A fantastic book that I recently finished readying and studying is the Way of the Peaceful Warrior by Dan Millman, which has really changed my way of thinking lately and I’ve been working on practicing the concepts in the book.
I originally watched the Peaceful Warrior movie years ago and it had a lot of powerful lessons and insights that I had used to improve my life. Around a month or so ago, I re-watched the movie and decided to pick up the book to learn more about Dan Millman’s story and philosophy towards life.
I loved the book so much that I decided to read the follow-up book called Wisdom of the Peaceful Warrior, which goes deeper into the lessons and concepts from the Way of the Peaceful Warrior. In this Way of the Peaceful Warrior book review, I’m going to share some of the most powerful insights that I’ve had that really stuck out for me and has made a difference in my life. I highly recommend you pick up the book, or at least watch the movie. The Way of the Peaceful Warrior changes lives.
Way of the Peaceful Warrior is a true story, based on the life of Dan Millman. The book shares Dan’s journey through university as a world-champion gymnast who has a passion to succeed and make it to the Olympics. On the surface, Dan has it all – he’s good looking, popular, gets great grades, has women chasing him, his dad has plenty of money, great physical shape… yet, there’s something missing.
It isn’t until one night Dan wakes up in the middle of the night and decides to take a walk to a nearby gas station that he encounters an old man that he calls Socrates, who begins mentoring him and exposes how deeply unhappy Dan is. The story essentially chronicles Dan’s story through life to evolve himself into a Peaceful Warrior, with all the powerful lessons that he’s learning from Socrates.
Without spoiling the story, I’m going to share below some of the most powerful insights for me.
“Life brought rewards, but no lasting peace or satisfaction.”
This is one of the quotes from Dan Millman in the book, describing his life. For the most part, everyone who’s chasing success in life can relate to this. This statement describes the emptiness that began Dan’s search for spirit. Dan, like many of us, have been conditioned to believe that “When I achieve X-Y-Z, then I will be happy.” And while most of us intellectually know that’s not true, we still pursue goals believing it will give us that fulfillment.
The lesson here is simple: nothing in your outer world will ever make you happy or fulfilled. Happiness can only come from the inside. When you truly come to this realization and stop deluding yourself, you can gain that sense of peace and satisfaction within.
“The world out there,” he said, waving his arm across the horizon, “is a school, Dan. Life is the only real teacher. It offers many experiences, and if experience alone brought wisdom and fulfillment, then elderly people would all be happy, enlightened masters. But the lessons of experience are hidden. I can help you learn from experience to see the world clearly.”
Another lesson in the book is the idea that daily life provides the spiritual weight lifting that strengthens our spirits as we ascend the mountain path. In other words, the way itself creates the warrior.
While experience and wisdom is important, in the Way of the Peaceful Warrior, Socrates teaches Dan that there’s a difference between Knowing and Doing. You can know what to do or understand something, but you don’t really KNOW it until you’re DOING it.
Here’s another great quote from the book: “Knowledge is not the same as wisdom. Knowledge is knowing — wisdom is doing.”
Furthermore, the best performers had the quietest minds during their moment of truth… For the first time, I realized why I loved gymnastics so. It gave me a blessed respite from my noisy mind. When I was swinging and somersaulting, nothing else mattered. When my body was active, my mind rested in the moments of silence.
This is one of the most powerful concepts and lessons I got from the Way of the Peaceful Warrior. This excerpt is Dan Millman describing his experience with gymnastics and how it’s a way for him to “quiet the noise in his mind”. I was able to relate to this, as for me, I find I have different activities that are my way of getting out of my head.
A big theme in the Way of the Peaceful Warrior that Socrates instills in Dan is the power of NOW. The only time that matters is RIGHT NOW, this moment. This moment is all that we have. Yesterday is gone, and tomorrow doesn’t exist. But, the problem with most people is that we live in our heads. We live in either the past or the future.
All stress and fear exists in either the past or the future. In fact, fear is just anticipation of pain. If you can truly live in the moment and get out of your head, you can be free of all of the garbage in your head and perform at levels you never thought possible. Not only that, but you can be at peace.
Take out the trash. Clear you mind of everything you don’t need (doubt, past failures, future victories, … etc.)
Being in the moment is a practice. It’s a practice that Dan focuses on throughout the book that changes his life for the better. He shares his experiences learning meditation and learning to be more and more present. There’s one part in the book where Socrates throws Dan over a bridge into the water, just to clear his mind. He then describes to Dan how there are no ordinary moments – that there is never nothing going on. The truth is, there is so many amazing things going on at any given moment, but we’re too much inside of our heads to notice it.
“Where are you? … HERE”
“What time is it? … NOW”
“What are you? … THIS MOMENT.”
There’s a certain point in the story where Dan deals with adversity and is on the verge of giving up, just when Socrates instills some powerful wisdom for him: “A warrior does not give up what he loves, Dan. He finds the love in what he does.”
Check out the YouTube videos below for some gold nuggets of wisdom from Socrates in the Peaceful Warrior movie.
Another powerful lesson from the Way of the Peaceful Warrior is when Socrates decides to take Dan on a hike. On the way up the mountain, Dan is excited and really loving the hike, anticipating what Socrates is going to show him. When at the top, Dan says, “What did you want to show me?” and Socrates points to a rock. Dan is then disappointed and says, “This is it? This is what you wanted to show me??” Socrates then hits Dan with the powerful lesson of “It’s the journey, not the destination.”
This was another huge lesson for me that I can relate to, as often we get so caught up in our goals that we don’t pay attention to or really enjoy the journey. We spend the majority of our lives in the pursuit of achieving things, so we might as well ENJOY IT.
There are so many more amazing powerful lessons that I got from the Way of the Peaceful Warrior book by Dan Millman, along with the Peaceful Warrior movie. I highly recommend checking out both. The movie is great, but it only covers a part of the actual story. I recommend going through both – it will definitely change the way you look at your life, I know it did for me.