Living Out the Warrior Spirit with DJ Vanas

Reading Time: minutes

D.J. Vanas is an enrolled member of the Ottawa Tribe of Michigan, a celebrated speaker, thought leader, best-selling author and former U.S. Air Force officer. 

Through his work, DJ inspires people to apply the Native American concept of the warrior spirit and related principles to serve at their best, stay resilient, and lead with courage.

For over two decades of doing this work, he’s delivered his dynamic programs to clients such as Walt Disney, NASA, Intel Corporation, Mayo Clinic, the U.S. Army, Subaru, Costco and hundreds of tribal governments and organizations. He’s also been invited to speak at The White House – twice.

In today’s conversation we get to explore what it means to be a Warrior in our modern lives, the subject of his latest book, The Warrior Within.

Listen in here:

Subscribe: Apple | Google Play | Stitcher | Overcast | Spotify | Amazon

In this episode you’ll learn:

  • What DJ does
  • What does it mean to be a warrior? 
  • How DJ Vanas found purpose. 
  • DJ’s military background and experience
  • The obstacles DJ overcame in his path
  • About DJ’s newest book
  • What it means to become an elder in tribal communities
  • How to have a healthy relationship with fear
  • How to have clarity throughout each day

Resources Mentioned:

DJ’s website

DJ’s LinkIn

The Warrior Within: Own Your Power to Serve, Fight, Protect and Heal (Penguin Random House)

Software Generated Transcription:

Dan: DJ. Thank you so much for joining me. Welcome to the meeting movement podcast. I’m so excited to have you here with us.

DJ Vana: thank you, Dan. I appreciate being here.

Dan: The question I like to begin with is how do you begin to talk about the work that you do in the

DJ Vana: Oh, my gosh. Well, that’s starting off with a big question. I’ve always looked at my work and I’ve proudly looked at my work as providing for providers. So, the majority of what I do is serving those who are in service to others, helping those people to be strong, to be resilient, to stay focused on their path, to take care of themselves as they do it so they can do it sustain.

So that’s what I’ve always seen as my role. It’s what I’m passionate about. And, I am blessed to be able to do this, in my career.

Dan: Yeah. I love that. Let’s just maybe fill that out even just a little bit more for listeners. Like how does that manifest, what does that look like on a, a day to day, week, week, month to month basis?

DJ Vana: Yeah. Well, the majority of who I work with, like I said, are people who are in service to others and the foundation of all the work that I do. Speaking, writing, you know, that, delivering my programs comes from a foundation of native American philosophy and wisdom. I share the warrior role and what that meant traditionally.

it’s not the Hollywood image, you know, that sweaty chisel figure you. Struting down the street and shooting bazookas and bullets and knocking down buildings. And occasionally, you know, surly looks at the camera. It’s, it’s an image that’s based on. our traditional warrior role, which was all about serving others.

Well, my tribe, we call our warriors Ogechi da and that term has nothing to do with what we see in TV or in movies. it’s not about that toxic, you know, masculinity, part that warrior role or being dominant or, or, you know, getting ahead by stepping on somebody else. It was about somebody who was willing to take their creator, given talent and. Develop that over a lifetime. So they could be an asset or a benefit to the tribe that they served. And today, whether that tribe is our own family, our company, our team, I mean, we get to define what that is, but we all have one to serve. And so that warrior role was, you know, somebody who’s willing to fight for something bigger than themself.

somebody who led by example, uh, somebody who asked a question, not what can I get, but what can I do for somebody else? And who ultimately was dedicated to serving others? Through thick and uh, day in and day out.

Dan: Yeah, this is where I was like, You, what are the first questions I was like, what do I wanna talk? What do I wanna ask as, DJ? But it’s like about that question warrior, because I have like a strong reaction to that because I’m not, I’m not a, you know, kind of a, in your face kind of guy. I don’t, you know, I’m not, high testosterone let’s get, you know, let’s get out there and let’s, you.

Yeah. Yeah. That’s not me at all. Yeah. So when I first picked up your book and so, uh, DJ has a, a book that’s coming out, probably around the time this episode will go live.

what is the release date? So listeners know.

DJ Vana: It’s August this summer coming up right around the corner, getting excited.

Dan: Yeah. It’s called, uh, the the warrior within own your power to serve, fight, protect, and heal. we’ll circle back to your story and everything, but since we’re on this, the topic of the warrior, just wanna jump in here. before I picked up the book that the misconception that I

had was like, okay, this, this book isn’t gonna be for me.

DJ Vana: it’s a loaded word. Right?

Dan: Yeah.

DJ Vana: Everybody comes into a preconceived notions on what that role actually means. And unfortunately, a lot of times it gets relegated to more of that Hollywood, you know, the stereotypical image that we see. And so people immediately, uh, don’t identify with that.

And they’re like, well, that’s not me. you know, I like to take care of people. I’m caring. I’m a good listener. and that’s why I come to it From a traditional tribal standpoint. it wasn’t about being dominant. It was about somebody who was willing to serve. I mean, that was the heart of the warrior role and it transcends race.

It transcends gender, it transcends age. And these principles is, is what I share in the book on how to walk this path well, but the principles are relevant. And applicable no matter where you’re coming to it from, but they help us deliver great service even with the chaos, which we’ve all been through for last two years.

Dan: Yes. And, we’ll continue to

go through,

in, indefinitely. And then also just for listeners, like a warrior isn’t, you know, I think often we use that word, we think masculine, but that’s not necessarily the case.

DJ Vana: Absolutely not true. And I address that in the beginning of the book, you know, like I said, there’s a lot of misnomers that go along with that. word and what I’m trying to do is cut to the heart of how we can all, you know, be on that path and serve other people well, and the way that we do that is by removing some of the obstacles to actually following that, you know, benevolent path of strong, sustainable service to other people to have an impact in the world that’s positive, you know, that’s really what it comes down to in the end.

Dan: And that’s, you know, that’s exactly what this show is all about is having an impact doing work that matters, that intersection between doing work, that, you know, that, that pays the bills. And also that, does more than just pays the bills. Right. Um, so that’s, you know, again, why I was so excited to To have this conversation with you. I’d love to just rewind a little bit and just ask the question. how do you find yourself here? Like, what’s the story that’s led you into this work as being the focus of, your life right now?

DJ Vana: Oh my gosh. well, it’s been a crazy road to get here as. is for most people who show up in a place where they’re really excited about what they do. And they’re like, how did this happen? Cause I still have pinch me moments, you know, that it led to all this, and how it all started.

You know, when I was growing up, one of the things I wanted to do more than anything was become a fighter pilot. you know, my dad was in the military for 21 years. I grew up at the end of a runway on a military base. So I was always fascinated with that. I became a licensed pilot in high school.

I dedicated myself, you know, everything went into getting into the air force academy. That was my goal. And I got in. And then the second week I was there, they said, you’re never gonna. 

Dan: Oh, 

DJ Vana: I was devastated. I mean, I spent like four years of my life working my guts out, paying for my pods license, you know, making sure my grades were high.

And so you have moments like that in life. And I didn’t have a backup plan. You know, I’m sitting in the stairwell, crying my eyes out with a shaved head second week of basic training for a four year stay at the air force academy.

 And I was just floor. And after you know, I sat out there and cried for a while and wiped the tears out of my eyes.

And I’m like, well, what do I do? And this is where you take those, you know, that gut check assessment in your life, when things go horribly wrong, or at least you feel like they did in that moment. And so I, said, well, let’s take an assessment where am I? I’m at one of the best schools in the nation.

And I’m on a full scholarship. You know, everybody that gets in the military academies, everything is covered. and I’m already making great friends. and I’m bald. And I, I, you know, I was like, and I don’t look good with a shaved head. I look like a squirrel monkey. you know, some guys who can rock that look is great.

I’m not one of them. So I said, well, I at least have to wait till my hair grows out. You know, I’m not gonna go home like this. So anyways, four years later, I’m throwing my hat up in the air and the Thunderbirds are flying over. And I got commissioned as an officer. But what led me to this is I stayed back at the academy for a year and I actually recruited, because one of the things that came up for me that was a source of frustration is, you know, we had a federally funded institution of 4,400 people.

And there were only, I think, At the time eight of us who were tribally enrolled. And I wanted to change that. I said this needs to change. And so I ended up working for them for a year. And I went out to native communities from coast to coast. They worked me like a dog that year and I loved it. And I found that going out and sharing, you know, the importance of education.

I was sharing what it took to get into the air force academy or become an officer in the air force, which I was also passionate about. But I was starting to talk about education. Milestones and turning points in my life, all related to what I was, you know, sharing out in the sessions. But they started to take on more of a personal angle.

And I found that I loved doing that and I never had an opportunity. And so it led me to, you know, I, stayed with it, doing it on the side for several years, and then I had an opportunity. start doing it professionally. and we could talk about how that happened. That was a magical moment too, but that’s what led me to where I am now.

And I left the military in 2002 as a captain to do this full time. and I never looked back,

Dan: Wow. So how long Were you in service?

DJ Vana: almost 10 years active duty. So four years at the academy, almost 10 years active duty But I, thoroughly enjoyed, the time and service. I’m proud that, you know, I was able to serve my country. It’s it’s a family tradition. It’s also a, tribal tradition. We have the highest rates of service, native Americans in this country than any other ethnic group in America.

And we have for over a hundred years. And, um, so it was an honor to do that, but I only left because I, love what I’m doing more. And that was the only reason why I left. Uh, but I, I had a great experience in the military.

Dan: Yeah. Yeah. what do you feel like accounts for just anecdotally for just that high rate of enrollment for, first nation native American, cultures folks.

DJ Vana: I think for me, the biggest takeaway is it’s the warrior tradition. you know, the warrior philosophy is alive and well in our tribal communities. It was one of the ways that we could express that by being a member of, the military. there’s also other reasons, too economic reasons. I mean, my dad joined the air force at right outta high school because parents had me when they were teenagers.

And so he was gonna have to provide for his family. So there was a driver there, but that’s the same for a lot of D. Especially minority communities. What sets us apart, as a tribal community, why our rates are so high is because of that warrior tradition in action. was part of a PBS documentary called the warrior tradition that unpacks this, which is a great, you know, I was honored to be a part of that, but it explains, you know, kind of our philosophies, why we have such high service rates and why it’s in great alignment with, you know, kind of what we’ve always looked at as.


Dan: Yeah, I love that. Well, tell me a little bit about that transition out of the military and, I guess, going from that, to where you are now, like you’re very much like making your own path. Right. And we’re always making our own path, but it’s nice to feel like someone else is helping along the way, or that at least is a template that we’re following.

Uh, and the military is, you know, Provide that I think for a lot of folks, like here’s a career path, here’s choices, here’s opportunity. Um, and so then you’re leaving that structure

DJ Vana: my God. It was terrifying. Terrifying. Oh my God. Yeah. Talk about Le you know, jumping out of the safe, zone

Dan: yeah. Like 

DJ Vana: blue sky. 

Dan: yeah, the most structured life you could live as a most structured organization in the world.

DJ Vana: Exactly exactly. And things were going great. I was connected to the people I was serving with. So what what gave me kind of the, courage to do that is I felt so strong about what I wanted to do that even the safety of that wasn’t enough to keep me there.

and like I said, I, I loved what I was doing in the military. It was going well, but this called to me Gut level, that I just felt like this is what I was put here to do in the way that that started. It was kind of like a lightning bolt to the head. I had been speaking on the side, like I said, already had my military career.

I was working in, the space warfare arena. We were building and launching satellites as part of our defense support program. And. So I was already engaged with that, but I was getting calls to go speak at native education conferences, native community events. And so I just went wherever I was called and did it, you know, pro bono.

I was burning up my leave time and I just knew that I enjoyed it and I was passionate about it. And one weekend I went out to dinner with a group of friends of mine. I was stationed in LA and. One of the guys was talking about his dad came into town and I said, what does your dad do?

And he said, he’s a professional speaker. And this guy I’m talking about, his name was, Brent Henry was my buddy and his his father was one of the founding members of the national speakers association. And so he started talking to me and Dan, I’m telling you, it is like everything melted away.

I couldn’t hear or see anything except this conversation. And he said, yeah, he goes, and next month the national conference is happening. And this year it’s happening here. He goes, you’ve gotta go. And it changed everything for me. So I I’m at this conference, I’m being, Mr. Henry is shoving me in front of people like Casey Caso, Lou Holtz, Les brown, or like here’s the next guy, you know?

And it just blew my mind that this was even a path of you know, a possible path. And so it inspired me. It got me excited and I started kind of plotting my journey forward to eventually be able to do it full.

Dan: Mm, what a, what a I mean, I like have goosebumps, like just the way you described that and just

DJ Vana: every time I tell that story, I get goosebumps. Yeah. Like the clouds parted. Yeah.

Dan: yes. Yes. And I don’t know, like, I think We all want to have that like mountaintop experience, you know, where the clouds part and, the universe tells you why you were born.

and very few people have that. At least not in those ways, but I think that they’re these smaller ways where it does show up, like you’re describing

DJ Vana: And, and, and here’s, and here’s the thing is, I think it does show up a lot more than we gave it credit for. We just don’t listen. Or we listen and we hear it and we go, Ooh, you know, we feel it at a gut and head level, and then we go, Ooh, but that’s gonna be really scary. That’s gonna be really hard. I don’t know how to do this.

I don’t have support nobody in my family’s ever done this. Nobody in my unity or community. I don’t know anybody who’s done this. So it’s not just hearing the call. It’s answering the call and because flash forward, now I had set everything up to move forward and I’m getting ready to leave the military.

Halfway into a 20 year career, where if I go 20 years, I retire, I get pension for life halfway through and I’m ready to hit the ejection button. Everybody thought I was nuts. And you know, even my commander sat me down and go, are you okay? Is everything right? You know, because this was just not a, move that most people did.

And. So that was where it really became a gut check. You know, it was like night sweats. Yo like the two weeks before I turned in my final paperwork, I questioned everything and I was this close to not doing it. You know, and so just that little edge kept pulling me forward. And, you know, one of the things I, go back to was a quote during that time.

And, hopefully this will inspire people who are listening to this when that fear comes in and it will, when the doubt starts to build up and it will, there was a quote that really helped me and it said leap and the net will. And I don’t know who originally said that, but I will tell you it, it is absolutely true and then another quote like that is jump and grow your wings on the way down.

Dan: Yes.

DJ Vana: And I think both have a lot of truth and impact because man, I did that then, and I’ve been doing it ever since, and it works like a charm.

Dan: ah,

DJ Vana: It’s not always pretty, but it does work.

Dan: I know. Yeah. I mean, like so much of this, like I feel like this conversation for me personally, feel like this podcast often becomes a biopic for me, but like, it just is hitting me so strongly because, I’m at this point where I had the podcast and the meaning movement for a long time, and I really believe that it is a part of my gift to the world.

And I’m at this place where it’s like, I’m making some strategic choices to put some more resources, more time into it, but I have this, history of, with it where it hasn’t, added up to, to, to an income that I’ve wanted it to be. And so it’s been like, I at this point where it’s like, okay, this has to go one way, or the other.

Um, and like, I’m, I feel like right now, this conversation I think is, yeah, just hearing you even say that, like, just take that leap and I feel like I’m very much in that moment right now. So thank 

DJ Vana: The deciding, oh, you got it. Dan, the deciding moment is making a critical decision to be all.

Dan: Yes.

DJ Vana: all in, that means you’re taking your foot off of first base and you’re going to second. You can’t do both. And I try to do both. And I about broke myself in half because when I was getting ready to leave the military, I was doing two, basically full time jobs.

I mean, I was speaking on the side, burning up all my leave time. I had 10 people in my full-time team and advising a hundred out in the field. We had just started a family. It was. Intensely, busy and chaotic. And I was trying to do two things at once and I ended up getting the shingles.

Dan: Uh,

DJ Vana: and I just, you know, you have to get to a point where like, which direction are you gonna go? and the, scary part is the fear was exacerbated because I was getting halfway results because I was doing it halfway. And I kept thinking that’s as good as I can go. And it’s. But once I cut that tie and I said, I’m in.

And I turn the paperwork, everything got routed into making this a success. And so all my time and energy, and you know, I think one of the keys is not just learning what to say yes to it’s learning what to say no to that gives us clarity and it concentrates our power into something that gets a result. We can’t do everything, 

Dan: Ugh, man. You’re like totally describing me right now. It’s like really? Yeah. Emotional. I I’m having a lot of feelings. and so yeah. 

DJ Vana: It’s the world we live in. We are in such a high stimulus environment and we think we’re missing out if we’re doing this and we’re missing out at some point, we just gotta say, this is what I want. I’m gonna put everything I’ve got into it. Um, You know, it’s like being out in the sun for five minutes, you know, nothing dramatic is gonna happen to you.

If you focus that energy, that’s fallen on your face into a magnifying glass, any 10 year old kid will tell you what you can do with that. You can make 

Dan: Burn up 

DJ Vana: Yeah. You light your backyard on fire. And I did it and I did that as a 10 year old kid. So, but it’s, but it’s all, it’s all about the power of, of focus, and that necessarily means what we’re saying no to. 

Dan: Yeah.

man, this is such a, well time conversation for me. And thank you for that, that challenge that you probably didn’t know that you were gonna be offering to someone, you know, 10 years, 10 years behind you and on the, on the journey. Um, but yeah, after you made that choice, you turned in your, notice, you’re done with the military. Did you have that? Any moments when you’re. Good Lord. What have I done? Like,

DJ Vana: Yeah, Yeah, 

Dan: yeah. . Wow.

DJ Vana: I remember this really well, the first quarter of the first full year I was doing this. And you know, when you leave the military halfway through, you get no benefits, you get a handshake and a thank you for your service and you’re out the door.

So no benefit. you know, this was what we were living off was the income I was earning from speaking. Well, I didn’t do good tax planning in the first quarter, I had a huge tax payment. and halfway through the month we had, I remember this, it was almost like a meant to be thing. We had a hundred and twenty three, one, two, $3 in the business checking account.

And at that point, all the doubt, all the fear cascaded on top of me and I questioned everything and I was like, what have I done? You know, this isn’t gonna work. it was a. 24 hours. I mean, you question everything you know, it was like a day later, I get a call from Hewlett.

Packard, love you, HP, because they said, you know, we’ve got three programs scheduled with you later this year. And I said, Uhhuh, and I knew why they were calling. They were gonna cancel. And I that’s, that was my doubtful mind in that moment. And I said Uhhuh, and they said, we wanted to know if we could pay you for all three of those And I went GI, give me a minute, let me find out. I was like, thank you. And I said, yeah, I think that’ll work.

And Dan, 

Dan, they FedExed the entire amount and I got it a day later or date or two later. And, and what it made, for me is I will never put myself in that position again. so from then on, I ran the business like a business.

I stayed five steps ahead of the.

Dan: Hmm,

DJ Vana: did, you know, vigilant planning, due diligence with, you know, how I structured everything and always stayed, you know, a couple months out, to make sure that we didn’t get into that position again. But yeah, there’s been a lot of those, you know, it’s never a 

Dan: Yeah. No, never. 

And so how long ago 

was that? 

DJ Vana: Oh, that was, probably in 2003, 2000. Yeah. The first full year I was doing. 

Dan: Yeah. Wow. Incredible. Really incredible. Yeah. Well, you’re speaking my language and, delivering a message that I’m receiving. and I think that this is an important, um, I feel like my, I feel like my work is done. like you’re, you’re this is what you just shared why we’re having this conversation, but, um, I’d love, you know, what you’re doing.

love the book. I’ve not read all of it, but, plan to I think, you know, for me as a, native American, like one of the things that you’re doing here, I think is. Giving me an access point to like this wisdom I’m sure there are other access points.

I, I just really appreciated that, like to be able to learn from, a culture and to history. And I know that like, you’re, of course not speaking on behalf of your entire tradition, but in your, corner of that tradition. I would just really go, I don’t know, it felt like words that I needed to be reading.


so it was. A fun entry point, I guess.

DJ Vana: and I appreciate you saying that. and I will say too, and I’ll reemphasize. I am not a spokesperson for my tribe. I don’t speak for all of Indian country. I share in the book. Ideas from my heart that are principles that made our warriors special principles that we can apply in context in our lives today.

Like I said, regardless of background, race age, but the other thing too is I was very fortunate to have a lot of elders, in my life, including during traditional ceremony that had a philosophy that if there is a good idea that we have, that can impact our lives, that we are not only. Allowed to share, but we’re obligated to share that with the world around us and that’s why I’m so passionate about these principles is, you know, here’s a great idea we have in our culture now hide it.

Now don’t share it with anybody. Like, you know, there’s sometimes a mentality around that, but I was taught differently. It’s like, if this works and it works for you and it comes from our culture, these are beautiful things in our culture. these are special things and they’re meant to impact the world around us.

They’re not meant to be held in the corner and hidden away from view.

Dan: Yeah, I love that. I love that. where did this book start for you? when did it become a book in your mind? and then I think the next step I wanna know what is your hope for the impact that it will have, on folks.

DJ Vana: Oh, my gosh. great questions. I’ve been writing this book. My whole. This is my third book, but I think that this is the book I’ve been writing my whole life. it goes back even to childhood, that’s why I’m so excited to share this. I’m really happy and proud of how it turned out.

I am excited for readers to open it up and, see what’s in there, but I hope what readers get out of it is when they are done with the book that they feel. More confident about their own talent and ability that they have a better strategy on how to bring that out on a daily basis, that they know how to keep themselves strong.

They know that service is the most important thing we ever do as human beings on this planet. and that if you’re in that role, you are already blessed, you know, so learning how to do it better is what the book is all about and how to stay in that zone without falling apart. You know, one of the things I say in the book, you can’t be a warrior if you’re falling. 

It just doesn’t work. intentions be damned. It’s like, it’s all 

about execution. but I want people to feel at the end of the book that they realize they’re stronger than they know they’ve got capabilities that they’re not tapping and that they could. And, it’s an invitation. To become a better version of ourselves.

So it’s not an edict, it’s not a force or a brow beating session. It’s a, here’s some great ideas to help you get to an even higher level in what you do as a human being on this journey.

Dan: I love it. do you think of it as a framework? Like the warrior within, how do you think of, guess the structure of the content. I mean, I know it’s a different attributes of being a warrior.

I guess what are the pieces that you feel like are the most overlooked or most surprising when people encounter them for the first time?

DJ Vana: Yeah, and it definitely is a framework. I mean, I kind of created the book to be a ladder to climb. Right. And right at the beginning steps, I think one of the things that I think gets overlooked well, I’ll cover too in particular, cuz we always talk about how to be resilient, how to be strong, how to have a vision of where we’re going.

All those things are critically important in a chaotic world. But I think two of the chapters. That even my publisher were kind of like, oh, this is kind of a unique view on this was number one. chapter two is learning to live off the land or living off the land, which is using our resources in our own backyard.

And, oh my gosh, this gets so overlooked on a daily basis. We should never, ever feel stuck. That we don’t have answers that we can’t figure it out. We have an embarrassment of riches when it comes to access to information in the world that we live 

in today. And it’s a matter of leveraging what we have in us and around us to create what we wanna see.

And I’ve worked with over 500 tribal nations in the last 30 years of my life, including my own everywhere I’ve gone. Those tribes used what was in their own backyard to create what they wanted to. So the Inuit Alaska use seal skin for clothing, for shelters, which is as warm as cloth four times the thickness and its waterproof.

You know, the Pueblo in New Mexico live in an area that’s hot in the summer, cold in the winter. They use the mud in their backyard literally to create Adobe and make these beautifully structured multi-level apartment complexes that. Cool and summer warm in the winter. my tribe, we used Birch bark for our canoes.

we tapped the trees in our backyard and made maple syrup. You’re welcome. That was one of our contributions to the world at large. I’m very proud of that. Cuz I love maple syrup. I could drink it by the bottle. but it’s those things that we have in our own backyards, know, our time, our energy technology, other people, our own skill sets.

I mean, we completely sometimes overlook these things and then stand around with our hands out and go, I don’t know what to do. I’ve got nothing to work with here. we gotta get outta that mentality. There is always, resources that we can use to leverage, in any given moment.

We’re. So that’s one of them. And then the last chapter is about becoming an elder. That’s one of the things I don’t think we focus on enough. that’s one of the things I’m very proud of in our tribal traditions is our elders. Their whole goal is to collect as much good stuff as they could not.

So they could hoard it or use it as a weapon or, you know, show off. It was so that they could empower their people. So everybody benefited and that’s a powerful role. That’s still alive and well in our tribal communities, our elders pass down our, you know, wisdom, information, culture, language concepts, and we can do that in our work too.

When we actively mentor other people behind us, it gives us a lot of joy for our work. And no matter what we do for a living, we’re not gonna be doing it forever. And I think the highest hope we have is we’re given the Baton, you know, putting it into a better hands than our own. And that only happens by design.


Dan: I love that. both those are so good. I think on the mentorship piece recently had an interview with, Adam Anderson, a link in the show notes, who he was talking about, this idea of mentorship and how, we usually think of mentorship As being mentees, being mentored by someone else and how important that is.

And he was talking about just how in his experience, it’s just as important even for the mentor to be going back and delivering, like helping, guiding, giving that guidance that it remind you of where you’ve been, where you’ve come from and you grow through that process. Um, which, which. Yeah, which is really cool reframing.

I love that that native American traditions, you know, honor elders, so, so much more so than I think Western culture, allows, right. I feel like it’s the best opportunity for that wisdom to be passed down. And so I love that you’re yeah, inviting people to step into that.

DJ Vana: yeah, absolutely. and getting older in our society is a detriment. it’s looked down upon as somebody who’s now not functional. Cause we’re looking at it through that lens of the physicality, you know, like in our tribal communities, as we get older, we’re becoming more and more concentrated with wisdom, with experience that we can share.

So Those elders get the more priceless they become. And so it leaves a real gap in our tribal communities when we lose an elder, because they take with them, all that wisdom that, you know, wasn’t shared. That’s why it’s so important to get it out there.

Dan: Yeah. Yes. Oh, that’s so,


DJ Vana: take it with us.

So it’s better 

Dan: Mmm. 

DJ Vana: it.

Dan: Yeah. Well, just to even circle back to what you’re saying, just about using the resources at our fingertips in our own backyards. So I know a lot of people listening are at places where they’re looking to make some sort of change and maybe they know what it is, maybe they don’t.

but they’re, they might feel stuck in some way. And I’m curious if you have any specific words of wisdom, encouragement challenge, do you wanna offer to people who, feel like they might be in one of those stuck places where they, don’t know what resources to leverage?

DJ Vana: Yeah. yeah. great question. Something we all deal with. and the advice I would have is, is simply it is infinitely more important to. What you want to do then how you will get there, because if you know what you want to do, and you’ve got a target. you will figure out in time how to get there.

That’s where you start gathering resources, asking questions, kicking rocks over, you know, starting to innovate and creatively use the resources that you have access to. But it’s, critically important to know what that target looks like for you. You’ll figure it out as you go, but that’s the thing is people wanna have it figured out before they identify the target.

That’s not the way it works. And that’s why some people get frustrated for weeks, months, and years. In their life and career because they want this clear cut path all the way to the goal. It never works like that.


Dan: I was just gonna say, even if it did it wouldn’t be a good story. Right. Like

it wouldn’t, you’d already be there. You’d already be there to begin with. Um,

DJ Vana: exactly. Yeah. Life is an adventure. So is our career and the way that we build it, it’s gonna have its ups and downs and those moments of. Fear, you know, that we all encounter, but you know, like I said, when we know where we’re headed, we have clarity and when we have clarity, we have power.

now we know what to say yes, to what to say no to, we know what resources to access, who we maybe want to get help from. It’s like, Hey, I wanna do a podcast who I want to talk to, let me talk to Dan. He knows how to do this. Like, we don’t have to figure it out on our own, you know, but the key is we need to know what our target is for this reason.

And for this reason, 

Dan: I love that. Yeah. And in the book you talk about, fear. I think you even have a, if I remember at a whole chapter, the least section dedicated to it, I know that that’s a big, a big, piece of like where people get stuck. And I know in my own life, I feel like I’ve always had this 

long fascination.

I had this thing called fearless February, which was a challenge to. Aside the month of February to choose a fear, to act on and take action against right. To, to, to become not fear, but to take action in the face of fear. I just wanted to hear, you know, hear, you know, and I guess open up that door for you there of, you know, to share about a Warrior’s to

fear, what is that relationship and how can people, have a healthy relationship with their fear?

DJ Vana: I love it. yeah, that’s the way that chapter opens up. It’s counting coup on our fear, with courage and I share in the, in the book about one of the tradition of the Plains tribes, where they would face an enemy in live combat, and they wouldn’t strike the enemy down, they would simply go up and touch the.

the reason why that was so much more of an honor, it was called counting coup is because of what it required, which was courage to stand toe, to toe with an enemy and say, I am not afraid of you. I’m so not afraid of you. I’m not even gonna strike you down or harm you. I’m just gonna touch you and that’s 


Yeah, it is. and was the ultimate, you know, show of courage. And the reason why I bring that up in the book is because. We have to be able to face the things that scare us. we can try to outrun it out, hustle it, but at the end it’s a lot more effective to simply face what we’re dealing with, to be able to move through it.

And there are so many moments. I’ll give you an example over the last couple years, how many fears did we have to face? How many moments did we have to step up and be courageous in that moment? And we so often don’t count it as that. And that’s a, that’s a shame. It’s a tragedy because we are totally blowing through a moment of bravery and we’re just looking forward.

We don’t reflect on the fact on what it took in that moment to get us here. And so the reason why I bring that up in the book is because we can build a reservoir of courage. And the way that we do that is We remind ourselves of all those moments, where we had to exercise it, where we had to face our fears, head on, where we had to step through and get to the other side.

And. We can actually recall those. So that the next moment we face something like that, we can say, you know what? I’ve been here before. I know what this feels like. I’ve done this before. I can do this again. 

Dan: Mm. 

DJ Vana: It’s like, that is so important because we just will blow through those moments and go, God, I’m glad I got through that.

And then we just stumble and fall into the next one. And the next one, it doesn’t have to be that way. We can take a moment to pause and reflect and say, you know what? I can face this fear because I’ve done it 

Dan: Yeah. 

DJ Vana: thousand times.

Dan: Yes. And with each one of those reps, you’re becoming a different person too, right. That like, even if it didn’t go well, the last time, like you’re a different person now, as you’re facing, that fear. which is just that importance of telling yourself, reminding yourself of 

DJ Vana: acknowledge it as what it is. It was 

courage in action. You know, don’t discount that don’t diminish it.

Dan: Yeah. Yeah. I I’m curious, are there any, ways that you recommend people really? rituals or even activities? Like how do you, remind yourself of those successes, those courageous moments?

DJ Vana: am a big believer in taking the first 10 minutes of each day. And just being in total quiet, whether you, meditate, breathe, just have moment of silence, whatever it is for those 10 minutes, and at the end of that 10 minutes, I focus on what I want to get done that day, who I want to be that day.

Remind myself that I can deal with, whatever comes my way and we never know what that’s gonna look like, but just have faith in yourself because you know, we’re here, look at all the stuff we’ve been through. We’re still here. So we’re obviously doing it, you know, great on some level. but just to take that time, to let the dirt settle in the mud puddle, before we start stirring it up. you get clarity on your day. You get clarity on yourself and what you’re bringing to the table, what your contribution can be. and you know, it’s a better place to operate from. You’re coming from a place of strength instead of a place of 

Dan: Yeah. Yeah. It sounds like a very centered approach, which is really,


DJ Vana: that as a ritual.

Dan: I love that. I’m curious, just, to zoom out a little bit on your work, and I know you’ve already kind of spoken to this, but let’s just, you know, kind of try to distill it down even further. If we were to, you know, put a billboard on the moon, if you will, and you could put any message on that billboard, what would you put and what I mean by that is a message that the whole world could seek.

We don’t literally need a billboard on the moon. but. What would be that message

DJ Vana: Oh my gosh.

It’s a great question, but it’s a tough one. I would put on that billboard. Anything is possible. You are stronger and more beautiful than, you know,

Dan: Oh, that is so good.

DJ Vana: I mean, I just popped into my mind thinking about that. If I could see something on the moon that I would wanna look at every day, that I think might lift people up and get them to believe in their own gifts. 

Dan: Yeah, I love it. That’s fantastic. I think you know, that’s such a positive and beautiful message to, wrap up with. I think that’s a good place for us to, kinda move towards wrapping up. This has been so fun. I feel like I could, you know, like I’ve already said multiple times, this is the conversation I needed today.

So Thank you for that gift to me. And I know that also, you know, will be a gift to our listeners as well, so

really, um, really appreciate it. And for folks that wanna connect with you or follow along with your work, is there anything specific you’d like to invite people to.

DJ Vana: Yes, absolutely. Um, the best way to get in touch with me or to find out more about my work is our website, which is native And then I would highly encourage people to, go out and get a copy of their book, the warrior within which will be released on August 2nd. And you can buy it through Amazon Barnes and noble, directly from the publisher at penguin ran house.

but, the audio version will. Be released on that date as well. I’m going into the studio later this week to record it. So it’ll be coming out simultaneously as a hard, cover ebook and audio August 2nd. So please,

Dan: I love it. Yes.

DJ Vana: to around

Dan: Perfect. I’ll make sure to link up to your site in the book and our show notes as well. Thank you so much, DJ. This has been just so fun, really love having you on the show.

DJ Vana: I appreciate the opportunity and I’ll say, Chi, we thank you very much. My friend for having me on.

Dan: Thank you. 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

  1. I'm hoping this message will get to D.J. Vanas who was recently at the Biloxi High School Performing Arts Center speaking to the Biloxi Indian Nation. D.J. I was your Dad's First Sergeant at the 3380th Avionics Maintenance Squadron in 1985-1989. Your Dad and I shared a love of firearms. He "Handmade" a miniature Rifle for me and I still have it. I have Cherokee blood from my Mom's side. I have always been proud of that fact! I like to think my love of the mountains, valleys, creeks, rivers nature comes from the Cherokee. Please let me know if you get this message. Mike Moore

  2. I'm hoping this message will get to D.J. Vanas who was recently at the Biloxi High School Performing Arts Center speaking to the Biloxi Indian Nation. D.J. I was your Dad's First Sergeant at the 3380th Avionics Maintenance Squadron in 1985-1989. Your Dad and I shared a love of firearms. He "Handmade" a miniature Rifle for me and I still have it. I have Cherokee blood from my Mom's side. I have always been proud of that fact! I like to think my love of the mountains, valleys, creeks, rivers nature comes from the Cherokee. Please let me know if you get this message. Mike Moore

{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}

Related Articles

Get Weekly Encouragement