I am so excited about our guest tonight. He has inspired passion in millions of people around the world for more than 25 years. His autobiographical novel The Way of the Peaceful Warrior was totally a major source of inspiration for me when I first read it. I know it has been also for millions around the world, and for all of you.
This year The Peaceful Warrior, a feature-length film starring Nick Nolte based on Dan's book, was released by Lions Gate. It's an incredible movie. I was totally stuck on the whole film. I wouldn't move from my seat, and I was 100% into it. I urge all of our listeners to go out and see it as soon as this call is over. You will love it!
Dan is a former world champion athlete, a university coach, a martial arts instructor, and a college professor. His books, including The Journey of Socrates, The Way of the Peaceful Warrior, Everyday Enlightenment, and The Life You Were Born to Live, have inspired people in 29 languages.
His keynote seminars and his training has influenced people from all walks of life and all ages, including leaders in the field of health, psychology, education, business, politics, sports, entertainment, and the arts.
Dan and his wife Joy live in northern California. He has three grown daughters and two grandsons. Dan, we are so honored and thrilled to have you with us tonight.
My co-host is Allan Hunkin, the founder and President of Success Talk Radio, which offers more than 45 channels of online interview content on success in every possible area of human life. You can check out those interviews by going to www.SuccessTalk.com.
Allan, thanks so much for being with us to conduct tonight's interview.
ALLAN HUNKIN: I couldn't be happier! Thank you so much for inviting me to do this. Dan Millman, nice to finally talk to you! In 540 interviews and 10 years on the Internet doing interviews with thought leaders around the world, this is the first time you and I have spoken.
DAN MILLMAN: Amazing!
ALLAN HUNKIN: I have a little book that I wrote about worthiness, so I am just really interested to find out how I successfully avoided meeting you up until now, and what lessons there are for us tonight on this call.
Dan, we're talking tonight about passion and the things that are most important to you. How did those things that are the most important to you in your life lead you to the work that you do today?
DAN MILLMAN: Let me first say I heard people checking in, and I want to say good morning, good afternoon, and good evening to everyone out there listening. What a wonderful interesting group has checked in.
In terms of your question, Allan, when I was a young gymnast years ago I think I found my calling, or my passion, for teaching. Not everyone has that particular passion. We each have to find out own hearts desire.
I realized one day that no matter how much I improved myself, only one person benefited. But if I could somehow share what I have learned with other people and influence their lives in a positive way, that thought excited me! That made my life more meaningful.
So I began to teach what I knew, which was gymnastics, and later movement in general, sports and movement, and any kind of training. I began looking at what qualities create talent for sports. My research was in terms of what physical qualities need to be developed like strength, suppleness, stamina and sensitivity, qualities like rhythm, coordination, timing balance and reflex speed. I found ways to train these things in people.
When I was coaching at Stanford University my theories did bear out in practice. Our team went from the bottom of the conference when I first started there, to one of the top three teams in the nation. When I left, I trained the top US Olympian. I might still be coaching today, but then I was dealing with my own personal problems. I realized that being able to do somersaults, handstands, cartwheels and other physical skills didn't help me that much when I went out on a date, or hoping I got married, or when I had children, when I dealt with financial issues, and career decisions and the many challenges we all face in daily life.
That is when I began to ask bigger questions. I didn't ask what quality creates talent for sports, but what qualities create talents for living? That passion or calling led me to what I do now in terms of writing books and presenting my seminars.
ALLAN HUNKIN: I made my living as an air show pilot for a long time. I loved flying, and I often said when I had the money to fly I didn't have the time; when I had the time I didn't have the money. Life is like that. Often it is hard to make a living doing our passion.
Can you recall the first time you started to make a living from what was important to you?
DAN MILLMAN: Oh, I sure can! It's like one of those dollars you frame and put up on the wall. I always had different interests, and I was kind of a stubborn guy. My daughters went to Stanford and Harvard. They are very smart, got straight A's, and did well in all their classes. That is sort of a blessing and a curse.
I didn't have that curse. I did well in the classes that interested me, and did not do well in the classes I was not interested in. I always talked to my heart, "What am I here to do?" What felt most relevant to me, I pursued.
If my little girls had asked me way back then, "Daddy, what should I do to make a living?" I would have suggested, "Do what you love, and get someone to pay you for it." That's pretty good advice, but maybe idealistic.
For people who are interested in the creative arts, for example, writing, music, painting, whatever creative art you are interested in, I recommend that they think of their work as two jobs. One is that creative passion they have, and the other is a day job. Ideally that day job is practical, it's something they're good at and also find value in. That would be the bread and butter that keeps them stable. They can then have the free attention and the energy to pursue that creative passion.
Some may like the idea of being a starving artist, because that seems romantic to them, and they feel that starving will help motivate them to be successful in their art. I haven't found that necessarily to be the case in most instances.
When my first book sold, my agent said, "Well, we've got an offer on your book", which was just amazing. He said, "I'm going to give you some advice", which I've never forgotten. He told me, "Don't give up your day job yet."
So I've always had a day job. I was coaching, and then I also wrote. Many people do their creative passion on the side. For example, Jean Auel, who wrote the best selling book Clan of the Cave Bear, was a single mother of five children. If anybody had the excuse "I don't have the time", it would have been her. But she got up at 4 AM and wrote till 7 AM when it was time to get the kids up and go to school. Again, we've all heard it. We don't have time, we make time.
In terms of the first dollar I ever made, one day I was out jogging. It was a really hot day – I was sweating, my body felt really hot, and the idea came to me, "Gee, I wonder if I have some kind of artificial fever, because my body is so hot. Is this training or working out creating a fever in my body that might do the same thing a fever does if we are feeling ill, which is it kills invading bacteria? Could jogging actually have health benefits beyond what we normally think of them, but actually create an artificial fever?"
I had a friend do some research for me at the Stanford Medical School, and I wrote an article called "Let's Catch Jogging Fever". I got a check in the mail for $100 from "Let's Live" magazine. It was magical! I actually sold my writing for money.
That was quite encouraging, and I kept writing, and the rest is the last 25 or 30 years.
ALLAN HUNKIN: It's too bad I didn't read that article. I never did catch that fever to do jogging, but there is still time.
DAN MILLMAN: Who was it that said, "When I get the urge to exercise I lie down until it passes"? That's another approach. People have to find their own way.
Let me just say something else here. In terms of an historical context, my father drove a lunch truck to different factories in downtown Los Angeles, a catering truck which sold food and snacks off that truck. I said, "Dad, does your work make you happy?"
He looked at me kind of puzzled and said, "Well, it never occurred to me." He came from the Depression generation, a generation of long time past, where people did not think about work fulfilling them. All he could do was make money to support his family. People traveled during the Depression to do anything for a dollar a day just to put food on the table.
Many of us have the wonderful luxury now to look for work that matches our values, our talents, work that we find fulfilling. It's a wonderful, productive search because it forces us to really examine, "Who am I? What do I value?" It's not the same for everybody.
That is part of our spiritual path, the search for an occupation. They call it the trying twenties, because people who are in their twenties try a little of this, and they try a little of that. It's a natural part of the process. Young people would like to have a central certainty they will know what their direction is going to be; but for most of us, we have to explore and experiment a bit.
ALLAN HUNKIN: I sure know what you're talking about in regards to this. I always said as I get richer and more famous I will pursue my passion. It had to look a certain way, like a certain job or a certain activity that was flamboyant and exciting. It's interesting, the more I'm becoming those things now, the less I need it to be that way. It doesn't really matter at the end of the day, does it?
DAN MILLMAN: The Arabs had a wonderful thing -"Trust in God, but tie up your camel." I talk about living with your head in the clouds, but your feet on the ground. There is the dichotomy. We still need to take care of business down here on earth and function in practical ways in everyday life; even if we explore over time who we are, what our values are, and what kind of service we would like to perform in the world, and what kind of preparation we need to do that service.
Joseph Campbell once said that many people who pursue a particular path from the time they are very young, a direct line through college, graduate school and so on may come to the top of their professional ladder and discover it is leaning against the wrong wall.
The swim coach at Stanford when I was there was named Jim. Jim went to law school and became an attorney, and realized he didn't like doing that. He then said, "What do I love? It's swimming and coaching." He ended up being one of the most successful swim coaches in the country. He finally had the courage to think "What I want to do – What I really love doing." When that is possible, it is a wonderful thing.
ALLAN HUNKIN: Let's talk about some of those ingredients now – the ingredients for being able to live a life with passion. Maybe let's just explore some of those.
DAN MILLMAN: I would love to do that. Someone came up to me once after a seminar and said, "Dan, I feel so inspired." I replied, "Don't worry, it will pass." It does pass! All emotions pass. Sometimes we feel this way, sometimes we feel that way. We are talking about a feeling, an emotion of passion. If we had a watch beep every 20 minutes during the day and we wrote down exactly what we were feeling and doing just before that watch beeped, we'd notice our feelings are changing all the time.
Emotions are the weather patterns of the body. Sometimes you feel sunny, sometimes stormy, and sometimes gray. Emotions all pass. When we talk about living with a passion, I can offer a guaranteed way to do that. It is not a guarantee to feel passion all the time; I don't think that is realistic. But it is a guaranteed way to live with passion, and to live as a verb, not just as a passive thing of existing.
We bring passion, we bring enthusiasm, and we bring a certain intensity and focus into our lives. We remember the value of what we are doing. That is how I know to live with passion. It is so easy to become habituated to what we are doing.
Most of us have the experience of hanging a painting or poster on a wall. We first get this new poster or painting for decoration and we say, "Oh, it's so neat! We'll put it up, and it will just look great here." After a couple days, weeks, or months we don't even notice it anymore. We come into the house or apartment and barely glance at it. It's the rare person who looks up every day and says, "Wow, that still looks beautiful."
Young children have that ability to have a book read to them over and over. They don't say, "Oh, I've already heard that." But adults tend to habituate. We tend to see and reject things. "I already know that, I've already seen that." We don't realize we can know things deeper and deeper.
I think part of that idea of passion is to stay fresh. When I train people in movement arts, I tell them they never do the same thing twice. If you are really paying attention, it is always a little bit different.
Noticing what's going on around us and how our lives are changing, how our surroundings are changing, different from the day before. That is another ingredient that can help us to live with a kind of freshness and engagement in life.
ALLAN HUNKIN: I think of the book The Way of the Peaceful Warrior. It is a beautiful integration of the surge for the inner wisdom that all of us have available to us, and also, of course, a full engagement in an outer life.
What role does passion play in this process of drawing the inner and outer? Some people would say that it gets in the way, and some people would say it is the glue. What do you say?
DAN MILLMAN: In developing nations people wake up wondering if they are going to have enough to eat that day. Most of the world is in that condition, we forget that. In European countries, America, Canada, Australia, and certain other developed nations we do not have to worry about that much.
Gandhi once said to a starving man, "God is bread". But for those of us in relatively comfortable circumstances, our attention can go to higher aspirations, the social relationship, even to what the psychologist Abraham Maslow called self-actualization or enlightenment. We have a different search, and many of us have become a little bit disillusioned.
If we have had parents who were very successful in the world, or if we have done that ourselves, we say "You know, I may not be measurably happier than I was years ago, when instead of a flat screen big TV we had a little set sitting on an apple crate. I enjoyed myself just as much then, and now I've got a lot of other things to deal with. "
Those of us who become disillusioned with the Western search for happiness, which is possessions, money, status and so on, often turn to the East. And we say, "Ahhh, the answer is not in the West." We've seen the rat race, and we've seen all the things and it is ultimately empty, so we turn our attention to the East and we see the answers all lie within. The answer is detachment from the things of the world, from money, possessions, and ego. I'm stepping off that ring, and I'm just going inside."
That is the traditional Eastern solution to happiness. But I have traveled the world and have noticed there are many miserable Easterners too. Those who do the inner work and meditation have much self-knowledge. They have insight into their minds, and so on. With all the attention exclusively inside, people often don't handle what they need to handle outside.
So maybe their relationships are falling apart, or their financial situation is in the toilet. In other words, they are having difficulty in the outward world. What I call the 'way of the peaceful warrior' is not about going to the West, to the East, or bouncing back and forth. It's embracing the best of the East and West.
With passion, both ways, really go inside with intensity. Learn, self-discover, but also deal with the things of the world with equal enthusiasm, rather than rejecting either one. It is embracing both – and passion is kind of a glue, or a bridge. It is not about flesh or spirit, it is about flesh and spirit, left brain and right brain, the wisdom of the indigenous people with modern technology, fate and reason, science and mysticism. It is an inclusive approach to life and engaging it fully.
I think this is really a holistic integrative approach rather than the traditional going from East to West, or one to the other.
ALLAN HUNKIN: Well said, Dan! I just want to take a moment to point our listeners to the URL around the new ebook experience. It's www.HealthyWealthynWise.com/peacefulwarrior. Don't go there yet, because it has audio attached to it, so you will have trouble listening to it and to this call at the same time. But it's www.HealthyWealthynWise.com/peacefulwarrior.
Dan, I want to talk about the every day enlightenment book that you wrote. You talked in that book about 12 gateways to personal growth. Let's go through those gateways with our listeners as to how they apply to our subject tonight.
DAN MILLMAN: Every Day Enlightenment is one of my 12 books, and each of my books are quite different from the others, they serve a different purpose. That particular book kind of redefines what we mean by success. It redefines the bigger picture of the practice of every day in life that frames our attention by addressing 12 arenas of life, facing the premise that earth is a school, and daily life is our classroom.
Daily life and all its challenges, relationships, health, finances and so on, those are forms of spiritual weight-lifting that strengthen our spirits. Addressing those will teach us everything we need eventually to evolve as human beings.
If life is a school, what are the courses we need to pass in order to graduate, so to speak? Those are the twelve gateways I go into in that particular book. I'm just going to list them first of all, and define them very briefly. This is an overview of those arenas we are all working on in life, every one of us. In fact, I would suggest that is what daily life is for.
First it's about discovering our worth. We need to discover our innate worth. This is different from self-esteem. It answers the question, how good of a person am I? How much do I deserve of life's blessings? If we do not address that we tend to self-sabotage. That is the first gateway.
The second is reclaim our will. That is about the biggest challenge in life, turning what we know into what we actually do. We all know about exercise, diet, and everything else. Turning that into what we do, however, that is reclaiming our will.
The third gateway is energizing our bodies, and that makes sense. Those are like the three foundations of a building. Discover your worth, reclaim your will, and energize your body. If you do not have energy, what have you got? As my grandmother used to say, "If you don't have your health, what do you have?"
There are many people who are successful and wealthy, and would trade it all for energy and vitality.
The fourth gateway is manage our money. That is often ignored in a spiritual-type text. People have issues about money versus spirit. Joe Lewis once said, "I don't really like money, but it calms my nerves." Often we have mixed feelings about money that are largely unexamined. Manage your money is about establishing sufficiency and stability in that arena.
The fifth gateway is tame your mind. I have a different take on that in the book than many people might imagine. I go into meditation and all of that, but there is a much different approach to taming our minds.
The sixth gateway is trusting our intuition. It is a different way to live, like learning to think with the whole body rather than just the left brain. It is trusting our intuitive impulses, not just trying to figure everything out with the left brain, weighing the pros and cons, the ins and outs, liabilities and benefits. It's learning how to make a decision differently than just writing down different variables.
The seventh gateway is accepting our emotions. This is a very important area of life. When we say we are interested in personal growth, in success and achievement, and in enlightenment, most of us are really saying deep down, "I want to find a way to feel good more of the time, and feel bad less of the time."
Emotions are very important. This chapter takes a very close look at how much control we have over our emotions. Do we or don't we? It's an interesting question. It's about accepting our emotions.
The eighth gateway is face our fears. Fear is a wonderful servant, but a terrible master. The peaceful warrior approach to facing our fears is very realistic and workable.
The ninth gateway is to illuminate our shadow. This is really about self-knowledge, seeing ourselves realistically rather than through self-image. How can we accept ourselves if we don't know ourselves to the bone?
The tenth gateway is embrace our sexuality. We can't really go through life doing all those other things without finally confronting our fantasies, our fears, whatever issues we have around sexuality. There's an old saying, "The lesson is simple, the student is complicated." We complicate food, we complicate diet, and we complicate sexuality. I address some rational issues in that arena.
The eleventh semi-final gateway is awaken our hearts. Of course, how can we pass without doing that? I go into a different tick again on what that means, and how to do it.
The twelfth and final gateway is serve our world. And of course, without all the others, that brings us full circle – to be of service, giving back, reconnecting to the world.
All of these twelve gateways taken together free our attention for higher, more subtle elements of life. Most of the time, we do not have free intention. Our intention is trapped by subliminal muttering. "What am I going to do about my relationship?" "What am I going to do about my health issue, my money thing?" So we really have real free intention to look around with the eyes of a child again, and see the beauty around us, the spirit around us.
That is what the purpose of the twelve gateways is, the higher purpose so we can reach a place where we can actually practice enlightenment. There is a section at the end of that book about how we can practice enlightenment.
I hope I didn't go too long with that monologue, but that covers the 12 gateways.
ALLAN HUNKIN: They are the 12 gateways. It's interesting, isn't it; I know some of our listeners will be thinking right now, "So which ones are the most important ones to work on?"
DAN MILLMAN: That's easy – the most important ones are those that are most important to each individual. I emphasize in that book that no single gateway is more important than any of the others. I will say the first three gateways, discover your worth, reclaim your will, and energize your body are foundation gateways. If you don't have any energy, if you don't have the will, and you don't have the work, you won't allow yourself to benefit from any of the others. They are like a foundation.
At different times facing our fears may become the most important. Another time, embracing our sexuality, or managing our money. All of these change over time, day-to-day, moment to moment. I have great respect for tyrannies, values and needs of each individual. I do not lay formulas on people. I am not here for people to trust me. I am here to help people trust themselves.
ALLAN HUNKIN: I think a lot of us, in the West especially, got the idea that enlightenment was kind of like a bolt of lightening out of the sky, or suddenly there was this great awakening of an idea. Or that you did a whole bunch of meditation and then you just somehow passed over into this new place.
Enlightenment comes after dealing with these 12 gateways, doesn't it?
DAN MILLMAN: That is really what the gateways are for, to free our attention so we can begin to have our attention pierce the veils that normally are like a tip of the tongue feeling we can't quite break through.
For example, I can give one cue to enlightenment – realize the idea that we do not know what anything is. Someone may hear that phrase we do not know what anything is, and they may say, "Well that's kind of interesting, or maybe it's not". Or they can intellectualize about it and say, "Oh, that's very interesting, I'll contemplate that."
If someone actually had that idea pierce them they may realize that we can know any number of things about life. We could write encyclopedias about a pin we are holding in our hand. Its aesthetics, its chemistry, its physics, its history; but we don't know what that thing is. We have a word for it, we call it pin. But we don't know what it is.
Now if someone went deeper, if they had the attention to actually get that, they would burst out laughing in liberation. We need the attention – that is the key. That is why we need to address the 12 gateways in order to free our attention, and then we are ready.
Ramakrishna had a saying. He said, "When you try to open a walnut while the shell is green it's almost impossible to open. But when you wait until it is ripe just a tad, it may fall open."
In a way our lives, and these 12 gateways that we're working on, represent our ripening process. Once we are ripe, some teacher may come along and give us a tap.
The idea of enlightenment sounds really dramatic, a sudden lightening bolt. Someone smacks us alongside the head with a cosmic oar, and suddenly we see the light. But I see enlightenment much more like a dimmer switch being turned up gradually over time. Sometimes it is up, sometimes it is down again. We remember, we forget.
In these previews of coming attractions we have moments of illumination, because life is a series of moments. I have never met an intelligent person, I've only met people with intelligent or enlightened moments. Each of us can increase those numbers of illumined moments, those moments of clarity with kindness and compassion of remembering in our lives over time.
ALLAN HUNKIN: I read my first self-help book when I was eight years old. It was called How to Hypnotize Yourself. I have said in seminars many times it must have worked, because I spent the next 35 years un-hypnotizing myself.
Even with as much as 35 years of self-help and personal growth, some guy will honk his horn two seconds longer than I think he should, and I'm off the deep end about how inconsiderate people are. Did his mother have any children that lived, and that kind of thing? My mind just goes nuts. You talk a lot about how daily life is our school, and every person that we meet is a teacher. How do we go about remembering that? Let's talk about that for a minute.
DAN MILLMAN: Alan Watts once said, "Beware of teachers who pick your pocket and sell you your own wallet." I always got a kick out of that. The irony is that this is all any teacher can do. We do our best. The treasure is inside each person, and all we can do is point it out.
In fact, I tell people at my seminars that all I can do is remind you of what you already know at deeper levels, but tend to forget. I am kind of like a yellow highlighter in the book of wisdom, or the book of life. I just remind people of things. The best I can promise is I might be able to provide some maps, or maybe a light in the darkness so we don't stumble quite as much; and a kind of map to help people, maybe save them a little necessary pain and a little bit of time to traverse their own journey.
I see life as our school. The world of nature, watching clouds pass, watching trees bend in the wind, watching streams flow around obstacles can teach us all we need to know about life. It is not that we don't know these things; it's about transiting them into action.
That is why I call action the basis of the peaceful warrior's way. Most of us have noticed that lessons seem to repeat themselves in life until we learn them. In fact, if we don't learn lessons the easy way they tend to get harder in order to get our attention.
A favorite story of mine about learning easier lessons instead of harder ones is about a man named John who was given a parrot named Maurice. I tell the story in one of my books called Living on Purpose.
John loved this bird, Maurice. It was a beautiful parrot. The only problem was someone had taught Maurice to curse like a sailor. Maurice would come out with some invectives that would even embarrass John. His mother would come over, friends would come over, and this bird would let loose with a sting of very colorful words.
John tried everything to reform this bird. He played subliminal tapes, new age music, and touted affirmations. But nothing seemed to work. One day John reached the end of his rope. He lost his temper, grabbed Maurice and opened the freezer door, stuck the bird in and closed the freezer. He figured it would teach the bird a lesson.
Of course, Maurice started cursing and squawking, but all of a sudden there was dead silence. John was worried, and hoped he had not hurt the bird. He quickly opened the freezer and reached in. Maurice walked calmly out on John's arm, stood on John's shoulder and said in John's ear, "John, I would like to apologize and ask your forgiveness. I know my behavior of late has not been up to standard. I know my language needs improving, and I vow to do better in the future."
John said, "That's great, Maurice!" with great surprise. Then the bird said, "By the way, John, when I was in the freezer I noticed there was a chicken wrapped up in there. Can you tell me what the chicken had done wrong?"
In other words, Maurice wanted to learn the easy lesson, he didn't want to learn the hard one. Some of us should be as wise as him.
If I can relate a quick lesson from my every day life; those who read Way of the Peaceful Warrior may recall that I shattered my right femur into about 40 pieces in a motorcycle crash. That is depicted quite accurately in The Peaceful Warrior movie. Twenty-six years later, ironically on the same day The Peaceful Warrior movie first opened here on the west coast in California, I was going down a hill on my bicycle. The same genetic predisposition that helped make me a champion gymnast made me rather stupid on bicycles.
I was doing high-risk behavior. I was going down this hill way too fast, turning wide around a corner because I was going so fast, and a car appeared at the wrong place. It wasn't their fault. I was going so fast I had to slam on the brakes, laid the bike down, and I broke my right leg, my lower leg this time, in about three places and ripped some tendons out.
The point is, this was my wake-up call. I had to learn another lesson because I still did not get it. It really was a wake-up call. I actually got the message this time that I need to drive more defensively. I've been doing that since then. It may have saved my life, you never know.
That is an example. Sometimes we learn harder lessons, sometime we can learn a lesson in a dream and change our actions.
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