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« 6 Ways to Shift Your Balance | The Giving Season »

Ask the Expert: Dan Thurmon

Dan Thurmon "Ask the Expert" interview about Life BalanceWe’ve had an exciting year of guests join us for the “Ask the Expert” interview series. We’ve given you a venue to connect with industry thought leaders and the opportunity to participate in inspiring conversations. This year we’ve spoken with Dr. Howard Gardner about being wonderfully human, Jane Pollak about possibility thinking, Dorothy Breininger about success, Dr. April Lane Benson about enlisting help, Leslie Josel about motivation, David Allen about time management, Peter Walsh about clutter, Sheila Delson about letting go, Laura Berman Fortgang about next steps, Judith Kolberg about change, and Sue West about fresh starts. To complete the year, I’m thrilled to bring you speaker, author, and coach, Dan Thurmon, to share his insights about life balance.

I’m a big Dan Thurmon fan! I’ve attended hundreds of presentations on a wide range of topics. Dan is one of the most unique, charming, and energy-filled presenters I’ve ever seen. I’ve had the pleasure of hearing him speak and perform twice at NAPO conferences as he motivated, enlightened, and persuaded us all while juggling large objects, tumbling through the air, and riding tall unicycles. Dynamic doesn’t begin to describe Dan! If you ever have the opportunity to hear him...GO! My gratitude goes to Dan for juggling his schedule and taking the time to join us. Before we begin, here’s more about him.

Dan Thurmon is the author of two books, Off Balance on Purpose and Success in Action, a renowned speaker, and a recognized expert in delivering peak performances – on stage and in the workplace. As president of Motivation Works, Inc., he has worked with hundreds of clients and delivered thousands of presentations worldwide. Dan helps organizations and individuals implement action plans and move confidently through transitions. You can connect with Dan on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, blog or website.


Linda SamuelsPeople long for balance. I’ve heard you say that while that’s “intriguing and desirable,” it’s also “completely unrealistic.” Can you share more about that?

Dan Thurmon:  Life is fluid and ever changing, so we cannot attain “perfect balance.” Balance should not be a goal but rather a skill. We “balance” competing demands for time, energy and action. We make decisions and adjustments to help improve our connection to what matters most in life. But our day-to-day experience is and will always be “off balance.” And that’s a good thing! You must be “off balance” in order to learn, grow, and contribute. That’s why I advocate living Off Balance On Purpose. This means that you own your circumstances, initiate changes, and act deliberately, not reactively. Also, we are more effective and engaged when our actions and lives are infused with purpose and meaning.


Linda:  Aside from being a world-class speaker, coach, and author, you are also a consummate performer and juggler. You use juggling concepts to help your audiences understand your message. What is your favorite juggling analogy about life balance?

Dan:  Well thank you! Juggling is a fantastic metaphor that teaches us, among other lessons, that we should look for “patterns” that connect the objects – or, our objectives. Instead of trying to isolate aspects of your life, look for ways to integrate them into a cohesive “pattern of action.” The other analogy involves riding a six-foot-tall unicycle as I demonstrate that, in order to make forward progress, you must be off balance, leaning into the change and uncertainty. It’s scary, but also exhilarating, as you are harnessing momentum for change!


Linda:  What strategies are useful when we’re feeling overwhelmed and pulled in too many directions?

Dan:  First, seek to clarify your purpose. What are you really trying to accomplish, and why is it important? And I don’t have to tell you that being organized is essential to staying in control. I believe it starts with organizing your thinking instead of being constantly redirected by the next “urgent” task. Also, I teach people how to create and strengthen “lifelines” between the aspects of life that matter most: Work, Relationships, Health, Spiritual Growth, and Personal Interests. If you view these “five spheres” as competing with one another, you will fight a losing battle. When you see them as integrated or blended into a “pattern,” however, you begin to see how they can support one another and work in harmony.


Linda:  What has been your toughest personal life balance challenge?

Dan:  As a husband and father of two children (ages 14 and 10), it is a challenge when my schedule takes me on the road for days at a time. But my wife and I have worked over the years to strengthen the “lifelines” that keep us connected. Sometimes I travel with my whole family, or with one of my kids. We often talk about the places I am visiting and the clients I work with. I’ve also used both of my kids, Eddie and Maggie, in my presentations. That way they truly understand what I do and we stay more connected, even when we are apart. And of course, I schedule family time at home to be sure they know how much they mean to me.


Linda:  What is your most surprising discovery about being “off balance?”

Dan:  When you develop a comfort with uncertainty, you often find new, fantastic opportunities that you would have otherwise missed completely. Life is exciting and ever changing, and when you find the “flow” of life and are able to engage its power, like a surfer atop a breaking wave, you will meet people, go places, and serve others in unexpected, wonderful ways.


Linda:  Is there anything you’d like to share about life balance that I haven’t asked?

Dan:  We’ve been told by well-intentioned experts that should we one day achieve a “balanced life,” we will be happier. But life is not a hypothetical future. It’s an undeniable present! And when you embrace uncertainty and choose to live Off Balance On Purpose, you will begin to experience greater happiness and control right where you are.


Thank you, Dan for sharing your wisdom about balance, or more accurately, living purposely off balance. So many of your ideas resonate with me from reframing balance not as a goal, but a skill, to acting deliberately instead of reactively, to developing a comfort with uncertainty, to leaning into change. I love your focus about now being, the “undeniable present,” rather than a “hypothetical future.” I could go on and on. But instead, let me open up the conversation to all of you.

I invite you to join Dan and me. Come share your thoughts about life balance. Is it illusive? What does balance look like to you? Have ideas sparked a perspective shift?

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Reader Comments (17)

Wonderful expertise to share at this time of year. How often we feel off balance at the holidays with extra activities, commitments and more!

Dan, I have also had the pleasure of hearing you and seeing you at our national conference. It is one of the most memorable and compelling presentations that I think about regularly.

I love this perspective of how balance is a skill and developing a comfort with uncertainty. The results this brings help us live our best life.

Many thanks for this insightful interview!

December 17, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterEllen Delap

I so agree with Dan's perspective on how being off balance causes us to move forward. I find I learn and grow exponentially more when I'm thrown into a challenge. When life is predictable, I tend to get relaxed/lazy. Of course, there are times in life when things are not simply off balance, but in chaos (e.g. severe illness). In these times I seek support… and try and remind myself that a new normal is on the horizon.

Love being a part of your insightful discussions, Linda!

December 17, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterSeana Turner

WOW! I am so pleased I read this interview, Linda and Dan. It's actually quite liberating to see life from this "new" perspective. Thank you so much for sharing your expertise, and I'm happy to find out that I live in perfect "unbalance" and that's OK! :) I will look further on the patterns that connect the different juggling aspects of my life and explore their connections.
Wishing you both a beautiful holiday season!

December 17, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterHelena Alkhas

Thanks to you both for getting the "party" started. I'm grateful that you consistently join our conversations.

@Ellen- There's nothing quite like being in Dan's audience, right? You and I have been to a lot of NAPO conferences, and Dan's sessions were major highlights. With his physical visuals (tumbling, juggling, etc…) he drives the point home about being "off balance on purpose." And in fact, the necessity of being that way. Interesting, isn't it?

@Seana- Great distinction that you make between being "simply off balance," or in "chaos." As you said, at those times the critical piece is reaching out for support…and knowing that the "new normal" will arrive.

@Helena- How wonderful that you discovered a new perspective about the value of being off balance on purpose. You're a natural at seeing patterns and connecting. Happy exploring!

December 17, 2013 | Registered CommenterLinda Samuels

"Living Off Balance On Purpose" how weird that seems at first sight, but along the read you agree more and more with that thought. We always expect life be simple and smooth, the reality is life most of the time is rough and wavy, when we learn how to loose our bodies, we can ride with the tide.
I think we all love having zero problems and having life well set, but we grow tall and wise when life throws problems at our faces, so we look for answers and our brains start to think more effectively, at least that's what happened to me.
Great article Linda and thanks Dan for share your expertise with us.

Happy holidays to all by the way.

December 17, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterNacho Eguiarte

Dan, LIke Linda and Ellen I appreciated your NAPO presentation that closed out conference in Baltimore. I can vividly recall you demonstrating on the tall unicycle leaning into the challenge in order to propel yourself forward. It was a great visual that day and this interview has reminded me of it.

I spend quite a bit of time working with my ADHD clients on what's available to them when they're able to come at life from a more proactive, as opposed to reactive place. I like the use of your term deliberate and may start to borrow it. : )

Linda, as always thank you for introducing and re-introducing us to amazing individuals!

December 17, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterAndrea Sharb

Thank you Linda for this terrific interview with Dan Thurmon. I also had the pleasure of seeing his presentation at a NAPO Conference. Dan, the way you explain the benefits of being off balance on purpose is really inspiring and enlightening. I particularly like your comment about acting deliberately rather than reactively.

December 17, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterDiane Quintana

Always wonderful "hearing" your voices.

@Nacho- Dan's perspective about balance is unique…he advocates NOT being balanced, which seems counterintuitive. But when he explains the reasoning behind it, this makes a lot of sense. It's the "off" that creates the growth.

@Andrea- It's hard NOT to remember Dan's presentations. I love how you found a new tool/term ("deliberate") to use with your clients. Just wonderful!

@DIane- "Enlightening" is a great word choice to describe Dan's concepts. Both you and Andrea both responded to the idea of "deliberate" vs. reactive motion/actions, which speaks to living on purpose.

December 17, 2013 | Registered CommenterLinda Samuels

So MUCH to think about here. A fitting finale to your year, Linda. Two points I pulled out in particular: (1) my favorite word, "integration" and (2) patterns. These concepts make me think of the importance of awareness, of reflection on each aspect of our lives - separately and together, of creativity, and of learning each day. So every day, instead of wrestling with balance, we get to create a new pattern of how we integrate and connect the pieces of our lives. Brilliant new thoughts. I love this interview.

December 17, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterSue West

Thank you Linda for sharing Dan's genius with us. I regretfully did not attend NAPO's conference in Baltimore to appreciate his live presentation. But wow Linda, in this very brief interview, there are so many invaluable riches to gain, too many to absorb in one read. To be sure, I'm going to read it again.

So many of Dan's concepts and perspectives were gems, I'm dumbfounded. Like Helena, I was pleased to abandon the goal of being "perfectly balanced!" I love the idea of constantly re-adjusting to an ever-changing landscape and connecting to what matters most as we continue to evolve. I have a keener understanding that being off-balance actually keeps us engaged more of the time. Having all of our ducks in a row, all of the time, is boring. It can breed complacency. We can certainly learn and grow more in rocky waters than through smooth sailing.

Dan's reference to his "lifelines" to his wife and family really resonated with me. Beautiful, just beautiful.

Linda, a fabulous way to end the year with this inspiring interview.

December 17, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterNancy Borg

Love having you here with us. I always appreciate what you bring to the conversation.

@Sue- Great word picks, "integration" and "patterns." It's an interesting dynamic between the individual pieces or facets and how those connect and interact to build a whole life. As you said, we have an opportunity each day to switch focus, rethink, and readjust what we see and what we choose to focus on.

@Nancy- I know what you mean about there being many intriguing ideas in Dan's short interview. I've read and reread it many times, and I'm still finding new things. If you like what you're reading here, I highly recommend reading Dan's book, "Off Balance on Purpose." I enjoyed how you assimilated what you read with your chain of thought: let go of perfect balance, off balance = more engaged, too well aligned breeds complacency and boredom, growth comes from "rocky waters."

December 17, 2013 | Registered CommenterLinda Samuels

Yes! An excellent interview. I agree that Thurmon provides a liberating perspective. Developing an awareness of patterns does take conscious reflection as Andrea pointed out - stopping and pondering "what just happened here?" I love how Thurmon "owns" that moment. I believe the seeds of living passionately are planted there.

December 17, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterDenise Lee

Love the perspective shift from balance to patterns and flow. Refreshing!

December 17, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterCameron Gott

When Dan spoke at NAPO in 2012, he did terrific things for the camaraderie of the whole conference!

December 18, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJane Campbell

Wonderful to "hear" your voices, folks! Thank you for being here with us.

@Denise- A powerful question indeed: "What just happened here?" Stopping to own the moment. Yes!

@Cam- Love the eloquent sequence. Nice.

@Jane- You're so right. He knows how to build community. I remember after hearing him present, my face hurt from smiling so much. I also remember how he super-charged the energy in the room. Such a dynamo!

December 18, 2013 | Registered CommenterLinda Samuels

This particularly resonated with me: "act deliberately, not reactively." Although I'd heard the concept before, I'd never connected it with life balance. Much food for thought!!

Thank you, Linda, for inviting Dan to share his wisdom with us.

December 19, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJanet Barclay

Hi Janet- Loved that phrasing too. It's so powerful and a wonderful concept to bring forward for the New Year. It's such a joy to interview my "Ask the Expert" guests. It's a great learning opportunity which extends when my readers expand on and add their own ideas to the conversation. I love all the sharing and learning.

I was so happy to feature you last year when we talked about enlisting help. Remember? Here's the link to your interview:

December 19, 2013 | Registered CommenterLinda Samuels

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