Giving back and getting more


Episode 50 with Justin Baldoni, star of ‘Jane the Virgin’


In this season of giving, Justin Baldoni, star of the hit television show “Jane the Virgin” joins us for this 50th episode of Charged Up! to talk about how to give back and, ultimately, get more. Baldoni might be a bad boy on the small screen, but in real life he dedicates himself to serving others.

No matter where you are on your financial journey, there are ways to give back and increase your own joy and wealth. We’ll talk about the various ways you can give back, from dedicating your time to others to donating points from your credit card. No act of kindness is too small and can reap great rewards. 

Let’s get Charged Up! about giving back.


Jenny Hoff: Justin, thank you so much for joining me today
for our 50th episode of Charged Up!

Justin Baldoni: Oh, so cool, thank you for having me. Fifty,
that’s huge. Congratulations. 

Hoff: Thank you, thank
you. So, you’re a pretty incredible person. Many people might know you from “Jane the Virgin,” but you’ve done so much
outside of that, from your documentaries on those with terminal illnesses to
your tireless work serving your community. As someone who has a family with
two children now and a demanding job, finding the time to still give it back is
not easy, so can you tell us a little bit first about what inspires you to
continuously find ways to serve others? 

Baldoni: First of all,
whoa, it’s quite a first question and an introduction. I think that for me, it
starts with faith, right? It starts with kind of your core belief system, and
in my life, I was raised in the Baha’i faith. In the Baha’i faith, we are
taught that we are all one; we are all one human family. All the religions are
one, all the races are one, we are all just one. If we strip away our skin, we
are all the same on the inside, and we’re also all created unique.

No two people
on this Earth are identical and that’s a really interesting thing to think
about. No two things on this Earth are identical. That means that every single
thing placed on this Earth has its own unique ability and purpose to serve, and
it’s really important to me in my life that I kind of keep that perspective.

believe that God created me unique just like he created you unique and the
other 7 billion people on this Earth unique, and every single one of us has the
capacity to serve in only the way that we were meant to. So, in my life, the
Baha’i faith says to me, the purpose of life is to know God and to serve each
other. The contributing force of good in mankind, to be a source of unity, to
be balm to the suffering of friends, to a stranger, just to be of service, and
that’s kind of where it all starts from.

So, all of the stuff that I have going
on at work, my career, it’s all rooted in the same thing and that is to be of
service, and so my perspective has always been that if I can align my core
values, my belief system, if I work and I can use my work as a form of service,
then everything will work out.

It’s not about money, it’s not about fame, it’s
not about any of that stuff; it’s about figuring out how to use whatever tools
we have been given to serve. 

Hoff: Yes, I mean, I
like that especially when you say it’s using the tools that you already have
and using the work that you have to do it, so there’s a lot of – and I want to
get into that a little bit about how you use the talents that you have in video
production and directing and that kind of stuff as well to serve others with
your documentaries – but first, I want to talk about why people should give
back for them, for their own personal journey? Now, I’ve heard from many
successful people and life coaches that giving back is actually an integral
part of increasing your own resources. That may sound counterintuitive if
you’re not spending time working for money or if you’re giving away your money,
your own wealth should decrease. Yet that’s not really the case, so can you
talk about the law of attraction and what you have seen when it comes to people
who devote their time and money to helping others and what they get in return?

Baldoni: Those are great
questions. I’m right in the middle of kind of what everybody says about this
topic, right? Yes, there’s the law of attraction, there’s all these things that
we kind of made up. These new ideas, like I remember when “The Secret” came
out, I was like ‘it’s not a secret.” It’s in every religious text you could
ever imagine from the beginning of the history of time, but I do feel like it’s
about intention, right?

So, on the one side, I don’t feel like it’s pure to
give because you are expecting something in return, right? So, this idea of
giving so that you can get something back or – they say if you give, then you
get twice as much back from the universe, that, I have an issue with because I
believe that it’s when you give, expecting nothing in return, that that’s when
it comes back twofold, and I believe there is a massive test that lies in the

So, if I give and I’m being of service, let’s say I’m someone blessed
with a lot of money and I’m just financially giving something, but I’m doing it
for a tax write-off, I’m doing it because I believe that the universe is going
to give me twice as much back, I don’t believe that that is pure. I don’t
necessarily believe that it’s going to come back. However, the test is, can I
give purely, knowing that something could come back but truly wanting to make a
difference in the world and just let go? And I also believe that the other part
of giving is just be active detaching yourself from the material prison that is
our financial system. 

This idea that we spend our entire life
acquiring and trying to bring dirt – really, all money is is dirt, all money
is is the stuff that we’ve fabricated. We spend our whole life working and
trying to acquire these things that we can’t take with us when we die, so this
idea that we should give, well, it makes perfect sense because we are not going
to take it with us, so we have to practice letting go at some point, so I think
that there’s a beautiful test in that. There’s this, I need to let go of this
stuff that I’ve been acquiring and working my entire life for. I see that
there’s people in need and struggling everywhere I look. You’d have to live in
a rock to not see that there’s a need, so why does it make sense for me to have
billions of dollars or millions of dollars when a person 20 feet away from me
cannot even pay their rent and they are just as entitled to it as I am?

And I
think that that is where the test comes in. Can you give freely without
attachment, know that you might not get it back, and then if it comes back, can
you be willing to give again? And that’s what I think this thing that separates the
truly, truly successful great people from people that have the right
intention is can you do it really with a pure motive? There’s a quote in the
Baha’i faith that says that the betterment of the world can be accomplished
through pure and godly deeds and through commendable and seemly conduct. It’s
interesting that these four things are mentioned.

Pure and godly, so what is
godly? It’s a good deed, right? But it’s a pure deed as well, that means the
betterment of the world has to be pure and a good deed. You can’t just do good
deeds. It’s got to be pure, right? And then you can be pure but you’re not
doing good deeds. You need both of them, and that’s what I think the big lesson
is. That’s kind of my feeling about giving.

Hoff: And what about
people who don’t have millions or billions of dollars, but what about people
who already feel financially strained themselves, or perhaps they have a really
big family to take care of or they’re working two jobs, and they say,
“OK, maybe one day, if I strike it big or I win the lottery, I can give
back, but right now, I’m tapped out on my resources”? What do you say to
them about finding a way to give back and what it can do for them?

Baldoni: I
think that we had misinterpreted what giving back is, so I think that we spend
so much time talking about giving back, thinking about it as a financial
monetary contribution when in reality, it’s not, right? That’s a piece of it,
of course, and if you’re somebody that has the resources, then beautiful, but I
believe that our most valuable asset, the thing that we have that is worth more
than anything, that is infinitely more valuable than anything that’s in our
bank accounts is our time, because we have a ticking clock. We know there is
only a finite amount of time that we are on this planet, so what are we doing
with it? That’s worth far more than any piece of paper that the government can
give you, right?

Of course, you have to take care of yourself, and you have your
hierarchy of needs, and you have to have food and clothing and shelter, but time
is valuable, so what I say to those people is that, first of all, if you are
taking care of your family, you are already serving, right? That’s worth one.
If you’re taking care of other people, you are already doing part of that job. The other is, what are areas you can give your time to? And maybe there is no
time outside of what you are already doing because you are a single mom and you
are raising three kids or your husband is working all the time and you’re
barely holding it together, and what I would say is, it’s how you are raising your

It’s how you are interacting with the outside world. It’s what are
you leaving with a human being every time you have an interaction with that
person? Are you attempting to leave the world better than you found it? Are you
attempting to make somebody smile or brighten their day? Are you giving people
compliments and making them feel hopeful? Are you speaking to people in a way
that makes them feel happy and acknowledges their potential, right?

This is
also service, and this is, I think, more valuable than a monetary contribution, and
I believe that when we start to kind of reframe our lives and think about it
that way, then, I think, this may sound silly, but I think money ends up coming.
If you just keep doing what you are doing and you’re a good person, then money
ends up coming.

But more than that, if you’re really doing it the right way,
then you realize that like it’s almost as if you have enough to survive and you can
give in so many other ways, and some of the happiest people I know don’t have a
lot of money. They deal with more than the richest people I know, so it’s all
about perspective in my opinion. 

Hoff: And I think
what’s also important is kind of what it does for your own confidence, and if
you feel like you are always lacking and you are always needing almost from
others and you’re always lacking in resources, it does something to your own
psyche and the ability to kind of grow versus when you are giving, like you
said, even of your time, that confidence in you of your abilities and your potential
to grow, I think grows itself. What do you think?

Baldoni: I think the lack
of confidence comes from comparison. It comes from, first of all, the way we
were raised and whether or not we were told we were enough as we were. I mean,
I’m somebody that appears to be very confident, but I also have a lack of
confidence. I think that all of us have a lack of confidence. It’s really hard
to really be genuinely confident. How could we? There is how many billions of
us and guess what? None of us has any idea really what the purpose of life is
or where we’re going, if there is life after death, if all these religion is
true, like what’s going to happen to my family? Am I going to be remembered?
None of us really know.

All we know is that we are here sharing this common
experience together. So a lack of confidence, I think it’s very normal.

However, I think that it’s really important, again, to put things in a
perspective and recognize that we are a drop in an ocean, right? We are one of
billions and billions, and billions of people that are all sharing a spiritual
experience that we call life, and it’s very easy to lose sight of that and to
think that we’re just in it alone, and that’s where I think a lot of our problems
come from, it’s this idea of me against the world and nobody cares about me, or
who cares what I’m going to do? And then of course, depression sinks in, but it
comes down to like waking up in the morning and asking yourself like,
“All  right, what can I do to be of service today?” There’s another quote,
like, “What can I do for anybody that crosses my path today?” Even if
it’s a smile.

What I found and when I’m feeling down on myself, the quickest
way for me to get out of the depression or to get out of that fog is to make
myself useful to another human being. I think God gave us this really
interesting gift, like this shared connection that feels good to give, it feels
good to help somebody else, it feels good to provide. Suddenly, we find our
place in the world and we recognize that we are needed and we are wanted, and
we have a purpose, but if we are just stuck in our room all day long and we are
not being useful to anybody, then of course, what will happen? We get lost,
right? We get lost. It’s like a plant not getting to see the sun, right?
What happens to the plant, it dies. It gets lost. It doesn’t get watered, it
doesn’t get heated, it doesn’t get its light. It needs a light, and we are just
like these plants. We need light and where can we get light? We can get light
by interacting with other people, by being of use to them, by letting them be
seen, and then that’s the quickest way to get out of our own crap.

Now, we want
to gain confidence? Give. Give your time, give your energy, give your love. 

Hoff: Absolutely, and
I want to talk to you about your Skid Row Carnival of Love that is coming up in
January and you do this every year. Can you talk about kind of how you started
this and how it’s grown, and what’s the purpose of it, and what does it entail?

Baldoni: Sure. This
started, like most of the things in my life, not really intentionally. I like
to think that I’m just – I try to be kind of an open channel to God, and
sometimes, it gives me random ideas that I don’t know what I’m supposed to do
with but I just kind of follow them and they kind of grow into things, and the
Carnival of Love was something that was never originally a carnival. It was me
not having a lot of friends, feeling lonely and lost in Los Angeles, and
wanting to connect, and there’s a person on Skid Row, the worst man-made
disaster in our country, thousands and thousands of people sleep there every single
day and night, infested by drugs and violence, and sex crimes, and you name it,
it’s all there. But there is a birthday every day on Skid Row and nobody to celebrate it, and I thought for my birthday, maybe I should just take my
friends down there and we should just connect with people. I saw one of my
other best friends do it on his birthday and it really inspired me. It made me
happy, and so I reached out. I had maybe six, seven friends at the time and we
went down to Skid Row and we made sandwiches, we gave our clothing, but it
wasn’t about the clothing or the sandwiches. It was about connecting with
people. It was about meeting them where they are and talking to them and
letting them feel seen and heard, and loved, and then that kind of grew and
grew, and grew, 30 people the next year, and 40 people the next year, and 70
people, and then I randomly found myself back on television as an actor and
with that came a little bit of fame and of course, the way our town works, with
a little bit of fame comes popularity and suddenly, what you say or do means a
little bit more for whatever reason, and so I decided to kind of see if I can
turn that into something a little bit bigger. So the first year of Jane the
Virgin, I had an idea. Again, it wasn’t mine. It just came through me that we
should throw a carnival. It was that simple. As soon as it came out of my
mouth, I was like, “That’s it. We got to do it. We got to throw a
carnival,” because what’s the point of a carnival? A carnival’s true intention is to go through the town and kind of lift it up,
give it something to look forward to, and I thought, well, what better place to
throw a carnival than the worst place in our country? So that’s where it came
from and we started off as, let’s just come together and love. There’s no ulterior
motives, there was no foundation, it was a nonprofit. It was just how can we
all come together on one day and love this group of people that just really,
really deserve it and need it? In the first year, I think about 300 people
came, and the second year, we decided to really make it bigger and about 900
people came, and we served a few thousand homeless, and then the third year
which was last year, we decided to use the carnival as really this Trojan Horse
to bring other nonprofits and groups together that normally wouldn’t work
together. We shut down a large area of Skid Row, we threw a block party, we had
2,000 volunteers come, we served 4,000 homeless and really, it was this Trojan
Horse to also provide the homeless with things that they might not be able to
get: medical services, DMV came and gave people ID cards, we were training them
for a job interviews. We provided, I think 30 jobs that day. We had STD
checking and HIV checks, and feet-washing and haircuts, and all kinds of
things, you name it. On top of gourmet food and carnival games in the
children’s area, it was a day where it didn’t matter if you were rich or poor,
it didn’t matter if you were homeless or not, you were a human being, and for
those three to four hours, I couldn’t tell who was homeless and who’s not
because every single person that came to volunteer, their job was to befriend
another person who is experiencing homelessness and to see them as a human
being, and that’s what happened, and now we’re going into our fourth year. It’s
now an official 501C3 so with that comes the burden to try and raise the money
and all that fun stuff, but really, at the end of the day, this is just a day
where people can come together and love, and that’s really it. It’s just about

Hoff: I think that’s
incredible. It’s incredible, especially because so many thousands of people
then come out too, and so they all get to be impacted and influenced by this.
Even if they don’t volunteer on a regular basis, they can come out for this
day. What about for somebody who might want to do something like you did in
their city or they’re just in a loss of “What can I do? I don’t want to
just give money. I want to actually do something that I can feel that impact
that I can get other people involved and make it a community event.” What
would you suggest to them as far as getting started?

Baldoni: Get started. What
are you waiting for? If we wait to figure out how to do something, we will
never do it.There’s been so many things that I wanted to do and didn’t
do because I took too much time in figuring out how, and I really believe in
this idea that when we have a premonition or a prompt that comes from something
greater than ourselves, if we take one step, then God takes two, and the
universe, whatever you want to call it, it just works out that way, and I think
that of course, it’s an uphill battle and of course, there’s going to be
tremendous adversity and trials, and hardships. Nothing is ever easy but
nothing worthwhile ever really is, and I believe that if you have an idea and
you want to do something that’s for the greater good for the community and it’s
really pure, and a great idea, then you just gotta get up and take a step,
whether that means making a phone call to a friend and saying, “Will you do
this with me?” or it means just going and doing it yourself and hoping
that you attract the right people to do it with you, but I believe that there’s
just not enough time, so don’t wait. Don’t procrastinate to do something that
could make a difference in the world and change somebody’s life because the
more you procrastinate, the more lives that are not going to be able to change
by what you could have done. 

Hoff: Yes, absolutely,
and I’m curious, because you live in a city that’s extremely competitive and
it’s pretty high stress and it’s superficial in many ways, and you’re in an
industry that is not very secure. Any moment, we see with celebrities, they can
rise and fall pretty quickly, and so how do you maintain a groundedness in all
of that and feel peaceful inside, and serving others, does that help you ease
the anxiety that naturally must come from living in a place like Los Angeles
and working in the entertainment business? 

Baldoni: Oh, yes, of
course. Yes, absolutely. I mean, in many ways, I think I’ve designed my life in
a way that everything that I do is really a way for me to stay grounded, like
almost everything I do is intentional, from the way I use my social media to
the way that I’ve built my company, to the way I use Jane the Virgin and my
acting career, it’s all intentional. It’s so easy to get lost in this world,
this is superficial world, and by the way, everything that I do does not mean I
am someone that doesn’t get the anxiety and insecurity. It plagues me all the
time because I’m human and it’s supposed to. You can’t live in a world like the
one we live in and be immune to these things. Unfortunately, we have to be a
part of it and it’s through being a part of it that we can develop the
necessary tools and build the capacity to actually figure out how we can change
it, but in the industry that I’m in, it’s awful. It’s all built on who’s
relevant now and who’s fat now and how good this show is doing, and who’s
watching this? I have my own fears about it and who knows, I can end up working
at a restaurant in three or four years and I’ll have to be okay with that and
be happy, and you know how that will happen? Because I know that I am so much
more than my job title, because I have a family to come home to and a wife who
loves me, and two children. Those are the things that mean more than anything.
So for me, it’s like, yes, I’m absolutely a victim of the fame that’s getting
to everybody else. I think it’s just so, so important to recognize that I am
not the industry that I am in and I am not my chosen profession. I’m Justin, I
am first and foremost a child of God, I’m a spiritual being, having a spiritual
experience. I’m a Baha’i, I’m a husband, I’m a father, I’m a friend, and I’m an
actor, and I’m a director, and I’m a social entrepreneur, and I’m all those
things but those are not the things I am first, and if we divide ourselves by
our professions and our occupations, and the industry that we are living in,
then that’s just probably the quickest way to unhappiness that I could ever think

Hoff: Yes, absolutely,
and I think that’s something that everybody should keep in mind, and we’re
always anxious about the next step in our career or getting enough money or
getting fame, or accolades, but as you said, that shouldn’t be what defines us. 

Baldoni: I think about
the same things. I think about the same things and that’s why I want to make it
very clear that while I am a part of it, it does not mean that I am it so I
think about – and my wife and I talked about it all the time, like “Crap,
I got to use this – I have to figure out how to turn this into this,” but
at the same time, at the end of the day, if it is all taken away, I’m going to
be OK. 


Baldoni: We’re going to be OK.

Hoff: And you’re
really a big family person. I follow you on social media and I see that you
post a lot about now, your two children. How are you going to influence them as
far as giving back and how can you involve them? Can you involve them now? How
early do you think you can involve kids and what would you say to people who
have a family and say, “I want to still be a part with my family and give
my time to others.” What would your suggestion be as far as things they
could do? 

Baldoni: Well, the Baha’i
faith says that before the age of five, child learns all the spiritual
virtues that will take with us throughout this life, so honesty, compassion,
kindness, empathy, right? Trustworthiness, all these things, a child picks up
on before the age of five, so pretty much everything that I’m doing right now
is also for my kids because they’re going to be living in the digital world
world where all these things are going to be traceable. My parents, I wasn’t
able to grow up and trace back any of the things that they did. I just saw
their actions, but we have this global online database where my children are
going to be able to see everything that their father did from the time they
were born to however old they are when they look at it, so the way that I use
my Instagram, the way that I serve, the way that I’m building my company, it’s
all for my kids. It’s so that they can grow up seeing that, look, their dad
wasn’t perfect but their dad tried, and their dad took every area of it and he
tried to do good with it and serve people with it, and he was flawed, and he
screwed up but he showed it to them because I believe that we can’t hide and
conceal our weaknesses to our children. I think that’s a big piece of helping
our children grow, and in terms of the last part of your question which was how
do you do it while maintaining a family and giving time, I think it’s important
that we don’t separate it. Giving and being a part of a family and giving to
your family, they’re not mutually exclusive; you can be both, right? So I
remember, the first year of the carnival, I brought my daughter to Skid Row and
wore her on my chest and she wasn’t even a year old. I have to believe in some
way that the energy of that experience got somewhere inside of her and she’s
going to be there this year. She was sick last year. I was only able to bring
my son. I want to know that they were a part of it. I want them to see it. I
think that being a family man or being a mom, or being whatever you are, I
think that it’s important to get out there and serve with your kids. Teach them,
let them see through your deeds, not your words that you care about others and
you’re trying to be a better person and make a difference in the world. Let’s
just talk about it and do it, and there’s nothing greater than that. 

Hoff: And truly,
that’s probably a better gift that you can give them than anything material
that costs a lot of money at the end of the day.

Baldoni: Well, yes, the
best, the best. It doesn’t matter how much you leave your kids as an
inheritance. If you leave them with memories, service, and teaching them of
true friendship and being selfless, and really, that’s far worth more than
anything you could ever have in the bank account. 

Hoff: Fantastic. I
agree with what you say and I really hope that people that were listening to this
kind of get these ideas in their mind of how they can give back and get their
minds off of themselves for a moment, and see what they can truly acquire. 

Finally, our show
is called Charged Up, so what gets
you charged up, Justin, about giving back? 

Baldoni: What gets me
charged up is I believe that everyone has a light and what’s so powerful is the light of unity,
that it can illuminate the whole Earth, and I believe that to be the case. I
think that unity is a light and the world is dark right now, and we need light.
Every single one of us, I look at the world and I see 7 billion opportunities
to have light. I think I see all these lanterns, right? They’re not turned on,
almost. Sometimes, they’re not on. It doesn’t mean that the potentiality of the
lamp doesn’t exist. All you have to do is turn it on, hit the switch, and
suddenly, you are lighting up the whole dark area, and it’s no accident that a
little tiny bit of light can lighten up an entire dark room, and you can even
go into science, right? It’s like darkness is really just the absence, right,
of photons, the absence of light, so if we have all of these light, so if we
have all of these human beings, they are all receptacles. They are all
potential light givers. What gets me charged up is imagining and thinking about
how many people I can interact with on a daily basis and help them activate
their own life because that’s how we make a difference, is you don’t change the
world by doing it yourself. You change the world by empowering other people to
recognize that they can change the world, and so that’s what gets me charged
up, is thinking about how many billions of people there are and how much
potential there is for unity and for goodness.

Hoff: Fantastic.
Justin, thank you so much for taking the time out of your schedule to talk to
us today. I think that what you say holds a lot of truth and it’s very
inspiring. Thank you so much.

Baldoni: Thank you for
allowing me the opportunity to serve. I appreciate it.

See related: Charged Up! podcast: How to handle love and money, Charged Up! podcast: The mind-money connection 

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