He was sitting at the news desk on ABC's Good Morning America, waiting for Diane Sawyer to wind up her segment before she cued him to begin reporting the morning's top stories.
He'd done this hundreds of times. As a polished, successful national news anchor and correspondent, he didn't give this particular morning's reporting duties a second thought. Until Diane said, "And now to Dan Harris for today's top stories."
As soon as he started talking, his heart began to race. His mouth became a desert, his palms were sweating, and his lungs seized up so he couldn't talk. He felt a tremendous sense of dread and fear. Before he could finish half the stories of the morning, he bolted and hastily turned it back over to Diane.
Dan Harris, a respected national news anchor, had just experienced a full-blown panic attack on live television in front of millions of people.
This was the beginning of a journey for Dan, kickstarted by an assignment as religion and spirituality correspondent for ABC, to discover how to become about 10% happier through the practice of mindfulness meditation.
I recently interviewed Dan about his book by the same name, 10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help That Actually Works--A True Story.
In the book, he tells the story of his now infamous on-air panic attack, which he discusses in a lot more detail and humor than I provide here.
He also talks about the pressures and demands of working for a national news organization and how his drive to succeed, coupled with some harrowing assignments in Afghanistan and a few too many dates with cocaine, caused him enough mental turbulence to fall apart on live TV.
Dan's assignment as the religion correspondent, something this avowed atheist fought kicking and screaming, led him to huge shift he never anticipated. (more…)