Dan Harris on Becoming 10% Happier, Hugging Inner Dragons, Self-Help for Skeptics, Training the Mind, and Much More (#481)

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Seeing clearly the cacophony of your own inner landscape is how you are no longer owned by it.

— Dan Harris

After ABC News anchor Dan Harris (@danbharris) had a nationally televised panic attack on Good Morning America in 2004, he knew he had to make some changes. He found himself on a bizarre adventure to rein in the voice in his head that provoked his on-air freak-out and found a solution in meditation. A lifelong nonbeliever, meditation was something Dan always assumed to be either impossible or useless.

In 2014, Dan published the book 10% Happier, which takes readers on a ride from the outer reaches of neuroscience to the inner sanctum of network news to the bizarre fringes of America’s spiritual scene and leaves them with a takeaway that could actually change their lives. In 2017, Dan followed up with Meditation for Fidgety Skeptics: A 10% Happier How-To Book.

In 2016, Dan launched the 10% Happier company with co-founders Ben Rubin, CEO, and Derek Haswell, VP Product. The company was rebranded to Ten Percent Happier in 2019.

Please enjoy!

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The transcript of this episode can be found here. Transcripts of all episodes can be found here.

#481: Dan Harris on Becoming 10% Happier, Hugging Inner Dragons, Self-Help for Skeptics, Training the Mind, and Much More

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What was your favorite quote or lesson from this episode? Please let me know in the comments.


Want to hear the episode I did with mutual friend Jerry Colonna (the coach with the spider tattoo)? Listen to our conversation, in which we discuss being complicit in creating the conditions in life we don’t really want, nagging self-doubt, finding time for self-discovery, confronting the difficulty most of us have with saying “no,” acknowledging compassion from a distance, journaling, guilt versus remorse, and much more.

#373: Jerry Colonna — The Coach with the Spider Tattoo


  • Connect with Dan Harris:

Website | Podcast | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram


  • Dan says his career has been guided by a motto his dad handed down to him: the price of security is insecurity. What has this meant to Dan over the years? [05:59]
  • What is the Yerkes-Dodson law and what does it imply? [09:11]
  • Considering the motto Dan inherited from his father, what mottoes would Dan pass on to his own children that might be a little more helpful in guiding them through their first 20 or 30 years? Here’s motto number one. [11:34]
  • Why do so many Buddhism-oriented meditation and mindfulness teachers come from a Jewish background? Enter: the JewBu. [17:16]
  • What were the years leading up to Dan’s infamous live panic attack on Good Morning America in 2004 like, and what were the primary factors contributing to the event? Did he see it coming, or was it as much of a surprise for him as it was for the rest of the audience? [24:18]
  • After the panic attack, Dan was–against his wishes–assigned to cover faith and spirituality, and this was when he discovered mindfulness meditation, which he credits with correcting his course and changing his life for the better. But was there anything else of value he, the son of atheist scientists, picked up during this time? [33:43]
  • How covering Pentecostalism and meeting Eckhart Tolle set Dan on the path toward discovering meditation. [36:35]
  • How did the next steps of Dan’s journey lead him to Mark Epstein’s Going To Pieces Without Falling Apart–his first real introduction to Buddhism and meditation? [42:34]
  • Ideally, what is the frequency of Dan’s meditation practice, and what does he recommend for a beginner? [47:59]
  • What does Dan with meditation look like compared to Dan without meditation, and how can falling off the wagon from time to time actually be helpful to the practice? [50:57]
  • What kind of meditation does Dan practice? [54:26]
  • The “bicep curl” and my experiences with transcendental meditation. [1:02:24]
  • The biggest revolution in Dan’s own practice. [1:04:48]
  • What is Dan’s relationship with anger? [1:07:25]
  • Before 2010, how would Dan have answered our mutual friend Jerry Colonna’s question: “How am I complicit in creating the conditions I say I don’t want?” Would the answer be different today? [1:12:01]
  • Admitting he hasn’t always been good at prioritizing attention to friendships, would Dan consider himself an introvert? [1:14:47]
  • How did Dan go about writing 10% Happier and find success with it in the already crowded self-help category? Was he aware of how much effort would go into it at the risk of a comparably small reward if it didn’t make its mark? [1:19:52]
  • What book is Dan working on now? [1:27:10]
  • The struggles I’m going through with my own project around surviving childhood abuse, and why Dan hopes I stay the course and get it out into the world. [1:29:48]
  • After witnessing the role religion plays in the lives of many when he himself grew up in a house that didn’t embrace it, in what ways does Dan contemplate his own place in the cosmos? [1:35:39]
  • How are meditation and psychedelics similar? I have some thoughts on Aldous Huxley’s Island and the idea of “gratuitous graces.” [1:38:39]
  • What does the Dan of today think the Dan from three years in the future would have to say about the way he’s spending his time between now and then? Would he be satisfied? [1:42:48]
  • How would Dan’s wife complete this sentence?: “Dan, I’m so proud of you for…” [1:48:25]
  • Books Dan has gifted most to others. [1:52:55]
  • Favorite documentaries? [1:55:58]
  • What is Guardians of the Amazon? [1:57:20]
  • What might Dan’s billboard say? [1:58:46]
  • Parting thoughts. [2:00:58]


The Tim Ferriss Show is one of the most popular podcasts in the world with more than 900 million downloads. It has been selected for "Best of Apple Podcasts" three times, it is often the #1 interview podcast across all of Apple Podcasts, and it's been ranked #1 out of 400,000+ podcasts on many occasions. To listen to any of the past episodes for free, check out this page.

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15 Replies to “Dan Harris on Becoming 10% Happier, Hugging Inner Dragons, Self-Help for Skeptics, Training the Mind, and Much More (#481)”

  1. You have the most interesting guests on your podcast. I get so many gold nuggets and gems from them all, and even listen to some two or three times. So rich! Always looking forward to each and every new podcast and going back to your “library.” Thanks so much.

  2. Hey Tim,

    I live in Hawaii and just tried some of that local venison you said you liked in your last 5-bullet Friday. $9.99/LB. Let me know if I can ship you a few pounds!

    Thanks for the great content,

  3. I love your work and look forward to getting the weekly input of new ideas and inspiration. My mind has been focussed lately on why our younger generation has been acting the way it has through COVID and think it would be a worthwhile topic to explore if you are looking for ideas. My generation had it pretty good. Reasonably inexpensive school, good jobs with benefits (and lots of opportunity), reasonable priced houses a planet that was in pretty good condition. We took and took and are leaving our children and their generation with little to look forward to. Teenage suicide rates are through the roof and I can’t think of a better sign that something is terribly wrong than that one statistic. Can we really expect a generation we have disrespected so much to take care of us?

  4. Tim, I love your podcasts. It would be great to hear a podcast with Rick Warren. He wrote the bestseller, Purpose Driven Life. Thanks for your work.

  5. Another smashing episode – thank you!

    I have two comments, if I may:
    1) Tim, regarding your challenge to write your next book, even if it may be related to motivation and purpose, I highly recommend you reading the intro to “Committed”, the book Liz wrote following Eat Pray Love, trying to figure out how you follow up such a Smashing Hit. Your reasons may be different, but her conclusions might be helpful advice for you 🙂 [Or just discuss this with Liz, her thoughts on purpose, courage and creativity are life-changing as you know.]
    2) Really looking forward to yours Tim and Dan’s next book (whenever these may come). You are both addressing deeply important topics from a very healthy and caring place. The recipe for far-reaching books.

    Last, where may I offer some positive feedback to your “5 bullet Friday” – as there is no relevant thread here on your blog, and you dissuade us from answering via email – ?

    Warm regards,

  6. Tim,

    I enjoyed this one a lot. I just wanted to provide some direct encouragement for your new writing exercise on healing. I know Dan tried as well.

    I suffered abuse as a child myself and had it locked away for 47 years till I finally sat with my family. The fear of being exposed is gone which is beautiful but the isolation tends to continue. I hear in your voice maybe that inability to broaden the message, to think this resonates because it feels so personal.

    I just want you to know there are a lot of us who have been there and gone on to become great humans in spite of the trauma. You have an opportunity to not just share your ability to heal but tie a big part of us together through your talent to message. Don’t give up.

    I think of your book Tools Of Titans and think you could find a lot of good incredible people to show the many healing messages, ways and hope to face the shame, confusion and things we carry but don’t understand

    I think you have an opportunity to broaden acceptance and understanding that we are all ok. I liked to think I was ok but I didn’t have messages from people I admired and had dealt with the trauma to truly guide me. I stumbled through it for over 40 years before I have found a path. As a result I just wanted you to know it matters. If I had had access to good voices at 25 I may have even been a little better than I am today.

    Thanks for what you do and your willingness to be vulnerable. We are listening.


  7. Hi Tim, I am really fascinated by ur book tribe of mentors. I love to read it and I do every person a day. I also read 4 Hour work week and reading two other books of u at the time. Tribe of mentors is one of the most inspiring books i have ever read and I tell everybody about it, especially at my work. I work at a movie team in Germany and as u prob know in movie teams there are working many intelligent people who cannot be part of the normal system. Since I love ur book so and tell everybody about it I want to give it to everybody, but we are 50 people and I cant afford such thing, but I also don’t want it to steal it. This is why I wanted to contact u and ask u if u could help me to give them an awesome xmas present. If u consider it I would be pretty happy and of course I would pay my share.

    Thank u very much for ur time.

    Philipp Gsöllpointner

  8. I absolutely agree with Mr. Harris’s recommendation to read “The Overstory.” Everyone I have recommended it to has loved it, as did I. There’s some very interesting natural science in the book along with the characters that take the book to the top of the “must-read” list!
    Rod Saint

  9. Hi Tim,
    I just really wanted to take a moment to say Thank You. I’ve been listening to your podcasts for over 3 years, I don’t own a TV, have Netflix or the like but this podcast is just an endless pool of delights I can choose from. I feel extremely grateful that you have curated these and offer them to the world. I know this might come across as strong; but you i wouldn’t be who I am, unless you led me to the teachings and perspectives from the people who you’ve interviewed.

    I think your conversations have given me invaluable lessons that help me everyday strive to be a better person, by giving me practical tools or even a kick up the bum to get going or a simply reframe by simply hugging the dragon of the day.

    I’m an Aussie living in London and normally when I travel the 25hour plane trip home once a year for christmas I look forward to cramped up journey just so I can play catchup to some of your episodes.

    Stay safe. Stay well.

  10. Halfway through this episode and I had to find a way to share my thoughts (First time commenter and first time visiting the blog as I listen on Spotify)

    Im 24 years old and grew up Jewish in South Africa to Asian parents (Thai – Where I live now) and have been practicing Buddhism for a few years now. About half my life has been practicing Judaism and half Buddhism.

    In 2023 or 2024 I plan to ordain as a monk for a few months in an international Ordination Ceromony geared towards foreigners.

    Tim or anyone like minded reading this id like to invite you to join me on this journey as it’s my first time too. Even though a journey of self it’s always nice to have some companions.

    Have a great day and looking forward to your reply.

  11. Dear Tim,
    So enjoyed the common-sense practicality about training one’s mind that both you and Dan Harris have done so much to spread.
    As one of your 1,000(,000) true fans, I’d agree that there’s no topping the raw impact of your Healing from Childhood Abuse episode and the way that reveal unfolded with Debbie. The pure moment of that…letting the world in so we could all glimpse what healing looks like and what it takes: that it’s possible.
    As Dan Harris pointed out as well, that episode was also universal, touching the lives of people (myself included as I wrote about in a comment to that episode) who are not carrying the burden of such deep childhood trauma.
    You know already how you help people think. You stay grounded in specific benefits and techniques, yet you’ve trained your mind to question, deconstruct, integrate, optimize—to think better so that the path to doing and feeling better can be more clear for the rest of us.
    Whatever form it may take, however and whenever it might come about, sharing that superskill of yours on the critical topic of healing would be…yeah, do I need to say more? I’d be happy to!
    All my best wishes and continued thanks,

  12. I am 2 years late to this episode with Dan Harris- what a gift to all of us, but especially men, to hear two alpha, type-A, successful (even arguably “iconic”) men, examining so deeply and earnestly (and publicly!) their vulnerabilities.

    @Tim and team- if you read your comments from past episodes/blog posts, I would love to hear you interview Will Welch, the current Editor of GQ (https://www.gq.com/contributor/will-welch) about the current portrayals of about Masculinity. He has written some fascinating interviews with “iconic men” in the arts and other industries and has explored this outside of academia or Silicon Valley, in a realm somewhat foreign to your usual audience perhaps. But considering your incredible episode (and synergy/friendship) with Debbie Millman, and all that it opened up for many of your listeners, beyond their expectations, I think it could be surprisingly powerful.

    With gratitude from a dedicated fan of your whole journey and ethos in Atlanta!:)