Everything is difficult until it becomes easy. Some days things seem to get worse, yet on others, we seem to have breakthroughs.
Dan Millman, a former world champion athlete, Stanford University coach, martial arts instructor and Oberlin College professor has authored 16 books published in 29 languages, including his classic, Way of the Peaceful Warrior (released as a film with Nick Nolte by Universal in 2007). On today’s show, he is talking about how you can design the good life you want. Ladies and gentlemen on today’s show we are interviewing a man whose life was turned into major motion picture Peaceful Warrior starring Nick Nolte.
On today’s show, we’re interviewing a man whose life was turned into a major motion picture, peaceful warrior starring Nick Nolte. While attending you see Berkeley, Dan Millman became known as one of the best gymnasts in America. However, he got into a motorcycle accident when he collided with the car and shattered his right femur. The injuries were so severe that the extra required him to receive a marrow transplant. Dan then had to have a steel nail inserted into his femur, which couldn’t be removed for one year, but Dan attacked his rehabilitation with relentless tenacity and shocked everyone when he was able to return to gymnastics as the co captain of his team, which won the 1968 ncaa gymnastics championships in Tucson, Arizona. Since that time, Dan Millman’s career has been legendary. He’s written 17 books which have been published in 29 languages, and on today’s show, he’s teaching how to design the good life for you.
Welcome back to another exciting edition of the thrive time show on your radio and podcast downloads. Now, Dr. Z. on today’s show, we have a teacher whose life was turned into a major motion picture called the peaceful warrior stirring Nick Naulty, which I watched for the second time last night. Did you have popcorn? I did. You know that’s where the things. I love that movie, coconut oil, coconut oil. Yeah, it’s working as well. Of course. I’m sure prepared that. Dan millman. Welcome onto the show. How are you doing today?
I’m doing well. Thank you. I hope you are too, and I’m enjoying this moment being here with you.
Dan Millman, for our listeners out there that are not super familiar with your career, I’d love for you to share about your college gymnastics career and where you were at emotionally and physically before your accident in 1966.
Well, I’ll tell you, let me go back as far as being a kid loving to climb trees and swing on the ropes and I naturally gravitated toward acrobatics being relatively small in stature, um, didn’t work to do basketball or football much for me. So I enjoyed somersaulting and that led to eventually, um, some championships in gymnastics and that gave me a sense of purpose, daily practice everyday going back and training and other people, it’s playing a musical instrument or doing another sport. But for me I found a lot of joy and purpose and focus and absorption in the flow in the gym. And so I was at the peak of my powers. Are you referring to enact it? And I don’t know, that was an accident. Things maybe faded in some sense, but I did suffer a shouted right Femur, a 5 million in a motorcycle crash in 1966. Uh, I was supposed to go to the world championships as an observer, as a potential Olympian the next day. But sometimes if you get the elevator and sometimes you get the shaft. So that was back in 1966. Yes. And I think that crash actually changed the course of my life. I don’t recommend fractures is a method in a personal or spiritual growth. But that’s how it happened for me. It shook me up and I started asking bigger questions about life,
whether it be an accident. What thoughts and emotions were going through your head as a time of the accident when you were a person? I might be misclassifying you, but it seemed, from what I’ve read that you sort of, you know, we’re known by your physicality and what you could do is, is a gymnast. What kind of thoughts were going through your mind as you were going through this part of your life?
I trained for nearly nine or 10 years pretty intensely in gymnastics. And I had that direction. Then it seemed to be ended. I didn’t know. The doctor said I might walk. Okay again, but he didn’t think I’d be doing gymnastics, but I didn’t know. I said, let’s see what happens. And I was doing pushups before I left my hospital bed after a surgery, putting a nail down the middle of a Femur, which on. So I just started training upper body gymnastics in a strength and so on, and little by little step by step I was able to recover and eventually I helped lead my team to the national championships in 1968 when I graduated. And it was, the road was a challenge as anyone can imagine, but it was just step by step day by day, doing the best I could. That’s all anyone can do.
Then one of my friends, Clifton Taulbert, uh, he was the first African American west of the Mississippi to start a bank. He grew up in Glen Allan, Mississippi. And in a time of segregation and his life was made into a motion picture called once upon a time when we were colored, which received two thumbs up from and Ebert back in the day. And uh, you know, uh, when you were, your life is made into a motion picture. At a certain point, you kind of lose creative control. Maybe some people have said it was there. Were there any aspects of the movie where you thought, okay, that’s really not how it happened? Or I’d love for you to educate because so many of our listeners have seen the movie. Could you explain any parts of the movie where you thought that really wasn’t how it happened? Or I just want to hear from your perspective post accident what that was like in this, this character of socrates, and just I’d love to hear direct from from you.
Well, the film peaceful warrior was adapted from a book that I’ve written several decades before called way of the peaceful warrior and the book itself blended autobiography. It was about my life, but it also blended some fictional elements for the sake of the story. So even the book isn’t exactly the way life unfolded, but much of it was in the movie. They take liberties and I. I went in knowing that I expected them to take liberties. It’s difficult to compress some of life or even a book into a two hour film, so changes had to be made and I was just attributed to the project. Pretty much honored that they were willing to spend all that money to make a film adaptation of my book and it just happened to be based on elements of my life and that was an amazing experience. Um, and yeah, so it’s a different audience. Many people might not read the book, but they see the film. When my wife and I first saw it screen, we looked at each other and said the same thing. We both said it could have been better but could have been a lot worse. So overall I think it conveys some of the spirit and a content of the book.
And correct me if we’ve touches upon, correct me if I’m wrong here, but I heard when you wrote the book the way of the peaceful warrior initially when the book went into print, it went out of print right away because it was subtitled as something like a basically true story. Uh, could you please explain how your book went into print and then quickly out of print? What, what, what happened there?
Well, it was a different kind of book and my editor thought it would be kicked to call it a basically two stories since it was mostly true, but not entirely. So it wasn’t a memoir, even though it was based on autobiographical incidents, a memoir, you cannot have any deliberate deception. And I was pretty straightforward about that. I did have those elements. So basically true star was a cute title, but the bookstores were not amused. There was no Amazon.com. Then it was on a bookshelf and the bookstores didn’t know where to put it. So when salespeople came and said, how about this book? And they shouldn’t, does it go in fiction or nonfiction? It’s what not sure. So, um, they didn’t take any copies and the book died very quickly and it was three and a half years later, an old gentleman named how Kramer was a retired publisher and he, he’d read a copy of the out of print book and said, I love this book.
I’m going to go back into publishing, you know, I’m starting with your book. And so it took them two years to get the book change, to take a one copy in each of the stores, but then that magic happen. The only thing that can keep a book alive for three years, four years, and in my case almost 40 years, if I’m correct, yeah. Um, is word of mouth. People started telling other people when the paperback came out, you got to read this, you got to read this book. And so my publisher, actually it was his idea, he subtitled it, he changed the subtitle to a book that changes lives because we’ve been getting so many letters about from people about it and that sometimes was stuck for all these decades and it still seems to be doing very well. And it was, it took, um, about 20 years to get a film made a, that’s a longer story. But yeah, it’s been a very fortunate, you know, they say luck as you know, most of us have heard this when preparation meets opportunity, that’s where luck happens. And I prepared myself and worked hard over it over time. And then the luck occurred. Um, I wish I had a formula or a trail of bread crumbs. I could tell people how to become a successful author or speaker, which I do all over the world, but we each have to blaze our own trail.
You didn’t write another book for 10 years, if I’m correct. You wrote the first book? Yes. And it was like a decade a, you didn’t write another book. Can you explain to the listeners out there? It’d be no. Why? Why did you decide to take a decade off from writing books?
George said about dancers. He said, I’m not looking for people who want to dance. I’m looking for people in need to dance, which makes a lot of sense. And the fact is I never needed to write. Um, I see myself as a teacher. I love him to putting people in a positive way. I did it as a gymnastics coach at Stanford University and so on. Um, but I don’t need to write and yet to influence people to reach out. I learned something about the craft of writing and speaking. And once I wrote peaceful warrior at that point in my life, I said, well, that’s really a compilation of everything I’ve learned in my years over a decade of intensive training and research are seeking, if you will. Um, but then I met a new mentor and new exciting influence in their life and there was so much information I wanted to share in my own way.
So after 10 years, I wrote a sacred journey of the peaceful warrior’s second in the series. And then people said, I was inspired by your first two books, Dan Millman, but how do you apply this stuff to daily life? So I wrote a book called no ordinary, which is not a story. It was more straightforward guide, a peaceful warriors guide to daily life. And then the books went on from there in an odd order, like airplanes jockeying for position on the runway. And I wrote almost a book a year after that ton. Now it’s 17 and counting. It only took me 40 years to do it.
So 17 books later, uh, your, your newest book is called the hidden school. What inspired you to write this book? And what, what does this book all about?
Well, the second book took place within the timeframe of way of the peaceful warrior, that sacred journey book I wrote 10 years later. It was about the last years and I only referred to my travels around the world and where that second book ends, uh, took me 37 years after the book was written, I finally said I’m ready to write the third in the series and final book in the Peaceful Warrior series called the hidden school. And it’s an adventure story for sure. Um, but it does contain, I’m in an unusual way. I delivered the inflammation some more advanced insights about life paradox, how it applies and how we live in two worlds, the conventional and potentially the transcendental world that this yearning, many of us have that there must be something more to life than just usual everyday. And that’s what people search for in religion and spirituality and personal development, uh, a different way of viewing the world and understanding ourselves.
So I do address that in the third book. It is more of an advanced teaching and I think most people will have to read it twice to really get it, even though I read it as clearly as I possibly can. Um, so those are the three peaceful warrior saga books and there’s another one called the journeys of Socrates, which is about my old mentor, the old man I met in a service station played by Nick Nolte in the movie, um, who wouldn’t tell me his real name, but I ended up calling him socrates. And so those are the books with contained around stories and the restroom or guidebooks, practical topics in like the four purposes of life. One is called the life you were born to live. It gives you a flavor for the type of material. I. Right.
Then how old are you? How old are you?
Uh, last time I looked at 72 years old and I still stay active. Um, but that’s, yeah, that’s my age right now.
Z, how old are you place? I’m 54 and I’m kind of interested. I have on your website right now looking at your eco adventures. The next one is February 16th and impure Aveda per per Vito Vito. Am I saying that right? Anyway, so what goes on at this place and why should someone want to sign up for this?
Well, it is my favorite venue and I do weekend workshops. It’s very nice centers around the country and elsewhere, but this is in the midst of February. In winter it’s average is about 72 to 75 degrees and it’s wonderful whether it’s a beautiful little Shangri-la, poor Aveda spa. I’m in Costa Rica. It’s 18 minutes shuttle alive license San Jose Airport. Uh, in Costa Rica. She was placing it a seven day retreat. So I really get to know people better. We hang out, eat meals together and hang up with the pool and the hot tub and they’re these adventures each day and people can go and zip lines or whitewater rafting and what are the five major rivers in the world. And so there are some optional experiences. They can do this body work and it’s just a wonderful place. The environment. And, you know, I tell people, nobody really believes me until they do it, but the best thing about, even though I teach two classes a day and they’re, they’re pretty good classes, both physical mind, body type exercises, but also some inner work. Um, the thing is, it’s the people that need it. Just the best thing about the seminars I teach in retreats are the people who show up to them and we get some just amazing people and some of them come back again. I get many new people and it’s a, I always look forward to seeing who shows up.
I was noticing your itinerary for the day and you have a four minute workout. You must get a lot done in four minutes. What do you do in four minutes that constitutes a workout? Talk to him about that.
Well, the first thing I’d say about it is, I, one of my mentors said, Dan Millman, we gotta come up with an exercise series. It can be done in a brief time or that covers the whole body, incorporate breathing and movement and so on. It’s like a moving yoga. You don’t just sit in different postures that you’re moving through it, so it’s a tension release and and freeing up every joint and so on. And so I came up with this in about 1984, so now today people can look in the New York Times and there are all kinds of short workout, seven minute workout, six minutes, four minutes, eight minutes. But this is a more recent development. I’ve been doing this workout every single day for the last, well now it’s 25, 28, 29 years I think every single day.
Break it down to four minute workout. What do you do it?
Look, any brief work. It’s based on the principle. A little of something is better than a lot of nothing. So for people that don’t exercise it, it’s practical. They can do it without getting a huge sweat. We can do it as soon as they get up in the morning, which I do a or at lunchtime or after work, just to shake loose and open up a. It feels good and, and it, it’s not the same as running five miles a day or going to the weight room, uh, in terms of strength or cardio and so on, but it has elements of all those balance, coordination, rhythm, timing, but the breakfast, the main part of it, the deep breathing, so it just feels really good, so great way to wake up and start the day. And I actually also have a four minute meditation that’s a newer program. It’s only about two years old and I created this meditation which I did for a year and a half before presuming the teacher to anyone. I really embodied it. And um, yeah. Can you imagine getting up, doing four minute workout, sitting after a shower or something and doing it for a minute. Meditation. You, you’ve got a great start to your day.
No, I do. I do other things too. I biked around Brooklyn’s prospect park. I go to the y a couple times a week and do some weights and Saunas, swim. I stay active. Um, that’s important. Older people need a good deal of exercise, maybe even more than younger people. Just a different kind of exercise. They have to adapt it to their own body and mind. In fact, one of the basic principles that I teach, what I call the peaceful warrior’s way is that there is no best author, teacher book, No best religion, no best path, no best diet, no best martial arts, no best form of exercise. There’s only the best for each of us at a given time of our life, like as an experiment. We have to each find out what works for us.
Four minute workout. I’m still trying to get some specific from you. I got to come to the ECO adventure to get it, but I. So I’m breathing, I’m doing jumping jacks. I’m curious to know what does he need to do? Dr Zellner is very physically fit between he and I. We built 13 multimillion dollar companies. He’s done well financially, but he also stays in great shape. He wants to know. Dan Millman, can you kind of give them just a few, just walk me through a little bit. Give me a little taste. Come on, Dan. Don’t tease me.
I’d be happy to say that on the website, peaceful warrior.com, I do offer several online courses and they’re inexpensive, quite inexpensive, and there are through video and audio and text, um, that I actually teach this workout step by step. Got It. So, so that’s one way to see it. Also in taught in one of my books everyday enlightenment, I take two fingers with drawings showing the movement to the exercise. The Best I can tell you is it involves a specific 15 different movements, um, and it’s like yoga, but it was done way before yoga got popular, except it’s moving. You move through it. You don’t just sit in the static posture, it’s stretch back and then swing a certain way to teach it properly. And I do teach it in Costa Rica, it takes, because we have a time at retreats it to learn it properly.
It takes an hour and a half to really learn it properly and then reinforce it over a few days. So people go home knowing the workout. So that’s, that’s how I teach it, but it’s got stretching sideways with breathing for the neck, the shoulders. The chest, the hips, the pelvis, um, we do a little bit of cardio in there and just thrown in briefly, but we do a core work. I’m just these 50 movements, take care of the entire body, stretching and toning and also helping to avoid a chronic back pains, that sort of thing. And I show a few other exercises that help, uh, the risks areas, avoid carpal tunnel and um, some other specific exercises. People can supplement their workout if they choose. So that gives you out as best a flavor I can verbally, um, know about the workout.
I would love for you to talk here. Here we are in 2018, the world, the country. Let’s go with America is headed a certain direction. And you actually said this, I believe during one year, one of your interviews, you were talking about how many, many people in America today are saying, Gosh, I want to reach my peak. I want to get better. I want to get better, I want to get better. And you actually asked the question on the aisle, Lewis Howes podcast. You said maybe you have already reached your high point. Can you, can you kind of explain your philosophy? I just want you to have the floor to share your philosophy, your philosophy, and how maybe that counters the average American’s philosophy towards always wanting to do better, faster, greater, bigger. I want, I want, I want you to have the floor to share the Dan millman philosophy versus that of the average American has always trying to strive to do better, more, faster, etc.
Sure. I think it’S so important for people to trust their own process. The buddhIsts, the buddhists say that comparison is a form of suffering because the moment we compare ourselves to someone else, that’s a disrespecting our own process in our own life. For example, when I used to teach somersaults in gymnastics, I noticed that some people learn faster than others, but those took longer to learn the skills often learning the better than those who lend them. Foster. Somebody once said, I cannot write a book commensurate to shakespeare that I can write a book by me, and so today with social media, everyone wants to live the good life and everyone wants to show how they’re already living the good life every day, smiling pictures on facebook, all the fun they’re having and the friends, and then we look at our friends and all the funds and we go home, we feel a little down.
G, I’m not having as much fun as are my friends and this, this tendency to compare ourselves to others to see how we’re doing is I think a bad habit and it’s a serious mistake and again, disrespect ourselves for who we are. We’re not here to live someone else’s life. We may be living in the grandest of all our own in this moment. So that’s one of the things I would say in referring to potential. Yeah. When somebody says, dan, I’m doing pretty well, but I don’t know if I’ve reached 100 percent of my potential. To me, that’s crazy making. It’s like we’re never good enough ever. so that’s why I say somewhat tongue in cheek, hey, maybe you have reached your potential and the rest of the time is free play. So this rather than this constant striving, because if I just reached my potential, I’ll be happy.
I’ll be living the good life. why don’t we just trust our process? That’s why I recommend to people dream big, but start small and then just connect the dots. That’s what I’ve Been doing my whole life incrementally. I learned that in training, you know, suddenly make a huge leap. it may seem like it, but it comes after a long preparation and regular training day by day. We don’t have time now I don’t think. But you know, when I was 60 I learned to ride a unicycle. I decided for my 60th birthday, I learned to ride a unicycle and make a long story very short. It took me three weeks of really hopeless practice. AnyBody who’s tried riding a unicycle nodes, it’s very humbling and I just would korean for two or three pedals and boom, it went down and then it went down. Then it went down, but after three weeks something clicked and I was doing figure eights around the area where I learned to ride and I learned two things from them that everything is difficult until it becomes easy and the second thing I learned is some.
Some days we seem to get worse. Everything falls apart. We wonder what happened. I was better four days ago with this skill, but sometimes the day after, often the day after that there was so called bad days would make a breakthrough is a sudden improvement and the learning is really happening on those confusing days, those crises in a relationship at work. If we just persist through it, sometimes that’s when the shift is happening that help us to make those skill leaps in our lives and even though when they train in a sport or an art or a musical instrument, daily life is our practice. That’s how I see it. You said you’d let me loose and out of the end of the pasture and running, run free. So that’s what I would say that dated life is a practice and I maybe I can tell a brief story very quickly. Um, I was in the gym and I did a really good dismount off the high bar and stuck my landing and I figured I’d stop on a high note.
So I quit, ripped off my sweatshirt, threw it in my workout bag and was walking down the hall with socrates. He were the only two people in the gym at the time. And he turned to me and said, Dan Millman, you know, that last movie did was really sloppy. and I said, what are you talking about? Shock was the best move I did, you know, for weeks. He said, no, I’m not talking about your disc. No, I’m talking about the way it took off your sweatshirt and put it in your back. And he was reminding me that I’d been treating one moment as special or the high bar and the other is ordinary. And then he reminded me once again that there are no ordinary moments that every moment deserves our attention and our quality. so I tell people, don’t strive for success, strive for excellence. You can control that. We can’t always control success depending on how we define it, but we can strive for excellence moment to moment in what we do, living a purposeful life and that conveys some of the practical elements and realistic elements of this approach. I teach that I called the way of the peaceful warrior, which is really about all of us because all of us are seeking to live with a peaceful heart. That there are times we need a warrior spirit.
Dan is out there that want to learn more about you. What’s what’s your website? What’s the best action step all of our listeners can take today
just curious about my workload, a peaceful warrior.com, and on the splash page as even a life purpose calculator, it’s free. People can just go and put in their date of birth. They might be surprised at what they read, peaceful or your.com.
Peaceful warrior.com. Dan, I appreciate you so much for taking time out of your busy schedule and I’m going to let you hang up on me to make it easier for you, but take you so much for being on today’s show.
It’s been a pleasure. Thanks very much.
Thanks a lot, boss. Take care. Take care. Dan, thrive nation. While the topic is still fresh in your mind, I would encourage you to take the time to design to it and write out what you’re good life would look like, but in the areas of the f six, think about your life and the areas of faith, your family, your finances, your fitness, your friendship, and your fun. What are your goals For your faith, your family, your finances, your fitness, your friendship, and your fund? What are your goals? Think about this year and think about your life. What do you want to achieve in the areas of faith, family, finances, friendship, and fun. Because your definition of a good life is probably different than my definition of a good life, but nobody is going to assist you in creating the best life for you. You have to do it. You have to be intentional. You have to seize the opportunity and to become proactive about how you schedule your life. If today’s podcast helped you, blessed you, encouraged you in any way, I would encourage you to share it with a friend and as always, three, two.