Do you know what it’s like to have ‘cold feet’ in certain situations? It could be right before an exam, or it could be before you are to speak in front of an audience. It’s typically a sign of nervousness and under-confidence and of fear, but have you ever wondered where that fear stems from?
It could be a fear of judgment from the rest of the world, or it could be a fear of failure, or simply just a fear of stepping into the unknown out of your comfort zone. So is fear the real bad guy in your life’s story?
Our guest today begs to differ. He considers fear an ally and a wonderful servant but a terrible master. His name is Dan Millman, and he believes that one of the ways to overcome fear is by developing a peaceful heart.
“Everyone I know is seeking to live with a more peaceful heart — a sense of serenity, equanimity, and balance in the chaos and changes of the world. Change comes at us in waves that we can’t control or predict, but we can learn to surf those waves. That’s the idea of a peaceful heart.” – Dan Millman
Dan has written 18 books including the bestseller, “Way of the Peaceful Warrior,” which is one of my favorites as it had a significant impact on my life when I read it many years ago. The book has inspired and educated millions of readers in 29 languages around the world. A feature film named “Peaceful Warrior” was adapted from Dan’s first book and is based on his life and experience. It made me ask the question — is there such a thing as a peaceful warrior?
“There are times in everyone’s lives when we need a warrior spirit. It’s not about fighting a physical battle except maybe the internal demons of fear, insecurity, and self-doubt. But really, it’s about rolling up our sleeves, standing up tall inside of ourselves, … marching into everyday life, and doing what we need to do with that kind of spirit. That’s why I view everyone as a peaceful warrior in training.” – Dan Millman
I’ve been a personal fan of Dan’s work and his message, and I am genuinely delighted to have him with us again at The School of Greatness. Let’s learn a little more about this incredible man, the one and only Dan Millman.
Dan Millman is a former world champion athlete, university coach, martial arts instructor, and college professor. After an intensive, twenty-year spiritual quest, Dan’s teaching found its form as the Peaceful Warrior’s Way. His work continues to evolve over time to meet the needs of a changing world.
Dan continues to devote most of his time to speaking. Through his keynotes, seminars, and workshops, Dan is able to influence men and women from all walks of life across generations. Dan lives with his wife, Joy, in Brooklyn, NY. Together, they have three grown daughters and five grandchildren.
“When you become fully responsible for your life, you can become fully human. Once you become human, you may discover what it means to be a warrior.” – Dan Millman
Dan is back with a new memoir, “Peaceful Heart Warrior Spirit: The True Story, My Spiritual Quest,” which is all about Dan’s search for meaning in a modern world. Through a considerable part of his life, Dan was guided by four radically different mentors who had a huge impact on his life and supported him in his spiritual journey. This book could be just the change that you are looking for.
Each time I have Dan on The School of Greatness, I am left inspired on many levels, and I hope that you too find meaning in this post. Let’s dig right in:
In the initial stage of our conversation, Dan spoke about the inner demons that we all face in our lives. This piqued my curiosity, and I asked Dan about the strongest demon that each of us possesses and if there is a way to overcome them.
“Different forms of fear like self-doubt could be a big demon. Heroes and cowards feel exactly the same fear, they just respond differently. So the focus of my work with the primary mentors of my life over a 20 year period … is that we have less control over our thoughts that just appear in our mind and the emotions [we feel]. We can’t just change them by willing to change them instantly. … [Instead,] I believe in focusing on what we have more control over, which is our behavior and what we actually do.” – Dan Millman
While overcoming your fears is one good way of moving ahead in life, Dan also stresses that feeling fear isn’t all bad.
“There’s a saying that, ‘Fear is a wonderful servant but a terrible master,’ and it can save us. If our fear is physical — like the fear of injury [or] of being killed — then fear might be a wise counselor [and put you on alert]. … But if the fear is subjective — if you are afraid of looking foolish or being embarrassed or ashamed or awkward — just do it anyway because it doesn’t break bones. … So there are two kinds of approaches — When [do] you know [it’s time] to listen to fear? And when do you cut through it? That’s how I would differentiate.” – Dan Millman
People are often crippled by the fear of judgment of other people and the embarrassment of what other people will think or say about them. But Dan firmly believes that what other people think is none of your business. All you have to do is to put your best foot forward and take on both your failures and achievements in stride.
It’s not uncommon to feel overwhelmed by their thoughts and feelings when it consumes so much of you that you feel stressed out or anxious. It’s crucial for us to learn to redirect our thoughts and our feelings into a more peaceful heart.
“The peaceful heart is not always a feeling of serenity, it’s a way we behave. … Here and now, breathe and relax — an entire lifetime’s practice is in these six words. … Just handle what’s in front of you because the past and the future don’t exist. … There’s no such thing as future happiness — we are either happy now or we are not, we are either strong now or we are not. … What we call the past is a set of neural impulses in our brain called memory. … So by focusing on the present here and now, that’s our moment of power, of reality, and of sanity. This is the only moment we can handle [and control].” – Dan Millman
Dan truly believes that being conscious of the present moment simplifies life, and the moment of power is to focus on what you need to do in the now. You need to find your purpose in the present moment because it constantly has to change with time.
“[Over the last 20-30 years, my definition of a purposeful or meaningful life] has evolved like everything else — it’s become clarified. … From infancy, we are hardwired goal seekers — we are happiest when we are pursuing a goal. People who feel most fulfilled aren’t those who have reached a destination, but those who are moving towards it. … But without a destination in mind, there is no journey, and we just wander around. So from point A, we need a point B to be going forward to, … [in order to be] living a purposeful life.” – Dan Millman
If you are a seeker of a meaningful and purposeful life, then you have to remove blocks like self-doubt and insecurity and throw them out. Sometimes, we step in our way and self-sabotage the situation, but life can be very simple if you pay attention to your own purpose and not to what others want from you. As Dan says, “People who get things done have a default sense of fulfillment, which is greater than those who don’t get things done.” So be a door, stop overthinking about your fears, and work on overcoming them with a peaceful heart and a warrior spirit.
Folks, this was such an inspirational episode, and I acknowledge Dan for his undying spirit of a peaceful warrior. There was so much more that Dan and I talked about, most of which I could not fit here. If you enjoyed this post, then I would highly recommend that you watch the rest of the episode here, and also share it with your loved ones.
If you feel that you need more tools to support you on your life’s journey and figure out what your message is, do check out Dan’s website. You can also choose to follow Dan on Twitter and Facebook, for a closer peek into his work and life. And if you are curious by now to know Dan’s definition of greatness, here it is —“There is an ancient quote that says, ‘He or she who would be the greatest among you is the servant of all.’” – Dan Millman
If you guys love the work that we are doing here at The School of Greatness, then please leave a five-star rating on Apple Podcasts. It would also be great if you could tag me, @lewishowes, on Instagram with a screenshot of your greatest takeaways from this episode.
Thank you so much for listening. I hope you enjoyed today’s episode and that it inspired you on your journey towards greatness. I want to remind you that you are loved, you are worthy, and you matter. Now, it’s time to go out there and do something great.