Show #407: Train your brain and don’t be a jerk

Show #407: Train your brain and don’t be a jerk

Meditation, from a scientific perspective -- stripping it of candles, incense, outfits and overall hoodoo spirituality. Dan Harris of ABC News’ Nightline says it’s simply about being mindful and taking captive what is going on in your head. Being unaware can lead to anxiety, panic attacks, and…being a jerk. Dan had an on-air panic attack that brought his world to a halt and set him in search of a way to cope with the voice inside his head. The voice we all have.

Hi, this is Kevin Miller, and today we have episode 407 of Ziglar’s True Performance Show.

Today Tom Ziglar and I bring you Dan Harris, co-anchor of ABC News’ Nightline and the weekend edition of Good Morning America.

To get into the topic of today’s show, I’m going to preface by talking about Zig Ziglar’s renowned Self-Talk Cards. We get weekly testimonies from people sharing how their lives have changed as a result of the self-talk cards.

We got this recently: “It's been 96 days since I downloaded the self-talk cards. I am going strong with my morning and evening routine, nearly not missing a single time. When I started, I worked at a fast-food restaurant for a very low salary. I started to be grateful for the job, but at the same time I thought. ‘I'm sure there is more that I can do.’ Now I work at a very nice sushi restaurant, making twice as much money as before. I believe that I have great value as a person. Although I'm employed, I work with the mentality of being self-employed. There is still way more to come!

“Life is awesome and my journey of working on my self-image has just begun. It is changing my life. I realize it is a life-long process, which I'm committed to. Thank you for passing on the Ziglars’ message and making the world a better place!

“Born to win,

Folks, you can get the self-talk cards, always, at

But the point I want to make today is...the self-talk cards don’t have any supernatural powers. They are not out of the Bible. It is…reprogramming. Training your brain. Simple as that.

Our guest today, Dan Harris, had a live, on-air panic attack seen by millions. Ten years later he’s written a book on why it happened, something most of us can relate to, and what he’s done to get to a healthier place. And…it’s brain training.

Our True Performance Show by Ziglar audience is fairly conservative, and following this interview Tom Ziglar and I agreed we may hear from some of you regarding a bit of the content. But I believe we and our guest, Dan Harris, are very clear on the reality that this is a proven, worthy tool to help you increase your personal performance.

I’ll go further to testify that since the recording of this show, I am working on this very brain training, as I’m having some manifestations of not dealing well with anxiety.

Dan Harris is the author of the #1 New York Times Bestseller 10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help That Actually Works—A True Story. Harris is the co-creator of the 10% Happier: Meditation for Fidgety Skeptics app and the host of the podcast 10% Happier with Dan Harris. He is also co-anchor for ABC News’ Nightline and for the weekend edition of Good Morning America. Before that, he was the anchor of the Sunday edition of World News. Harris has reported from all over the planet, covering wars in Afghanistan, Israel/Palestine, and Iraq; and produced investigative reports in Haiti, Cambodia, and the Congo. He has been at ABC News for 15 years, receiving Murrow and Emmy awards for his reporting. Prior to joining ABC, he was in local news in Boston and Maine. He grew up outside of Boston and currently lives with his wife, Bianca, and son, Alexander, in New York City.

Find him at

And again, his app you can find by searching for:
10% Happier: Meditation for Skeptics

As I mentioned before, Dan had a nationally televised panic attack and knew he had to make some changes. Eventually, Dan realized the source of his problems was the very thing he always thought was his greatest asset: the incessant, insatiable voice in his head, which had propelled him through the ranks of a hypercompetitive business, but had also led him to make the profoundly stupid decisions that provoked his on-air freak-out.

Eventually, Harris stumbled upon an effective way to rein in that voice, something he always assumed to be either impossible or useless: meditation, a tool that research suggests can do everything from lower your blood pressure to, essentially, rewire your brain. 10% Happier 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.

Ok, folks, so here Tom Ziglar and I bring you a really interesting and informative show. If you want to comment about it, shoot it to us at [email protected]

Dan, you’re a broadcasting master and celebrity. You’re on ABC News, for goodness sake! Thank you for joining us for The Ziglar broadcast today; we’re honored!

>>Listen to the show

First question…did you meditate today?

>> Hear Dan’s responses on the program

So, big picture here, Dan. Ten years ago you had achieved a great level of success in your work. I’m sure you had even bigger goals, but you were at the top of your game. You’d been doing it awhile, you weren’t new. Then you had a breakdown. A panic attack on live TV. But you say that it was the culmination of something that had been brewing for years, which is the case for most any physical or emotional pathology. Share with us some of the contributing factors that led to the ultimate fruition of your panic attack.

>> Listen to the show

Checking out your Twitter and seeing posts from you on Parental Happiness, is this something you are personally pressing into because of your new kiddo?

>> Listen to the show

Why are anxiety, panic attacks on the rise?

What’s happening right now?

>> Listen to the show

So, your focus is on the value of meditation, but your platform is debunking all the baggage around it -- and I really like the perspective you give. You share that it is simply an exercise for the brain. I’m involved in the alternative medical industry and am a strong proponent of neuro-therapy, and my wife works in the research center for Learning Rx. What I’m extremely aware of is how foreign the concept of “brain training” and “the brain as a muscle” is to most people. So, you labeling meditation as a simple exercise for the brain does much to demystify the hoodoo guru-ness of “meditation,” but do you still find that you’re having to educate people in the reality of the brain in general?

> > Hear Dan’s responses on the program

So, the primary problem you cite was the voices in your head. The “internal narrator,” the most intimate part of our lives. The inner chatter. Of course, this is central at Ziglar, as Zig’s self-talk cards and positive affirmations are directed squarely at creating POSITIVE self-talk.

But in the way you phrase it, voices in our heads, internal narrator, inner talk and chatter…I fear there are many people who, at face value, would say…they don’t have this. Not negative or positive. And I’m guessing you’d disagree. Am I right…and will you explain?

>>Listen to the show

  1. Sit comfortably with spine straight
  2. Bring full attention to your breathing, in and out
  3. “Bicep curl” for the brain

“All of humanity's problems stem from man's inability to sit quietly in a room alone," wrote the French philosopher Blaise Pascal.

I definitely come from the cloth of…”Don’t just sit there, DO something!” I can’t handle idleness. But I have a deep-thinking, peaceful son who brought us to contemplate a reversal. “Don’t just do something…SIT THERE!” It’s not an easy exercise for me, Dan. The main reason…I just don’t want to! I want to do and produce and create, and on and on. Motivate me to the benefits I’ll experience by not just doing something, but…sitting there.

>>Listen to the show

“Margin is where the brilliance happens.”

>>Listen to the show

  • Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting 40 million adults in the United States age 18 and older, or 18% of the population. (Source: National Institute of Mental Health)
  • Anxiety disorders are highly treatable, yet only about one-third of those suffering receive treatment.
  • Anxiety disorders cost the U.S. more than $42 billion a year, almost one-third of the country's $148 billion total mental health bill, according to "The Economic Burden of Anxiety Disorders," a study commissioned by ADAA (The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, 60(7), July 1999).

Two things from this. First, they are saying, in essence, that the campaign you are pushing here, Dan, accounts for one-third of our country’s total mental health bill…and 18% of the population. That’s a flat-out epidemic! Holy smokes!

>>Hear Dan’s comments on the program

  1. Focus
  2. emotional intelligence and agility
  3. compassion
  4. health benefits

OK, also from those stats they say, “More than $22.84 billion of the costs are associated with the repeated use of health care services; people with anxiety disorders seek relief for symptoms that mimic physical illnesses.

Which makes me ask, how many people right now who are suffering from perceived physical illnesses are really, at the root, suffering from mental stress? And how much of the medical field is catching, or cares to catch, this root, as opposed to just treating the symptom?

> > Listen to the show

I have a partner in a biz who is a medical doctor. I’m not an official, licensed, degreed medical expert, but I’m an evidence-based expert and can see when 1+1 equals two.

Meditation/mindfulness is not the end-all solution for all things, but it’s “bottom up.” It reminds me of working out. We poke fun at the guy who has massive arms and chest, but neglects legs and is walking around on toothpicks.

It seems like physical wellness, but we’re leaving out mental wellness.

> > Hear the show

How much time on stock portfolios…?

>> Listen to the show

Back to the aspect of meditating to keep open space in your brain for acute issues. It’s Dave Ramsey’s perspective with money and having an emergency fund for the things that are not really emergencies. They are GOING to happen. The car WILL break down. The heat and air will die at our home. We should have money set aside for the inevitable. So, you’re talking about margin in our brains as a ready…bank account, in essence? That must be available for the withdrawals that WILL happen?

>>Listen to the show

So, before your panic attack you were running and gunning. Big TV, celebrity status; making things happen. A ball of energy and production. Busy and doing important work, applauded by millions. You wore yourself out. But would you say you’ve slowed down? Or just included or adopted a necessary healthy habit that allows you to continue doing what you want to do?

> >Listen to the show

In your book you wrote, “Many of us labor under the delusion that we’re permanently stuck with all the difficult parts of our personalities – that we are ‘hot-tempered,’ or ‘shy,’ or ‘sad’ – and that these are fixed, immutable traits. We now know that many of the attributes we value most are, in fact, skills, which can be trained the same way you build your body in the gym.”

I don’t really like hearing that, Dan. I’m an impatient guy. I don’t really want to be patient, I just want slow people to get out of the left lane and people at Redbox to choose and purchase their movies online instead of browsing at the kiosk.

But you’re telling me that even my impatience is something I’ve…strengthened. And I can do the work to become…more patient?

>>Listen to the show

Now, Dan, this is the Ziglar Show and I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Chapter 6 in your book. Can you tell our listeners what the title of this chapter is?

>>Listen to the show

Uh…yeah. Zig just rolled over in his grave, Dan. However…I read it and…well…explain this massively un-Ziglaresque quote to us.

>>Listen to Dan’s response on the program

So your app that I told everyone about in the intro, Meditation for Skeptics by 10% Happier: Guided Meditations and Mindfulness Techniques to Learn How to Meditate

Give everyone an overview of why you created it and what it will do for them.

> > Listen to the show