3 Essential Ideas

  • There are seasons of our life when we choose change and seasons when change chooses us. 
  • It takes courage to challenge who you have been and then choose to become the person you are meant to be. 
  • Sometimes our most difficult moments refine us and lead us to become who we were meant to be.

1 Essential Action 

  • Choose one of the 5 strategies Dave shares and incorporate it into your life this week.

Key Moments From The Show 

  • We are all on a journey to become who we are meant to be (3:39)
  • How to navigate life when you find yourself in the unimaginable (12:52)
  • 5 things you can do to help navigate yourself through disorientation (14:14)
  • Strategy 1: Learn to acknowledge and explore your fears (14:41)
  • Strategy 2: Shrink your time horizon for your goals and future (20:14)
  • Strategy 3: Find moments to sit in stillness and peace (22:17)
  • Strategy 4: Move your body (24:12)
  • Strategy 5: Start your day with gratitude (26:15)

Links You’ll Love From the Episode

Built Through Courage by Dave Hollis

Connect with Dave Hollis

Twitter | Instagram | LinkedIn | YouTube | Facebook | Website


Greg McKeown, Dave Hollis

Greg McKeown  0:00  

Every so often in life. One word seems to name your experience. And disorientation seems to be one that names this spirit of life. Of course, there’s the pandemic, there’s the civil unrest. There’s the endless transformations that go on. But then there are other things in life, the unimaginable. That takes us into a new era, a new chapter of our life that we weren’t ever even contemplating. I remember when I got a phone call from my best friend growing up to say that had cancer again, that was unimaginable. I was thinking of a time when one of my daughter’s was exceedingly ill, with no diagnosis that was unimaginable. And then, in addition to that, there are just times in life when so much is changing all at once, even if it isn’t a single change in our lives. That we just feel, it’s hard to find our way to figure out what path to take. It’s why I’ve invited my friend Dave Hollis, onto the what’s the central podcast today. He’s the former Disney film distribution chief who was responsible for the relaunch of the Star Wars franchise, for example, the Avengers series, and mega-hits like frozen Beauty and the Beast and so on. He left all of that behind a little while ago to start a company with his wife, Rachel. But they too have gone through an unexpected, unimaginable journey. They announced their separation. And he has found himself in a situation he never expected to be in. It’s a discombobulating experience. He’s tried, as honestly as openly as he knows how to do, to not just think through this experience, but to write it down. And he’s done that in a new book called built through courage. And, and that word, is surely the right word. For the experience that we often struggle within our lives, the fear of uncertainty, the fear of being disoriented. Courage is the answer. So with that, Dave Hollis, welcome to the Watts essential podcast.


Dave Hollis  2:52  

Oh, my goodness, Greg, I’m so happy to be here. So excited about this conversation. Thank you for having me.


Greg McKeown  2:57  

Now, this is how I feel exactly the same right back at you. What, an interesting book you have put together. I mean, the built through courage, but especially the subtitle, leaving your safe harbor for a purpose-filled life that feels like a name something that I like, I feel that in my life right now, you know, and maybe one always has to feel that sensation. But why don’t you talk to me about, you know, the story behind the new book, and particularly that subtitle and what it means to you?


Dave Hollis  3:39  

Yeah, so I, you know, I think there are seasons where we experience change that we choose and plenty of times where change chooses us. And the way that the last five or six years of my life have been defined is by the reaction to that change and courage as an ingredient to taking the changes that happen in life and turn them into something that has you moving closer to purpose is the conceit of the book, this hope that you might have an appreciation that each of you listening right now you, Greg, myself were created with very intentional purpose in mind. And that the mandate that comes and acknowledging that that, in fact, is part of what we’re here for, is to every day attempt to honor the intention of that creator who put us here with very specific tools, a very specific idea of how we might bring light to this world. And courage in the way that I’m describing it is acknowledging who you’ve been placed here to be and the way that you might have to challenge who you’ve been to become that person the way that you have either become comfortable in what you’ve known and exchanging what you’ve known for what you need or the way that you are. Become courageous enough to challenge the way that other people have become comfortable with you playing a certain role that in stepping into purpose might make them uncomfortable as you now emerge as your new self as your true self.


Greg McKeown  5:15  

Dave, I was feeling that literally this morning, I’m driving into LA into the recording studio. And there was this question in my mind of like, Who do you need to become? Because there’s a sense that I feel of what I’m currently doing is not what I will eventually be doing, you know, that there’s a transition, that there’s more, that there’s a different contribution. And that sense of, of who you’ve been, isn’t sufficient for the mission down the road was very present for me today. And it’s not an entirely comfortable feeling. Even if it’s a sweet burden. Can you talk to me about that? Because I think that that’s, I think that’s what you’re describing? 


Dave Hollis  6:10  

Yeah, I mean, I think, for many years in my life, I am an achiever by wiring, I grew up programmed, in some ways, not even as an intention of the people who were delivering the programming to associate achievement with an ability to be lovable, or acceptable. And so there were some really interesting things that grew out of this relationship that I had between hustle or achievement and my desire to be seen and loved. In that I built myself a great career. And I chased after the things that the people who were party to the programming convinced me, would make me happy when I ultimately achieve them. And in a 20-year career in entertainment, chasing titles or security or status, or whatever it might mean, this promise of you’ll feel connected to happiness, or fulfillment, when you get these things was a driving force. That when I was fortunate enough, because of some combination of hard work and luck, and other people mentoring me, pulling me up giving me opportunities, I found myself at a higher level at the Walt Disney Company working inside of a business that had a decent amount of pedigree and prestige. I was disconnected from feeling the things that I had been promised. And so I had to start back at the beginning, asking, What did I miss? Where have I been chasing? What I was told what would afford me love ability or, or happiness or fulfillment? Like what did I miss? And part of what has been beautiful in the deconstruction of who I’ve been over the last handful of years and leaving Disney for entrepreneurship, going from a primary identity as husband to someone who’s now gone through a divorce, I’ve had to go back to and try and understand who I am, irrespective of title, irrespective of relationships, that Who am I at my core, and who did I want to be before I became who I’d become, and that work in and of itself to like, connect back to who the 19-year-old, full of promise and hope and ambition and excitement who did that guy want to be? And I ended up I had just a God-like moment in the midst of this season of change in that I was sat on an airplane, next to Dan Rather a story I tell in the book. And to give you a sense of how nerdy I was growing up, Dan Rather was my childhood hero. Hmm. I believe that this relationship to loving Dan Rather, was also why I didn’t kiss a girl for many, many years. But that’s a different story altogether. The bottom line is, I wanted more than anything to be done rather when I was growing up, and I had the benefit of this man’s generosity and two hours of conversation on an airplane. While I myself was trying to find myself that hey, the person that was most connected to passion that could best utilize the gifts that uniquely been given was that kid who wanted to be a reporter, and that while he was going to college actually was sitting at that news desk going through the news or that was because of how much you wanted to be in broadcast having a conversation in a radio show at the vontade 2am time slot. But that was where my passion was stoked. My competencies were at their best, and my hope for impacting people was come together by having those passions and competencies work side by side. And so here I am doing this work feeling closer and more connected and purpose than I ever have and as much as the job I have today is impossible to explain to my grandmother. I am Reporter And that version of me is connected to again, this, this question of who did I want to be, before I became who I’d become inside encourage anyone who’s feeling stuck or is trying to pull out some threads to understand where they might find some of the answers they’re looking for, as it pertains to purpose are calling,


Greg McKeown  10:22  

Somehow, in order to become who we need to become, it’s a bit like, we have to become less and less of who we really aren’t, so that we can become more and more of who we really are.


Dave Hollis  10:36  

Oh, I couldn’t agree more. And what’s interesting is, I, in the midst of this most recent change that I’ve been through the identity that I had, is one of the strongest pillars of who I knew myself as husband, having now transitioned away to single father was something that was so jarring, and I in the grieving of what was or could have been. And in the transition to what will be, I spent a decent amount of time looking at deconstruction of like people who have been through a set of circumstances that they did not expect and became who they were meant to become because of not in spite of those things. And I mean, there’s story after story. I mean, if you admire someone, they have been through something that was not ideal. They failed in many, many ways until they learn from those failures and grew into what they now are known for. We had a brand or them as a personality. But I also there was this there’s a story that I looked at, in the Bible, a story of a guy named Lazarus, who had to actually die, to be brought back to life. And talk about having to go through something hard to understand the meaning, right, like, that’s, that’s a whole different level. But I ended up in that story in my own life asked this question, what Dave in your life might have to die, so that you might be brought back to life, which is a thing that we don’t have to confront, often are certainly don’t like to confront often. And as it turned out, for me to become who I now am, a ton of really important things in my life had to die, ego, normalcy, my sense of comfort, a relationship that I knew, the way that I had a historic relationship with my own health, the way that I was committed or not to pouring into community that was going to lift me up instead of have me compared like a whole host of things had to die. And in a crazy way, it’s only after we’ve lost, you know, something that is meaningful, that we have something in freedom to now redefine who we are in the absence of that thing that used to exist.


Greg McKeown  12:52  

There’s a notable song in the musical Hamilton, unimaginable, the unimaginable happens. And really, I think that’s what you’re writing to, in this new book. And certainly what you’re talking about today is how to navigate life. When you find yourself in the unimaginable, what to do to be able to still orient yourself in a disorienting environment. And regardless of the exact cause of it. Everybody listening has experienced some of that over the last year and a half, everybody has been disoriented in some way, everybody has lost something, everybody has found something that they wouldn’t have otherwise found. So orientation is a necessary prerequisite for today’s environment. So I wonder if you could share with us I’m going to give you a challenge here, let’s say five things that people could do right now, to navigate their way in a disorienting environment based on your experience based on your research based on the writing in this new book.


Dave Hollis  14:14  

All right, five things. First thing when I found myself disoriented by circumstances that were playing out different than I had previously believed them likely to play out. I had the first casualty was my imagination. I previously had a very clear vision of what I thought my future was going to look like. And now that things were not going to be what I thought I had a hard time imagining what they could be. And the thing that was at the root of my imagination being captive was was fear. And so I really had to create a relationship with my fear to understand what of these things that I believe myself to be afraid of are real, and what of these things are not real. are those that are unreal, can I find a way to release myself surrender them to not being a thing that I’m going to be weighed down by. And for those that are real, are there is there a plan that I can put together, it’s not going to eliminate that fear, it’s going to arm you with the ability to walk toward it. The first thing is just bringing it into our consciousness, like the exercise for me of sitting with a notebook and through tears writing out everything that I was afraid of in the season, that now looked different than I believed it was going to was powerful. Because now I can see in front of me all of the things that we’re living primarily in the unconscious of my being in a now conscious way that allowed me to make room for that fear. Hello, I’m going to honor the fact that you are here, I am going to also attempt to understand what role you believe yourself to be playing. And I want to try to disassociate me as someone who is fear for me as someone who is the observer of the fear. And so by just bringing him bringing that into the consciousness, I was able to see the things that I believed myself to be afraid of, so that I could actually understand which of these things are real and which, which aren’t. When I then saw some of the things that I had real fear for, I got to play a little bit of a game on, what’s the worst that can happen? What’s the best that can happen? Is there something in a limiting belief that might exist currently with this fear that I could turn into an empowering belief by believing that there is just as likely a chance that by facing this fear I might grow into something better or different or stronger, because of my willingness to confront it?


Greg McKeown  16:43  

I remember learning from someone who spent a lifetime studying emotions, they said that with these strong emotions, or we would sometimes even say negative emotions of fear and anger. She said, What I do is I like to literally imagine that I when I feel these emotions, I say, you know, hello fear, and I embrace it. That mean this, it sounds unusual, but she literally says I imagined hugging it,


Dave Hollis  17:16  

what’s crazy, is in the midst of my identity shift, I ended up intentionally finding a therapist who specialized in self and kind of therapy called internal family systems. That is basically what you’ve just described, where you are self, you are witness to your emotions as parts, and they believe themselves to be doing something that is meant to help you or protect you. They do not have an awareness of being negative or positive, they are just they’re playing a role. And the work that I would do, I’ll give you the example that I tend to give in my own coaching around anxiety, then this is a clinical diagnosed anxiety, I’m talking like situational anxiety comes up, you start worrying about things in the future, when I end up having an anxious moment, I have actually named my anxiety name is Clark, as in I am Superman. He is Clark. Why are you here, Clark. And I will just like the story you’re telling sit down at a table in my mind with this character named Clark, who is my anxiety and invite him into a conversation to understand what role he believes himself to be playing. And so now as I’m in this conversation with Clark, he’s letting me know that, hey, there’s this area in your life where you need to actually create a little more detail rigor around something that currently is super ambiguous. And in my now being able to see it as a help. It’s changed the way I have a relationship with Clark with my anxiety and allows me in honoring the fact that he’s present for a purpose, that when I do end up taking some steps to follow that trail of breadcrumbs, he goes away, and we’re good. And you can take that same example and apply it to the way that you’re processing anger or shame or whatever it ends up being, why does this you know emotions show up and, and maybe most importantly, like in an Untethered Soul kind of way, that reminder that you’re not anxiety, you are the observer of the anxiety. And if you can see it as that, create a relationship with it, you might be able to learn from it and then become freer from it faster.


Greg McKeown  19:25  

I just love the idea that there’s an actual character that our, each of our emotions, plays, you know, can be personified. And I like the idea to have each of these characters knocking on our door, so to speak, you know, tapping us, saying, I need your attention. I need your attention. And if we don’t answer the door, they just keep on tapping. But when we do open the door, when we have the conversation, we find out there’s something you’re here. You’re here for a purpose. You’re here for something useful, now I know what that is, I can stop the tapping, I can address the issue.


Dave Hollis  20:06  

Couldn’t agree more could not agree more. I mean, you threw out a challenge of five things. I mean, that was a long first thing. But the second thing that I would suggest, in a world where change and chaos and disorientation ends up compromising some of your ability to conceive of what the world might look like, in five years as a person used to always have a five-year vision. When I was in the midst of the most tumultuous moments of change, I had to bring the time horizon, for which I was hoping to get through wildly closer. And so I started asking a question, what do I need in this season, and I would define season as 30 to 90 days, what do I need in this season against the five dimensions of health, my physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, and relational health. And as I could identify who I’m hoping to become over time, but really, against the context of the real time, situational environment that I find myself inside of what I need in the next 30 days is likely to be different than what I needed in the previous 30, or 60, or 90. And by creating a list of two or three things, for my mental, my emotional, my physical, my spiritual, each of those health needs, getting two or three things became my daily routine, my morning routine became the habits that I needed to lean into, during that time, the circle of people that were necessary to continue having me go on the journey that I was on to weigh that I had to restrict or consume, based on the things that I ended up needing the way that I needed to drop boundaries, or have a calendar that was a reflection of my needs in that season.


Greg McKeown  21:52  

Yeah, you’re describing I think, a kind of survival guide as a sprint plan, where you say, Okay, I can’t control everything. And I don’t know quite where all this is going. But let’s just work out the next unit and design around that for now, so that I can maintain health. So I can handle the next phase, you know, as gracefully as possible.


Dave Hollis  22:16  

Absolutely. 100%. Alright, third thing, I did not have an appreciation for the importance of stillness or peace until the noise that was running in the midst of chaos became overwhelmingly loud and distracting. And so one of my biggest pieces of advice for anyone who is in the midst of overwhelm or feeling like the incessant marketing, that we are overwhelmed by every day trying to convince you that you do not yet have all the things you need, or a news business that runs on a business model built on fear, if they can scare you just enough to tune back in, or the comparison trap, that is social media where your struggle in real life is being compared to the curated highlight reel that people are putting up online. That’s all noise. And the only way that you can stay connected to who you’re hoping to become is if you can turn the volume down on that noise. And allow yourself to hear the intuition, the voice of God, the knowing that lives inside of you, to connect with the emotions, the things that you are thinking and feeling to connect with a creator the higher power that might ultimately afford you a little perspective on what matters and what does not matter at all. And so for me whether it was time sitting on a rock at the end of a long run in the middle of nature, or a little space, I’ve created my back patio called the patio of peace, starting and ending my day with 20 to 30 minutes of carved out time separate from the chaos of my calendar or the busyness of my four kids or the way that my mind might run away with itself and sit just in peace has been an awesome and powerful tool for getting through craziness and upside down times which I think all of us in some ways have experienced because of the pandemic and everything else happening in the last year and a half. Number four. Number four, move your body. Body movement, for me has been one of the most important ways to as a keystone habit of sorts have a bunch of other good habits show up in my life. For me, I start my day every day with Jim you know set of gym clothes and running shoes on so that I cannot negotiate with myself about what’s going to happen next. I start my day with 45 minutes to an hour of body movement, whether it’s running, or weightlifting or something like that. And that time ends up being in a run a combination of therapy in church where I am able to process thoughts and feelings in the gym. I’m showing myself Self, how much stronger I might be able to become than I even think I’m capable of. So that I can’t transfer, that physical barrier that I’m pushing through to what ends up becoming the mental barriers that I will now be able to depend on and lean on. I have is one of the things I need in this season, when it comes to physical health, that I will continually be putting myself into physical challenges that go beyond what I believe I am capable of. And so I’ve recently done a mountain climbing thing where we climbed to 20 929,029 feet to replicate scaling Everest 35 hours of climbing, hardest physical challenge I’ve ever done. Coming off the mountain, I had to reframe sense of what I could handle both physically and mentally challenged myself push myself into these new places, learn more about myself and how strong I can be. And in that strength transferred also to how strong that can be mentally, and it’s led to a triathlon and a physique competition that I’m entering and a bunch of different strength and, and bodybuilding things that in real time are wildly outside of my comfort zone. And yet, I’m doing it to show myself that I can so that once I see that I can, I believe I can do even more than I think I can.


Number five, and number five, every single day, I start my day with gratitude. You know, like in the midst of hard things in the midst of chaos, to be able to still see the good that exists all around you is a thing that creates a sense of hope that in that hopefulness will continue to be some of the fuel you’ll need to get through whatever it is that you’re in. And I just firmly believe I end up spending about seven minutes as my coffee is brewing before I go and sit out back, writing down the 10 things from the previous 24 hours that I can find gratitude in. They’re not big things, tiny things. But the prompt at the beginning of my day is this reminder, first thing in my day of how much good exists, but is also this trigger to now be on the lookout for the balance of the day for things that I will need to write down the following morning. And if you’re on the hunt for good, you find evidence of it. And I believe so much that you have to be able to cast a hopeful vision for your future in order to feel strong enough to make it through what you’re going through. But if the circumstances that you’re inside of compromise hope in the present, or if the experiences of your past, make you unable to cast this hopeful vision for the future, you’re going to compromise your ability to feel that hope in a way that would give you power today. And so gratitude as a remedy for hopelessness is an easy hack that if you go on the hunt for it, it’s something you’re going to find


Greg McKeown  27:51  

This idea that that hope for the future is power for the present, I think is so timely because we really let’s summarize it simply that life is full of suffering is ferry very hard for almost everyone almost all of the time. And, and so we need something to offset that challenge. And envision a sense of something bigger a sense of something of real meaning of purpose is a requirement to just be able to get through today. And certainly a requirement if you want to get above survival mode and into you know, feeling good about it success thriving and so on. Dave Hollis, author now of built through courage, my friend, a guide through the disorienting world that life is for so many of us so much of the time. Thank you for spending some time with us on the Watts central podcast.


Dave Hollis  29:09  

Thank you, Greg for having me. I appreciate you and I appreciate your friendship. Thanks everyone, for listening, I would encourage anyone, if you learned even a single thing and hope to retain it. You are 90% more likely if you share it with somebody who may in fact be desperately in need of this thing themselves. So please share it and tag Greg and I want to be able to see whatever you share and thank you personally in a DM but thank you Greg for having me. Thank you listener for giving me some time in your ear.


Greg McKeown  29:38  

Well said thank you, Dave. Well, I think I laid down the gauntlet there for Dave put him on notice with five specific things we can do right now, when we’re faced with the unimaginable when we’re faced with disorienting circumstances, and I think he delivered all of us find ourselves in circumstances that are disorienting you In circumstances sometimes that are unimaginable and so the necessity to face fear with courage is something universally relevant it’s been great to have Dave here today thank you for joining me

Greg McKeown


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