This week, Billy and Brian talk to near-death survivor Danny Bader. Danny is a best-selling author and sought-after speaker whose life was transformed after he died when 8,000 volts of electricity ripped through his body. Danny then came back to life from a place where he connected with “something bigger than us.” He uses his experience to lead people to create more perspective, joy, and a love that replaces weariness with inspiration, drives vision, and creates momentum for people in all areas of their lives.
Danny is also a renowned speaker who has been inspiring the people of Fortune 500 companies like Merck, Comcast, The Ritz-Carlton, the Marriott, and Lincoln Financial with insight and practical tools that build momentum in the midst of defeating monotony. Danny’s reputation as an influencer in this arena continues to grow among some of the most well-respected brands and organizations nationwide.
Listen to Danny's podcast Back to Life wherever you get your podcasts!
We ask Danny:
--Looking back on who you were before your near-death experience, how would you describe yourself and how you lived your life?
--When we talked earlier, you talked about navigating a multitude of emotions, especially guilt. Can you dive a little deeper into that please?
--It sounds like you had to heal and learn to reckon with what you could not change before you were able to move on. How did you go about doing that?
--One thing that came out during our initial conversation is your strong relationship with Jesus, but I think what’s important for people to know is that you had a strong faith and relationship before your near-death experience. In all honesty, I’m not someone who has a strong belief in one God/Jesus so whenever people who have a strong faith talk about it, I get a little uncomfortable, but I didn’t ever feel that way the last time we talked and I think it’s because you’re so casual in the way you describe your relationship, so much so that you have a book called I Met Jesus for a Miller Lite. Can you talk about your casual, friendly relationship with Jesus (and also why does Jesus have such terrible taste in beer?)
--You have a new book out now called Take the Shit Out of the Show, and much like the Bible, you use parables inspired by real people in order to help readers regain control over their lives. What’s one of your favorite parables from that book?
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Danny: And one day, me and one of the brothers were lowering a metal ladder at the end of the day and there were some wires above that were along the street so they were the more high voltage lines and they were relatively close to the house but we put the ladder up that way in the morning and so I said to the one brother, I said, as we’re putting it down, I said, “Are we good to go?” and he said, “Yeah, we did it this way this morning, we should be fine.” So I kind of had that feeling like, oh, man, I don’t know about this and I didn’t pay attention to that and we hit the wire. The line had about 8,000 to 10,000 volts of electricity in it that came down the ladder and then went into both of us and it killed both of us, and then I came back to life and my buddy didn’t that day.
Welcome to The Mindful Midlife Crisis, a podcast for people navigating the complexities and possibilities of life’s second half. Join your hosts, Billy and Brian, a couple of average dudes who will serve as your armchair life coaches as we share our life experiences, both the good and the bad, in an effort to help us all better understand how we can enjoy and make the most of the life we have left to live in a more meaningful way. Take a deep breath, embrace the present, and journey with us through The Mindful Midlife Crisis.
Billy: Welcome to The Mindful Midlife Crisis. I’m your host, Billy, and as always, I’m joined by my good friend Brian on the Bass. Brian, how you doing over there, man?
Brian: I am delightful today.
Billy: Oh. Why are you so delightful today?
Brian: Well, we’re on the verge of spring, Billy. It was negative a million in Minnesota a few days ago and now we’re slowly getting above zero, and this whole week is supposed to be above freezing, like that is exceptional for us in Minnesota. When the temperature, the air temperature doesn’t drop below freezing, it’s just like an early summer for us.
Billy: I sat outside yesterday and had lunch with friends outside. It was a really nice sunny day and it was only, I don’t know, 45, 46 degrees outside, but it really —
Brian: But it felt great —
Billy: — was delightful. It did. It felt delightful. So, yeah, it definitely filled me with life, which is very fitting because our guest today is full of life and he’s got reason to be full of life. Our guest today is Danny Bader. Danny is a bestselling author and sought-after speaker whose life was transformed after he died when 8,000 volts of electricity ripped through his body. Danny then came back to life from a place where he connected with something bigger than us. He uses his experience to lead people to create more perspective, joy, and a love that replaces weariness with inspiration, drives vision, and creates momentum for people in all areas of their lives. Danny is a renowned speaker who has been inspiring the people of Fortune 500 companies like Merck, Comcast, The Ritz-Carlton, the Marriott, and Lincoln Financial with insight and practical tools that build momentum in the midst of defeating monotony. Danny’s reputation as an influencer in this arena continues to grow among some of the most well-respected brands and organizations nationwide. This is a conversation I’ve greatly been looking forward to. Welcome to the show, Danny Bader.
Danny: Well, thank you so much. It’s great to be here, Billy and Brian.
Billy: Yeah, absolutely. Danny, I gotta tell you, you and I connected through our good friend, Lori Saitz, who was also a guest on the show and when you and I had our initial conversation, I’m going to talk about it in a little bit more depth later on, but it was a soul-filling conversation. I mean that sincerely and I’m looking forward to having this conversation with you as well.
Danny: That’s great. Thanks a lot, man. That means a lot and, yeah, I’m pretty sure this conversation will be really good as well.
Brian: Yeah. Your story sounds incredible so far and I’m literally on the edge of my seat. I can’t wait to hear this.
Billy: So, Danny, one thing that we’d like to have our guests do is share 10 roles that they play in their lives so what are 10 roles that you play in your life?
Danny: Yes. Well, I have some — that’s a great question. I have some roles that are very, very firm and established and they’re always on that list of 10 then I guess I have a couple that, three or four that would probably come in and off of the top 10. So right now, I would say husband, father, son, brother, friend, author, speaker, Christian man, beach lover as the summer approaches here in the East Coast, and philosopher, which I’ve always — I had a philosophy class back in college and the teacher said philosophers are just seekers of knowledge and I thought, all right, that’s a good one.
Billy: I like that. I like that. And you’re an author and you have some great titles for your books that we’re going to talk about a little bit later too and I really think that those titles show the introspection and the philosopher side of you. So, let’s go a little bit deeper. Tell us more about why you’re looking forward to being a philosopher in the second half of life.
Danny: Yeah. Well, I think I always have, I’ve just had that curiosity. I gave a talk last night to a bunch of people and we grow, I think, out of two ways, you guys. We grow out of tragedy when we’re forced to grow or we go the other way in tragedy and life beats us. So I think we grow out of tragedy and then we grow out of curiosity, where we just wake up every day and say, “Huh, what if this happened? I wonder what’s going on over there?” Just continuing to learn.
Billy: And one thing too that I want to stress, and we’re going to talk about this again more later in the episode, is that you have a very strong faith and relationship with Jesus, and, like I said, we’re going to talk about this in more depth a little bit later but I want to point out that you’ve always had this, that it wasn’t a result of this tragic event that happened to you. You’ve always been a man of very strong faith. So, why is that a relationship that you want to maintain in the second half of life?
Danny: Yeah, because I think you need that relationship the closer you get to death in this world and I’m 58 so, yeah, I think it’s even more important now to keep that relationship. It’s always important, I think, to keep a relationship with what I call God. People may have a synonym for that spirit consciousness, universe, and that’s cool, whatever is working for them so long as that belief leads them to grow in love and understand people and forgive and all those good values that we want to have and that we want to practice in this world. So, yeah, it’s really important for me to keep that relationship strong. And I always need it too because it’s the foundation for life and it helps you get through challenges. The challenges in life are certainly not over for me, they’re not over for anybody. Struggle and challenge is a part of life and they’ll continue to show up. They don’t discriminate on age, man. You could be 10, 20, 60, 80. Yeah, struggle does not discriminate.
Billy: Well, that’s something too that we’re going to circle back around at some point and look at some more data around the midlife crisis because what we found the first time that we talked about it in episode 1 was that crises just happen. They don’t necessarily happen in midlife and, like you said, crises can happen at any age and we’ll talk about this a little bit later too because we’ll be able to go into more depth about it. As someone who doesn’t have a strong faith and isn’t connected with spirituality but is now on this journey to find more clarity in his life, I’m really starting to see the importance of finding some sort of connection to a higher being. And what I like about your message, especially, is that you’re very strong in your Christian faith but you had a great conversation with Lori Saitz on your podcast about, listen, it’s just being in touch with a higher presence, some sort of spirituality, whatever that is for you, and I think just someone who grew up Catholic and had that force fed in front of me, your take on Christianity and spirituality is a really refreshing experience for me. And I think that’s part of the reason why I so greatly enjoyed our conversation the first time.
Danny: Yeah, well, thank you for that. I appreciate it. You know, my faith and the structure of it, my Catholic faith, is very, very important to me. And as I tried to live Jesus’s message, I just have to think to myself if Jesus was here and he saw somebody who was really living a very fulfilling life and leading with what I call the gifts of the Holy Spirit, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness, self-control, if somebody’s living in all of that and they don’t necessarily have the same beliefs that I have, I don’t know that it’s Danny Bader’s job to judge that.
Billy: I think that’s something that, as I figure out my relationship with spirituality and religion, trying to let go of my own holier than thou perceptions of people who have a strong faith and, like I said, I think that’s why your message really resonates with me. So, what I want to do is I want to take a quick break because we’re absolutely going to dive into this a little bit more because it’s a conversation that we haven’t had yet on this podcast and we’re looking forward to having this conversation, not to mention the fact that Danny has an incredible story that we want you to hear. So, with that, we’re going to take a quick break and then when we come back, we’ll hear more from Danny Bader.
Thank you for listening to The Mindful Midlife Crisis.
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Billy: Welcome back to the mindful midlife crisis. We are here with near death survivor, Danny Bader, and, Danny, I imagine you’ve told your near death story many, many times so we’re gonna get to that in a minute but looking back on who you were before your near death experience at 28 years old, how would you describe yourself and how you lived your life?
Danny: Oh, gosh. Yeah, I had a pretty easy life growing up in a middle American family, I have a sister and six brothers and we had what we needed and then a little bit more so life was pretty easy until I had this accident when I was 28. And after college, from 21, 22, until 28, I was kind of just one of those guys that was trying to figure out what I wanted to do. I didn’t know, I was tending bar, I worked construction, I lived in Aspen, Colorado, for two winters. I had a few sales jobs that just didn’t resonate with me so I was figuring out what I wanted to do and then the accident occurred and that pressured me into figuring some things out.
Billy: When you look back on it now, do you feel like you were just sort of going with the flow without any much direction? Do you think you were still trying to figure some things out? How do you think you would describe yourself between those post-college years?
Danny: Right, yeah, I was just kind of going with the flow. You know, carefree. I always worked, paid the bills, and anytime I came home and lived with my parents, my dad would say, “You’re always welcome here, just pay your mother the first of every month.” So we paid rent. Yeah, but I had no vision for what I wanted. I had no idea what the hell I was going to do with my life in terms of professional career.
Billy: And I know when we talked last time too after the accident, you really didn’t have a real clear vision because you were going through a lot of things so I think it’s important for people to hear what happened and then what some of that emotion was that you had to navigate after this experience.
Danny: The short version of the story, and we can dig into whatever other pieces we might need, but the short version of the story is I was working with two brothers that owned a roofing company, who put roofs on houses, and I would tend bar at night a few nights a week and then I’d work a couple of days a week with these guys. They’re wonderful guys, I loved them, they loved me, we just had a great relationship. And one day, me and one of the brothers were lowering a metal ladder at the end of the day and there were some wires above that were along the street, so they were the more high voltage lines, and they were relatively close to the house but we put the ladder up that way in the morning. And so I said to the one brother, I said, as we’re putting it down, I said, “Are we good to go?” and he said, “Yeah, we did it this way this morning, we should be fine.” So I kind of had that feeling like, oh, man, I don’t know about this and I didn’t pay attention to that. We started to do it, we were both very, very careful, and we hit the wire. The ladder was about 28 feet long, the metal ladder, and we hit, the burn mark was an inch or two from the top. It wasn’t a blatant human error. It wasn’t the gross negligence on our part, it was just that visual mistake, when you’re looking across 28 feet and the wind is blowing and it’s a sunny day in July, we just made a human error. The line had about 8,000 to 10,000 volts of electricity in it, they came down the ladder and then went into both of us and it killed both of us. And then I came back to life and my buddy didn’t that day, and we lost a beautiful man, husband, father, son, brother, just a great guy. I was out probably for about 8 to 10 minutes, according to the other brother that came down the ladder and did CPR on me and then gave me up for dead. He said, “Your eyes were rolled back, you had foam all over your mouth and no heart rate, no respiration or anything, no breathing.” And he would breathe in CPR, my chest would go up and it would go down but it never — you know, nothing ever started again so he worked on me for a few minutes and then gave me up for dead. And then he ran across the street to call 911 for help and then ran back past me and I was still dead and then he got to his brother, then when I came back and opened my eyes and I’m like, “Wow, I’m back here now.” I couldn’t move because my whole body was all pins and needles from the electrical surge and the fact that we’re 80 percent water or whatever we are. And then I got my motor skills and I crawled up next to him where I could hear him working on his brother and trying to revive him. And he said to me, “How are you here?” and I said, “I don’t know what you’re talking about.” And then I helped do CPR and then the police and the paramedics came and they cleared us away. What’s really interesting about it, though, this tragic, interesting and tragic, is when I initially got hit with electricity, I thought I was either shot or there was a nuclear explosion because, in that nanosecond, I just had this surge through my body and then it just went calm and peaceful. It didn’t go dark right away. I can remember seeing the brother come down the ladder, the one that was on the roof that ultimately came to me. I could see him coming down the ladder and I was yelling to him, “Get your brother! Get your brother!” I wasn’t yelling for help because I wasn’t there, I was very calm, I was peaceful. It’s as if I knew I was dying or I knew I was dead. Yeah, that experience, for me, the death part, that surge of electricity through my body, it was just wild feeling and I guess there was a little pain associated with it. But the part of dying and that soul of spirit leaving the body, that was beautiful and peaceful and loving and I use all these words of our English language which doesn’t really describe it. And then, after I’m yelling, “Get Bruce! Get your brother! Get your brother!” then I just felt that sense of being pulled away, my energy, my life force, my soul, and it was just pulled into this, if I had to describe it physically, it was like dark floating. That was the sense but there really wasn’t a physical dimension to it. And I was joined with the source. I believe I was joined with God. And there was no words, it was very cosmic in its communication, and it was like a quick review of my life and then I was given the choice to stay or go and I said, not in words again but I said, I expressed concern and love for my mom and my girlfriend, who’s my wife now of almost 30 years, she was my girlfriend at the time, and as soon as I did that, that’s when I was right back in my body. I didn’t open my eyes though because they never closed. So you see, the link is this. When I was yelling for my buddy to get his brother and then I was pulled away, he came down the ladder and he came to me first and he said when he got to me, my eyes were all rolled back, foam all over my mouth, then when I crawled up and started to work with him on his brother and then the police and all paramedics came in, they moved us away, I went and sat against the fence and my feet were killing me so I looked down at my work boots and they had little holes in each side of each boot. I took them off and my white sweat socks had holes with black around them and I took them off and each foot had a hole in each side, the inside left the biggest. There was no blood though, you guys, because the electricity had cauterized all the blood vessels.
Brian: Oh my goodness.
Danny: So I’m looking into the hole, going, why is there no blood, that’s the first line of the book, Back to Life. But the interesting thing is this, and I use the term “interesting” because I guess that’s what fits. The guy who was coming down the ladder, my buddy, he comes over to me now and he said, “What happened?” I said, “I guess we hit the wire.” He said, “Yeah, you did. I know. I heard it.” And I said, “Yeah, I know, I saw you coming down the ladder.” And he said, “What? I said, “I saw you coming down the ladder, I was yelling to you to get your brother.” And he says, “No.” I said, “Yeah, I saw you. I was yelling to you.” And he said, “You didn’t say anything,” he said, “I turned around, I saw you on the ground. I came to you first.” So that experience that I had out of my body while I was still watching the physical world, and I didn’t hover a long time like some people’s stories, but there’s no question, I saw him and I was yelling to him and then I went away and then I came back. Because the first time he and I really talked, that’s what I said. I said, “Hey, I was yelling to you.” He said, “No, you weren’t.” Yeah, that’s, I guess, the shortest version of the story I can give you.
Billy: I’m emotional having listened to that. That’s…wow.
Danny: Yeah, it was an experience.
Billy: Just a clarification question, he came down first and went to you before he went to his brother? Did he notice something about you first or was it easier to get to you first? I’m curious about that just because why make — because he’s got a decision to make at that point and so I’m curious about that.
Danny: Yeah, that’s come up a whole lot and I guess in the moment and my buddy, you know, my one buddy died that day and then my other buddy who did the CPR on me, he died a little over five years ago at 64. Tragically, we lost him too. Sometimes, I would ask that, why did you come to me first, and there was a dump truck backed in against the house and when he came down the ladder, the dump truck was probably between him and his brother so I think he just kind of came to me first and then I think he felt responsible for me because I worked for them, so that’s what he used to say, but he said, “I don’t know, man.” He said, “I was just in that mode.” When this happens, you don’t even — I don’t think you’re thinking. So he came to me first, worked on me, gave me up for dead, ran across the street, made that phone call, ran back past me, and then that’s when he got to his brother.
Brian: I’m also really surprised that you were conscious of what was going on during the actual event, like you have recollection of all that, because a lot of people I’ve spoken to that have had heart attacks or something like that, like for my father-in-law, for example, when he tells the story of his heart attack, he’s like, “Yeah, I don’t remember anything.” So that in itself might be something, I don’t know if you want to call it a message or something meaningful, that you remember the entire experience. I mean, that’s incredible.
Danny: Yeah, I certainly remember that and I remember the spiritual experience of being joined with this energy source and saying, “Wait, I’m not Danny Bader anymore, he’s laying down there on the ground, 28-year-old, six foot, 170-pound Danny Bader’s laying on the ground dead,” and there’s still this consciousness energy of Danny Bader here. Yeah, it was — yeah, it was tough, tough to process, for sure.
Billy: How often would you and your friend revisit that conversation? Because I imagine that was a significant component of your relationship from that part on, I don’t even know how I’d be able to have a conversation that wasn’t revolved around that, but yet, at the same time, like how do you move on from that so that it’s not always there?
Danny: Right, right. Well, it is always there. I’ve worked hard not to let it define me, although it did for a whole bunch of years. It’s kind of like the guys that are Major League Baseball players, I mean, that’s them. He was in the World Series. He’s the guy that got electrocuted. We’re identified with something that happened to us. And I get that that’s always going to be the case, I’ve just worked hard, and I still am, to make sure that that’s just an experience that I had that was very powerful for me and now I find that when I share it with other people, it’s powerful for them to perhaps inspire them and get them to think a little bit more about how they’re choosing to live their life, not that I have all the answers and I don’t want to tell them, just to give them a trust, not a hope, but to give them a trust that when your body stops, there’s a part of you that doesn’t. And I believe that how we live our life here, we’re going to be held accountable and that’s going to have a connection, it’s going to have a bearing on where that energy of you goes next. So we had that conversation, after the accident, we went over it I don’t know how many times and you had lawyers and everybody else in there so you’re always kind of rehashing the story and telling the story. The actual discussion of the event lessened over the years. He was a great buddy of mine and we would get together, gosh, we’d probably get together at least once every month or six weeks, have a few beers, have a cheesesteak because we live here in Philly. We would just talk about life. We just became stronger friends there because of what we went through. You’re almost like a brotherhood than like kindred spirits. But the actual details of the accident lessened as we got further away from it. When I wrote the book and it was published in 2012, we had a lot of discussion, a little bit of discussion before I was writing the book because parts of it are fiction, and then when my buddy did read it, I remember he said to me at one time, because Jake’s the character in the book and Jake says, “This guy, Stu,” my buddy, who was Steve in the book, Jake says, “We killed Bruce, I killed Bruce, whatever,” and it was just a little fictionalized. I thought that. I thought that I was very, very responsible for it. He never said that to me though. Nobody ever blamed me for that. They didn’t, they were just wonderful, his wife and his kids and everybody just knew it was a horrible accident. It’s just that I blamed myself and that was the hard part to get through.
Billy: And that book is called Back to Life and you can find it at www.dannybader.com. We will link it in the show notes because you’re going to want to read it. And you just touched on something there and I was going to ask a follow-up but you’ve kind of already answered it. I was curious how much emotion maybe was projected onto you from the family, but it sounds like they understood the accident whereas you struggled a bit with the emotions and especially guilt. So I was wondering if you could dive into that a little bit deeper for us?
Danny: Yeah, I struggled tremendously with it, not just a bit. I had the survivor’s guilt. I lost faith in God. If there was a God, how could you let this happen? I just struggled in letting people into my world that wanted to help me, mom, dad, sister, brothers, my girlfriend and my wife now, my real good priest friend, I had a lot of people that were around to help me and I just wouldn’t let them in. So I struggled a whole bunch and that was — the accident was in July and then in October, I got to my proverbial end of my rope and I just couldn’t take it anymore and I just was consumed with thoughts of self-destruction and actually went to the Outer Banks of North Carolina with the intention of carrying that out. And, thankfully, I didn’t due to a call that I made to my mom when I was half-drunk and she said, “When are you coming home? We can’t wait to see you,” and that that love that came through the phone, something just clicked for me, and I said, “I gotta get — I wonder what it’s gonna be like when I get better? I gotta get better. I can’t check out.”
Danny: And that was the turning point. Listen, it took a bunch of years to feel better but that was the turning point, for sure.
Brian: So having the perspective you have now, do you think there was a reason and a purpose you were saved?
Danny: Yeah, that’s a great question, I get it all the time. I really used to figure — I used to try to figure that out and what I figured out is two things really. When I was down in the Outer Banks and I’d given up my relationship with God and then I had that phone call and I started back, Brian, I figured out two things. I figured out that God exists and I need that relationship as my foundation in good times and in struggle.
Brian: I believe that too.
Danny: And, yeah, and this God that exists is not up there like the Wizard of Oz, the man behind the curtain turning wheels and pulling strings and everything else. When you grow up that way, especially I was growing up Catholic in the 70s, a lot of times, God’s in charge, God will punish you, and as I got older, I realized that wasn’t the case. This really anchored that for me. And then the second one really was that I needed to kind of move from me to we, and it was just me trying to get better. And then when I brought God back in, it was, wait, it was me and him, to say I can’t do this alone. There’s a great quote by Abraham Lincoln who had tremendous struggles in life. He lost his wife, he lost children, he lost his business, political elections, he had the Civil War, the issue of slavery, and he said, “I’ve been driven to my knees many times by the overwhelming conviction I had nowhere else to go,” and that’s kind of where I was. I thought I have nowhere else to go, rather than just drop to my knees and say, “Hey, I need some help here.” So, yeah, I’ve stopped trying to figure out why that had happened to me. What I have focused on is what are you going to do with it, what are you going to do with this experience, and that’s where the book came from and we have a vision to make a movie out of it, we have a script, we’ve been chopping it for a number of years and people get interested and then they don’t and you know how that goes. Our middle son is pursuing acting in screenwriting in LA so he helped me put together a script so we’ll continue to shop it and if the story inspires people, then that’s good. So it’s not so much why it happened to me, it’s what am I doing with it. What am I doing with that experience to support other people?
Brian: Love it.
Billy: Like I’m over here bawling as you’re telling the story, especially the part where you’re talking about going to the Outer Banks, I’m like thank goodness Brian asked that question because I’m like wiping tears from my eyes trying to compose myself while you’re answering that question and I think that’s an important realization of a lot of people always say, “Well, what’s your why?” and I like to think about, “Well, no, what’s your what and then why is that your what?” and you figured out what your what was going to be and I’m wondering what you say to people who are like, “Well, I’d like to figure out what my what is without having a near death experience”? So how do you help people figure out what their what is without having to go through such a traumatic experience like what you had?
Danny: You know what it is, I think there’s so many words that we kind of interchangeably use, like “purpose” and “vision” and “mission” and the big “why” and I get that. People want to have that feeling of being worth something and knowing that they’re contributing somehow and that when they get further along in life, they’re not looking back with those regrets, which really is a word that they shouldn’t even use. It’s just, “Okay, I’m making choices right now. As I look back, I realize that maybe I could have made some different ones.”
Billy: I wish I could reach through the screen and hug you right now because I hate when people say, “Live life with no regrets.” I think that is one of the worst pieces of advice you can give anybody because that is expecting people to live perfectly. I hate that advice so I’m so glad that you said that. I’m sorry for interrupting but that evoked an emotion out of me again.
Danny: Yeah. Well, I’ll often tell people, “Listen, you got to make some wrong turns to get on the right road.” So if you look back and go, “I shouldn’t have done that,” I’m like, well, how do we know that that didn’t contribute in some way to getting you to where you are now, which it probably did. So it’s, yeah, you don’t want to make poor choices, and, when you do, you got to just kind of reframe them and go, “Okay, here’s an opportunity to learn and kind of grow from it.” So, people, I just say, “What excites you? What brings you like a deep joy, feeling inside of you where you go, ‘Yeah, this is good. This is good.’” Is it taking, in business, a tremendous amount of data and numbers and everything else and crunching it and putting it into a one-hour presentation to leadership? Cool, and then that’s probably your professional why/what purpose. What else outside of that, your relationships and your interests and your activities? Is it skiing? Is it surfing? I mean, what brings you joy and pleasure? And that’s what you want, right? You want joy. Everybody says, “I just wanna be happy.” You want joy. Happiness is what other people see, that’s what I believe. When Danny is filled with joy, they go, “Man, that guy is so happy all the time.” You see, I always say happiness is the perspiration of joy, right? Joy is in the inside and then it comes out because very rarely, how often do we say, “Oh my gosh, that person is so full of joy. That person is so joyful”? Every now and again but most times, we just go, “Man, that’s a happy dude. That’s a happy lady.” So I would say what really brings you that internal feeling of pleasure. And for me, it’s supporting people on the journey of life. It’s getting feedback. When somebody says, “I loved your book. I felt like you were speaking to me.” If somebody says, “That podcast was great because I’m struggling right now and what those people said is really helping me.” Or you give a talk and, last night, 250 people or something, and I just got a text from one guy that said — one guy, he said his daughters, 10 and 12 year olds, were just totally focused on my talk the whole time and they were amazed that — and then they went home and started talking about it. So that, if what I can show up and give somebody, offer them, that they can take and use somehow in their life, either with their life or maybe they use it as their guiding and coaching and loving somebody else, that’s it. And then I love my family and my friends so if I can have great experiences with my family and my friends and I can continue to do this work that I’m doing, we’re in good shape.
Billy: I think that’s going to be the most beautiful sound clip of any episode that we have had so far. I also think that’s a perfect opportunity for us to take a break. Everybody, take a minute to just process that segment right there. Go ahead, hit pause, and just process that segment right there. If you’re like me, you probably need to reach for some Kleenex right now and just exhale deeply and let go of that because that was a very beautiful, cathartic segment. Danny, thank you very much for that and we have another segment coming up so let’s take a quick break and then when we come back, we will continue talking to Danny Bader.
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Billy: Welcome back to The Mindful Midlife Crisis. We’re back with Danny Bader and we want to dive into that relationship that you have with God and the relationship that you have with Jesus a little bit. And I mentioned this before that one thing that came out from our initial conversation is that you have a strong relationship with Jesus but you had it before this traumatic event and I talked about how I’m not someone who has a very strong relationship with a faith or anything like that but when I talk to you, I don’t feel like you’re trying to project anything onto me because you seem to just have this casual relationship and this casual friendship with Jesus and it’s apparent even in the titles of your book. You have a book called I Met Jesus for a Miller Lite. And so I wanted you to talk a little bit more about your casual, friendly relationship with Jesus and I also want to know why Jesus has such terrible taste in beer.
Danny: Yeah, that’s great. Well, yeah, my relationship with God, with Jesus, in my faith, it’s the Father, the Son, the Holy Spirit and Jesus was the Son, is the son, and the Holy Spirit is probably right there with Jesus, I call on the Spirit a lot because I believe the Spirit is that energy that’s inside of us that ultimately makes us go and that’s what was called back when I had that accident. My heart, my brain, my lungs, they helped this body go and there’s a fourth energy in there and that’s the Spirit. So I call on that all the time. When I meditate, I’m breathing Spirit in, and then I blow the Spirit out and I direct it towards somebody who’s struggling in life that might need it. So it’s a relationship with God. And it can’t help but show up in my writing because I write the books to inspire, plant some seeds of inspiration for people and inspiration is an energy that comes from inside. Inspiration, Latin, is in spirit, so I don’t know that I can write books nor do I want to that doesn’t have some type of faith component to it. Now, what’s nice is when I speak and even when I write all the books, people never, and I’m humbled by that, they never say I’m preaching or it feels like he’s trying to force me into anything at all. So, yeah, Back to Life was the first book and that’s the story of a young man named Jake that has this accident and then needs to figure out how to get better and it’s based on reality with a lot of reality in it and then there’s some fiction because it’s a story and it needed to be a story. The second one I wrote, Abraham’s Diner, is just a story of a stressed-out executive, overwhelmed, so that’s probably good for anybody, not a whole lot of faith in there, I would say probably the least of any book, a little bit, some productivity principles and how to move away from overwhelm. And then I Met Jesus for a Miller Lite was the third one, and why does Jesus have a poor taste in beer? That was and is the beer of the Bader boys. As I said, I have seven in my family, we have my sister and then seven boys and Miller Lite was what we drank growing up. Yeah, that’s it. I just thought — so that’s where that comes from. Now, I’ll enjoy a good Guinness every now and again, I like some IPAs. I struggled with drinking for a long time after the accident and even as recent as, heck, 5, 10 years ago sometimes and I’m much more focused on that now, some beers, red wine, and just keep a focus on that, because it’s not who I want to be, to drink for all the wrong reasons. So I Met Jesus for a Miller Lite is just a story of a young man named Michael and this is all fiction. The characters are influenced by people. Michael is a football player in the NFL, highly recruited out of college, and comes in and is doing okay but he gets concussions, he’s a running back, and he gets a couple of concussions. So, now, none of the teams want him. They say, “Yeah, he’s a great running back when he’s not hurt.” So nobody picks him up, he goes up to Canada and play for a little while, and you just get into his story here. He’s very type A, he had his whole life planned out, “I’m gonna play pro ball for 12 years and then I’m gonna go for —” He had it all, and now the curveball comes where he doesn’t have that. And his best friend’s wife, they’re younger, she’s got cancer and then there’s another friend in that mix whose father died so she’s struggling with that, with some addiction, and then he’s got his on and off girlfriend and the girlfriend’s dad’s an idiot so he’s just got stuff going on in life. And he meets this guy who drives a convertible Camaro, has an iPhone, and wears a New Orleans Saints hat and it turns out to be Jesus just dropping in on him.
Billy: Well, he’s got fine taste in cars.
Danny: Yeah, he’s got — and, listen, I mean, if Jesus shows up and he’s wearing a hat, he’s not going to wear a Dallas Cowboys, Minnesota Vikings —
Billy: Why won’t he wear Vikings hat? Why wouldn’t he wear a Vikings hat?
Brian: He wouldn’t wear a Vikings hat.
Danny: — he is going to wear a Saints hat, you know what I mean?
Billy: Listen, maybe the reason why I have such little faith in a higher power is because I’ve been a Vikings fan for so long.
Brian: I’m going to give you that. I haven’t lived here — guys, if you don’t know this, Danny, watching the Minnesota Vikings is one of the most painful experiences of your entire life if you’re pulling for them to do well because they bring it to the brink of success and then they just snatch it from you. It’s painful. I’ve rooted for the Vikings because I’m the kind of guy who will pull for the division. It’s painful.
Danny: Well, everything is cyclical.
Brian: We hope so.
Danny: At some point, they’ll be back in the championship game.
Billy: Hopefully. Hopefully, that happens sometime soon. One thing you do with your books as you write them in the form of parables, which is influenced by the Bible, and so I’m guessing that’s very intentional and how do you structure your stories around biblical parables?
Danny: Yeah, I don’t know if they’re — that’s great, I don’t know if — they’re in parable form for sure because parable form is a story that teaches a lesson, and it’s certainly all the children’s, Goldilocks, and Little Red Riding Hood, all these stories, if they teach a lesson, that’s the key and it’s easier for me to make up characters and let the lessons come through their experiences versus writing a book where I just tell and put frameworks in there. I’d rather have them come through characters. So they’re not necessarily based on biblical, I wouldn’t say that. They’re in story form where people should feel like they’re in the story. It’s my intention that they should connect with one or two of the characters and their struggles. They should feel like one of the characters is giving them, whose talking is maybe giving them support or maybe nudging them along or planting some seeds of inspiration so that’s really the way that I write them, because that’s the kind of books I like to read. Years ago, when I would read, I would read Robin Sharma who wrote The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari, The Saint, The Surfer, and the CEO, he wrote a whole bunch of books, and I just like them. They’re quick reads, they’re easy reads, and they have some good wisdom in there. Andy Andrews is another guy that has written an awful lot of books that have those same types of stories. That’s really why I like it, and then the fourth one that I did, Taking the Sh*t Out of the Show, is seven short stories to navigate life’s challenges. I couldn’t spell it out on the cover, I don’t know if I could anyhow and have it published but my mom said I couldn’t do that so I had to put the asterisk in there because my mom’s 84 but she’s still my mom, right? And then each one of those stories, I have somebody in their 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s, and 70s.
Billy: Oh, I like that.
Danny: So, the main character in each chapter just struggling with something in life and the character Sammy, Samantha Jane Windermere, Sam is a female, she’s a character in Back to Life, well, she’s now the character in each one of these chapters that drops in as a life coach, I guess, and supports these people through their challenge. So that’s the most recent one and I’m digging some of the feedback that I’m getting. People say they like it because it’s just quick. You’re reading one story of 20, 25 pages and then you’re into a whole ’nother person, a whole ’nother set of circumstances.
Billy: Is Sammy based on anyone from your life? Because considering it’s now a reoccurring character that started from your first book to now your most recent book, so was there someone that you used as an influence for Sammy? Because that would have been a — I’m not sure how long ago you wrote Back to Life but I imagine that was an extremely pivotal time for you as you’re publishing your first book.
Danny: Yeah, that’s great question. I published it in 2012 and the first title was Back from Heaven’s Front Porch. So, Back from Heaven’s Front Porch, I had a small publisher that published that book and then a couple of years ago, I got the rights back to it and I titled it Back to Life and I changed the cover, because my podcast is Back to Life and my keynote is called Back to Life. So they’re essentially the same book, the only difference is title and cover, and there’s a final chapter in Back to Life that picks up with Jake, who’s the main character. In the first version of the book, the last time you see Jake, he’s 28 still. He went through what he went through and he comes back home and you’re like, “Okay, I guess he’s gonna get better.” The last chapter picks up at Jake’s 50th birthday party so it wraps up a whole bunch of loose ends. So Back from Heaven’s Front Porch, I guess it’s — I don’t even know if it’s still available out there, you might find a couple of us copies, but Back to Life would be the one that folks would want to grab. But Sammy as a character, no, I don’t think she was based on anybody. Sammy’s backstory is she was an overachiever, Ivy League athlete, business school, Wall Street multimillionaire and I don’t want to give too much away because it kind of picks up but she’s trying to overachieve to find value and worth in other people’s eyes and she realizes that she sold her soul, so to speak, to the corporate world, Wall Street, money, and everything else and then she heads out to Moab, to the desert in Utah, just for a quick visit and then she winds up packing up and going back there and checking out of the Wall Street scene. So she really got back to her essence to her soul. Now, when I wrote the character, I always envisioned Jennifer Aniston playing her in the movie so, Jen, if you’re listening, I’ve sent you some books, I don’t know if you —
Billy: I’ll text her.
Danny: — know that we exist.
Billy: I’ll text her.
Billy: She’s a huge fan of the show, a huge fan of the show so absolutely.
Danny: Yeah, I just met another really cool actress too not too long ago and she said, “I could play Sammy.” I said, “Damn, you could play Sammy so we’ll see.”
Billy: Hey, all right. I like this. You’re making moves, that’s exciting to know that you have these things out there and that they’re not just staying still, you’re growing them with the potential to turn them into something more and I think that’s really an important lesson in life too that, hey, it doesn’t necessarily matter where you are, where you are today is fine but where are you going in life, and I think, for me, a big part of this season of this podcast is trying to find clarity and what direction I’m trying to go in my own life so it’s been really wonderful having conversations with people like you. One thing that you brought up before was that you meditate and I imagine that you meditate and you also pray and I feel like, in some people’s minds, those two things cannot coexist because, “Well, meditation is a Buddhist practice so, therefore, that goes against my religion,” and, again, what I’ve always appreciated about our conversations is that though you have a very strong Christian belief, you are open to spirituality however it suits somebody’s pursuits towards bettering their life. And so I was wondering if you could talk about how do you marry meditation with prayer?
Danny: Yeah, that’s great. It’s pretty simple for me. Prayer is my conversation and it takes on different tones, but it’s my conversation. Sometimes it’s more one way, then maybe it’s coming from the source, maybe it’s me going to the source, maybe it’s back and forth. Sometimes it’s formal prayer where I’ll recite Hail Marys or Our Fathers or the rosary or whatever, and other times, it’s just conversation. More so it’s conversation. And that fuels me, it anchors me, it gives me inspiration, it lets me know that life is a struggle sometimes and that’s okay and you’ve got some support. Meditation, for me, is really two things. Number one, it allows me to slow down so that I can really become more conscious of my thoughts, and when I do, it’s the ability to recognize which thoughts are not serving me well right now based on where I am in my life. So a lot of times, the mistake I think people make about meditation is say, “I’m not good at it, I sit down and my mind doesn’t stop,” and I’m like, okay, to me, that’s not the point. Don’t let your mind stop. Let your mind start to settle, see the thoughts and go, okay, then let it go, see another thought, let it go, and the more you do it, like anything, then you’re going to get to a place of more stillness, but what happens is then you realize that you’re not your thoughts. See, so many of us run around in life and our thoughts drive everything so we are our thoughts. We’re producing an environment based on our thoughts. And what I would offer to you, you’re not your thoughts, you’re the thinker of them, so once you realize that all that’s going on here, you do have some control over it versus just going on automatic pilot. That’s a good thing. And then the other thing for me is, in meditation, when I can really drop in and get silent, is the Spirit’s there. The Spirit does not come to me through emails and social media and traffic jams and everything else in the world. The Spirit resides in stillness. For me, the Spirit resides in stillness. Now, I could be out on a paddleboard, I could be taking a run, I could be meditating, there’s a lot of ways I can drop into that stillness. Oftentimes, when I’m out in nature, I don’t use the earphone thing and music and everything else, I just want to take a walk, I got a great little routine down at the beach, we got a little beach place outside of Cape May, and I run about a mile and a half down the Bay and that’s right where the ferry comes in and out and there’s a long stretch of rocks, these big huge jetties that you can walk out on, there’s fishermen and all, and I’ll usually just run down there, a mile and a half, and then I go out on the rocks and at the end of the rocks, it’s way out, I just kneel down, I say some prayers, I get up, I run back a mile and a half and that’s just wonderful, right? Get a little exercise, get a little quiet time, still time. So there’s many ways to do it.
Billy: Like I said, I think that’s a really beautiful recognition and understanding that these are two things that can coexist. I’m not sure when our conversation with Bryan Piatt is going to air but he talks about how meditation and medication coexist for his mental health journey and I think one thing I want people to understand is it doesn’t have to be an either or and that we should continue to seek what it is that gives us clarity in our lives and it might not just be one thing and that we should be open to many things as long as they are healthy and as long as they are productive and as long as they’re positive. I just really hope that people hear that. And I’m hearing it too in that, again, just someone who feels disconnected from a sense of spirituality. I’m going to close with this and I’m going to get emotional talking about it, but there are two times in the last maybe 10 years in my life where I can say that I felt a presence of God, and I don’t mean maybe God in a Christian sense but just a higher power, and one of those was in 2014 and I walked into St. Stephen’s Cathedral in Vienna. And I’ve been to a lot of different cathedrals throughout Europe and throughout the United States and I don’t know what it was about St. Stephen’s Cathedral, we were there at about sunset, it was quiet, it just might have been the lighting in there but there was something palpable. It wasn’t just an ambiance, there was something palpable about that experience where when I left, I said to myself, “I felt the presence of God, I felt the presence of a higher power.” And the other time that I felt that was the first time you and I talked.
Danny: Right on.
Billy: So, I just want to thank you for sharing your story with us, for sharing your insight with us. As someone who’s not spiritual, it was a spiritually fulfilling conversation for me to have, I hope it was a spiritually fulfilling for others to have and listen to as well so thank you so much for being with us today, Danny.
Danny: Wow, it is my pleasure, you guys, both of you, Billy and Brian, I appreciate it. I wish you all the best.
Brian: Likewise, sir.
Billy: If you’re interested in purchasing any of Danny’s books, go to www.dannybader.com, check it out there. He also has a podcast called Back to Life, go ahead and check that out. A wonderfully beautiful human being. We thank you so much for being here. So, for Danny, for Brian, this is Billy, thank you for listening to The Mindful Midlife Crisis. May you feel happy, healthy, and loved. Take care, friends.
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