#245 ‒ Overcoming trauma, finding inner peace, and living a meaningful and fulfilling life | Lewis Howes

I think inner peace is the greatest currency.” —Lewis Howes

Read Time 47 minutes

Lewis Howes is a New York Times best-selling author, entrepreneur, speaker, and host of the popular podcast, The School of Greatness. In this episode, Lewis opens up about the various hardships and traumatic events he experienced starting at a very young age and reveals the valuable lessons he learned as he worked through those traumas to improve his emotional health. He talks about how his past hardships likely contributed to his success in business and athletics, only to leave him feeling unsatisfied and unfulfilled. Next, he discusses how many aspects of his life were suffering, the inflection point that drove Lewis to seek help, and the long but beautiful healing journey that followed. Lewis makes the case that adversity, and even trauma, can be beneficial if one finds meaning in tribulations and has the courage to face one’s fears and insecurities. Finally, Lewis shares the many modalities of therapy that helped him along the way and gives advice for those wanting to find inner peace and live a fulfilling, rich, abundant, joyful life.


We discuss:

  • Lewis’s upbringing and the impact of his older brother going to prison [2:45];
  • Finding lessons in tragedy and adversity [10:45];
  • Lasting trauma from being sexually abused at age 5 [13:15];
  • Inflection point that drove Lewis to seek help, and a beautiful experience at a therapeutic workshop [16:45];
  • A powerful workshop on emotional intelligence jump started Lewis’s healing journey [27:30];
  • How being authentic can strengthen bonds with family and bring inner peace [39:30];
  • Comparing adversity with trauma and finding meaning in struggle [45:15];
  • Association between adverse childhood events and diseases in adulthood [56:15];
  • How addressing his issues with intimate relationships helped Lewis overcome physical pain related to his past trauma [59:15];
  • Healing is a journey that takes time and requires courage to face your fears and insecurities [1:08:45];
  • How Lewis thinks about mortality and uses it as motivation to pursue his dreams [1:13:00];
  • How anyone can benefit from therapy or coaching, and Lewis’s advice for finding inner peace [1:22:45];
  • Lewis’s newest book, The Greatness Mindset [1:29:15]; and
  • More.


Lewis’s upbringing and the impact of his older brother going to prison [2:45]

  • Peter feels lucky to be one of the first people to talk to him on the heels of Lewis’s book coming out
    • This was recorded in January and his book comes out at the beginning of March 
  • Peter wants to talk about this book and things that precede this book
  • Lewis’s personal story was the substrate for three of his four books

Where did you grow up? 

  • Lewis grew up in small town in Ohio, near Columbus, but then he bounced around
  • He went to a private boarding school in St. Louis, Missouri at age 13
  • He begged his parents to send him away for two months in the summer because there was a lot of turmoil ‒  inner turmoil, environment turmoil
    • For most kids it’s the opposite, they beg to stay home
    • His parents didn’t want to send him away
  • Peter adds that his daughter (who is in 8th grade), says she wants to go to boarding school for high school (half joking)
    • Peter doesn’t want to because they have the rest of their lives to be away from her
    • He thinks she might want to go because they’ll have less stringent rules about phone time or something

Boarding school transformed Lewis’ life 

  • He benefited from the structure, organization, discipline, strict rules, and guidelines
    • Though it wasn’t a military school, you had to wake up at 6:00 AM
    • That organizational feel gave him structure when he felt like he didn’t have any

Do you have siblings? 

  • Lewis has three older siblings; a brother who is 11.5 years older, and two sisters with 3-4 years gap in between each
    • He’s the youngest of four

So you probably didn’t play with your brother much growing up 

  • No, when Lewis was eight, his oldest brother went to prison for 4.5 years (he was sentenced 6-25 years)
    • He sold a sheet of LSD to an undercover cop when he was 18 years old and in college
    • It was the early ‘90s and with the “war on drugs,” they were cracking down on anything and giving extreme cases in jail time to make an example for others
  • He has fond memories from about five years old until eight of his brother being his hero
    • A bigger, older teenager who was very gifted and talented in a lot of different ways, extremely intelligent

Having his brother go to jail was devastating and very confusing 

  • Lewis lived in a small town and didn’t grow up knowing anyone that went to jail or prison
  • It was very traumatic for his parents and siblings
  • They had the opportunity to visit once a week; it took a couple hours drive to the prison 
    • The visiting room was interesting, not many eight-year-olds go to a prison every single weekend for three to four hours and sit in a room with 40 convicts and their families for essentially four years
    • It was a wake up call on different cultures, different ethnicities, different backgrounds, different experiences
  • It was a  wake up call for Lewis because he had a lot of judgments about convicts from movies and TV 
    • When he actually met a lot of them, they were extremely friendly; they were kind, and a lot of them were with their families reading the Bible
      • They’d been in there for a long time and they’d transformed in a lot of ways
      • For the ones that Lewis was meeting (not all inmates), it felt like they were actually good guys
  • This was a dark time because his whole family was overwhelmed by the trauma, shame, and guilt of his brother going to prison
    • Lewis couldn’t really have friends during that time
    • Living in a small town, everyone knew and none of the parents on his block wanted their kids to hang out with him

It was a confusing time for me because I felt lonely and insecure and never really accepted myself”‒ Lewis Howes

  • Peter finds it remarkably insightful that Lewis, at age eight, had judgements about what prison was or wasn’t 
    • When you’re eight you don’t understand the difference between doing something wrong and breaking the law
    • There are a lot of people who do things that are wrong and awful, but they’re not breaking the law, and as a result of that, there’s no legal consequence
    • Similarly, there are a lot of things that are against the law that are really not morally particularly wrong, and yet there’s an enormous consequence
  • Lewis knew his brother committed a crime but didn’t feel like he was a bad guy
    • He didn’t do horrible things
    • He was just trying to make money as a college kid
    • The undercover scheme was to send a bunch of guys to jail
    • He was sentenced for 6-25 years on his first offense

Do you remember the impact of that on your parents? 

  • It was devastating
  • His dad was well respected in the community; he was a life insurance salesman
    • He was trying to give back to the community with Rotary
    • Imagine the impact it had on his dad and his business and his reputation
  • They had exchange students living with them since Lewis was five
    • They had seven different exchange students from around the world live with them for six months at a time
  • Lewis can imagine the guilt and shame that his parents had from asking themselves, “Where did we go wrong?” 
  • His older brother was extremely gifted and talented in some ways
    • He was one of the top violinists in the country under 17 in national competitions as a classical violinist
      • He was a savant/ prodigy; he did things with the violin classically that people couldn’t do
      • He was second chair/ first chair at 16 in the Columbus Symphony as a 16 year old


Finding lessons in tragedy and adversity [10:45]

  • One of the lessons that came from his brother’s incarceration was a new view of tragedies, challenges, and adversity  

Hindsight is always 20/20, and sometimes it’s hard to have future hindsight now”‒ Lewis Howes 

Now that Lewis has had so many different challenges in life and he sees the meaning of them later, anytime he is in an adversity now, he tries to think of how meaningful this is going to be in his future ‒ It’s going to give him more power and wisdom to serve others 

The prison band 

  • Because his brother was so gifted in the violin, he went to a special prison facility that had a a prison band 
  • It was like a Hollywood movie in Lewis’s mind ‒ his brother goes to jail and joins the prison band
    • He’s a classical violinist white kid from Ohio, and he joins the band where he’s the only white kid
    • They’re all playing hip hop and funk and blues and rap and R&B and jazz, and they teach him the culture of a different style of music for four years
    • He gets a masterclass from other inmates who are talented and play and sing with their heart and their souls with so much musicality and passion from pain and trauma, and they poured their hearts out in this band
  • Lewis and his family got to watch the prison band a few times
    • It was so inspiring to watch prisoners, inmates perform like they were free men
  • His brother got out of prison early on good behavior, after 4.5 years instead of the full 25

In the last 20+ years, his brother has completely transformed his life ……

{end of show notes preview}

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Lewis Howes

Lewis Howes is a New York Times best-selling author, keynote speaker, and industry-leading show host. Howes is a two-sport All-American athlete, former professional football player, and member of the U.S.A. Men’s National Handball Team. His show The School of Greatness is one of the top podcasts in the world with over 500 million downloads. He was recognized by the White House and President Obama as one of the top 100 entrepreneurs in the country under 30.

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Website: lewishowes.com

YouTube channel: @lewishowes

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  1. I am not sure why in today’s world it doesn’t surprise me that a conversation on inner peace and finding a meaningful life there was no discussion on the spiritual side of being. It’s been around since the beginning of days. Maybe bring in Mark Wahlberg, who is a great example of what many here strive to be physically, to discuss his life journey. He would be a great guest.


  2. This was fantastic! I didn’t expect to get so much from this conversation, but I benefitted from and appreciated it immensely. Lewis Howe is a beautiful person who can speak to so many people I think, and Peter”s questions were challenging and insightful as usual. Thank you so much to both of you.

  3. Another great episode. Thank you and your staff for putting out consistent quality information. Please consider getting Mark Houston MD on the podcast. I feel like he is the older version of you and has been putting out quality information for quite some time.

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