Dan Millman is a former world champion gymnast, coach, and college professor, and has written 17 books published in 29 languages. His classic, Way of the Peaceful Warrior, was released as a film by Universal Pictures in 2007. His teachings have influenced people from all walks of life.
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Worst Entrepreneur moment
- Dan shares a story about the day he became an insurance salesman. We’ve all experienced this gut wrenching experience during our trying 20’s…
Entrepreneur AH-HA Moment
- 2 Killer quotes for you on this one:
- Everything is difficult until it becomes easy…
- Trust in Allah, but tie your camel.
Small Business Resource
Best Business Book
Dan: I'm positively incendiary, John.
John: Yes. Dan is a former world champion gymnast, coach, and college professor and has written 17 books published in 29 languages. His classic, Way of the Peaceful Warrior, was released as a film by Universal Pictures in 2007. His teachings have influenced people from all walks of life. Dan, say what's up to Fire Nation, and share what's going on in your world right now.
Dan: Right now I'm enjoying speaking with you and sharing with your audience, but in general these days I just got back from Australia and Japan doing some teaching there and getting back into the time zone and working back into a new book. I think it's my 17th or 18th. I stopped counting around 15, but yes, the third and final book in what I call the Peaceful Warrior trilogy. That's what's up right now.
John: Well, I'm excited to grab a copy of that when it comes out because, Dan, one thing that I love about your writing, about your teachings, is mindsets, and that's where I wanna start right now. I always start these episodes with what I call the one-minute mindsets where I grab five insights from your mind, the first insight being ideally, what are the first 80 minutes of your day look like?
Dan: Well, not even ideally. Realistically my day starts out even before I get out of bed. I do a few basic exercises. I just turned 69 years old. They've moved my books from the New Age to the Middle Age section in the stores now, so a lot of my workout looks like physical therapy these days, but I start even before getting out of bed doing some certain isometrics. That gets into my morning routine.
I do something called the Peaceful Warrior Workout, which I've taught all over the world. It's a four-minute routine of movement, deep breathing, tension release and start the day right, so it usually starts with a workout. Today I went for a bike ride through Brooklyn's Prospect Park after that, and then breakfast and then checking e-mail, and then I'm into my writing. That's what my day, the first 80 minutes or so, look like.
John: Starting off on the right foot. You have some strengths, Dan. We're gonna talk about those in a minute, but what would you consider your biggest weakness as an entrepreneur?
Dan: That's probably pretty clear, and I may share this weakness with others. They say that to be successful at what you do, you have to be good at two things: to be good at what you do and to be good at promoting what you do. I like working on what I do, which is speaking and writing, but I'm not as enthusiastic about promoting. I know people who aren't that good at what they do, but they're great at promoting what they do, and I think both are important to do quality work.
If you don't promote it or market it, you can't help anybody who doesn't know you exist. So I know it's important, but I'm kind of a minimalist in terms of self-promotion. It's just my instincts. I have written for 30 years word-of-mouth, and I really like it that way. I'm coming across all the time people saying, "I can help you to get more of an Internet presence and more social media," but that's my reluctance. It's probably a weakness, and I acknowledge it, but I'm just kind of holding steady in that realm right now.
John: So, Dan, I know a lot of Fire Nation definitely sympathizes with this weakness and relates to it, so has there been one thing that you've done that's kind of helped you improve on this in maybe just even a slight manner?
Dan: Well, I'm a strong believer that a little of something is better than a lot of nothing, so I have a Facebook fan page. It's got almost 90,000 followers through no intense efforts on my part. People just like my work, and I share some favorite quotations. It's been a hobby of mine for over 30 years, maybe 40 years. I collect many, many choice quotations that really speak to people at a deeper level with wit or depth of insight.
So I share a couple of those with my Facebook followers. That's pretty much what I do, and same thing on Twitter, so it's a way of providing some value, and once in a while I announce a new workshop that's coming out or some other new development. So I am involved, it's not as is I'm ignoring the realities of letting people know you exist in all the noise and static out there.
John: So what's your biggest strength?
Dan: Well, I think my biggest strength probably is that I tend to be an optimist. I look at the upside of things. It's not that I ignore the downside, but the worst that happens is I fail, I learn, and I move on. So even when I was a gymnast, it was always like how perfectly can I do this move, not will I survive, will I crash? So I guess that's more of an innate strength, but I think it can be cultivated just looking at what's the potential, where can this go, and that's how I'm hardwired, I think.
John: Yeah, well, even just by listening to your morning routine, it's very obvious that you have a lot of great habits, but what's one habit that Dan Millman wishes that he had?
Dan: You know, I've thought about that because I saw some questions ahead of time, and I don't really wish I had a habit I don't. I'm where I am, and I'm content with that. I learn and evolve over time like anybody, but if there was a habit I wished I'd had, I'd have it.
John: So you have a lot of cool things going on, 17 books in 29 languages, but what's the one thing right now that has you most fired up?
Dan: That's an interesting question to me because I don't really deal necessarily with fired up. Let me explain why. Somebody came up to me after a talk I gave once and said, "Dan, I don't know, I feel so inspired," and I said, "Don't worry, it'll pass." Because inspiration comes and goes. So does motivation, so it's possible to hear a speaker and have a moment of inspiration or motivation, but it goes and comes and waxes and wanes, so the horse I'm betting on is effort over time.
So to me whether or not I'm feeling fired up about working on my new book, for example, and I don't feel inspired or fired up all the time, I still do the craft. Sometimes it's inspiration, sometimes it's a grind, but I can still get the work done. So I focus more on accepting whatever thoughts or feelings happen to be coming up into my awareness at the time, positive or negative, but then I focus on what needs doing here, and then I get into it. In fact I thought I would share this with your listeners.
Dan: Some good advice: to progress toward our goals and move in the directions of our dreams, I find there are two basic methods. The first one is very popular. I'm about to relate it. The second one is the one I most recommend. The first one is this: find a way to quiet our minds, create empowering beliefs, raise our self-esteem and practice positive self-talk to find our focus and affirm our power to free our emotions and visualize positive outcomes so that we can develop the confidence to generate the courage to find the determination to make the commitment to feel sufficiently motivated to do whatever it is we need to do. Phew.
John: Oh, man.
Dan: Or the way I recommend, the second option, is we can just do it.
Dan: Because it's always gonna come down to that.
John: So, Dan, you're a storyteller. It's already very obvious to our listeners that you are just a master when it comes to telling stories, and I can remember the first time that I had an experience with the Way of the Peaceful Warrior. I was actually out on a run. I downloaded the Audible book, and it was a Maine rainy morning, and so there was kinda some fog shrouding everywhere. Every corner seemed to kind of open up a new foggy lane, and it was just the music that you have in there and the way that the story is told, it really was a pretty surreal experience.
It's actually something I'll never forget, but what I want you to do is kind of bring that storytelling mastership into what we're moving into, which is your journey, your journey, as an entrepreneur. So there's a lot of great times, but we wanna focus on what you would consider the worst entrepreneurial moment, so take us there, Dan, and tell us that story.
Dan: Okay, I don't know how stunning a story it is, but I have actually two very short stories. One, my worst entrepreneurial moment, was when I was just out of college. I tried flying trapeze. I was gonna be in the circus. I was a gymnast, after all. I was trying to find what talents do I have, what values, what interests. That opportunity came up, so I tried that for a while, but then my wife and I have $500.00 left to our name. We ended up sitting in the parking lot outside UCLA in our little Beetle. I was looking in the want ads, and I found the only work that paid you while you were learning was life insurance sales.
Well, I was an outgoing type of guy, so I signed up. They accepted me, and I bought my first suit and started selling life insurance. I was a top producer in the office, sold my friends and relatives the first month, but I realized that this just wasn't my calling. It's a wonderful profession for many people who are drawn to that, but that was my low point in that I said I wanna do well. I wanna succeed for my family. I had a baby on the way, my wife and I, but that was a low point because I realized I don't want to do this.
I will say very soon after that decision, I had no idea what I was gonna do. We went up north to Berkeley. I visited my old coach, and he said, "Hey, Dan, I hear the coaching job just opened up yesterday at Stanford University. Why don't you go talk to the athletic director?" Well, I did, and the next day at 22 years of age, I was appointed the probably youngest ever head gymnastics coach at Stanford University, so maybe that's my worst and best story, but you know that old saying, "The ending of one thing can be the beginning of another." But that was one low point.
One other point later on after I'd coached at Stanford for four years, been very successful there, a later point in my life I knew myself better because you know they say the 20s are the trying 20s because you try this, then you try that, then you try that. I ended up being a personal fitness coach, one of the earlier people in the field. I'd been a gymnastics coach, I understood training, and so I went to people's homes and got them in shape. I only had about four or five clients at the time, again, not a lot of self-promotion. I called myself Rent-a-Coach, and one day it happened. Two people joined a gym, and one other moved out of the country. I had one client left. I couldn't pay the rent.
Without the help of a safety net of some generous relatives, we had to move out. We weren't homeless, but it was close. Some relatives helped us out. We were able to rent another place, and my fortunes turned around very soon after that. I won't go into that story, but they did turn around, and everything got better and better from there, but that was a low point, so that's another story about a bump in the road.
John: The trying 20s, Dan. I can tell you that I resonate with that 100 percent. I'm sure many of our listeners who are either in their 20s or have at least gone through their 20s can definitely understand that aspect, and I think it's only gonna become even more and more so as we just really are living in this world where so many opportunities abound, the 20s are gonna be really just hopping from opportunity to opportunity until one really clicks.
Dan, you had those tough moments, and you recovered from them. You said that you found the silver lining even sometimes at the bottom of those really tough times, but what is the one lesson, if you could just break it down into one takeaway that you want our listeners to walk away with, what's that?
Dan: One saying, it's an Arabic saying actually. It's "Trust in God, trust in Allah, but tie your camel." In other words I think it's important to have faith and trust the process of our life unfolding, and it's good, people like myself sharing these stories because we all have hit really low points and difficulties, so that's where the faith comes in. I define faith as the courage to live as if everything that happens is for our highest good and learning and to keep the thread of attention on that even in those really tough times, but at the same time you tie your camel. In other words you keep your gunpowder dry, you do what needs to be done, you sow seeds.
I think one reason the trying 20s are so trying, and it can go into the 30s as well. I didn't write my first book until I was 34. I think the reason it happens is all of us agree it's important to know ourselves, but we're not always sure why it's important to know ourselves. If we don't know who we are, and if we're confused between what we think we should do or others think we should do and what we really want to do, we may make the right decision for the wrong person, the one we thought we were.
That's why it can take a while to know ourselves well enough, know what are my values, what are my interests, and what are my talents. That takes a while after college or after high school. It takes a while to get into the world and test ourselves, but over time we begin to experience these are my values, these are my talents and interests, and then we can make wiser choices in terms of our directions. So that's what I found in the course of my life experience in those younger days.
John: Trust in Allah, but tie your camel. Fire Nation, wise words. So, Dan, let's shift, and let's move over to another story for sure, but this one's an epiphany, an aha moment. You've had many of these, my friends, but Fire Nation, we're made up of entrepreneurs, small business owners. What's one aha moment that you feel like would really resonate with us, and tell us that story.
Dan: Again, being a Pisces, I couldn't decide between one or another, so I've got two short ones. Now my stories are around writing because writers are entrepreneurs by definition. It's a high risk but potential reward type of occupation. My most recent book is on writing. I collaborated with my daughter, but in the writing field, I was jogging around Stanford one day. It was about a six- or seven-mile run, and it was a very hot day out in the mid or high 80s, and I was really sweating so much I felt like I had a fever. The thought struck me, that aha.
In that moment I said, "I wonder if when the body actually has a fever, we know fevers are designed, the body does those to help kill invading bacteria and viruses. Fevers have a function." I said, "I wonder if working out, running the way I'm doing now, could produce a kind of fever that helps the immune system to kill unfriendly bacteria or viruses." A friend of mine did a little research at the Stanford Medical School for me, found a study that supported that, so I wrote my first article ever because I was contributing articles to a gymnastics magazine, but they were for free. I just contributed them for practice, and I got this idea of an article called, "Let's Catch Jogging Fever."
I submitted it to a couple of health magazines. Then I forgot about it. I put it in the mail and turned my attention elsewhere. A couple weeks later I opened a letter, and it had a $100.00 check, and that was my aha. I said, "It's real. I can actually make money writing, which is what I love to do." In other words for the first time I realized my calling could be a career. It was the first time that became a possibility, it became real, with that check. The second aha, most of us who've written papers in school, like a ten-page paper, is daunting. How am I gonna write ten pages on anything? Well, most of us share that memory.
Well, I had been writing a series of articles for this gymnastics magazine. I continued contributing, and I'd written five, six, seven articles, and they were piling up on my desk. I was walking through my office, and I turned toward that pile, and I went, "Wow, that looks pretty thick. That almost could be the beginnings of a book manuscript." I swear to you it was the first time it ever occurred to me that I might actually write a real book, a whole book, because I said I realized you write one page a day, you've got 365 pages at the end of the year. So I said, "Maybe I can do this."
That was the beginning of starting to shape a book that took seven years to write, but it was called Way of the Peaceful Warrior, and the rest is history.
John: Wow. Fire Nation, I love these aha moments and how Dan shared them because it really hearkens back to just the great books by Jeff Olson and Darren Hardy, The Slight Edge, The Compound Effect. Doing the right things even if they're small things, but doing them consistently, they can add up to huge things over time. Dan's kind of aha that hey, one page a day, and I can do one page a day, would be 365 in a year. That's the size of a book.
Take it in those bite-sized chunks, and Dan, just like we did for the worst entrepreneurial moment, let's kinda sum it up from your perspective for our listeners. What's the one lesson, if we could just take those two great stories and boil it down to one lesson, that you want us to walk away with?
Dan: I can tell you this, and maybe another story quickly if we have time.
John: Yeah, we have time.
Dan: Okay, well, let me tell this story first. When I turned 60 I decided I wanted to do something to celebrate that decade, so I decided I would learn to ride a unicycle. I don't know if any of your listeners have tried, but it's a humbling experience. You get up, and voop, it goes out from under you. Get up, voop, goes out from under you. A friend of mine loaned me his unicycle, and I was even having back problems back then. I don't anymore, but at the time, but even with that I spent an hour and a half the first day holding on to the fence of a tennis court, the chain link fence, trying to go around the entire perimeter.
It took me more than an hour. Just a couple pedals, and it would go out, and then holding, getting a death grip on that chain link fence, and every day I came back for about 20 minutes. I could only careen for about six pedals at the end of the first week. At the end of the second week I made about 12 pedals, but by the end of the third week, and this is a longer story. I'm keeping it short. By the end of the third week, John, I could ride figure eights around the tennis court on that unicycle.
Dan: I learned two things from that: I learned that everything is difficult until it becomes easy. In fact it may seem impossible until it becomes easy. The second thing I learned is there were days where everything fell apart, where I felt worse than I was the week before, really discouraging. I was confused, my body was confused, my mind was confused, but then I recognized that usually the day after that so-called bad day, I made a breakthrough, a sudden improvement.
I realized that the learning was actually happening on those so-called bad days, and so I learned that after those bad days, if you stay with it, comes a breakthrough. This can be true in a relationship, when you have a crisis in a relationship, personal or professional. It can happen in skill learning of any kind, so if you stay with it and persist through those confusing times when everything seems to fall apart, you can often have that breakthrough to deeper levels. So the summary of that in response to your first question was I think it's important to dream big, but start small, and then connect the dots.
John: Everything is difficult until it becomes easy. Dan, I love that phrase, and Fire Nation, when we get frustrated because we're doing things that are taking up our mental bandwidth and we're struggling, remember this. Remember this phrase that it is difficult until it becomes easy, and that can really see you through so you can maintain that perseverance and persistence to get to the other side.
Dan, we have some great questions for you coming up in the lightning round, but before we get there, let's take a minute to thank our sponsors. Dan, welcome to the lightning round where you get to share incredible resources and mind-blowing answers. Sound like a plan?
Dan: Sounds good to me.
John: What was holding you back from becoming an entrepreneur?
Dan: Nothing. Next question.
John: What is the best advice you've ever received?
Dan: I'd have to say it has to do with again, trusting yourself in the process of your life. We measure ourselves against unrealistic standards, other people. The Buddhists say that comparison is a form of suffering. Many older people compare themselves to their younger self, saying, "I used to be able to do this, and I used to be able to do that." I think just trusting ourself right now in our process, that that is perfect on some level, exactly what we need. It gives us a more resourceful approach to whatever is happening, so I think that's probably the best advice I've ever received or that I give, perhaps.
John: What's a personal habit that you have that you believe contributes to your success?
Dan: Just work, effort over time. I think that's the horse I'm betting on. There are many New Age ideas of just focusing and intending, and things magically will appear and manifest. If that works for somebody, I say keep doing it, but the horse I'm betting on, as I've mentioned, is effort over time. So my personal habit is I just work. It's not as if I'm a robot where I say, "I will write 300 words today and every day no matter what." That sounds good, but it doesn't always work like that. In fact the first phase when I write is what I call my pre-procrastination phase. I'm not ready to procrastinate yet, but I'll get to it soon.
So I go through different phases in writing. I'm a human being, and sometimes it's better than others, but I work over time. I have a goal. In the Peaceful Warrior movie, the character of Dan has a revelation, and he realizes, as he says to the old man he calls Socrates, he says, "It's the journey that makes us happy, not the destination." Well, that may be true, there's a lot of wisdom there and encouragement. However, without a destination in mind, there is no journey. We just wander around. So to our Point A, we have to pick a Point B. I guess that's what I do. I pick a Point B each day and move toward it.
John: Do you have an Internet resource like Evernote that you can share with our listeners?
Dan: It may be self-serving, but it's also maybe useful for other people.
Dan: My Internet resource will be my website, PeacefulWarrior.com. I have there a life purpose calculator, can give people a taste, some clarity about their life path, and there are some online courses that I offer that people pay whatever they want. They can pay $1.00, $100.00 or whatever in between, so it's not a commercial announcement here, it's an opportunity. So I think the best Internet resource I can give is my website, PeacefulWarrior.com.
John: Can we find that four-minute warm-up at the beginning of each day?
Dan: The four-minute workout I teach is one of my online courses, yep, fully with video and everything.
John: Oh, love that. So, Dan, if you could recommend one book to join the Way of the Peaceful Warrior on our show notes page, what would it be and why?
Dan: For your listeners I think the most useful book would be a recent one called The Four Purposes of Life. It's especially useful for people going through a transition of some kind. “I'm looking for clarity.” Just as we separate the days of the year into four seasons and the points on a compass into four primary directions, by looking at our lives through the filter of the four purposes I present in the book, I believe it gives a lot of clarity and gives a handle on where we're going and the importance and the value of our joys and our difficulties in everyday life, seeing life as a way of spiritual weight training, understanding the difference between our career and our calling and why they're both important.
They're not necessarily the same, though sometimes they are. I go into how to find one's hidden life path that often we remain unconscious of for decades and then the most important purpose of all, so that's why I'm recommending The Four Purposes of Life.
John: Well, Fire Nation, I know that you love audio, so I teamed with Audible. If you haven't already, you can get an amazing audio book for free at EOFireBook.com, and I'm telling you the audio version of Way of the Peaceful Warrior's amazing. Is The Four Purposes of Life also in the audio format, Dan?
Dan: Yes, it is.
John: Nice, nice. Well, Dan, this is the last question of the lightning round, but it's a doozy. So imagine that you woke up tomorrow morning in a brand new world identical to earth, but you knew no one. You still have all the experience and knowledge you currently have. Your food and shelter, taken care of, but all you have is a laptop and $500.00. What would you do in the next seven days?
Dan: I would start an outreach. In my life I go through periods of inner work and then outreach, and I would get on that computer, I would connect with everything I could and offer a service that's useful to others. To me when we find a way to serve others and connect with other people through service, that brings a quality of fulfillment that no amount of travel, money, possessions can touch. When we discover it, it's really the only game in town, that's what I would do.
If you provide a product or a service to other people, you connect with them, and the world brings back rewards. I would probably start doing consultations and life readings. I've found a talent for that. Those who've read my book The Life You Were Born to Live or The Four Purposes of Life understand that, so I would start doing readings for people and start my entrepreneurial approach from there on that identical world.
John: Well, Dan, what I love is that you just have your priorities set, and I know that I've learned a lot from your book. So what I want to do is end today how we started, which is on fire with you sharing one parting piece of guidance, the best way that we can connect with you. Then we'll say goodbye.
Dan: Sure, I'm reachable, again, through the website PeacefulWarrior.com. Click on Contact, and you can get to me through my assistant. She sends me anything I need to see, and that's probably the best way to stay in touch, and I wanna reach out and wish your listeners all the best.
John: Oh, appreciate that, Dan, and what's just your one parting piece of guidance?
Dan: Focus on the present moment. We've all heard that, but it is our moment of power. If we wanna simplify our life, if we want to free our mind of a lot of thoughts. Mark Twain once said, "I've had many troubles in my life, most of which never happened" because most of our troubles are up in our heads. If we wanna get out of our heads and lose our mind, come to our senses, it's come back to this moment. The body lives moment to moment because the quality of our moments is gonna become the quality of our lives.
John: Love that. So, Fire Nation, you're the average of the five people you spend the most time with, and you've been hanging out with Dan and JLD today, so keep up the heat, and head over to EOFire.com. Just type Dan in the search bar. His show notes page will pop right up with everything he's recommended today that we've talked about. Of course go directly to PeacefulWarrior.com. I know I'm going to snag that four-minute warm-up workout pretty much right now. Dan, I wanna thank you for sharing your journey with Fire Nation today. For that, my friend, we salute you.
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