it was out of self-preservation. It was at a time where I felt like I really needed a different perspective and outlook. As I went through the process of writing, I made the comment to someone, “If this book helps one person, I’ll be very happy” and the truth is that it did help someone, it helped me.

More broadly, now that I am releasing it and feeling comfortable enough sharing it in that view that I think can be helpful to people. I think that broadly, I would say, it’s for anyone who is on this journey of trying to find their best version of themselves and I know that sort of en vogue and that type of cliché has become a little obvious.

I think it really does translate to the person that maybe is saying, “Listen, I’m sort of curious, not a real believer, a student in this kind of methodologies but let me try to understand how to simplify life.” Then, maybe it’s to the person who has read a lot of books and tried different things and nothing is really sustained because everything is felt like such an involved, unnatural process.

I think that it sort of transcends that idea that there’s has to be this mechanism or approach to finding peace and joy rather than what I feel like we’re providing is a more simple path, a kind of back to basics approach.

Operating For the Greater Good Is Valuable. How Will You Implement It?

Frank Garza: There’s this phrase you use throughout the book, “to be light, you first have to be solid.” Can you please expand on that and talk about what that means?

Joshua Kramer: Yeah, that phrase I think informed everything I did in this book because it really brought me back to the beginning of it and then what the thesis of the book is. In my mind, the idea of this feeling, of being light, connects to the sense of peace and joy and that feeling of lightness is so elusive.

What I came to realize is that it wasn’t something that I necessarily had to pursue very specifically but instead, by having this foundation of principles that would make me very grounded and very solid, that would allow for that feeling of lightness. We can certainly get into the principles in a bit but I think that’s kind of the essence and spirit of what I meant by that. But you’re spot on, the idea to be light, you first have to be solid. If there’s one key takeaway from the book, that’s it.

Frank Garza: I’m excited to get into those principles and I want to quote a section of the book here, “As simple as it sounds, I believe that’s the most direct path to peace and joy, kindness, gratitude, integrity, humility and acceptance.” We’re going to get into some of these at least in more depth but to start off with, can you talk about those five principles and how you define those?

Joshua Kramer: Absolutely. I think that when I think about the principles, the idea that for everyone, they’re going to be very different but at the same time, I found there was a common thread between those five and it was selflessness. This all ties back to this feeling of being light to getting out of our own head and what I came to appreciate was the fact that selflessness was in fact a viable path to peace and joy because we made it less about ourselves, very obviously of course.

Kindness, I found was driven very much by compassion and these individual drivers I found were very useful in defining them and being more clear about the value of each principles. Kindness as I said, compassion, gratitude, I feel you need to have awareness. For integrity, I believe it’s guided by decency and humility, perspective is required. Lastly, acceptance, it has to do with flexibility.

Those different drivers of those principles I feel like distill them down a little bit more clearly and they become much more attainable as well.

Frank Garza: I really like how the book is structured. Basically, there’s a chapter on each of those five principles and you talk about the path of — which is kind of how the principle guides you towards lasting peace and joy and you talk about the way too, which are ways we can practice these principles.

I’d like to dig into a few of those. For humility, when you talk about the path of humility, one of the ones that caught my eye was, humility eases the weight of self-importance. Can you dig into that?

Joshua Kramer: Humility as I mentioned in the book, is maybe one of the most under-appreciated principles, values that really all of us have because the idea of easing the weight of self-importance, one of the struggles that I always came back to was not being able to get out of my own head. Much of that had to do with my sense of my significance but really, a lack of awareness of my insignificance in the world.

By having humility, which I believe is guided by a sense of perspective, we’re able to let go a little bit of our sense of our self-importance and in many ways, it lightens some of the burdens that we carry, some of the anxieties. For me, what always was so pervasive was the sense of worry.

The idea of cultivating awe, which I believe is a key element to humility, that really helps you ease that weight of self-importance. It almost develops a sense of curiosity in the world, it diminishes ourselves and our mind in a good way, in a way that doesn’t belittle us but it just, it reduces us down to a more realistic size and scope.

Frank Garza: Okay, how about acceptance? One of the pals of acceptance is, acceptance helps us let go.

Joshua Kramer: Acceptance was my fifth principle and I felt like it really tied everything together in many ways. I initially wrestled with the idea of, what would tolerance look like and I didn’t really like the way that tolerance suggested that we put up with something. Acceptance means, in my mind that we are able to make peace with it, and you’re absolutely right that helping us let go is really at the core of acceptance.

By accepting something, what it does is that it grounds us in what is rather than what isn’t and I think that it’s very important. In so many ways, it acknowledges the truth, it roots us in reality. By practicing acceptance, by being in touch with it, it can help us let go of the things that maybe we don’t like that happen in our lives but at least, makes us in tune with the fact that they have happened and we need to accept that.

Frank Garza: Okay, now, I want to talk about a few of these, the way to the principles, which is to some practices that can help us implement these. For kindness, the one that really caught my eye was practicing pro-social behavior. What is pro-social behavior and how do you do that?

Joshua Kramer: Yeah, pro-social behavior is something that isn’t talked about too much and with all of these, I certainly wanted to make them feel more instinctive and organic. I think that pro-social behavior can become that for people and basically, it’s a sense of awareness that the greater good has value to all of us.

In many ways, pro-social behavior has to do with — it’s not just about me and as I mentioned, kindness is guided by compassion and I believe the shortest way to do that is by releasing our own judgments, letting go of what we believe about people and perhaps using our sense of imagination.

Pro-social behavior ties into this by saying, “I am going to use my sense of compassion by realizing that my sense of kindness, my happiness is not just all about me. It’s about everyone else’s as well” and that when we search for other people’s happiness, we can find our own a lot quicker as well.

Frank Garza: On the way to gratitude for me not to me, tell me more about that.

Joshua Kramer: That has been something that I think more than anything else, those four words over the past two years have meant a lot to me personally and the idea being that we have many ways that we can look at anything and gratitude certainly as I mentioned has to do with the sense of awareness. Often times when things happen in our lives, perhaps more so when things happen that we don’t like, we think, “Why did this happen to me?” and we feel like a victim in some way.

If we shift our thinking and if we say that especially under the principle of gratitude that this thing may have happened maybe not to my liking but there is some benefit here in it for me and so we say that this didn’t happen to me, it happened for me and by doing so, it allows you to be grateful for the fact that maybe there is a lesson somehow. Maybe we can find the positive in it and maybe, just maybe, it makes you more in tune with the things that we should be thankful for and it helps us focus on what we have instead of what we don’t.

Frank Garza: Yeah, I like that one. Can you think about any examples from your own life where that particular practice has helped you?

Joshua Kramer: I would say that in business, there have been things that I would say mistakes or missteps that I’ve taken and I had two choices. I could either really regret them deeply, I could certainly wallow in the self-pity, or I could try to take the lesson from it and say, “You know what? Maybe this happened here in a way that wasn’t the outcome I wanted. I’m disappointed in it but the reality is,” going back to acceptance, “it’s happened.”

I’m grateful for this lesson and now that I’ve made this misstep, this happened for me, not to me. Because now I know I maybe won’t make it again and that I’ve learned a very valuable lesson, and so I think that reframing in our mind can become really important and it shifts everything that happens in our lives. We tend to see the positive in the things that happened that we don’t want and I think that that can really release a lot of angst, a lot of the worry, and much of the regret as well.

Frank Garza: Okay, how about integrity? One of the practices here is to keep the right company, tell me more about that one?

Joshua Kramer: Integrity I think that a lot of people think, “Okay, it has to do with honesty.” Recently I was listening to someone go through their methodologies of personal growth and development and they said, “Integrity, let’s distill it down a little bit more and what does it really mean? It’s too abstract” and to me, it’s quite the opposite. Either you have integrity or you don’t and so for me, it’s guided by decency.

A sense of decency and understanding that we define our values. We know who we are and the idea of keeping the right company I think has real merit here. There is an expression in some way, shape, or form that we’ve all heard that we’re the average of our five friends or the five closest people that we keep and to me is that if you want to have integrity, be around people who have it as well. It can become contagious and not in a self-righteous way.

Not in a way that has this sense of self-importance but my grandfather used to say to me that your word is your bond and it is such a simple expression, probably more from a different generation that I think it really meant something. The idea was that you shook someone’s hand, it meant something and so, I believe in keeping the right company is very important and embodying integrity and having it as an active and practical principle in your life.

The Un-Self Help Book: How To Be

Frank Garza: That phrase you mentioned, “you are the five people you spend the most time with” or some version of that is the first thing I thought of when I was reading through that chapter. Okay, how about humility? One of the practices is to cultivate awe, how could one cultivate awe?

Joshua Kramer: I love the idea of being out more in nature. It is something that I’ve become more connected to in recent years and that was sort of what prompted that idea of when we cultivate awe, we can reduce our sense of self-importance. One way that we can do that is to put down our devices, put down our smartphones and really look around.

Really, this idea of being present has become invoked but when we really stop, quiet our minds and look around, cultivating awe has to do with maybe looking at something that we typically take for granted and maybe — you know, the example I give of being out in nature, it has to do with looking at the sky, looking at the trees and becoming more awestruck by what’s around us.

I think I write something in the book that when we allow ourselves to be awestruck about the world around us, we worry less about being awestruck by ourselves and I think that’s so true. I believe that this idea of cultivating awe and curiosity lessens our sense of significance, our own personal significance. We’re all special but we’re tiny. We’re small in the whole scheme of things and I think it’s important to recognize that.

Frank Garza: How about acceptance? There is a practice called “feel it first”, tell me more about that one.

Joshua Kramer: Acceptance is the type of thing that when going back to what we spoke about earlier, this idea of living in reality, our truth, acceptance I believe is not giving in necessarily, it’s acknowledging the truth. So the idea of feeling it first I think is so important because it’s a recognition of our emotions and our feelings about it.

I’ll give an example; let’s say someone ends a relationship and there’s a disappointment and perhaps, it’s a difficulty accepting that the relationship is over. I think the most important thing to do is at least acknowledge how we feel about it. Maybe it’s a sadness and a disappointment. Sometimes we try to, I guess sweep them under the rug a little bit, our feelings and emotions.

We want to be strong, we want to be a little tougher, we don’t want to admit that we are hurt by it but feeling it first, I think, is the initial important step of saying, “Okay, this is the reality. The first step towards getting to that deeper reality but I’m hurt right now and that’s okay because everything is going to be all right.” But at least you need to be honest about that.

Frank Garza: As you’ve gone throughout your life and worked on these five principles, is there one of the five that you found to be more challenging to consistently implement in your life or one that you’ve seen others consistently struggle with?

Joshua Kramer: It’s a great question and I was asked that recently. I’ll go back a little bit and I mentioned it in the book, I had an interaction with Ryan Holiday, who is an author and thinker that I respect greatly. I was at an event of his where he talked about stillness as the key. It was in many ways, the genesis for the idea of kindness.

He had asked me what matters most in my life, what’s my north star and I stated kindness. A few months later, fast forward to the start of the pandemic, I uncovered the other four but the one that I think is so interesting, I want to go back to this idea of integrity and it’s interesting because in business to me there’s no equivocation.

There shouldn’t be a distinction between our business and personal but for me — and perhaps it’s because I grew up in a family business — my grandfather was important to me and that idea that your word is your bond, I have made integrity a hallmark of my business practice. I’d like to say that I follow that in my personal life as well but in small ways sometimes, maybe because it’s the times that we’re in.

I’ll give a small example. We tell people that we’re going to meet. I don’t love canceling, I don’t like rescheduling. I don’t like to take people’s times for granted and sometimes integrity is as simple as doing what you say you’re going to do and so I think perhaps for me, I just need to be more mindful of that sometimes.

If it is easy to have a default of, “I don’t feel like going today, let me cancel or reschedule” rather than you made the plan, show up, be there and do what you said you were going to do.

Frank Garza: Thank you for sharing that example. Well, writing a book is such a feat, so congratulations on getting this done. Is there anything else about you or the book that you want to make sure our listeners know before we wrap up?

Joshua Kramer: I think that in many ways this book I thought for a while was a labor of love and the truth is that there was no labor. There was effort for sure, I don’t even say there’s work, it was all love. It came from a place that really was important to me because I needed this and as someone who has studied many of these types of books for a long time, what I’m so proud of is that upon completion, I had a second epiphany, which was that this was the un-self-help book.

It’s a claim I make only because I know that going back to that first quote you read, ”to be light you first have to be solid”. This is a book about being rather than doing. This isn’t about a process or a mechanism. This is about creating the fundamentals, back to basics, a foundation of our lives that can help us get to a path of peace and joy, and I hope that readers enjoy it, that it resonates with them.

I encourage them to connect with me directly at theunicorninyou.com because I really would like to hear how this connects with people if there are other principles in their lives that they find important because I’d love to implement them myself but I do believe that for and I am hopeful that for a lot of people, kindness, gratitude, integrity, humility and acceptance create a viable foundation and a path for their own peace and joy.

Frank Garza: Joshua, this has been such a pleasure and I’m so excited about your book. I am happy that you put that out into the world. The book is called, The Unicorn in You. Besides checking out the book, where can people find you?

Joshua Kramer: They could come to the website, theunicorninyou.com, they can check out some of the videos and other footage and other media that has been posted there. I’ve been very fortunate to get some acknowledgments online through some business publications and some other podcasts I’ve been guest on, so I’ll continue to keep people updated there but I just want to express my gratitude to anyone who is interested in reading and learning more and finding the unicorn in you.

Frank Garza: Thank you, Joshua.

Joshua Kramer: Thanks so much for having me.