Every successful leader has a North Star, an idea that lights their path in times of darkness. For Hal Elrod, that guiding principle is service—to selflessly add value to the lives of others.
“I have a responsibility to use my life experience to help other people,” says Elrod in his latest interview with Brilliant Thoughts’ Tristan Ahumada. Sharing his life’s story—which is by all accounts a death-defying journey—is how Elrod believes he brings the most value to others. He says that serving others ends up increasing the worth of the person giving.
If you’re a long-time listener of the SUCCESS podcast, you may have noticed a theme. Like many of the visionaries who’ve shared their secrets with us, Elrod has discovered there’s a strong connection between self-betterment, service and success, often in that order.
Take responsibility for elevating your consciousness.
If you hate waking up early, don’t panic. You can still practice the lessons in Elrod’s 2012 best-seller, The Miracle Morning. That’s because the point of his book isn’t to get readers to wake up at dawn, but to show them the power of performing intentional rituals at the start of each and every day.
For Elrod, this revelation was hard-won. In 2008, he was depressed, broke and out of shape, unsure of how to break free. Although he wasn’t a morning person, Elrod was desperate for a change, so he committed himself to a morning routine of six powerful actions: silence, affirmations, visualization, exercise, reading and scribing (journaling). The six practices formed the miracle morning acronym SAVERS.
Starting each morning with SAVERS, Elrod started to find purpose, self-actualization and freedom from anxiety. Now he’s made it his life mission to share those benefits with his loved ones, his community and the world.
Elrod began a recent social media post by writing, “The miracle morning mission is to elevate the consciousness of humanity, one morning at a time.” He firmly believes that in order to help anyone else, a person first has to embrace inner healing and recognize the humanity in everyone.
Stop focusing on things you cannot control.
Elrod is no stranger to hardship. At 20 years old, he was hit head-on by a drunk driver and suffered severe injuries. Doctors said he would never walk again, but he did. Then, in his late 30s, Elrod was diagnosed with a rare cancer and given a 20-30% chance of surviving, which sent him spiraling down a rabbit hole of depression and suicidal thoughts. He made it out alive.
So when COVID-19 hit in March 2020, Elrod didn’t panic. Instead, he asked what he should focus on to lead and encourage his community. He found that the major challenge during the pandemic was choosing not to focus on things that he couldn’t change.
“When we focus on things that are out of our control, as simple as this may sound, we feel out of control,” Elrod says. “That which is out of our control has been amplified over the last two years like never before in my lifetime.”
So how do you avoid being sucked into panic amid chaos? To Elrod, the answer is twofold.
First, there’s the individual aspect. You have to remember that the only things you can truly control are yourself, your responses and how you interact with the world. This is exactly the lesson that the miracle morning practices teach us. Focus on being the best version of yourself—emotionally, mentally, physically and spiritually.
After you’ve taken care of yourself, show up for your fellow human beings. Doubling down on self-care will help prepare you to serve others. Service is the ultimate tool for community care and self-betterment, but it all starts with healing yourself.
Develop your inner freedom.
For Elrod, reading is instrumental to growth. He reads for about 20 minutes each morning and then picks up a book again each evening. Reading isn’t necessarily a laidback activity for Elrod; he takes notes in the margins, underlines ideas he wants to incorporate in speeches and re-reads challenging passages to increase his understanding.
When asked about book recommendations, Elrod emphatically recommends The Inner Work, which he’s re-read three times. Elrod has a special relationship with this work, namely because when he first read it, he’d already begun writing a book with the same core concepts. He ceased work on his own publication, but still wants to share a core tenet he calls inner freedom.
“The way that I define inner freedom is it’s our ability to choose our experience of life in every moment,” he explains to Ahumada. “If you want to be excited, if you want to be at peace, if you want to feel fulfilled, inner freedom is that ability.”
To Elrod, the concept of inner freedom is reminiscent of Tony Robbins’ idea of state management, meaning it’s the ability to choose how you feel and create the mindset you need at any given time. He believes it is the most important skill to develop in life. Need to heal a relationship? Adjust your mindset. Need to develop more confidence? Get in that state and make it happen.
Elrod may never write a book on inner freedom, but he is writing. He recently co-authored a book called The Miracle Morning for Parents and Families, as well as a playbook companion. The playbook, which Elrod says his wonderful co-authors Mike and Lindsay McCarthy primarily wrote, provides a template of actionable steps for personal and family development.
Using the framework laid out by The Morning Miracle, the family playbook helps parents facilitate meetings, goal setting, deadlines and aspirations with their kids. Preparing the next generation to offer value through service is just the latest manifestation of Elrod’s desire to lead through service.