“You become what you believe.” But what if you don’t believe?

By Marianne Renner: Leadership Coach, Speaker, Author   

 

If you’re lucky enough or incredibly blessed, someone comes along once in your life and believes in you even when you don’t.

I am one of the few and privileged.

It was a serendipitous moment I’ll never forget. What started out as a seemingly ordinary event became one of the most pivotal experiences of my life.

On May 23, 2016, I packed up my car and hit the road for an eight-hour drive to Franklin, Tennessee to listen to a guy I’d never heard of talk about something called “life-coaching.”

Double-checking my GPS, I turned off a winding country road onto a gravel drive. Could this be the right address? It sure didn’t look like any conference center I’d been to before.

I pulled alongside what appeared to be a modern-looking barn with a charming country entrance complete with porch swing on the patio. People gathered around the patio smiling, laughing and sipping freshly brewed coffee. This has to be it, I thought.

I introduced myself to a few accomplished professionals then took a seat in the front row. The room was buzzing with authors, speakers, coaches, doctors, and other high-ranking professionals in their field. Everyone was there to add coaching to the work they already were doing.

My first thought was, “I don’t belong here.”

The man I came to hear kicked off the event.

His name was Dan Miller.

He talked about coaching as both a craft and a business. He talked about being of service and of core values like integrity, passion and dedication to family. I leaned in and listened. I glanced at the sign that hung on the wall, “the best billboard for being a coach is a life well-lived.”

Dan wasn’t like anyone I’d ever met. He taught from the renovated barn on his property, surrounded by his incredible wife Joanne, his amazing daughter Ashley, and wonderfully gifted grandchildren. He exuded both warmth and wisdom. He was both personable and knowledgeable. He was a businessman and a family man. I knew this experience was something special.

During the break, I asked Dan for a few minutes of his time. I had a lot of questions and mounds of uncertainty about this coaching thing. With a smile and open arms, he led me to the porch swing. “Have a seat,” he said.

I told him about my background in communications and continuous improvement. I shared my desire to help those who felt stuck in their lives and careers. I shared my uncertainty. “You absolutely can do this,” he said. That 15-minute moment on the porch swing is one I will never forget.

Dan believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself, and that was enough to get me started.

Dan is one of the top two most influential people in my life. I don’t really have the right word to describe who he has been to me over these past years.

Mentor. Teacher. Pastor. Wise father-figure. Friend. No one word seems fit.

I am not the same person that I was on May 13, 2016. I am forever changed.

Because of Dan I believed I could do anything. Because of Dan I dared to dream. I found the courage to publicly share my personal journey through depression and substance abuse in the service of others.

On Sunday, January 21, at 8:11 pm, Dan passed on from this world after receiving a pancreatic cancer diagnosis just 45 days earlier.

Dan has been a priceless and eternal gift to my life. He modeled excellence, integrity, generosity and the idea of serving from a full cup. He demonstrated the meaning of living and leading well.

Last week, I gathered with 30 other members of our close-knit mastermind in Dan’s hometown to celebrate a life well-lived. Each and every person took time to share our personal stories about how Dan impacted our lives. It was an opportunity to say thank you; a moment to reflect; and a time for us to share how we will carry forward the legacy Dan instilled in us, each in our own way.

On the plane ride home, I realized that time together was a sacred moment of shared commitment to carry on the legacy of making the world a better place.

My hope is to honor Dan’s legacy by giving generously to others much in the same way he generously gave to me. My hope is to honor that legacy by living, leading, and serving well. And that I may let my life speak in a way that inspires others to do the same.

What I really want, more than anything, is to challenge you today with these simple questions:

Who has been the Dan Miller of your life, and how will you carry forward all you have learned from that influential person?

And finally, how will you be a Dan Miller to someone else? Someone right now in your life needs you to be a Dan Miller to them. Don’t wait for tomorrow. Live, lead and serve well today.

16 replies
  1. Joyce Burk
    Joyce Burk says:

    Thank you for sharing this story. I had the pleasure of meeting you in Nashville. You inspired me then and you continue to inspire me. Thank you for being you.

    Reply
    • Marianne Renner
      Marianne Renner says:

      Hi Joyce. Thank you for your kind words. Dan was a tremendous influence. We can all live his legacy. I wish you continued inspiration and success in what matters most for you.

      Reply
  2. michele ackerman
    michele ackerman says:

    Beautifully written, Marianne! Thank you for sharing. If I were only a tenth as effective as Dan, I would have fulfilled my life’s mission and purpose. And so grateful you learned from him and are following in his footsteps.

    Reply
    • Marianne Renner
      Marianne Renner says:

      Thank you Michele. As my friend Nick Pavlidis says, no one can be Dan, but we can be “a Dan” to someone else. I have no doubt you are already doing that.

      Reply
  3. Sammie Stephens
    Sammie Stephens says:

    Thank you, Marianne, for sharing such a beautiful story. I have been following Dan’s work since the early 2000s. I purchased one of those “three-ring binders” from him around 2005. It came with three CDs and a training manual full of information. I took it to the Eagles event in Denver this past August to get him to autograph it for me. We laughed about how his products have changed over the years. However, the messages in that three-ring binder can be seen in his book and online training courses today.

    I have been a member of the 48 Days Eagles group for several years and was a member of his 48Days.net group before the Eagles group. His impact on my life is significant and I am so grateful for his willingness to encourage, mentor, lead, and shepherd all of us in various ways over the years. I hope to carry Dan’s message in my work as I serve others. I also hope to encourage others to move forward in their lives as Dan has done for me.

    Reply
  4. Ashley Logsdon
    Ashley Logsdon says:

    I love this, and am so glad we had the honor of meeting you that day and being forever impacted by YOU and your story! Dad may have given you confidence – yet the light you have to share with this world is all your own. You’ve been a beautiful example of how mindset, growth, and kindness can take you so far in this world. Thank you for sharing your story about his impact.

    Dad’s legacy lives on through all of us. One evening a few weeks ago our whole family was gathered around the table discussing our “superpowers” and what we’d want to be known for, and Dad teared up as he realized his biggest desire was to have “An Understanding Heart”. His impact of listening, being present, seeking growth and positivity inspires us all to pay it forward in our approach toward life and others. Thank you for being one of those who brings joy and light to our lives and countless others.

    Reply
    • Marianne Renner
      Marianne Renner says:

      This is so beautiful Ashley. Thank you for sharing your heart throughout this difficult journey. I have so much love for you and your family.

      Reply
    • Marianne Renner
      Marianne Renner says:

      Thank you for your generous words Jevonnah. Dan’s impact is immeasurable. Because of Dan, I met you, a priceless gift.

      Reply
  5. Wayne Herring
    Wayne Herring says:

    thanks Marianne… wow… so beautiful. The porch swing moment. Dan for you is Warren for me. What a gift to meet someone like this as we move through the world. You are definitely someone else’s Dan. I’ll work to be someone’s Dan or Warren today.

    Reply
    • Marianne Renner
      Marianne Renner says:

      Wayne, you absolutely are a Warren and a Dan to so many people. You carry forth a heart heart of service and I’m certain you will continue to do so. Thank you for your thoughtful comments.

      Reply
  6. Eric Poppleton
    Eric Poppleton says:

    “Mentor. Teacher. Pastor. Wise father-figure. Friend. No one word seems fit.”

    That’s me too. What a beautiful life lived and so many people touched by his generous encouragement. I never met him in person, but Dan’s content gave me the confidence to become self-employed at a pivotal moment in my life. My wife and I are both self-employed now and big things are ahead because we can ask ourselves “what does this make possible?” (thanks, Gail Hyatt for lending him that one)

    I’ve listened to his final podcast numerous times now. In it, Dan stated we are all his legacy and I believe that 100%.

    Reply
    • Marianne Renner
      Marianne Renner says:

      Hi Eric. Wow, what a lasting impact Dan has made in your life. You and your wife are living out Dan’s legacy in the way he would want. Thank you for your thoughtful comment and for taking the time to share.

      Reply
  7. April
    April says:

    Marianne, thank you for sharing this touching story. I never met Dan, but I have worked with you, and you have changed my life in so many ways, I can’t thank you enough. If you attribute that to Dan, then you have made him proud. I’m so sorry for the loss, but so happy for what you and others have gained from him, and then passed on to people like me.

    Keep leading the way, my favorite quote from you!

    Reply
    • Marianne Renner
      Marianne Renner says:

      Thank you April for your touching words. I feel so honored to have worked with you and walked alongside you on your journey. You, too, are living out Dan’s legacy through all the great work you continue to do and the impact you make in the world.

      Reply

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