Top 10 Lessons in Life from the Peaceful Warrior

clouds hovering over a mountain forest

Even in moments of elevated awareness, you’ll need to take out the trash and do the laundry. So even in the midst of everyday life—as you do what you do according to all that has shaped you—you’d be wise to live as if time exists, so you can keep an organized calendar. Live as if you make conscious choices, so you can take responsibility for them. Live as if accidents happen, so you can stay vigilant. Live as if you’re an independent individual, so you fully appreciate your innate worth and singular destiny. And live as if death is real, so that you can savor the precious opportunity that is life on planet Earth. – Dan Millman

Before we plunge in, I first want to commend Dan Millman for his beautifully crafted writing. This book is such a work of art. The storyline was thought out well and the selection of words was impressive. I got schooled in creative writing 101 for free!

The Hidden School is the final installment of the bestselling Peaceful Warrior saga, which took off with The Way of the Peaceful Warrior, followed by Sacred Journey of the Peaceful Warrior, and then this.

Dan said in one interview that each book is stand-alone, but I’d highly suggest to anyone who hadn’t read the first two to at least watch the movie adaptation of The Way of the Peaceful Warrior (see it here). It will give you an idea of what the saga is about and get familiar with the main characters.

In The Hidden School meanwhile, Dan takes us on an adventure as he searches for the lost journal of his odd mentor, Socrates, somewhere in North America, and then moves to China deep into a mystical farm village where he was able to connect the dots that Socrates left for him in the journal. The final leg of his journey ends up in Japan, where he realizes a great lesson of life – a lesson that has been hidden in plain sight.

What is it? Let’s find out!

It’s a Game

Life is a game. And now is always the best time. When you have no time for games, you have no time for life.

Remember our game plan in life? In The Joy Plan, we learned that the purpose of life is joy. The point of playing the game is more than merely winning it. The point is to have fun!

But often we miss the point. We say there’s no time for fun. We delay the fun until we win. We associate the fun with the result, not with the process. And most of the time, even if we got the result we wanted, we still end up unhappy.

So when is the best time to have fun? Now! Have fun while you move toward what you want in your life. Enjoy the game!

game - Pinterest

Step and the Path Appears

A sage once said, “How do I know what I think until I see what I do?” So I set out, a man on fire, along the path to the right – the right path – acting by faith, not by sight.

Funny thing about signs and omens: when you’re looking for one, sooner or later it shows up.

Dan’s journey into the unknown teaches us to trust our inner knowing. He remembered Socrates telling him that while analytical skills are useful, he must also learn to use his intuition.

Our analytical skills are always limited to the known data we retrieve from our five senses, but our intuitive sense knows much more. It knows all possibilities.

And each of us has that built-in guidance system, which acts like a GPS. The GPS know where our current location is. We just need to know where we want to go, input it into the GPS, and then the GPS maps out all possible routes to get there.

But of course, the car won’t move unless we actually put our foot on the pedal and step on it. We need to take the first step. It doesn’t matter much whether that step will take us in the right direction or not because the GPS can always guide us in correcting our course. We just have to listen to that guidance and pay attention to the signs appearing along the road.

To Each His Own

Each path can become a way of life. The small tao merges with the Great Tao as many streams merge with a great river.

All roads lead home – home to ourselves. All the small tao (“the way”) merges with the Great Tao. We can only speak for ourselves which way is that for us. We can’t tell which for others. We can only point them to their own inner GPS and let them navigate their own path.

For Dan, gymnastics is his small tao. Mine is writing. When I write, I feel like I’m merging with the Great Tao. It feels like I’m home with myself.

What’s calling you home to yourself? Follow that.

And let’s remind ourselves not to compare the path we’re taking. Let’s stay focused on our lane because in the end, no matter what road we take, we’ll all eventually get there – home.

Clear Intent

Just travel with clear intent.

Yep, it’s as short and simple as that.

Don’t have a clear idea yet of your small tao? It’s okay. It’s part of the journey. I was clueless for a loooong time too!

But there’s one thing I was sure of back in the day, back when I was sick with hyperthyroidism – I just wanted to get better. It was my clear intent. I didn’t know how it’s going to happen or what form it’s going to take.

It took the form of conventional medication, then herbal therapy, then juicing, then meditation and other modalities, and then writing.

Alongside healing, I also had the intent to be successful. It took the form of my engineering profession, then entrepreneurship, and then a writing career.

Just travel with clear intent. Be open to all possibilities. It will turn out better than what you hoped for.

Shine On!

Yours was a proper response. Your aim was true, and your commitment clear. If you had held back, the pin might have cut your skin, but the pin, like other obstacles that appear on your path, gave way to the force of your intention. You focused on the goal, not on the obstacle. This is how we face our lives.

The power of intention! If we stay true to our aim and stay committed to our goal, we’ll carry on. We’ll keep going no matter what.

For sure there will be obstacles. When they appear on the path, we don’t turn away from them. Rather, we face them head on.

In his book Sh#t Your Ego Says, James McCrae says that we must be like the light beam that shines on obstacles with the same intensity we have on our goal. We just shine on whatever comes our way.

Obstacles are not blocking the path of light. They are teaching us our capacity to shine brighter.

Row Your Boat

The words ‘Row, row, row your boat’ remind us to build our lives on a foundation of action and effort, not on positive thoughts or feelings. Thinking about doing something is the same as not doing it. Our lives are shaped by what we actually do – by rowing our boat. Only effort over time brings results in training and in everyday life.

Once we’re clear about our intention, take action! While thoughts set the direction, action set things in motion. In order for ideas to turn into reality, we need to act on them.

The song also hints us with how we take action: gently down the stream. It advises us to avoid unnecessary tension, to row with the natural tides and currents of life. We use our oars not to paddle against the flow, but to steer and redirect our boat whenever we find ourselves off-course.

And merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily is a constant reminder to enjoy the ride!

Life is but a dream. Let’s make it a wonderful one!

Transcendent Humor

When you view your world through this lens of transcendent humor, as if from a distant peak, you discover that life is a game you can play as if it matters – with a peaceful heart and a warrior’s spirit. You can remain engaged with the world but also rise above it, looking beyond your personal dramas.

When all else fails, laugh!

Laughter literally takes us on high – as if from a distant peak, we view life from a higher perspective. It provides us a breathing ground when we feel like drowning in our problems. It makes our burden lighter. It lifts up our spirit in the face of our struggles.

Did you know that there was actually a man named Norman Cousins who included laughter therapy in healing what was clinically diagnosed as “incurable” illness? His regimen included vitamin C and heavy doses of laughter by watching comedy films. He writes about the power of laughter in his classic memoir Anatomy of an Illness as Perceived by the Patient.

Laughter is truly the best medicine! And it’s more contagious than sickness.

Freedom from Identity

It becomes possible to live as if you have a self without being imprisoned by it. This marks the beginning of freedom and the spontaneous life…

How do we realize the possibility of having a self without being imprisoned by it? Dan says it’s like being immersed in the character of a story, maybe in a book we read or a film we watch. We can identify ourselves with the character, but we know that we are not the character.

Just the same, we also play a character in the story of our everyday lives. We have our roles as a parent, child, sibling, partner, or any other character. But we come to realize that who we really are is beyond these characters.

Only identities die. Freeing ourselves from the identities we have also liberates us from the fear of death. When we’re not afraid of death, then we’re no longer afraid of becoming fully alive.

Living in Paradox

Even from an individual perspective, in any given moment you can experience and perceive the world from either of two levels.

From a conventional view, suitable for dealing with the stuff of everyday life, you live as if you’re an individual self – what you perceive and what happens is real and matters. From a transcendent view, you find yourself less attached and more ecstatic (or unreasonably happy). You live as if both you and the world are part of an intriguing dream. Each perspective brings a different experience.

You can access either state of awareness by a shift in attention.

What sets apart the Buddha from the rest? He’s bald, yes. Aside from that? His awareness.

Awareness is the only difference. But it makes a world of difference! Two people can live in the same world, but entirely different reality.

Life is full of paradox. And paradoxically, it’s easier to believe the illusion. But with awareness, we gain another perspective. We see the illusions for what they are – illusions, which provide us reference for what is real. From these perspectives, we get to choose what we believe in. And we can only choose for ourselves. What we believe in becomes our reality.

The Gift of Being Human

Having relinquished all the experiences, relations, sensations, and memories that comprised my life, I might have expected a bittersweet sense of sorrow. Instead, I felt reborn. Because, when I opened my eyes, the gifts of life all came flooding back.

I had a past to remember and a future to imagine! I could enjoy the objects and possessions without being as attached to them. I had loved ones, friends, colleagues, and innumerable acquaintances to enjoy. I could deeply feel emotions changing like the weather, like the seasons. I could savor the delights of food and drink, smell aromas, see a world of light and color, hear a symphony of sounds, and interact with people and the world around me through the gift of touch. This is what it means to be alive.

Let’s just suppose we transcended everything – no experiences, no relations, no sensations, no nothing, just pure consciousness.

Then we come back to ordinary human consciousness, now we have a physical human body. I have my hands that type these words. You have eyes that read them. It sounds so silly, but pause for a while and contemplate that…

Then, contemplate what else you have. You have boobs, I have man boobs too! We have the chance to touch and feel ourselves and each other physically. Our physical body is so tangible that we can play with them! And we also get to choose how we view that experience based on our beliefs. Is sin real or just another mental construct?

If we sum it all up, what we have is the human experience in full spectrum!

It’s a great privilege to be alive when there are countless other souls in the spiritual realm who don’t experience what we have – the gift of Life on Earth. Even the angels would envy us for having this human experience. I bet they don’t have man boobs!

So let’s celebrate life for all it has to offer – the good and the bad – for without one, how can we appreciate the other?

Isn’t our existence enough to believe in Love?

Let’s find out!

The Hidden School: Return of the Peaceful Warrior


DAN MILLMAN is a former world champion athlete, university coach, martial arts instructor, and college professor.

After an intensive, twenty-year spiritual quest, Dan’s teaching found its form as the Peaceful Warrior’s Way, expressed fully in his books and lectures. His work continues to evolve over time, to meet the needs of a changing world.

Much of Dan’s time is devoted to writing and speaking. His keynotes, seminars, and workshops span the generations to influence men and women from all walks of life, including leaders in the fields of health, psychology, education, business, politics, sports, entertainment, and the arts.

Dan and his wife Joy live in Brooklyn, NY.
Visit him at

Other Books by Dan Millman

The Journeys of Socrates: An Adventure
The Four Purposes of Life: Finding Meaning and Direction in a Changing World
The Life You Were Born to Live: A Guide to Finding Your Life Purpose

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