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Cesar Millan: How I Embraced Uncertainty and Found Love Again

Cesar Millan has been through a lot of life changes over the past few years. He got a divorce, found new love, and took ownership of his TV shows and affiliated businesses — and the best part is he isn’t shy about talking about his experiences in order to help others.

One such way he is doing so is through his live stage show Cesar Millan: Leader of the Pack, which he has taken worldwide. In it, he entertains a live theater audience as he interacts with fans, who have brought their problem dogs, one-on-one, live on stage, where he helps them find a solution because he understands that seeing is believing! For the first time, Nat Geo WILD has filmed a performance and will premiere Cesar Millan: Viva Las Vegas! as a special on Friday, Feb. 20.

Of course, Cesar is still help dogs in the community. On Friday, Feb. 27, he’s back for a second season of Cesar 911!, traveling each week to a new neighborhood in desperate need of his help because of a four-legged menace that has turned their lives upside down.

As busy as his schedule is, Cesar took time to talk with eHarmony about the important aspects of life, including starting over, finding love the second time around, the importance of finding a balance for physical, mental, and emotional well-being, and more.

eH: Tell us about Cesar Millan: Viva Las Vegas!   

Cesar Millan: The reason for a live show is I love to teach people what they need to know to have a relationship that everybody’s seeking. Right? Everybody wants to have that relationship of trust, respect, love. In this case, it’s with a dog. But humans have to see it to believe it. Everybody blames the dog for bad behavior, even though people love the dog.

So when I go on stage, after I explain to you what I do, how I do it, then I bring a dog on stage. This is live. This is the first time we’ve met, and your dog is behaving the way you don’t want him to behave. And you tell me, “Cesar, I watch your show, I read your books, I hired trainers, I already did everything.” Then I go grab the leash, and the dog changes. So now you see it, that it was not the dog.

When people see TV shows, they think editing. When people read books, they make their own perceptions, but when you see it live and it happens right in front of your eyes, you believe it. So the live shows help me, obviously, say hi to my fans and the people who love my TV show, but at the same time, it’s to make them believers.

eH: What can we expect from Cesar 911 this season?

CM: We have the most challenging cases, because the cases that I work with, it’s like being in the ER. You know what I mean? Like wounded, about to die, lawsuits, divorce, losing a job, a child is in the hospital. The thing is most people wait until the last minute. In reality, ours is not a prevention society, it’s more of an intervention society.

We leave everything until the last minute. Something has to be wrong for you to change your life, and the same thing happens for our dogs. So the cases that I work this season are becoming more and more challenging, because there’s so many components. In one of the cases, the dog owners are losing their business, the dog bit a child three times, the husband wants to shoot the dog, and the wife wants to divorce the husband.

eH: One of the things that you talk about is that people make the mistake of treating their dogs like children, but I think we do that because we love our dogs so much. Do you think that dogs love people back?

CM: Of course, love is love, right? I think that the magic and the beauty of a relationship is you want to love and you want to be loved. It doesn’t matter from who, you just want to achieve that connection with someone, right? So when you practice eye contact, a species so sensitive to your emotions like dogs are going to return that back, because they’re mirroring. Now if you practice fear, that same species is going to practice fear with you. The thing is dogs don’t rationalize, they don’t know how to stop.

But in reality, think about it, even babies and children require rules, boundaries, and limitations. But we’re not treating dogs like a baby, giving them rules, so they’re confused. When people say, “Oh, he’s like my baby,” okay, I get that. I will buy that, but does your dog have rules and boundaries like you would have for a baby?

eH: Since we last spoke, you’ve gone through a divorce, which you’ve been very public about talking about, but you’ve also found love again. Can you talk about love the second time around?

CM: Actually, it’s a beautiful story. I wasn’t mentally looking, but I was definitely spiritually open. I was definitely emotionally ready. It happened so in the moment. I went to a store, I saw this woman on the side, on my right, and I said, “What a beautiful person.” She felt a connection, but what happened after that shows how compatible we are, which is actually what makes a relationship a relationship, and that’s the beauty of this new relationship for my life.

When I tell people, “Don’t just get a dog because he’s beautiful, don’t just get a dog because you feel sorry for it. Get a dog because it’s compatible to your lifestyle.” A lot of people get rid of dogs who are pretty. They say, “Oh, he’s not cute anymore. He destroyed my furniture,” or “I feel sorry for this dog so I adopted him. Now he bites everybody.” So the feeling guilty, feeling sorry goes away, and the feeling cute goes away, but compatibility is what keeps the internal attraction, and that’s what I didn’t have in my first relationship.

eH: So what do you love about your life right now?               

CM: What I love about my life right now is that I’m leading my life the way I want to. Before, even though I talked about leadership, I was not leading, I was following. So now the TV shows are co-created by me. I’m executive producing them. I own 100 percent of my companies. My house, I share the visions that I want, and the looks that I want, and the vacations that we’re going to take. All of that is because I have a partnership and I also have leadership. Before I had a partnership, but no leadership.

eH: What advice do you have for others who are starting over?

CM: It’s not a failure; a lot of times when relationships don’t work out, the feeling of a failure is very present. Nobody wants to be wrong, and so that’s the first step for us humans. Then we can enter into a depression, which I did. That’s why I tried to commit suicide. What we need to keep in mind is it’s just a temporary discomfort. The greatest thing we can do is learn to embrace uncertainty.

It’s almost like riding a wave; you just have to ride the wave as long as it lasts. Don’t try to run away from it; don’t try to fight it; don’t try to ignore it. Surrender to it, and it passes faster. We want to fight it, we want to make it pass faster, we want the pain to go away, so we don’t see the transition as an important phase of our life. You know what? Everybody wants the up, of course, but the down is what makes you wise.

You can’t achieve wisdom without going through the hardship in life. It’s there because you need to go through it. So embrace “things happen for a reason,” it’s so true. I help more people now than before, because there are more people that relate to my personal life as a father, as an ex-husband, as someone who has started all over.

eH: So you have talked about having body, mind, and heart in balance. How do you maintain this balance?

CM: Number one is discipline. You have to stay disciplined. At the same time, the pack, the people that you surround you, have to share the same vision, because you feed each other. That’s why it’s so important to know who your friends are.

You can’t choose family, but as a grownup, you can choose friends, co-workers, and companies that you want to run with — and dogs. You can choose all of that so you have more power.

There are three things you need. You absolutely need exercise. It does something physically, neurologically, biologically, inside of you. The discipline it gives you is a sense of direction, a sense of vision. To love and be loved, it fulfills your emotional side, so body, mind, heart.

A lot of people become workaholics, but then they feel empty, or they feel anxious, so they drink and/or smoke, so the body is not taken care, and emotion is not taken care of. The mind is taken care of; the mind is what makes the money. You can be sitting down making money, Wall Street, right? But you have to also feed the body, you have to feed the mind, you have to feed the heart, and that’s how you feed the soul. It’s a lifestyle.

eH: Did you ever struggle with ego self versus your authentic self?

CM: Well, that’s what you have. In my case, I have a great team that can check on the ego aspect. At the same time, as a dog person, as an animal person, ego gets in the way. The animal doesn’t accept negativity. Ego is negativity. Confidence is good, assertiveness is good, positivity is good, but ego, he believes he can do it by himself. He doesn’t need anybody else, but yet he needs a group of people for it. So it’s a blind way of being. It’s a very pack-oriented way of being. It’s more like a cat way of being. Cats are more egocentric; dogs are definitely not egocentric.

So because I do like to follow the philosophy of a dog, it’s easy for me not to jump into it. At the same time, my son will not let me; my girlfriend will not let me. So I have the same team that provides me with love also reminding me that I’m getting outside of boundaries.

eH: What are your hopes for 2015?

CM: To influence more people, definitely to influence more people, and to work less. I’ve been working for the past 45 years. When you grow up in a third world country, the moment you can walk, you’re working, you’re helping. That’s the only way a family can survive. So I will honestly tell you that I’ve been working from the moment I started walking, until 45. I said, “Geez; I worked 12 months a year, non-stop. I love it, but I do want to see the world, because I’ve been around the world, but I didn’t see it.” The good thing is I love what I do.

Both on Nat Geo WILD, you can see Cesar Millan: Viva Las Vegas! when it premieres on Friday, February 20 at 9 p.m. Cesar 911 returns for its second season on Friday, February 27 at 9 p.m. Follow Cesar on Twitter and Facebook!

Photo credit: National Geographic Channels / Evelyn Hockstein