Life lessons from Way of the Peaceful Warrior

Years after reading the book Way of the Peaceful Warrior, again I’m reminded why I like it so much. This post was updated as of 2020.

It tells the story of a young man on a journey to find his place in the world. Despite his success, he still feels there’s something is missing in his life. He’s aided by a mysterious garage owner called Socrates. It’s the wisdom of Socrates that’s most interesting here. Below I outline some of the lessons I picked up from it.


‘No amount of knowledge will nourish or sustain your spirit, it can never bring you ultimate happiness or peace.  Life requires more that knowledge; it requires intense feeling and constant energy.  Life demands right action if knowledge is to come alive.’

Dan Millman/Socrates

Knowledge is good, but the experience is better. No amount of reading books or watching vids can make never you an artist. The only way is to get some materials and practice what you have studied.

What you learn on the way cannot be found in books. It deals with your hopes, fears, inspiration, motivation, failure, and more. It’s not the abstract, sterile world of a book, now it’s inside, in the flesh, the bones, the blood. When you practice, you become what you practice (as Aristotle said).

Study and practice both play off each other. Action makes knowledge not just a function of thought, but of everything you are.


‘It is better for you to take responsibility for your life as it is, instead of blaming others, or circumstances, for your predicament. As your eyes open, you’ll see that your state of health, happiness, and every circumstance of your life has been, in large part, arranged by you — consciously or unconsciously.’

Dan Millman/Socrates

Instead of just drifting through life hoping everything works out (as I did once).
We all need to wake up and accept the only person responsible for our life is ourselves. Other people play their parts, but the shape of our lives has a lot to do with how we show up.

There is a part of us, a childlike part, that wants to be taken care of. To have others make decisions for us. That sort of life never belong to us, it’s neither fulfilling nor authentic.

Far too many people shun responsibility, then complain life is not what they expected it to be. We need to be jolted out of our complacency, to have our laziness challenged.

Taking responsibility is to make it our mission to live to the fullest we can. To live up to our potential, find our prosperity and happiness. This is being a player, not just a spectator.

It’s stepping up and doing what needs to be done, to be the person we want to be, and the life we want to live.


‘So keep practicing, Dan. Refine your senses a little more each day; stretch them, as you would in the gym. Finally, your awareness will pierce deeply into your body and into the world. Then you’ll think less and feel more. That way you’ll enjoy even the simplest things in life—no longer addicted to achievement or expensive entertainments.’

Dan Millman/Socrates

We are the thoughts and feelings we have. We can get so caught up in thinking we are what we think we forget an important truth. Our minds are not here to give us the truth, only to keep us alive.
We don’t notice the tricks our minds play on us unless we make an effort to see them.

To live without awareness is to live with blinders onto the world. Such ignorance is the basis of our suffering. Reality is illusions upon illusions. Yet we believe they are tangible, real.

We need to be jolted out of our illusions. We often think to be disillusioned is a negative thing, we lost something. But disillusioned means to break an illusion, and falsehood or deception, it’s liberating.

My journey has had such moments. It’s only through knowledge and awareness can we ever hope to live a good life.

We need to be woken up, out of our complacency, our ignorance. To have our illusions shattered, and live with more awareness and presence.

To that end we need to examine our minds, question our conclusions, and seek out new ways and methods.


‘You can’t attain happiness, it attains you but only after you surrender everything else.’

Dan Millman/Socrates

Our expectations are the source of our suffering. We get this egotistical attitude that the world owes us something. So we strut around with this sense of entitlement and self centredness.
If our expectations are not met, either by others or by ourselves we get upset. As if the comsos is obligated to comply.

But that’s our ego talking, The world doesn’t revolve around us, it owes us nothing.

It’s such as struggle trying to live up to others expectations, but it’s harder to live up to our own.

To live then We have to let go of such an egotistical attitude, and let life flow by itself. To stop trying to grasp the wind.


‘Life comes at us in waves. We can’t predict or control those waves, but we can learn to surf’

Dan Millman/Socrates

Our lives are lived in a desperate quest for control. Because through such control that we think a good life can be forged.

We push ourselves so hard into being efficient, organised and successful. There no time for fun, because there’s always work to be done, control to maintain. Losing control is to show weakness. We can’t let our guard down, we’re too afraid too.

We need to find the middle way, the part that recognises we not in charge of the world, but we’re not powerless either. We get to show up as see what will happen.

It’s not helplessness, neither a control freak. But being a player, showing up for life and letting the rest play out in it’s own way.


‘Your business is not to ‘get somewhere’ — it is to be here.’

Dan Millman/Socrates

The world is now, and only now. Our heads get caught up the regrets of the past and worries of the future. To be happy is to realise that there is no other place but to be happy now.

So much of our life is missed because we fail to pay attention to what’s going on. We chase after a vision, flee from past, so rarely is our mind on where we are.

Life is made up of moments, they will pass us by if we don’t know how to be happy where we are.

Worse still if we’re not here in the present the future we fear might come to pass. Because the choices we make now can become our future.


‘You can’t attain happiness, it attains you but only after you surrender everything else.’

Dan Millman/Socrates

It’s a waste of energy and time trying to live up to others expectations. Such an existence means you will be trying forever to live someone else’s life.

Further still, beware your own expectations. The expectations we place upon ourselves can be far more stringent than we expect of others.

We can become so attached to the end result that we get all our hopes up. Yet when it arrives it’s never quite as good we anticipated. If we fail, we feel bad about ourselves.

So life becomes one long chase after phantoms. Beating yourself up for the failures and forgetting the success.

Instead remember. Life doesn’t owe us anything.

People seem to think that all the effort they out into life should at the end be justified truth some kind of reward. That we deserve success and happiness as a matter of birthright.

We seem to have a sense of entitlement. But this is our ego talking. The world doesn’t revolve around us, it owes us nothing.


‘Your business is not to ‘get somewhere’ — it is to be here.’

Dan Millman/Socrates

Our heads get caught up the regrets of the past and worries about the future. To be happy is to realise that there is no other place but now.

So much of our life is missed because we fail to pay attention to what’s going on in the moment.

If we don’t focus on the present that we can fail to recognise what’s going on. To the extent that we make bad decisions. Which could lead to that future we are so worried about.

To be in the now to is to be aware of what’s going on. Both inside and outside of yourself.

If your mind wanders away, distracted then you run the risk of making bad decisions.

Instead, focus on the now, the decisions you make, cultivate an awareness of what’s going on.

The Words we speak

‘the conventions of language reveal the ways we see the world.’

Dan Millman/Socrates

Language can help us understand the world and communicate with each other. But sometimes it becomes the straight jacket that keeps ignorant.

How we talk to ourselves becomes the truth we believe.

‘Anxious, flawed, freak, shy, worthless.’ With words like these in our mind, it becomes the reality we experience. Repeat them enough times as we start to believe those words. The result is more fear, shame, then despair and mediocrity.

Words can be a way to self-harm or to self-heal.

Words matter and we need to be aware of which ones we use, choose them carefully.

We must understand that words are just labels, like post-it notes, they don’t define us. But they do have power over us if we forget this.

The Journey, not the destination

“There is not path to happiness, happiness is the path.
There is no path to love, love is the path.
There is not path to peace, peace is the path.”

Dan Millman/Socrates

We’re obsessed with finding happiness as if it’s a pot of gold at the end of the journey. Wealth, possessions, status are the means to this end. Yet all that work, striving, chasing just gives us more wants and desires.

We are so focused on ‘making it’ that we lose sight of the fact that birth and death are the bookends on life. It’s the bit in between that matters.

Happiness is not the result of a good life, it is a good life. Life is not a problem to be fixed but an adventure to be lived.


“The peaceful warriors’ way is not about invulnerability, but absolute vulnerability, to the world, to life…”

Dan Millman/Socrates

Probably the biggest obstacle we have in finding success and happiness is the idea that we must protect ourselves at all costs.

We are fragile creatures, vulnerable to suffering and hardship. Our response to this hardship is to toughen ourselves up. To armour ourselves against loss and pain. Become stronger, don’t feel, don’t show emotions because that’s a sign of weakness.

Yet such an attitude prevents us from experiencing life. Shutting out the pain and suffering means we don’t get to feel the joy and happiness that come with it.

Erecting barriers around ourselves gives us security, but cuts us off from everyone. Such a bunker mentality leaves us safe, but isolated andlonely.

To find our happiness we have to be vulnerable. Letting our guard down and sharing who we are. Being seen by others gives us a chance at love, happiness, and success through companionship and vulnerability. Because it all comes from connections.

The need for mentors

The biggest lesson I learned from rereading this book is just how important mentors are.
I have long wished for one of my own. I want my Master Yoda. Someone who will support me through my spiritual struggle for meaning, purpose and happiness.

Teachers tell us what we need to learn, but a mentor does more. They tell us what we need to hear, the uncomfortable truths, they teach us the hard lessons.

Mentors offer support and empathy because they have been through what we’re going through.

We need mentors because society distracts us. Giving us false gods to worship like wealth and possessions. Catering to our selfish desires and wants. Tricking us with falsehood and illusions.

It’s difficult to free ourselves from the illusions that bind us. We need more mentors in this world. People who reach out, tap us on the shoulder and ask ‘what are you doing?’. To slap us around the face, wake us up, and show us a path out of the prison we don’t even know we’re in.

They ask important questions. What do you want? Why are you here? What do you care about? Mentors lay down challenges to see if we have what it takes to grow and realise our dreams.

This book is about a journey, like many good books are. It resonates with many of us because we’re also on a path. Trying to figure how to live, find success, happiness and have it all mean something along the way.

To live well we need to learn the right lessons, to have the right worldview, attitude and practice.

As I have found, it’s all well and good reading philosophy, psychology and self-help. But sometimes we need a good story to supply inspiration and passion. We see something of ourselves in the protagonist.

The Way of the Peaceful Warrior is one such story I feel is worth reading again and again.

It’s an essential read for anyone, particularly men, who want to realise their potential and live a happy life.

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2 thoughts on “Life lessons from Way of the Peaceful Warrior”

  1. Hi Richard, just wanted to say thank you for putting all that above so well together and just to have an additional address of a member of a similar spiritual family. I had met Dan a few times in the nineties. Some of his key teachings remained very strongly with me.
    Have a good weekend

    • Thanks Francois. It’s been a while since I wrote that post, but I’m glad you liked it. I might reread the book again soon. I think books like Way of the Peaceful Warrior are important as we get so mixed up trying to live a good life we forget what ask what that means.


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