Episode 44 & 45: Off-Balance and Hopeful with Dan Thurmon

about the episode

Welcome to part three of our new Alchemy Series, sponsored by Wells Fargo and Prudential, where we speak to experts and thought leaders to attain advice and practical strategies to harness the adversity of COVID-19 and not just cope, but possibly thrive. Our guest today, Dan Thurmon, advocates for always being a bit “off-balance” in order to achieve greatness and expand our potential. Now, more than ever, as we are all forced out of balance in our daily and professional lives, his philosophy takes on even more importance. 

Erik and Dave chat with Dan, to hear how he is dealing during this time while isolating with his family in Georgia, and what his life’s work can offer our listeners. Seeing Dan perform and speak on stage is an experience in itself but today we strip those elements away and hear what Dan has to say.

Dan Thurmon is the president of Motivation Works, Inc., where he has helped hundreds of organizations and individuals implement action plans and move confidently through transitions. He is a renowned speaker, author, entrepreneur, workplace performance expert, fitness advocate, acrobat, and unicyclist. Dan’s book, Off Balance On Purpose, explains his philosophy that we’ll never achieve “perfect balance”. Instead of chasing this impossible dream, we should learn to embrace uncertainty and initiate positive changes that lead to personal and professional growth. Dan’s multi-dimensional view of success incorporates quality health, strong relationships, and meaningful contributions. His programs have educated and uplifted Fortune 500 companies, educators, and even troops on the front lines of battle in Afghanistan. 

» Hear an extended version of our interview with Dan here (full transcript).

We’ve created the following Tip Sheet to guide your learning experience.

Download the PDF version here.

Episode Transcript

Dan: Don't feel like you have to prove anything to anybody right now. You are enough just as you are and you are deserving of greatness. You're deserving of success and happiness and joy. And the terms that you used to define what that looked like may not apply right now, but you can find happiness, joy, purpose, giving, love, satisfaction in the new reality right now.

Erik: It's easy to talk about the successes, but what doesn't get talked about enough is the struggle. My name is Erik Weihenmayer. I've gotten the chance to ascend Mount Everest, to climb the tallest mountain in every continent, to kayak the Grand Canyon and I happened to be blind. It's been a struggle to live what I call a no barriers life, to define it, to push the parameters of what it means and part of the equation is diving into the learning process and trying to illuminate the universal elements that exist along the way. ``

Erik: In that unexplored terrain, between those dark places we find ourselves in and the summit, exists a map. That map, that way forward, is what we call no barriers.
Speaker 3: In today's Alchemy Series episode we meet Dan Thurman who is the president of Motivation Works Inc. He's a renowned speaker, author, entrepreneur, workplace performance expert, fitness advocate, acrobat and unicyclist. Dan's book, Off-Balance on Purpose, explains his philosophy that we'll never achieve perfect balance. Instead of chasing this impossible dream, we should learn to embrace uncertainty and initiate positive changes that lead to personal and professional growth. His programs have educated and uplifted Fortune 500 companies, teachers and even troops on the front lines of battle in Afghanistan. Enjoy the conversation.

Dave: Welcome to our new weekly No Barriers podcast series where we will continue to explore this extraordinary moment in our lives with a pandemic taking over the world, while remaining true to the theme that we've always emphasized here which is, what's within you is stronger than what's in your way which is a message I think the world needs now more than ever. Special thanks to Prudential and Wells Fargo for their support of this podcast series.

Dave: Dan, I'd love for you, your video here on the podcast, I see in the back there your book Off Balance on Purpose. I'd love for you to... When I think of that book and that title in this time I would just add the word not on purpose, off balance not on purpose. And I'd love for you to give your abbreviated version of off balance, not on purpose. That's what we're facing right now.

Dave: How do I survive this, Dan? How do I thrive in this? Do I go beyond surviving? Give us the pointers for how we go about doing that.

Dan: First, you just have to, I don't want to be prescriptive because every person's situation is different and I don't have a silver bullet for you. And I can only understand my pain, my fear. I can't ever expect to understand yours. But I will say like the way to get to having hope, think of it in terms of an acronym. It's like help because when you're focused on others you just have a whole different resource that your mind works differently than when you're fixated on your own problem.

Dan: So you have to get out of your head and focus on somebody else and then the O I think of open. Open your mind to other possibilities. When you get so stuck on this is bad, this is why it's bad, this is the outcome I'm dreading and you only fix it on that one thing, then you close your mind everything else. When we have to imagine that there are really wonderful possibilities that also exist at the same time that there are huge opportunities.

Dan: If you don't open your mind in that, you're never going to see, there's no chance. And then the P is perspective we talked about like that timeframe. The E for me is like enjoyment. You've got to find a way to enjoy your moments because if you can do that, if you can find something that makes you laugh, makes you smile, where you get into a skill you love or something like that, that creates that openness where you can activate a sense of hope and say, I can feel good now. Well that's pretty awesome.

Erik: Yeah. My wife and I are taking walks every day and my wife's been playing baseball with my son. Obviously he can't play baseball this spring with this team so he wouldn't have given her the time of day. But now, because since mom and me are the ones that are around, they're out there playing baseball together and so yeah, that is something we'll look back on in terms of enjoyment.

Dan: I think so. And there's that story times millions right now of people finding similar ways to cope because again, that's our default. We want to not only escape our pain, but we want to hold onto something we truly love and appreciate.

Dave: You mentioned what you're doing with your own family in this time and a lot of our listeners are locked at home trying to manage working from home, which many have never done before with their kids also taking school at home and dealing with being close to each other all times of the day and managing all these new moving parts while also trying to still be present in their jobs if they're employed. What do recommend for families in this time that are dealing with this exact situation of managing a whole new reality?

Dan: Yeah, when I think about it, it's basically, I've talked for a long time about work life integration and how do we connect what matters most rather than seeing, your job as separate from your family to draw the connections and to find the way that they can and do support each other or your spirit. How do you feel your spirit while you're at work? How do you take care of your health in relationship to the people you love or the job that you do?

Dan: And right now, these circumstances are forcing people into that environment where it's not just a concept. It's like they have to figure this out. And I would suggest give everybody a little bit more grace. Give everybody around you space, let them blow off emotion, blow off anger, steam however they need to and be empathetic, but also be intentional about coming back together and saying, let's talk about what we're going through. Let's work through it together.

Dan: How can I support you? Gosh, online school is really hard right now. It's like, how do you do that? It's getting... Like my daughter hates it. She totally hates online school. So talk about that. Talk about why that's difficult. And then maybe share some of your own difficulties. Here's what I'm struggling with. Maybe we can help each other out just by talking it through a little bit. So communication and when you can find something that you can both agree, you can try and experiment.

Dan: The other thing I would suggest is break it up. Find something you've never done before and make this the moment where you experiment and try a new game or watch a new movie or talk about new ideas or learn new skills or eat new foods because we're all cooking at home. So why not experiment with, let's take turns cooking and figure out new recipes. And it just gives us this environment to create, it can open our mind to all these new possibilities together.

Erik: This is a hard question to ask, but a lot of speakers were talking about similar things or even neuroscientists are talking about this idea of discomfort of being off balance is the state of our lives. You can apply that to like, okay, Maggie school or [Arjun 00:08:30] school, I hate online learning or maybe you're loving someone and it feels very one-sided or you're a person of faith and God seems very distant. This is a very kind of existential but dissatisfying philosophy that we never arrive that our lives, there's a state of discontent and that is our lives. And we have to learn to thrive within that framework of imbalance. It's not a very satisfying cell then.

Dan: Yeah. I don't know. I what someone told me once, it sounds like you're an Eastern philosophy taught through the lens of a Western world. This idea of impermanence, which is what you're talking about. I'm never going to arrive, but to me that's also liberating. The idea that, I remember like eighth grade when my teacher told my parents, "You haven't reached your full potential. He's not reaching his full potential." And that just struck me as ridiculous because I thought, why would I reach my full potential in eighth grade?

Dan: You don't ever reach your full potential because you're constantly growing and evolving. And I don't want to peak right now. I don't want to peak in my 50s I want a peak right before I kicked the bucket. I want to be on this trajectory of like, I want to continue to learn and grow. And it is infinite. You can learn every day for the rest of your life. Something new. You'll never run out of disc space. This concept of the more you learn, the more you can learn, it's true. So this concept of being disk uncomfortable. I love your philosophy of what's within you is stronger than what's in your way.

Dan: The way I say it is if you limit yourself to what's comfortable, you deny yourself what's possible. So this is not an idea that I have to stretch outside my comfort zone for someone else. No, it's for you. If you're not doing that, you're denying yourself what you really want. That's just on the other side of this discomfort. So it's about making it intentional again.

Erik: Is this when we make a disclaimer, like don't try this at home. Don't have people throw knives at you when you're sitting on a unicycle?

Dan: Trained professional.

Erik: Yeah.

Dan: I'm a trained professional with a vague idea of what I'm doing.

Erik: Yeah. So how do you put structure around this? We're not telling people to go jump off a cliff and hope they fly. How do you put some structure around this idea of discomfort and possibility?

Dan: If you think of what you're doing now is difficult. Do something harder.

Erik: Yeah. And that's how you learn to juggle because I've seen [inaudible 00:11:31] so many times.

Dan: I never got the hang of juggling four balls until I tried five balls. You have to stretch to that next level before you give yourself permission to own the skills that you are cultivating. And it's the truth of life. And so it's not about my metaphor with juggling and unicycling and acrobatics or years with climbing the world's hugest mountains. It's about understanding that the way you do anything is really the way you do everything. And it's about posture.

Dan: So are you leaning in and are you off balance saying what's next? What's new, what can I do now? And are you on this trajectory of continuing to grow throughout your life? And even during these moments, if you continue to invest in yourself, you will see those dividends. And right now it may feel, I would say like, like you're at a loss and that the past is just irrelevant. Everything you've achieved might be in jeopardy.

Dan: Everything you've built in terms of a business or your own personal fortunes or a sense of security just might go out the window. And I would say that's not the truth. Your past is absolutely 100% relevant because the same skills that you've developed in terms of how do you relate to people, how do you communicate ideas? How can you make people laugh or be the type of person that others like to be around or complete a project or be dependable. Those are the core human skills that are going to be an incredible value in demand in this future however it turns out.

Dan: It all counts. Everything counts. You just don't know how yet and that's okay. You don't have to know the value of your past. You just have to know it's going to be there for you, if you can connect those dots.

Dave: I love that idea where I do think a lot of people feel at a loss. Right now at this moment in their lives and they don't want to go listen to the gurus about how this is, we should all take advantage of this adversity and make this the best thing ever. They just feel like, what the hell? I am at a complete loss. I have nothing less to give. I'm giving up myself everywhere and I have no energy left to do anything else. I feel like I'm just surviving.

Dave: Speaking to those folks, which I think a lot of us feel this way of gosh, I just feel like I'm at a complete loss and I'm exhausted and I feel like I just don't have anything else to give. Talk to that kind of person for me.

Dan: What I would say to somebody who's desperate, and I think that's what you're talking about. Desperate. I just don't know what my next move is. I would say first of all, that's okay and you don't have to figure it out. Sometimes you just have to take that posture, step back a bit and say, "I'm going to take care of me. I'm going to take care of the people I love." So don't feel like you have to prove anything to anybody right now. You are enough just as you are and you are deserving of greatness.

Dan: You're deserving of success and happiness and joy and the terms that you used to use to define what that looked like may not apply right now, but you can find happiness, joy, purpose, giving, love, satisfaction in the new reality right now. And when you learn to do that, you're going to be like a superhero. When you go forward, not only can you activate it within yourself, but you can activate it for other people too.

Dave: Well, Dan, thank you so much for this time together. We're so appreciative that you've made it work and gave us some real perspective on this moment in our lives and things that we can apply directly. right away, I think there was just some incredible morsels there. If you're listening and wanting to go back to some of those key things that you could apply in your own life right now, take a look at our show notes. We're putting a one page PDF together for each of these. That's the top highlights of how to apply what you just heard to your own life now.

Dave: So you can get that in our show notes at nobarrierspodcast.com but Dan, thank you so much. It's been a real pleasure.

Dan: Thanks, Dave. Thanks Eric.

Dave: Awesome. Well, Eric tell me what you heard that really resonates with you.

Erik: Look, I mean, there were like a dozen amazing tips and ideas that Dan put out there. But for me, I just come back to this more existential idea. What's that quote? Once I learned that life would never be easy. That's when life got easy. And that's something I'm trying to live right now. And this idea that we're going to be off balance till the day we die and that's life and we have to find out a way to thrive. And that feeling of being off balance and really good things can happen in the state of being off balance.

Erik: And if we reach a point in our lives where life is pretty easy, again, we might want to throw ourselves into something off balance and see the discoveries that happened as a result. So I love that idea and it's like a philosophy that you live with and I don't know, it almost borders on like Dan was talking about like faith, in terms of how we live.

Dave: Yeah. So true. Yeah. I really loved the segment where Dan described how there's this opportunity for us to not be defined by our jobs or what we do during the day and going from point A to point B. A lot of us are changing the way we work and that question of who am I really, I am not the thing I necessarily thought I was because all of shattered in this new world, but who am I at my core? And I think that's work that we can always take pause to do and what better time than now to just say, who am I at my core? Who am I really? So I really loved that segment.

Erik: Yeah. When no one's watching.

Dave: Yeah exactly. Thank you everybody for listening. You can find our show notes at nobarrierspodcast.com thanks to Prudential and Wells Fargo for their generous support of this podcast series and as always, please share this with others and follow us for our next podcast next week. Thank you.

Erik: All right, thanks everyone. No barriers. The production team behind this podcast includes senior producer, Pauline Schaffer. Executive producer, Diedrich Jonk, sound design, editing and mixing by Tyler Cottman graphics by Sam Davis and marketing support by Megan Lee and Karly Sandsmark. Special thanks to the Dan Ryan band for our intro song, Guidance. And thanks to all of you for listening. We know that you've got a lot of choices about how you can spend your time and we appreciate you spending it with us. If you enjoy this podcast, we encourage you to subscribe to it, share it, and give us a review. Show notes can be found at nobarriers.podcast.com

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