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What is your life’s purpose?
My life’s purpose is to serve humanity.

How are you living your purpose?
I am teaching, peacemaking, writing, and speaking to the tools of peace.

I teach a variety of workshops, including de-escalation strategies, decision-making, leadership, peacemaking, basic and advanced mediation, listening, and problem-solving. My audiences range from life inmates in maximum security prisons to university graduate courses (Straus Institute Pepperdine School of Law) to private and public workshops of all kinds.

I also have created online video courses for those who do not have access to my live workshops. They include the De-Escalate Video course, which is offered to those who buy my latest book De-Escalate and Negotiation Mastery for the Legal Professional, a 9-hour legal negotiation course.

To further my desire to help people live peaceful lives, my fourth book De-Escalate: How to Calm an Angry Person in 90 Seconds or Less was released in September 2017 by Beyond Words/Simon & Schuster.

How did you find your purpose?
I was a hardcore trial lawyer for 22 years. In the 1980s, I took martial arts training. After I received my 2nd-degree black belt, I studied tai chi. Tai Chi has two paradoxes: the softer you are, the stronger you are; the more vulnerable you are. As I began to understand the deep truth of these paradoxes, I realized that my calling was not in the courtroom.

I ended up going back to school to earn my Master’s Degree in Peacemaking and Conflict Studies at Fresno Pacific University. I was trained in peace by the Mennonites, even though I am not of that faith tradition. As a result, in 2000, I left a successful trial practice in a major law firm to become a lawyer turned peacemaker.

Since leaving the practice of law, I have faced ridicule, skepticism, and outright hostility towards the idea of being a lawyer turned peacemaker. I constantly hear, “Peacemaking is too soft; it is too ‘kumbaya’; it is impractical; and it will never work in my conflict.” Objection after objection and scorn heaped upon scorn have been my fate for deciding to turn away from litigation. I have learned that people in peace love peacemaking, but when in conflict, they revile it. The neuroscience behind this is fascinating and explains this paradox in human behavior.

Nevertheless, I have been engaged to mediate thousands of conflicts, to teach what I have learned, and to train others to do what I do.

With Chowchilla inmates in “peace circle” (photo by Susan McRae)

What advice do you have for purpose seekers?
Follow your heart. Be courageous. Don’t worry too much about the money.

What resources do you recommend?
To be an effective peacemaker, one must be a student of neuroscience and decision-making. I, therefore, recommend the following books, in addition to my own:
Behave: The Biology of Humans at Our Best and Worst by Robert Sapolsky
How Emotions Are Made: The Secret Life of the Brain by Lisa Feldman Barrett

Connect with Doug Noll
Email: doug@dougnoll.com
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Websites:
Douglas Noll — Speaking, Keynote, Teaching
Negotiate A Centered Life — The online course It’s Pure Magic
Advice and Wisdom — Free webinars
Elusive Peace — Website for Doug’s third book
Negotiation Mastery — Legal negotiation course website
Noll Associates — Professional mediation and peacemaking website

Books:
De-Escalate: How to Calm an Angry Person in 90 Seconds or Less
Elusive Peace: How Modern Diplomatic Strategies Could Better Resolve World Conflicts
Chapter 2: A Theory of Mediation in AAA Handbook on Mediation – 2nd Edition
Sex, Politics & Religion at the Office: The New Competitive Advantage, co-authored with John Boogaert
Chapter 3: The Neuropsychology of Conflict in The Psychology of Resolving Global Conflicts: From War to Peace, Vol. 1: Nature vs. Nurture
Peacemaking: Practicing at the Intersection of Law and Human Conflict

Douglas E. Noll, J.D., M.A. is a full-time peacemaker and mediator, specializing in difficult, complex, and intractable conflicts. He has a Master’s Degree in Peacemaking and Conflict Studies. Mr. Noll is AV-rated and was a business and commercial trial lawyer for 22 years before turning to peacemaking. He is a Fellow of the International Academy of Mediators, and on the American Arbitration Association panel of mediators and arbitrators. Mr. Noll was one of the first U.S. mediators certified under the international mediator standards established by the International Mediation Institute. He is listed in the Who’s Who of International Commercial Mediators and has been named as Lawyer of the Year in 2014 by Best Lawyers in America. Mr. Noll was honored as an Encore Fellow in 2014 by encore.org for his prison work. Along with his colleague Laurel Kaufer, Doug was honored by California Lawyer Magazine as California Attorneys of the Year in 2012 for their pro bono Prison of Peace project.