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.


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