Leadership Insights: Interview With Dan Miller

I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Dan Miller. He has been a huge inspiration to me. Dan was one of the catalysts for my personal growth and my desire to pursue meaningful work.

Dan MillerDan Miller, President of 48 Days LLC, specializes in creative thinking for increased personal and business success. He believes that meaningful work blends our natural skills and abilities, our unique personality traits and our dreams and passions. Dan is active in helping individuals redirect careers, evaluate new income sources, and achieve balanced living. He believes that a clear sense of direction can help us become all that God designed us to be.

Dan is the author of the widely acclaimed 48 Days To The Work You Love and No More Mondays. Dan and his son, Jared, will also be releasing their new book, Wisdom Meets Passion, at the end of August. If you haven’t picked up these books, you need to. It’s life changing.

Now, onto the interview!

1. Joseph Lalonde: Dan, thank you for taking the time to do this interview. I’m sure it will benefit the readers of my blog. Please share a little about yourself so my readers can get to know you.

Dan Miller: I was raised on a dairy farm in rural Ohio. And very quickly decided I wanted more options than milking cows at 5:30 AM and throwing hay bales in the heat of the summer. I discovered reading great books as a way to broaden my horizons and devoured books by the masters of achievement – Napoleon Hill, Earl Nightingale, Norman Vincent Peale, Zig Ziglar, Brian Tracy, Denis Waitley and many more. I got my B.A and M.A degrees in psychology to better understand myself – and to clarify my own direction and calling. That and 20 years of entrepreneurial business prepared me for doing the writing, coaching and speaking I’m privileged to do today.

2. You and your son Jared have a new book coming out soon called Wisdom Meets Passion. While this book wasn’t written with leadership in mind, how do you see this book being valuable to young leaders?

Baby boomers have relied on wisdom to pave the way to success. Education, knowledge, investing strategies, 401(k)s, real estate leverage, and carefully contrived career paths were expected to lead to success in one’s golden years. Seeing the overall failure of that formulaic approach to life, younger generations today have relied on passion as the guiding principle for their version of success. Just find something cool to do; forget having a mortgage and a BMW in the driveway.

And yet both are necessary. Regardless of age, those using wisdom only to achieve their goals are likely to end up disappointed and unfulfilled—feeling as though they have been chasing empty rainbows. Those trusting passion alone may lose the power of wisdom and end up underachieving, falling short of their potential and unable to attain their worthy goals.

Wisdom without passion can feel like having that BMW in the driveway with no gas in the tank. And passion without wisdom can appear as a tricked-out 1957 Chevy with no steering wheel. Wisdom Meets Passion will show young leaders how to blend the two—equipping them to accomplish their greatest financial goals, experience the thrill of fulfilling relationships, create meaningful work, and complete their purpose and calling here on earth.

3. Influence is a major component of leadership. Who have been the major influencers in your life?

I have sought out mentors all my life. Many of them influenced my through their books, workshops and audio programs rather than in face-to-face interaction. Thus, I think that process is open to anyone. No one needs to have special connections or “luck” in order to access that wisdom of the ages.

4. You often talk about your humble beginnings in the Mennonite and Amish community and how you had to break free from the mindsets many people held. Many young leaders feel the same way. That the environment where they were raised is not were they wanted to be when they become adults. At the same time, leaving the community they were raised in can be quite difficult. What advice would you give to a leader who wants to expand their horizons?

When people close to death are questioned about anything they would do differently, one common theme rises to the top: “I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.” This is the most common regret of all.

When someone realizes that his life is almost over, it’s easy to look back and see how many dreams have gone unfulfilled. That realization helps to explain much of the angst and frustration we are seeing in retirement centers and nursing homes. It’s critically important to honor your dreams along the way. When you are on your deathbed, the opinions of others fade alongside the recognition that you have not lived an authentic life. My work with those making midlife corrections in their careers is largely that of simply peeling back the layers of others’ expectations to reveal once again those clear and passionate childhood dreams. In those we discover work that is meaningful, purposeful, and profitable.

This is not about being selfish or egotistical or ignoring the feelings of those we love. It’s about living a life of authenticity. That’s all I’ve tried to do.

Life offers many choices. It is your life. Choose consciously, choose wisely, seek godly counsel, but choose honestly.

5. Sometimes we feel like we have nothing to offer to the world. What would you say to someone who feels this way?

Everyone has something unique to offer. When we look inward and identify our:

1. Skills & Abilities

2. Personality Traits

3. Values, Dreams & Passion

We cannot possible be just like anyone else. Embrace that uniqueness and do something remarkable.

6. I love how you say that it’s impossible for us to be like anyone else. That we must discover what makes us unique. When we realize this, it makes us shine. You mention that we need to discover our Skills & Abilities, Personality Traits, and Values, Dreams, & Passion. How would you encourage someone to discover these traits?

85% of the process of having confidence in our direction comes from looking inward first. With any life experience at all there will be recurring clues as to these traits. Look at what you have already done and identify what you most enjoy, how you relate best to other people and what recurring themes show up. Trust those are markers for helping you create a clear focus.

7. I’d never heard of career or life coaches until I started to read your material. Can you explain why they are vital in the lives of successful people?

I look for a coach for any area of my life where I want rapid improvement. We are used to seeking help only when we are sick or something is dreadfully wrong. Coaches operate best with someone who is doing well – and wants to do better. Fortunately, it’s almost become a badge of honor, a bragging right, to have a “coach.” A coach should be able to help you see where you want to be three years from now – and to create a plan of action to get there.

8. It’s easy for young leaders to get discouraged when a project fails, they’re let go from a great organization, or a myriad of other life experiences. You’ve experienced some failures along the way to your success. What kept you going when you experienced these failures?

I have a different view of “failure” than many people. I haven’t met anyone I consider extraordinarily successful who hasn’t had a few bumps along the way. Walt Disney went bankrupt seven times but all we remember about him is his ultimate success. So I just assume “failure” is a necessary part of the journey to success. Failure offers us the chance to begin again – more intelligently. I still set goals where I have perhaps a 50% chance of hitting it. Some people would see not hitting a particular goal as “failure.” Frankly, I would think I shot very low if I accomplished all I set out to do. The failures help me learn, stretch and grow.

9. You must set some high goals to only have a 50% chance of reaching them. That must set the stage for many “failures”. Would you mind sharing a failure that you’ve experienced and what you learned from the experience?

Four years ago we launched the 48 Days to the Work You Love seminar series. People had been asking for it and we developed a full 12-session workshop, complete with Leader’s Guide, participant manual, DVD presentations and assorted support material. It did not hit 2% of our projections. People want a quicker fix than going through a 12-session process. We just pulled the plug on promoting that seminar. That’s a big disappointment – but certainly not the end of my business. Yes, that’s a “failure” but just one more event in the life of business that is growing every day.

10. One of my readers, Michael Good, had a question for you. Take it away Michael.

You’ve talked about the 3 legs of the stool (passion, talent, and economic model) to turn your gifts into a vocation. I sometimes see folks put too much emphasis of passion and not the other two and they end up frustrated. I’ve also tried projects that I wasn’t really passionate about but had talent and an economic model then lose the drive to keep working on it. How do you balance the 3 legs?

All three are critical. No one stays enthusiastic doing something that does not engage our passion. And without talent it will just be frustrating. And yes, it’s very common for someone to know their passion and their talent – and to assume that’s enough. Often that’s complicated by the belief that if God gave me the passion and the talent, He’ll make sure I’m successful. No, that’s a cop-out. We need to be intentional about creating a clear plan of action, with projected economic outcomes, or we’re just playing in the sand. All three legs are critically important.

11. Final question. They say breakfast is the most important meal of the day. What did you have for breakfast today?

Like every other day, I started with a smoothie and a healthy muffin. This morning the smoothie started with almond milk, a handful of frozen organic berries, half an avocado, some ground flax seed, raw organic brown rice protein, a tablespoon of Garden of Life Perfect Food Original. Sometimes I go all green with spinach and arugula – and the fruits vary according to the time of year but other than that it’s basically the same. I love change but my breakfast doesn’t change much – you’ll never catch me gobbling up pancakes, or eggs, bacon and sausage. Just not interested in compromising the health I currently enjoy.

Any closing thoughts you would like to leave with my readers?

Recognize the wealth of opportunities all around us. Learn to see what others don’t see and to expect what others think is impossible.

Question: What question would you love to have answered by a current leader? Please share your question in the comment section below.


Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • That was a very insightful interview.


  • As usual, an excellent read. Thank you Joe! I think one simple take-away we can all get a lot from is “Everyone has something unique to offer.”, above the what, why, where, how and when… we all do have something unique to offer. Be it in our personal or professional lives, there is always something very “us” that we contribute.

    • Thanks Louis. Glad to hear you’ve been enjoying the posts.

      Dan does an excellent job of letting us know that we are all unique and can offer something to the world, doesn’t he? He also does a great job at giving us advice on how to apply that uniqueness to careers.

      I’ll be continuing the leadership interview, is there a specific leader you would like to see interviewed or a question you would like me to ask?

  • What a great interview! I like the quote, “I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.” I would hate to admit that in my life, yet I’m living just like that, not truly doing what I would like to do and instead succumbing to the low expectation of mediocrity.

    I also like this:

    “Everyone has something unique to offer. When we look inward and identify our:

    1. Skills & Abilities
    2. Personality Traits
    3. Values, Dreams & Passion”

    Is this addressed in the book 48 Days?

    Between this interview and someone writing a blog for accountability as she’s going through the book is inspiring me to pick it up and start going through it as well.

    • Many of us are in that boat Thomas. We know there’s more out there but it’s hard taking that first step.

      From what I remember, Dan did write about that in his book. It’s been quite awhile. I’ll take a look through it when I get a moment and let you know.

  • Wow, what a great interview. Have thoroughly enjoyed it.

    I love his explanation on how Passion , talent and economic model balance .

    Great post!

    • His model of balance is awesome. It’s interesting watching others as their stools are missing a leg because they haven’t gone through the proper steps.

      Do you have a question you’d like to see answered on the blog by another leader Ngina? Or do you have a leader you would like to see interviewed? Please feel free to let me know!

  • I enjoyed reading the interview. I loved when he talked about the failure of not reaching the goal of with the 48 days seminar series. It was encouraging to read that if you fail at a goal does not make you a failure. You can get back up and start again. Good post.

    • That was one of my highlights of the interview. Knowing guys like Dan fail and fail often. The key is to fail quickly. If it’s not working, don’t hold onto it. Let it go.

      What questions do you have for leaders Bernard? Anyone you’d like to see interviewed on the blog?

      • I have a couple of questions.
        1. How do you stay on the grind when it seems nothing is working?
        2. If they battled fear of launching out, how did they overcome it?
        3. How did they balance their time between family and their dream?
        4. What constraints were present that they had overcome to pursue their dreams?

        I would like to see Ken Blanchard, Dave Ramsay, Bernard Haynes, Andy Stanley and John Maxwell. The third guy is up and coming.

        • I’ll add those to my interview questions list. You may see your question asked on a future installment.

          Yeah, I think I’ve heard of that number three fella. Maybe he’ll be asked sometime.

  • Nice interview. Dan Miller seems to have a solid grasp on wisdom and success. And I like his breakfast menu, something I need to work on.

    • He’s proven it through the success he’s had in his business and through the success he has helped bring to others. Thought you guys would love to hear from him.

      Any questions you would like answered in an upcoming post?

  • Great interview and I’m a HUGE Dan Miller fan so this was special, great questions Joe.

    • Thanks Kimanzi. I knew you were a big fan of his and thought you would enjoy it. He’s been a great “absentee” mentor to me through the years and it was a pleasure to interview him.

      Do you have any questions for a leader that you would like answered?

  • Awesome, Joe. Great interview and thanks for including my question!

    • My pleasure Michael. Thanks for asking it. Any more you would like answered?

  • What a pleasure getting to read @ 48daysteam Dan Miller’s thoughts and insights. Thanks too for the opportunity to ask questions of other leaders. Here are my 2 questions and hear is who I would love to hear from:
    1. If you could go back and do one thing different whether it be in your career or family life, what would it be?
    2. Knowing is can be scary, exciting, and hard to be patient, what advice would you give someone who is a parent (I happen to be a mom of four) that works full-time who is moving towards working for a company to working towards independently working on their own while doing what they are passionate about?
    Leaders that I would love to hear that answer from would be:
    Dave Ramsey
    Meg Meeker
    Jon Acuff
    Michael Hyatt
    Joel Boggess
    Kent Julian
    Henry Cloud
    Tony Robbins
    Bill Gates
    Suze Orman

    Live Beyond Awesome
    Jen McDonough

    • Jen, Glad to hear you enjoyed the interview. Dan gave some great insights into leadership and growth.

      Thanks for the suggestions for interviews. A few of those are on my “To Get” list and some I hadn’t even thought about but would be great to have.

    • Jon Acuff would be funny!

  • What a great interview. I really like the quote and answer to “Who have been the major influencers in your life?” I relate with his answer because many of the people who have influenced/mentored me have done it through their books and audio.

    Ps. I just wanted to give you a suggestion. Maybe next time you can number the questions. It might help when it comes to reading and if some one wanted to point out something in one of the questions. Does that make sense?

    Great post.

    • Right Dan! He did a great job with the answer to that question.

      Great suggestion. I’ll be going back and adding numbers to the last 2 interviews to make it easier to respond. I’ll also be adding them to future installments.

  • In the last 5-6 years, I’ve learned more from Dan Miller about life and business than anyone else. He’s a good friend and an amazing mentor! For instance, his thoughts on the 3 legs of the stool (passion, talent, economic model) has had a very real and dynamic impact on my life…both professionally and personally.

    I love that guy!

    • That is great to hear Kent. I know Dan works hard to provide great information on those subjects and seems to always deliver the goods. The man is amazing!

  • I was just able to read this now…great interview!

  • DS

    Thanks for introducing me to Dan. How cool is it that he and his son are publishing a book together? It would be fun to hear a little bit more about that.

    Question answered by a current leader – What has helped you handle a project or idea failure the most? To overcome the setback, as well as to get to creating something else.

    • My pleasure DS. Dan has been a blessing in my life and I’m glad to be able to introduce him to those that have never heard him.

      The book sounds amazing. Dan and Jared will each be writing bits and pieces of the book. Should come together really nice. If it’s anything like his previous work it’ll be awesome.

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