Hello everyone. I’m happy to be here with you at the TEDxBerkeley event today.
I teach something, an approach to living I call “The Peaceful Warrior’s Way.” But I’d like to set a context for what I’m about to share with you, so let me give you a sense of my story in brief.
When I was a young man at Berkeley training in a gym right across the street, and that old gas station – in the story, in the movie, in the book – was about two blocks from here, on Oxford and Hearst, I used to do things like this: But now I’m into my 68th year on Planet Earth, so you won’t see me doing much of that anymore. In fact, they’ve moved my books from the new age section to the middle-age section in the stores. But back then I was focused, almost obsessed, with the idea of talent and understanding what that meant.
I defined talent as the ability to learn something quicker and easier and rise to higher levels – that seemed like a fair estimation of talent. And I asked could it be developed? Is it innate or developed? And it seemed to me intuitively, and since research has confirmed, that talent is about 20% innate – body type and so on for sports – but about 80% could be developed.
And I said, back then when I was training as an athlete, and when I was coaching at another university down the peninsula, I started working with that idea: What constitutes physical talent? What helps people learn faster and easier and rise to higher levels? And what if I trained a foundation, and my athletes developed that before focusing on the skills of gymnastics?
So, it seemed to me that strength and flexibility and coordination and rhythm and timing and reflex speed and balance all contributed to this ability to learn faster and easier. So for the first year, I trained the athletes in all these qualities, and the team went from the bottom of the conference to one of the top three teams in the nation in about three and a half years. I trained the top US Olympian as well.
So my theories did work in practice, and I might still be coaching today, but I was going through some things in my own life, outside the gymnasium, and I realized being able to do handstands and somersaults didn’t help me much when I went out on a date. And those skills really didn’t apply directly when I got married or had children and dealt with financial challenges and career decisions and all the challenges of everyday life we all face.
So that’s when I started asking bigger questions: How can we, as humans beings, develop a talent, not necessarily for sports, but a talent for living, for the actual changes of everyday life? Now, I’ve said a few things about my story, but let me acknowledge your story. You have a story as well, and it’s your treasure because no story on the planet is exactly like yours.
It’s not as if you just have a story – you are a story in the making; you’re a novel being written, and you never know what the next chapter is going to be. So I want to acknowledge that we’ve all overcome adversity and difficulties in our lives.
Now, I could be wrong about that, so maybe I can ask for a show of hands: Would you raise your hand, please, if you’ve experienced physical, emotional or mental pain in your life? Could I see a show of hands out there? Thank you. Okay, we do have that in common.
You know, I think you’d agree, though, that that difficulty, that pain, that adversity you may have dealt with – because of that, you’re a little bit stronger now. Maybe a little bit wiser. And maybe even have a greater sense of compassion and perspective for having gone through that. So, we don’t have to pretend to like difficulties when they come, but we need to keep that thread of attention that there are hidden gifts depending on how we respond to it – that’s what I learned. So, that question of how we can develop talent for living actually led me around the world studying with various mentors over more than a decade, pretty intensively.
And it led to this approach to living I call the peaceful warrior’s way. That’s not my way; it’s not something private to me, it’s not a club one needs to join. It’s our way. Because everyone I’ve seen is striving to live with a more peaceful heart, but there are also times in our lives that we need a warrior’s spirit, everyday challenges that call forth that warrior spirit inside of us. So that is what I do: It’s about peaceful heart, warrior spirit.
It’s a sense of balance – living with our head in the clouds but our feet on the ground. So then you might ask, “What would be a peaceful warrior’s approach to catalyzing change?” Well, let’s be very realistic; when things are going great in our lives, and we’ve all had moments like that, when everything was going great – we don’t want change. At those points, we want everything to stay the same, but it doesn’t. And so life changes; life is full of change. But when things aren’t going well, when we have some challenges in our life coming up, then we’re looking for change.
Some of us, it’s enough to catch a cold, and we start reexamining our life – you know what I mean. So, any time we face some adversity, some challenge, we start to reflect and look at our lives once again and wonder if we can make some changes.