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!

Listen to the episode on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Overcast, Stitcher, Castbox, Google Podcasts, or on your favorite podcast platform.

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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.

SCROLL BELOW FOR LINKS AND SHOW NOTES…

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
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SELECTED LINKS FROM THE EPISODE

  • Connect with Dan Harris:

Website | Podcast | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram

SHOW NOTES

  • 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]

PEOPLE MENTIONED

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9 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,
    R.O

  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. 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,
    Sky

  5. 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.

    TWM

  6. 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

  7. 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