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 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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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.


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  • 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]


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