Author and world champion athlete Dan Millman spoke to a crowd
of about 100 on Monday in Haas pavilion to define his concept of
the peaceful warrior and to spread inspirational words of
Millman opened his lecture with a demonstration of his
experience as a gymnast at UC Berkeley. “When I was a young
athlete, I used to do things like this,” he said as he pushed
himself into a handstand onto the top of a table in the middle of
the auditorium, provoking cheers from the student athletes and
coaches sitting in the bleachers.
Millman defined his concept of The Peaceful Warrior as having a
peaceful heart and warrior strength. This concept, he said, can be
applied to life experiences by being true to one’s self in
difficult situations. “Next time you feel self doubt,” he said,
“say, ‘excuse me, I have something to do.'”
Millman challenged the crowd to list, in order, 20 objects that
he named off including running shoes, a mountain, a can of red
paint and a waterfall. He acknowledged the self-doubt that he
predicted would arise in everyone who attempted to list the items
in order. He then described a mental picture of the objects by
connecting them altogether. When he was finished, he asked the
Mills athletes to recite the list in order, which provoked a
cheering response from the crowd who successfully named all of the
Mills Crew varsity coach Wendy Franklin was so moved by
Millman’s mental exercise that she tried it at home with her
five-year-old daughter, Georgia. To Franklin’s surprise, her
daughter could also recite the twenty objects in order.
Millman also shared some words of wisdom he learned from
influential role models and from his experience as an athlete over
the years. He took the old saying, “A chain is only as strong as
its weakest link,” and applied it to athletes.
“I couldn’t argue with that,” he said. “We break at our own
weakest link. The moral of the story is to build up your own
weakest link. This universally applies to every domain. The wisdom
is inside you.”
Franklin said she appreciated how Millman applied his wisdom to
athletes. “It’s not just about rowing, it’s much more than that. It
takes concentration, discipline, focus,” she said. “We learn life
lessons from our sport. It is not through the sport that you learn
discipline, it is the commitment, how you relate to other people,
it’s about yourself. Sports offer a structure to learn these
Although many were inspired by Millman’s lecture, some Mills
athletes had varied opinions regarding his message.
Mills Crew athlete Ana Zamora said she could apply to rowing
some of what he said. “I didn’t learn anything for life, but I
learned something for my sport,” she said.
Senior Mary Kay Chin had a different perspective on Dan Millman.
“If I see another white, middle-aged man going through a life
crisis trying to translate Eastern culture I’m going to shoot
myself in the foot.” she said. “He’s not a better person to tell me
how to live my life.”
Freshwoman Shannon Van Meir said she could relate to some of
what Millman said. “In every moment you have a purpose,” she said.
“You don’t think about the little things in life, but if you think
about every moment and appreciate it, maybe you’ll learn