How to Find Your Warrior Spirit in the Face of Setbacks — D.J. Vanas

leadership

The global pandemic showed many of us how resilient we could be as we navigated through uncertainty and disruption. D.J. Vanas, internationally-acclaimed speaker and author, recently released his latest book titled, The Warrior Within: Own Your Power to Serve, Fight, Protect, and Heal, calling for us to tap into a warrior spirit and accomplish the work we’re meant to do. 

Transcription:

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Thank you so much for joining us on the show.

D.J. Vanas:
Thank you for having me, Jim. Happy to be here.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Sure, sure. So for those viewers that are out there that are not as familiar with your story and your journey thus far, tell us a little bit about yourself.

D.J. Vanas:
Sure. I’m originally from Muskegon, Michigan. I’m a tribal and world member of the Odawa Tribe. I’m a former military officer, was in uniform for 14 years.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Wow.

D.J. Vanas:
Proud to graduate of the US Air Force Academy.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Wow.

D.J. Vanas:
Then, served 10 years.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Thank you for your service.

D.J. Vanas:
Absolutely. My pleasure. Then served 10 years active duty. During that time, I started speaking on the side to … I actually stayed back to recruit for the academy for a year. Then I started going out and talking about the route to Officership, talking to youth about the power of education, healthy choices. It just planted a seed in me to do the work I’m doing now. So what I do is show people how to use our traditional warrior principles from our Native American cultures in action to get better results in what we do in life, leadership and service. So I own, my company is Native Discovery. I’m a published author three times over. I do this work full time and absolutely feel like it’s a blessing.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Wow. Congratulations on all your success. That’s fantastic. Can you elaborate on the warrior spirit and why it is so powerful?

D.J. Vanas:
Absolutely. When we talk about the warrior spirit in our native cultures, it’s that spirit of digging deep and showing and making a contribution to our people. It’s getting out of our own way, and it’s all about service. I mean, that was the core of that warrior spirit. It was, what can I do for someone else? Not what can I get, but how can I impact somebody else?
So it was about contribution, it was about fighting for something bigger than self. But it’s also goes beyond motivation because it’s a deeper commitment to have a predetermined decision that no matter what happens, I’m going to find a way forward. I’m going to keep going, I’m going to keep contributing. Because at the end, that’s why we’re here. So that’s what it taps into and it helps us through the hardest times. My gosh, we’ve been through some over the last couple years, in particular.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
That’s right. That’s right.

D.J. Vanas:
That was what inspired me to write the book.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Yeah. Wow. That’s pretty cool. So let me ask you this, how can we leverage this spirit?

D.J. Vanas:
By bringing it out as a conscious choice. Asking ourselves, “What am I here to do? What is my purpose?” When we come back to the idea that service is our highest calling, if we’re not here to serve others, why are we here at all? Number two, it’s our deepest need. We all have a need to feel valued, to feel that we matter. We can get a lot of that need fulfilled when we serve someone else well.

The third way that we leverage it is remember that this is our legacy. Every day of our lives, of our journey, we’re leaving another puzzle piece to create that ultimate image of what we’re going to leave when we draw our last breath. Those contributions, those little moments in time where we helped somebody contributed to a bigger picture, that’s what we leave behind when we’re gone. So we leverage that by reminding ourselves of that over and over again. When we do that, we make conscious decisions based on using our warrior spirit and not just let it sit in the back of our minds.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
That’s right. Now, every good warrior out there needs to be motivated. So what do you recommend in order to maintain motivation in the face of setbacks and struggle and uncertainty that’s out there? Sometimes people just are small business owners and entrepreneurs alike, they’re just like,” Wow, I’m up against so much.” Now the economy’s a little bit shaky and we don’t know what tomorrow’s going to bring, how do you stay motivated?

D.J. Vanas:
Yeah. Great question. Yeah, anybody who’s in business, anybody who’s in a position to be responsible to somebody else knows the struggle. It’s been bigger than usual lately. The two ways that I would recommend, number one is self care is critically important. I say that in my book, I’m adamant about it when I do programs. You cannot be a warrior when you’re falling apart. It just doesn’t work. So we have to take care of the vessel of all this great contribution service, which is us, and it has to be a priority. When we do that, everything that we do is better. We’re more patient, we’re more kind, we’re more likely to find solutions to our challenges. So the first one is making self care a priority. It’s not selfish-

Jim Fitzpatrick:
You’re talking physically, mentally-

D.J. Vanas:
Everything.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
From exercise to … what do they say? Doing the checkup from the neck up. Making sure that-

D.J. Vanas:
That’s it.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
You’re okay.

D.J. Vanas:
In every aspect of that word, yes. Self care, mentally, physically, emotionally.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Right, spiritually.

D.J. Vanas:
Which brings me to the … yeah, and spiritually, as well. Because that’s that deeper core that’s going to pull us through those hardest times. So we have to have all that stuff in alignment and do it purposefully. The second thing is surround yourself with the right people. That was another thing I mentioned in the book, too. Warriors never fought alone. Why? Because that’s kind of goofy. You’re only ever going to accomplish so much on your own. Warriors partnered up with other warriors. When you’re surrounded by strength, we become strong. When we’re surrounded by inspired people, we draw on that too. We are social creatures by design. We can leverage that to our own purposes if we’re surrounding ourselves with the right people.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
That’s right. That’s the key there is surrounding yourself with the right people.

D.J. Vanas:
That’s it.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Just because you are surrounding yourself with people, doesn’t always mean they’re the right people.

D.J. Vanas:
Yeah. You got to check the quality. And be selective, be picky. Who we surround ourselves with matters. I had an elder tell me years and years ago in one of the tribal communities I was serving, he said, “Our spirits are like sponges. They soak up whatever they’re around.” And that stuck with me.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
That’s so true.

D.J. Vanas:
That matters.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
That’s so true. My father used to say that if you look around and you’re the smartest guy in the group, you need a new group.

D.J. Vanas:
There you go. It’s a key to growth. We want to keep surrounding ourselves with people that pull us up to that next level of what we could be.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
So true. So true. So you talk about a war cry. How do we develop our war cry to boost determination and courage?

D.J. Vanas:
Yeah, great question. Yeah, a war cry traditionally was done for two reasons. One is to scare the you know what out of the enemies. So to win the battle before the fight even started. The second reason a war cry mattered is because it gave a warrior a boost of courage and confidence in a moment before they did the hard thing.

So when we develop our own war cry, it’s not something that we do at full volume with wild gestures like back in the day. It could be a mantra, it could be a prayer, a go-to quote, a touchstone, something physically that we touch, something that we wear. Anything … and it could be a song. But something that in that moment where we are at the edge of fear, hesitation or doubt, that we can use this to give ourselves that little ooph to get us through. It really matters. The war cry I’ve had for the last couple years is I will find a way forward. Because, man, it’s been challenging, and anybody who’s out there owns a business-

Jim Fitzpatrick:
That’s right.

D.J. Vanas:
Knows how tough it’s been. We have war cries like that. It helps us navigate the mine fields that we find ourselves on.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Sure. There’s so many takeaways in the book, and congratulations again on the book. But tell me what you’d like the biggest takeaways to be from the book for the reader.

D.J. Vanas:
What I hope readers walk away from when they go through the book is that they have a renewed sense of courage and confidence about themselves. That’s really important. I wrote it in that spirit, that they have a new perspective on what they bring to the table, what they’re able to do to be inspired to cheer themselves on for what they have already done. I don’t think we spend enough time doing that. We just are onto the next thing, instead of reflecting on those moments where we had to show courage or bravery. I always think that’s important because we can basically store it up for the future. We have like a courage reservoir. So those are the things that I hope people walk away from is they feel strengthened, they feel like they’re operating from a place of strength again on their own journey.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
That’s right. That’s right. I know that you’re also a speaker. How has the speaking business been here in the last couple of months? I mean, I know from what I understand from other speakers in the industry there, it seems like there’s more conferences out there now. People are wanting to get back to normal.

D.J. Vanas:
I think it’s back with a vengeance in the best of ways. I think people have been hungry for the person-to-person connection. Like I said, we’re neurologically hardwired for connection, and our humanity got messed with the last couple years. So yes, as conferences come back, participation levels are high. A lot of the conferences I’ve been to, they’re basically selling out all of their slots. So meeting planners are excited about that. And I am too, because that’s why I got into this line of work. I love working with people, serving people. And there’s just not … being there, sharing breath and space, it’s hard to substitute that virtually. I know we got to use the tools that we have.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
That’s right.

D.J. Vanas:
But there’s no replacement for that.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Yeah, no question about it. The book is, Warrior Within: Own Your Power to Serve, Fight, Protect, and Heal. We’re showing it right here on the screen. Get a copy as soon as you can. We’re also going to make a link right below this video that you’re watching to go ahead and get that book. But D.J. Vanas, speaker, author, former US Air Force Officer and member of the Odawa Tribe. Thank you so much for joining us on the show. We very much appreciate it. I know that our viewers and subscribers will get a lot out of your visit with us here today. So thank you.

D.J. Vanas:
Miigwech [Ojibwe Language] Jim. Thank you very much for having me.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Great, thanks.


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