Dec. 17, 2021

E157: Discovering who you are through fear with Dave Hollis | CPTSD and Trauma Healing Coach

In this episode, I sit with my friend Dave Hollis and we talk about his journey to where he is today, you know, it's a really fascinating conversation and a story about not only facing your fear but what it means to have your identity disrupted...
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In this episode, I sit with my friend Dave Hollis and we talk about his journey to where he is today, you know, it's a really fascinating conversation and a story about not only facing your fear but what it means to have your identity disrupted and have to put yourself back together.

And this conversation has hit home with me in a really intensive way, going through the backside of these really difficult experiences in life breakups, changes of jobs, moving, losing friendships, it's so much a part of the human experience and the conversation that Dave brings to the table and I think it's one that is going to be beneficial for everyone regardless of where you are because we're always in this shift, we're always in change, were always an evolution and what Dave talks about with me today is something that was profound for me and, not only because of my own extenuating circumstances, but because I think in general, we are always in this position of discovery at depth whether we want to be or not, and that really hit home with me.

Dave is a New York Times best-selling author, host of the popular Rise Together podcast, keynote speaker, and life and business coach. Dave’s history includes CEO of a media start-up, President of Sales for the film studio at The Walt Disney Company, talent manager across film, TV, and music, along with work in publicity, research, and technology in the entertainment sector. He is the father to four kids, a four-time foster parent, an avid runner, a sports memorabilia enthusiast, and the proud owner of a 1969 Ford Bronco. 

Dave was faced with this really intense, not only identity crisis but kind of a coming to a self moment in which he had to rediscover, who, he truly was in his power, through the scope of not only change and challenge but facing fear.

Also, I wanted to tell you; you can get a copy of Think Unbroken Understanding and Overcoming Childhood Trauma for free. If you just cover the shipping, if you go to, you can get a paperback copy of Think Unbroken as well as information on other programs and things that are available and I have 1,000 copies of the book that I'm giving away for free. So if you just go to, you'll be able to find out more information about that.

And again, I have a huge amount of gratitude for you.

Thank you for being here; thank you for spending your time with me.

So, what are you waiting for? Let’s get into the show and I guarantee you, there's a tremendous amount of value that Dave will deliver for us today!

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Michael: Hey! What's up Unbroken Nation! Hope that you're doing well, wherever you are in the world today. I'm very excited to be back with you with another episode with my guest Dave Hollis, who is an author, speaker, coach and honestly, one of the coolest dudes I've ever had the pleasure of knowing and this moment Dave my friend, how are you? What is going on in your world today?

Dave: I am doing well. Thank you for bringing me into this community, I'm excited for today's conversation and appreciate you having me here.

Michael: Yeah. Pleasure is all mine and I know the community, the Unbroken Nation is going to get so much value out of our conversation today. Dave, for those of you who don't know, can you tell us a little bit about your back story and how you got to where you are today?

Dave: Yeah. I'm the father of four kids, previously, father fosters father too, for kids as well. I am someone who has experienced quite a bit of change over the last five to six years of my life, both change that I have chosen and change that has chosen me. I am the beneficiary of discomfort that exists inside of change something I'm sure we'll talk about today, but I had a career inside of traditional entertainment, for the better part of 2022, three years where I worked at Fox in talent management and publicity research handful of different companies before landing at the Walt Disney Company at a 17-year career inside of Disney, the last seven of which where I was the head of sales for the movie studio, it was a fantastic job until it wasn't for whatever reason satisfying some of the things that I was looking for in fulfillment or purpose as I was myself cresting my 40th birthday going from 30 to 40 introduced a bunch of interesting existential questions about why I was here and now that I was asking these questions I had to do something about it.

So I left a big job that most people might not leave for the adventure of Entrepreneurship, I moved my family from California where we lived our entire life to just outside of Austin, Texas Dripping Springs and if for the last handful of years, been working in writing books and hosting podcast and doing coaching, things that I'm very much a work in progress in, I'm still very new inside of the space, enjoying it, immensely, but also still finding my way, in a way that sometimes triggers my insecurities, sometimes triggers my imposter syndrome, sometimes triggers the things that get triggered, but all of those triggers in some ways being complicit in, how I'm growing and learning and becoming this better version of who I am on this planet to be and that pursuit for understanding why I was given these gifts and why I am here has really been the adventure, the last handful of years and so I am a work in progress like I say more than almost anything else I think I had a negative attributions for many, many years of my life and now something I wear like a badge of honor, it is just going to be my story for the rest of time. And I'm excited that I am in the fortuitous position to share a little bit of how I continue to be that work in progress with a community of people online and with new audiences like yours on a day like today.

Michael: You know, it's so fascinating to me like so if you're watching right now as opposed to listen to the podcast, you'll notice the office space is different. I'm actually recording in my kitchen as opposed to the office as I am a trend in a transition and I come to what you just said about change. I think not only is change inevitable, but changes a must because ultimately, your face at this precipice, where everything in your life isn't necessarily about a decision, you have to make but instead about the fear that you must face about the decision that you have to make.And people look at your life, those who may know a little bit more about you or even just in this quick moment and go, man, this guy gave up Disney, what is young crack? Like who does that? But there is a innately and probably inherently something so deeply and pulling inside of us that it says if I don't do this, I will be unfulfilled and yet you are faced with this juxtaposition of this tremendous existential crisis while simultaneously parlaying that with fear and people get stuck there and I think like to me that is the most terrifying place to be as a human being. And so when you're looking at your life and you're assessing change, you're talking about what is next for Dave, while simultaneously trying to follow your heart and not have a mortality event. How do you navigate that?

Dave: Well, it's interesting because for so many years, certainty was my North Star like if I could just have a title, that was important enough or status that was meaningful enough or salary that made me feel safe enough then I could cling to or rest easy in this certainty that I thought was the most important thing in the entire world and then I found myself having more and more certainty as a part of my life and it was inversely related to the way I felt about myself when I was by myself because in some ways that certainty came at the expense of growth. And so, part of what I have now been on this discovery journey on the last three years of life around has been understanding the inextricable tie that exists between growth and fulfillment and the requirements in that knowledge that comes in constantly pushing and putting myself into spaces that are new, that I don't yet have Mastery in, that I have to actually fail through so that I can grow. And it started interestingly enough with a conversation unexpectedly with my younger children when around this 40th birthday, in the midst of me, as this head of sales at the Walt Disney Company struggling to hold, both the thing I thought I needed and wanted in certainty and the discontent of the lack of fulfillment that existed inside of that certainty. We were out back, we're having a conversation in the hot tub, playing a game that we usually played ask Dad anything, my boys at the time were nine, seven, and four, and my seven-year-old asks this question, Dad, what are you most afraid of? And as much as he's looking for silly stuff because this was usually a silly game, he wants, spiders or scorpions or dragons or something out of my mouth falls, not living up to my potential, as in like, I know I have some responsibility to honor the intention of a creator who put me here for a reason and in real time I found myself living in to my greatest fear because the quality of the films and the quality of the teams and the quality of the leadership were such that I was getting straight a grades without having to study for tests.

And in that world where I was doing well against the conventional definition of what a good man does or a good person does or someone who is admired because of the work or their money, or whatever it might be. I had stopped growing and in the absence of growth really in some like what of a binary way, I do believe you're either growing or dying, I was starting to die in some respects of my life. And now that I could see that thing, what the last three years have been, for me, has been this, reminder that I have an obligation to honor this thing I saw in can't unsee that actually living into my potential, that actually pushing myself to use the gifts that were given exclusively to me for the intent of being used to gift that gift other people, is a thing I have to do. And the only way I can do that is to continually push myself into spaces that make me feel uncomfortable and what's beautiful in a world where change ends up being a constant, I said, at the beginning, like change has either been a thing that I have chosen making this decision to leave so that I can manufacture grow the thing that I know I need in my life or change has chosen me where unforeseen things or thinkable circumstances and of my marriage, and of a business, that I'd been running an operating with my now, ex-wife were things that actually acted as a catalyst because of that change, not in spite of for me to dig into who I was now going to become, because of who I had to be in working through the adversity of change that I wouldn't have necessarily been interested in, but that I was the beneficiary after having gone through it.

Michael: It almost feels serendipitous in a sense, right? Because I feel like and I don't know if this is your experience as well but often there is this thought that I have as my head is on the pillow and that fills very quite realistically the thing that I know I'm supposed to do and if I ignore that thought, it's almost like, trying to climb Mount Everest like, Wim Hof style, like it's almost impossible, you can do it, but it's going to be really, really difficult and it's going to take from you more than you are ever given because you're basically living a falsehood. And I think one of the things that's fascinating about your journey, what you said is even being, you know, a few years into this site about coaching and speaking and authoring still facing that part of you, where it's like, oh, is this really who I am? Is there in posture syndrome? Is limiting self-beliefs things of that nature? And what I'm curious about is in that and this will be a very personalized question I think for me, so I apologize Unbroken Nation, but I really have to ask this, how do you navigate those experiences of self-discovery while wanting to impact and empower the world while simultaneously figuring it out for yourself in real time?

Dave: It's tough and I'll be honest like this is a thing that I am working through every single day on the regular because in so many ways, my journey of discovery and the attempt to capture the things that I've discovered for myself in a book or a podcast or in coaching is a reflection of my journey. One that is still very much unlike playing out in real time like I am still learning things that make me both teacher and student at the same time and so, the one thing that I think ends up being a little bit tough for anyone who feels called into a space to help others, or to share their experiences, is the danger that in some way, especially with the hyper curated way that social media tends to represent a best case scenario or a curated version of everything being great, trust me, it's fantastic. Life isn't that way? Like, struggle is part of the journey, it's nonlinear, I have three great days and I have a hard day and the weird thing about trying to teach while you're also trying to learn is that you don't want to be caught being placed on a pedestal that has anyone thinking that you've got it all figured out because all of us, I mean all of us are that work in progress that I describe myself as and so there's something in the work that I do anyway that I hope is somewhat of a departure from what you might traditionally find from someone else who might represent, I've got the answers, this is the answer key, if you just check these boxes this is the way it's going to work because I feel like personal development ends up being a personal thing.

And some of the stuff that's worked for me, worked for me because it was meant to work for me but might not necessarily work for you and also as much as you know in the book that I've written or the coaching that I do; I do feel like this might sound hubristic but I do feel like I've got something of an answer key for like this being the thing that if I were to follow it, man, I'd wake up feeling great about myself when I'm by myself, or if I could create integrity between the things, I know I ought to do and the way that I actually show up in that day that is aligned with that list of things, I feel great and yet, I'm human. I still have negative coping mechanisms that show up. I still have fear that unexpectedly throws me off of the kind of courage or confidence or belief in self, loving myself, that I'd hope to have on every single day basis and that's a reflection of humanity, that's a thinker thing that each of us as humans ends up experiencing and all I can do is try and understand, okay, what are these feelings or thoughts or emotions attempting to teach me in this never-ending journey of learning as I continue to try and reach for a better version of myself.

And what's interesting is I think for each of us when we continue to evolve into whatever, our next level ends up being where asked harder set of questions it's like going through school as you continue to evolve to additional levels or next levels, the test get harder, the challenges, get tougher, the fears that you face, end up being things that you haven't necessarily experience before and part of it ends up being that those I think are things that are there to ask you, are you sure that you're interested in stepping into what you believe to be the calling of your life? Because this ends up just being the price of entry? And that's hard because in some ways it runs counterintuitive to some of what I think we've been taught which is if you just acquire enough knowledge or get a good enough circle or get enough discipline around these habits and routines, your fear goes away, you don't get triggered by these things that aren't hard or bad days. And I think harder bad days is just part and parcel with what it means to try and live a full and rich life and normalizing that just part of the process, hopefully, makes other people who themselves are experiencing the nonlinear journey of their own life, to feel normal, to feel human to feel, okay with it. Sometimes not feeling okay or feeling hard. 

Michael: It's very profound and I think two words you didn't use but I'd like to use for myself and hearing this in real time as we're having a human experience like Dave, we've never had this conversation before, we have no precedent for whether or not this works, we in our day-to-day life, have no markers for all the choices and the decisions that we make their, it's constantly a pendulum swing of discovery and on one side you go, okay, I'm kind of familiar with this thing a little bit and on the other side, you're like this is unknown territory I'm terrified? Am I messing up? Am I making mistake? And I think you're so right about just the culture of social media and so many people bring attention to it but the reality is like, the hard days are not shared and one of the things I really appreciate about you and why was so grateful that you decided to spend your time with me in this audience today is because of your willingness to be vulnerable. And we live in a society where there's, I want to call it almost toxic vulnerability, where people are just putting stuff out in the world for the sake of putting it out in that feels very obtuse to me but what I watched over the course of the last few years and tracking you and being someone we're in a sense you're a mentor to me, right? And that's because I consume your content, I read your books, I listened to the podcast, I go, this person is a marker one, step ahead of where it is I am trying to go and what happened was, this really interesting moment in your life where you're faced with a challenge of your identity and what I'm really curious about Dave is in that moment and in this experience where you're like, this is who I think I am and suddenly curveball, how do you build yourself or reclaim yourself, or create yourself or put yourself in a position where you can become the Dave that you are today in consideration that you thought you knew who you were going to be?

Dave: Oh! man, it's such a good question. And if there was a theme in any of what has been a tumultuous and beautiful like the best and hardest years of my life in these last five, it's been identity shift and change because for so many years had that corporate identity that Disney thing as a part of who I was, it was the first thing I might introduce myself as in the midst of a cocktail party or regale people within my family when we gather for Thanksgiving after leaving that, there were things in my marriage where identified primarily as husband to her in a way what once the marriage ended, I had to ask the question of, who am I now that I'm no longer who I've been? I think a lot of times that's what the questions of identity and shift end up asking, who are you if you aren't the modifiers that you've previously used to identify yourself? And a lot of what I had to do and I think what a lot of people have to do is like make peace with what ends up being a blank piece of paper that is handed to you in the midst of shift, right? That piece of paper is your invitation to write down, what your future looks like now that it no longer looks like it did, and that exercise is equal parts exhilarating and terrifying, right? At the beginning, it tends to be more terrifying over time, as you confront your fears, and ignite your imagination, it can become something that is more exhilarating. But there is when you can make peace with what was and now accept that you are the captain of your ship the master of your destiny, whatever you want to say that there's freedom in allowing yourself to now, write out whatever you want, whatever you believe to be the calling from a Creator or the intuition that you've maybe not listened to necessarily but now you're going pay attention to because it's time things that were are gone, things that will be are now in your control. And in the agency that comes in deciding who you want to be now that you're no longer who you've been, it can be something that just is powerful; once again, you're able to confront your fear and deal with your casualty. I will tell you my the first casualty in divorce was my imagination, I had a really, really hard time imagining what life was going to be like now that it was no longer going to be, like it was going to be and the thing at the roots of my compromised imagination was fear because I had as it turned out, I made a list of 46 things that I was afraid of in this future that was now going to look different, I had all of this fear that unconsciously unconsciously, but primarily unconsciously was living inside of me that was keeping me from seeing something hopeful in my future. And it wasn't until I was able to draw those fears into the light, ask questions of whether those were real or unreal fears and for those that were real, have a conversation around how I might plan, how I might create something of preparation to allow me to be ready, prepared for how I might handle that fear presenting itself, when inevitably it would and I would argue that a plan is the antidote to fear in so many ways and by doing that exercise, what slowly happened is that I was putting the paddles on my imagination yelling, clear and slowly bringing it back to life in a way that allowed me to start casting something of a hopeful vision for what might be, even though it was going to be different even though I was still grieving what I wish it might have looked like there was power in that there's this great quote; Les Brownlooks like a very famous personal development speaker, I've used it now in two books, I might use it in every book but his quote is that “Hope in the future is power in the present,” right? Like our ability to have the imagination for something hopeful in our future is what allows us to create some traction in real time, even in the midst of crisis or grief or sadness, or change or identity shift. We have to be able to have something hopeful that we're excited about but often we allow the circumstances of our present, to cloud our ability to cast that hopeful vision. So it really takes some hard work of reconciling, what it is that we're afraid of? What we worry our change in identity, might mean to other people, or to ourselves, to our ability to love ourselves or have confidence in our self. And once you can reconcile that now, you give yourself a chance to actually create a little bit of momentum to move forward as you still honor the pain, as you still honor, the transition, the madness in the change, that is part of the story of where you're at right now.


Michael: In that reconciliation, when you're going through the process of recognizing and looking at your past self through the scope of where you are in the present moment, how do you reconcile you are no longer that person while balancing, okay, I'm in this moment, the future is uncertain, but I feel like I'm starting to tap into myself and there's this thing you that I believe, people cling onto us past experiences where they go, that is who I am and I cannot let go. Is reconciliation for you letting go of that adjust they like, what does that actually look like for you?

Dave: Well, I mean number one, I have been through a harder a little window of time and that is not comparable to a lot of the trauma that other people have been through so I want to be careful in how I even couch, the way that I have processed this because I don't want it in any way to sound dismissive of or toxic positivity as rose-colored glasses in any way.

But for me, the way that I've thought about my experiences is through the lens of two broad categories. I have the central experiences that have in some ways to find who, I think I am, and these circumstantial experiences, things, that happened to have happened, they are a part of my story, they are the color commentary of my life, but they don't define who I am. And when I think about my central experiences, think of like Inside Out that animated Pixar movie, right? There are some things that are formative in our history that have been attributed, positive or negative feeling and those attributions inform in many ways who we believe ourselves to be and what we think ourselves to be capable of because of that positive or negative attribution. And I just know for myself, as much as I have, had some experiences that I wouldn't have liked to necessarily go through or that I wish hadn't necessarily happened, they happened and acceptance is part of understanding who I am, but also asking, if there is a way for me to frame those experiences in a Tony Robbins s kind of way as being for me, not having happened to me, that's some of the hard work that happens in therapy and conversation with God and Community with close friends on a rock in nature when I am meditating, trying to find a way to say hey, I know at the end of 2019, I made this really bold declaration that 2020 was going to be my best year ever and what I didn't appreciate and going through divorce and transitioning out of a company, I'd help build, I didn't appreciate that I didn't get a say in the conditions that would bring my best forward. And as much as I am, not interested, like most people are not interested in reliving 2020, I was able to in this kind of an exercise, find a way to create positive attribution for some of the hardest things that I've had to go through as the Catalyst for why I now believe myself to be stronger, emotionally, mentally, physically, relationally and spiritually, right? Being forced to your knees, made my strength, in my God, and my faith that much bigger, being challenged to understand why I think the way that I do or spending, as much time, I did with the therapist, made me stronger emotionally and mentally, spending time with people that I cared most about are being forced to walk alongside the trauma that my own kids were experiencing in the end of their parents marriage, brought us together and created a bond that stronger today than it was before, getting out and running or being in a gym and getting physically fit was training me to understand how strong I could be even in the midst of hard times, right?

All of these things were a byproduct of attempting to create positive attribution for something that was hard in my life. And the beauty that has been part of my story and hopefully it's a thing that someone who's listening today might be able to spend a little time on. There are times when things that were a formative part of my identity, a central experience became because of the deconstructing of the pieces that I'd afforded, wait to circumstantial experiences, because of time and perspective and it doesn't mean again that I'm looking to dismiss that, man, you didn't deserve it, is it wasn’t fair? That trauma is something you still need to honor and spend time in therapy and community and grieve. But also, if we're able to see these things, as may be, the reason why I wear the warrior now that can handle whatever comes next or stronger because of having survived them or if over time, we're able to release ourselves from some of the weight that we have assigned to them in a way that make them things that happened to have happened but don't get a say in who we are, we now are the authors of what of our experiences define us. And it's hard work, it's long work, it's complicated work. You know, for me has been three and a half plus year kind of journey that will likely never end as I continue to try and to find how putting myself into situations that sometimes introduce pain or trauma or grief, are things that are ultimately going to be part of why I've become who I am known as at the end of my life.

Michael: It's very beautifully said. I tell people all the time, this healing journey as a forever journey. I came to the conclusion of that, one spring day, in my therapist office after the five hundredth straight wins’ day in a row, sitting there watching the rain, trickled down the window and looking at him and going, I don't want to do this anymore, I don't want to be here and I'm so tired of this thing, right? And him just going, you know, the reality is that some people have to accept the reality acceptance being this really powerful word that this is life and that's not necessarily a bad thing. But I think and one of the things I want to uphold to hear is, I think, especially as men and men in America, this idea of therapy and working through trauma, people even still even in 2021 as we head into whatever is next in the future of our lives, there is still this really gross nomenclature around it about weakness, about you're not a man, about you cry, dude, there's a d-des commercial that comes on with the old guy running where he's breaking all the hospitals, like I break out just busting out in tears, right? But there's this stigma that still exists around toxic masculinity, what was your experience. like, stepping into therapy as this person who is in a phase of self-discovery in which you were?

Dave: Yeah. Well, number one, I mean, I even wrote this land in my book like I have had a Cal Ripken desk streak of consecutive crying days. I am all for the expression of emotion and I am not ashamed in any way about crying but I think one of the strongest, and most important signs of strength is the willingness to get help. And as much as it runs counter culturally, sometimes to the death mission of masculinity or what real men might do, I know the kind of breakthrough is that I have had in therapy as an accelerant to my healing journey, not to say that, oh, I'm never in, like I'm out of grieving, or I'm not still healing from some of the things that I've been through. I just know that I've been able to process things in a, getting a bit of an answer key, kind of way because of the gift that benefit of having an objective third party challenge, why I think the way I think.

What's interesting for me is as much as I'd been in therapy often, I mean not even off and on, consistently for years prior to the end of my marriage at the end of it because identity was such a big thing that was shifting. I intentionally went and tried to find someone who might support me in the concept of self like – who am I now that I'm no longer who I've been was my big question and I found a therapist that specializes in something called Internal Family systems where you get to be as self, the observer of your emotions and your thoughts, in a way that disconnects you from them being who you are that was so much a gift, right? Like the idea that I'm not my thoughts, but that I'm the observer of my thoughts or that I'm not my emotions, I am the observer of my emotions allowed me actually, to make a relationship with my thoughts or my emotions to like become an investigator to understand why they exist, and what role they believe themselves to be playing. And it's something that would never have occurred to me I would have net because it sounds crazy even there's someone listening right now that's like this guy's gone off the old ladder, let's check to make sure he didn't fall in hurt his back. Look, it might sound crazy but I'm here to tell you, it was one of and has been one of the most powerful and important exercises that was introduced by someone, who clinically got a bunch of schooling around it, understands how to manage a conversation through it and so I'll give you a for example; I struggle with anxiety, and anxiety is just, you know, more than anything, the fear of what might happen like the imagination that we each have of how many things could happen, allowing sometimes the worst case scenario version of those things to be the thing that we get preoccupied with an idea. And when my anxiety now shows up because of the work I did with this therapist, I actually have named my anxiety, his name is Clark, I sit him down in a table and chairs kind of setting an office setting and I have a conversation with Clark. And Clark, why do you believe yourself to be here? What role do you think that you're playing? And in this therapy, there's this recognition that the parts that we have; the feelings our emotions that we have they believe themselves here to help us. And so I have this conversation understand what Clark do you think you are here to help me with and what's beautiful is that as much as I used to when I got anxious? Think when I was anxious and would just spin a bit my devolve into a negative coping mechanism that wasn't actually serving me to mute the voice of that anxiety. I now an engaging in it in a way that recognizes I am not this feeling, I'm the observer of it and get to ask a questions now, am afforded the benefit of intel. And what Clark usually points out is, hey, Dave, there's a part of your life where there is just enough ambiguity that I feel like I have a responsibility to train your focus to it, such that if you were able to put together a little bit of a plan, in this part of your life, I would feel like I have permission to now, leave and I will have done my job in drawing your attention to this ambiguous space.

And so in a crazy way that super disconnected from the way I used to feel when I got anxious in having this conversation, I'm not this feeling, I'm the observer of it, I get to ask it questions, I bizarrely almost have developed some gratitude over this feeling popping up that I now get to ask questions of because of the way, it draws my focus to some part of my life that doesn't have a plan, great! I'll make a plan; plan becomes the antidote to fear and now I actually have something that allows me to sleep more soundly or worry less because I'm prepared for whatever that ambiguous part of my life was that if not for anxiety popping up I would not maybe have been aware.

Michael: Yeah, and without going to therapy you may not even have the answer to get to that place.

Dave: At all. It was a gift that came in a conversation from somebody who by the way, as he was describing the process and this idea that like you're the observer and their parts, they think they're helping, I was skeptical.

Because of I think some of the current that exists in traditional Society like, are you sure this sounds, whoo, and then I put it to practice and it's been helpful for me and got guess what? It might not be helpful for everyone, but I feel pretty confident that sitting and having a conversation with a therapist of some kind, is a thing that would be cathartic and helpful for anyone trying to process literally anything in their life.

Michael: Yeah, I wholeheartedly agree and everyone who was in the show knows that I'm a huge proponent of it, I think that it is it should be obligatory like – as a human being especially in the society that we live in to go through that because there are traumas and a lot of it you don't even recognize are impacting you until you start looking at your behaviors and trying to understand to your point, why do I do the things that I do? And I think that's what's so fascinating about stepping in and sitting in that chair and having that mirror and go, we'll have you thought about this? Because in my experience like going through Gestalt therapy, being the most powerful for me, I was able to make meaning because I consider myself to be very analytical, so I look for Ryman reason gives causation is a correlation with them that can I create a scope of action and I love that you point to this idea about creating a plan to get through where you are right now.

One of the things I'm really curious about, and I'll preface this question with this, I do not have children, I do not know if I will ever have children, that said, I know that many of the people of The Unbroken Nation do. And the question that I want to ask on their behalf as this; when you are in a position that you are in this transition of life, looking through the scope of identity, having an existential crisis if you don't mind, if I use those words and simultaneously going through a divorce while trying not to destroy your kids. How do you navigate that? Because I know there's someone listening right now who's in that position that needs some guidance.

Dave: I mean, one day at a time. I mean here's the headline, you know, anyone who has been married and finds himself in divorce is not going to good at co-parenting on the first day, it is a guarantee because it's not a skill that you've ever trained for and in the same way that, you know, becoming a parent for the first time is something you might read a book like what to expect when you're expecting or ask your friends who have kids, there is no resource or conversation on the planet that's going to fully prepare you for what it's like to actually be a parent. And so it requires just a heavy dose of grace, anytime there's change with kids, not kids, but for me with Kids, you know there were things that I did thinking it was in their best interest that I can see in the aftermath of now 18 months of time, man, I probably didn't need to. I'll give you a for example, the very beginning of divorce where I was so lost in who I was going to be, I knew that being a good dad was one of the things that I absolutely hundred percent would have as a part of my identity and some of that in my interest, in alleviating some of they're pain, some of their grief would manifest in me, alleviating some of the rules that might have historically existed in this house. All you want to stay up a little bit later? Okay, that's fine, I will give in on that, you want a little more Tech time? Okay. Should we splurge on buying this thing or what? Sure! And what I can see now was that like it wasn't my job to try and cover their grief. It's interesting when my wife and I at the time we're going into foster care, we got this piece of advice that I wish I had remembered at the beginning of this transition and it was that any of these children that were coming into care were likely coming out of trauma, you know, having a child who was removed for some reason from their biological parents and that your job was not to fill the hole that might exist of that traumatic experience, your job was to hold their hand as they walked through the valley of that trauma. Just remind them that you were there with them and not try to alleviate it or necessarily smooth that over but just be present and walk alongside them.

And I think there were something in the very beginning of this divorce where I forgot that lesson I was like – oh I want to take your pain away, I don't want you to have to necessarily experience all of the hard and my job was really more to hold their hand and to say I'm here with you, if you know anything, my experience in my own therapy where I'm making these relationships with emotions and honestly having conversations with them about the way, I was discovering a relationship with sadness or grief or anxiety. In some ways, it created an empathy bridge that afforded them the same opportunity to share with me, what their feelings, were trying to tell them and how they were being presented with things that they had not yet previously experienced.


I guess the other thing I would say to, we wildly underestimate the resilience of our children are like – my kids are amazing in so many ways, but part of what makes them amazing is the way that they have also themselves adapted to what ends up being a new normal. Are there things that they don't like about having two houses? Or do they wish that man things could have maybe turned out a different way? I'm sure in the same way, I think all of us involved, anyone involved a divorce wishes that things could have turned out in a different way. And yet, they also are developing a tenacity and a resilience and a strength that only ends up getting born and having to walk in that valley whether it's me holding their hand or them walking through it themselves they're also on a journey of discovering how strong they can be for having to go through strong things. And I think part of the job that we have is be there to support them when they want to have that longer conversation about the feelings that have presented themselves, but also allow them the autonomy to experience some of the things that they're meant to experience and grow from so that they can grow. You know, I don't want my kids like anyone who is a parent probably doesn't want their kind of want my kids to experience her things and I also at the same time, know that most of the qualities that I admire most in myself were born inside of something around adversity. And so I don't want a helicopter parent or prevent them from experiencing hard things at the expense of them, getting the benefit of what it might mean to allow them to see how strong they're able to be or how much they're able to grow for having to do so, even if sometimes it's uncomfortable or isn't something that they wish they'd have to go through.

Michael: Yeah, that's super profound. I mean that's advice that if I ever have that moment for myself but I hope that I'll remember. You know, and I hearing that a lot and again, not to put words in your mouth, but just letting go and letting people, your children, who are people have this experience because you understand that, it's going to be profound in ways that are immeasurable and I think there's a lot of power in that because it's easy I think, especially when you are a giver, when you're a healer, when you are a person who wants to leave an impact on the world to make it better, you're like – in part of me, in real time, I'm thinking about this; I'm going like – Am I a control freak sometimes? Do I need to like let go so people can go and figure out the things because I can't control the future for them? And I was lucky enough at a Tony Robbins event recently to have one of my brothers, I took them with me to (UPW) Unleash The Power Within and one of them said, dude, you are a control freak and I was like – ah, damn it! I knew it, you're right, I gotta let go. And in that what I was thinking about was really funny because again, it's serendipity, I was listening to your book on the way back after that trip and you talk about ships leaving the Harbor, and there's so much about letting go in that. And so what I'm curious about, Dave's, what is letting go for you? What does that mean and why is that become so important in your life?

Dave: Well, I think, it starts with just a recognition of this illusion of control. You know, the idea that we in some ways can architect, the next thing that's going to happen in our life is hubris, it's ego, there's it's not a thing for real and the sooner that we can appreciate that we have an opportunity or responsibility to prepare for how we will react to the things that happen, but do not have control over the things that do, is an act of surrender, right? Can't control what's going to happen next, can only control the way that we react to the things that present themselves.

I think there's also something interesting, at least for me, especially in the last, like, 18 months. I'm a person of Faith, I've prayed many times for many things and what I think I got wrong in my prayer life, for so many years was thinking that praying for a thing and getting a say in the way that prayer gets answered in the same neighborhood. And the reality ends up being many of the things that I prayed for were in fact answered they were just answered in ways that were totally disconnected from how I would have done it, how it would have been most convenient for me or how I think I might have been able to learn or grow in the way that I was hoping to learn and grow. Most of the things that I needed we're never on the list of what I would have had on the menu, I would have never chosen to grow in a way that I've grown.

And so, part of the beauty seeing how you've become, what you have in the midst of adversity, or the way that things you would not have chosen were actually complicit and how you've become who you are or the way that you might be known at the end of your life. It's an invitation in some ways to accept, surrender, as part of the way that you will ultimately become who you are, who you're meant to be who you're supposed to be because so much of who I am today is a byproduct of releasing myself to reacting to the way that things show up and not believing that I have any control over how they do.

Michael: Is there a level of releasing that within yourself as well and the expectations, you have around who it is that you are?

Dave: Yes, and no. I mean, I think part of it is like – I am attempting to create something of a foundation that might afford me, equilibrium irrespective of the conditions of the seas. So like; I'm trying to stay super focused on my health, my mental, emotional, relational, spiritual, and physical health, I've got a list of things that I'm trying to check boxes on and either a daily routine or my short term goals or my habits that might allow me that stable base that foundation; that doesn't suggest that I can control the outcome but it says you might be able to keep your balance when the boat starts tipping because of the wind picking up. So I do think that there is still some responsibility that we end up having to create something in accountability practices and habits and routines that has us as prepared as we possibly can but also, you know, like can't casting a vision for where you want to go, doesn't mean that you say in how you're actually going to get there, but there is ultimately something in this idea of Integrity that becomes super important for the journey and in that I know like I think, you know, what kind of person do you need to be today to become the person you'd hope to be a year from now, five years from now? And there's a very specific list of the kind of things you need to do, the kind of promises you need to keep to yourself, the kind of person you would need to be consistently over time to give yourself a chance of actually evolving into that person.

And one of the biggest questions I've had to ask myself, is how do I feel about myself when I'm by myself? And the answer to that question ends up being highly correlated to did I actually create some integrity today between that person I know, I need to be to give myself a chance to become who I'm becoming, or was their dissonance is there in congruence? And every time there's in congruence, that's space that exists between who I'd have to be and who I showed up as that's where my shame lives, my self-loathing, my lack of confidence, my lack of motivation and so I'm on a journey to try and close the gap like every day, how can I just get a little bit closer to creating some integrity between who I know I'd have to be today to become this person that I believe my Creator put me on the planet to be, to have maximum impact, to have to model for my children the person that I'd hope that they also might become as an adult and when I can create consecutive days of that kind of integrity, there's momentum, there's pride, there's love for self, there's confidence, courage, all the things that you need.

And so when you can create that integrity, right? It still doesn't change the way that you can affect how the day is going to meet you but it changes the way that you meet the day irrespective of the conditions you're now more ready when you've created integrity with who you know, you need to be to become who you were meant to be.

Michael: Dude, if we could bottle up what you just said we would solve every problem on planet Earth.

Dave: Here's what I just want to say this to you because I think it's important. I know this to be an absolute 100% capital-t truth and I still struggle to create integrity every day. Just because you know it anyone who's listening right now, this is the secret, okay? This is everything, if you just kept promises to yourself, if you just showed up the way that you were supposed to, you handled your habits, your negative coping mechanisms, got your relationships right, your relationship with your maker, whatever it might be, if you could create that integrity, you would feel great about yourself when you're by yourself, this is the secret and yet we're human.

So like it also comes with needing to have a huge amount of Grace for yourself, to surround yourself with the right kind of people that will encourage you to get back up when you have one of those nonlinear bad days, that you fall off track, but getting back to this place it's everything.

Michael: It is a truly as and there's momentum and I took come full circle in this conversation it's very much not about hubris, it's not about a pedestal, it's about recognizing, like – you're going to have bad days, you're going to have good days but can you have momentum? Because if you can have more good days and you have bad days, you're going to win on a long enough time line. Dave, my friend these conversations been absolutely incredible, can you tell everyone where they can find you before I ask you my last question?

Dave: Yes, right on.  I spend a lot of time on Instagram mrdavehollis is my handle. I have a website, where you can find out all kinds of things that I am up to, and I also, I have a podcasts on Thursdays it's called Rise Together, wherever you are listening to this you can also listen to that.

Michael: Brilliant! And my last question for you my friend is, what does it mean to you to be Unbroken?

Dave: Well, I have been on a journey of self love for a long time and my definition of being unbroken, is finding a way to see all of yourself, the good, the bad, all of the experiences, the things you have shamed for, and pride, for, and love them as they are, even as you have an ambition to continue to grow from learning, from the things that don't serve you as well as they do. And is it an easy thing, it is not an easy thing, but there is something beautiful about making peace and honoring this is who I am, I was made this way on purpose, there is intention in how I was created in the things that I have experienced and I am going to choose to love all of me, even as I am this messy work in progress and will be for the rest of my life. And so I got this quote on my arm, I'll finish up with this it's been like a mantra for the last handful of years, it's a John said quote, it says; “A ship in Harbor is safe, but that's not what ships are built for.” And I got it more than anything as a reminder that the life that I am interested in living exists beyond a safe harbor inside of the choppy waters, where growth lives, thrives and makes me into who I was meant to be. And I got it as a reminder that I was built for this and my journey of self love in so many ways has to come back to this, reminder, on the almost daily that I was built for this life, even though it's going to be choppy and messy and turbulent and windblown, and they're going to be days when I steer that ship like a perfect captain and they're going to be days when I am thrown out and reaching for a rope to get back into the stink and boat, but I was built for it and so too, were any of you who are listening today, my unbroken story is the decision to continue to steer that ship inside of whatever conditions, the waters might throw my way.

Michael: Brother literally have goosebumps. Thank you so much, Dave, thank you for being here, means the world to me.

Unbroken Nation, thank you for listening.

Please, like, subscribe, comment, share, tell a friend.

And Until Next Time.

My friends, Be Unbroken.

I'll see you.



Dave HollisProfile Photo

Dave Hollis



Dave Hollis’ purpose on this planet is to encourage people to step toward their calling while equipping them with the tools to lead an exceptional life.

Dave is a New York Times best-selling author, host of the popular Rise Together podcast, keynote speaker, and life and business coach. Dave’s history includes CEO of a media start-up, President of Sales for the film studio at The Walt Disney Company, talent manager across film, tv, and music, along with work in publicity, research, and technology in the entertainment sector.

Dave is the father to four kids, a four-time foster parent, an avid runner, a sports memorabilia enthusiast, and the proud owner of a 1969 Ford Bronco.

Dave’s philanthropy exists via the Dave Hollis Giving Fund where acting as an ally to the needs of children in foster care, teen homelessness and food insecurity have been a recent focus for grants.

Dave has sat on the board of the membership committee for the Academy of Motion Pictures, Arts and Sciences, of which he is a member, and on the boards of Fandango Labs, Will Rogers Motion Picture Pioneers, National Angels and his alma mater Pepperdine’s Institute for Entertainment Media and Culture.

Michael UnbrokenProfile Photo

Michael Unbroken


Michael is an entrepreneur, best-selling author, speaker, coach, and advocate for adult survivors of childhood trauma.