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Transcript: Growing the Greatness Within (EP76)


Intro (with music): Welcome to The Culture of Things podcast with Brendan Rogers. This is a podcast where we talk all things, culture, leadership and teamwork across business and sport.

Voiceover: To all of our loyal listeners, The Culture of Things podcast will now also have specific episodes produced for YouTube. To ensure you don’t miss out on this exclusive YouTube content, head on over to YouTube, click the subscribe button and hit the notification bell. Now, let’s get into the episode...

Brendan: Do you believe you have greatness within you? My next guest does, and he's doing everything he can to nurture and grow this greatness so he can have a big impact and make a difference. 

Danyal Diallo is a young man enjoying the journey of life. He's an emerging leader. I was drawn to interview him by his youthful energy, his initiative, and his self-confidence. I saw a young man who is absolutely determined to grow the greatness within himself. 

He started the business when he was 16 and developed his public speaking skills to become a platinum speaker. He's done a TEDx presentation titled Breaking the Stereotypes. Has been a youth leader and mentor for African youth and has now moved from Melbourne to Canberra to take up an opportunity to work within the government sector. 

Early in the interview, Danyal talks about an accident as a three-year-old that left him with a permanent limp. He shares how his limp led to bullying at school and his regrets with how he dealt with the bully. 

Danyal is aiming to master the art of public speaking. It's amazing to hear his confidence as he talks about tackling one of the most difficult parts head-on. 

Mentors are a key part of Danyal's emergence as a leader. He shares how they help him along with the importance of surrounding yourself with the right people. He also shared his key lesson from an interview he did with William Harvey, a Holocaust survivor. We spoke about his TEDx talk and why breaking down the multicultural stereotypes is so important.  Late in the interview, we even ventured into Danyal's faith and how this is a big part of who he is and what he stands for. 

Danyal Diallo is an inspiring young man. Remember the name. I've got a feeling we'll be hearing it linked to great things in the future. 

Once again, make sure you stick around to the end and see if my three key takeaways are the same as yours. If you're watching on YouTube, put your takeaways in the comments. I hope you enjoy the interview. Let's get into it. 

Hello, and welcome to The Culture of Things podcast. I'm your host, Brendan Rogers, and this is episode 76. Today I got to speak with a young chap called Danyal Diallo. Danyal, how are you, buddy?

Danyal: Good. How are you, Brendan? 

Brendan: Very well, mate. Fantastic to have you on the show. We're going to dive straight in. We're under a little bit of time pressure on us. Mate, tell us a little bit about Danyal Diallo at the moment, just so the audience gets some context. 

Danyal: At the moment, Danyal is 19, living in Canberra. By the way, it's so cold here. When I came here from Melbourne, people were like, just you wait. Canberra is pretty cold. I was like, come on, I haven't seen it around so stop exaggerating. Now I'm starting to really experience it. I'm like, you were right. I was wrong. 

Brendan: It gets bloody cold.

Danyal: Yeah. Aside from that, I have a few projects in the community at the moment happening. We'll dive into those.

Brendan: Absolutely, mate. I did know through the research, you'd move from Melbourne, you're in Pakenham, and to Canberra that happened about seven months ago? What was the impetus for your move to Canberra?

Danyal: It was really a new challenge. I don't really like to stay stagnant in one place for too long. Not because of things that I don't think I can do it, but is more of I want to challenge myself. I feel that if I'm not growing, I am slowly declining. If I'm not experiencing new things, meeting new people, I'm not learning new things. The move to Canberra was prompted by that, but now I work in the Department of Health. It's a great, great place to be. 

Brendan: Where do you think that adventurous side of you—trying new things, loving new challenges; it's quite an adventurous approach—started for you?

Danyal: I wasn't always like this. At three years old, I was in Sudan. My family and I were in Sudan, not just me. I was playing around with my cousin. She said, hey Danyal, here's a building and there were builders building the building. She said hey, let's go climb that building and let's see who can get up the top first. I said yeah, sure. I'll do it. I got this. I climbed up there and she came second, of course. 

She came second and she pushed me off the building. I fell onto my right side, fell into a coma, picked up by the locals because my parents at the time weren't there. Minutes later on, I was taken to the hospital. The doctor said it's good that he didn't land on his neck, but he's not going to walk again. That's the trigger for me, I guess. That adventure, sometimes things, but going through that process, as well. 

My family at the time didn't have money, so to speak. Over there, the system is different. The system over there is more, give me the money and then I'll see what I can do. That's what the doctors say. If you don't have the money, then they don't talk to you. Good thing my family got together and collected the money to really give to the doctor to try to fix my leg, but they didn't do it so much so that it was good to what it was before as I live with a limp now. 

At that moment, I would say from 3 onto 14, it was very much defensive Danyal mode. Going into school, people were saying hey, limpy. Could you imagine that? Hey, limpy, walk properly? What do you mean work properly? I can't change it. It's not like they had a problem with my hair because I could have snipped this bad boy easily to conform and be part of the crowd, but it was something I couldn't change. 

When that happens to you, it's like you're a square being pushed into a round hole, and you can't fit in. You can't fit in because you're not like everybody else. You're simply not, but you're being yelled at to be.

Brendan: That's bullying and unfortunately, that's a big problem in society generally. We've heard all sorts of horrendous stories. What did you do to cope through that? What sort of coping mechanisms did you have in place or learned to have in place?

Danyal: I'm being honest with you, the coping mechanism that I used is the easiest one and it came naturally, is to just distance yourself from everybody and everything. Don't talk to them. Don't talk to anybody. Hey, are you okay? Don't talk to me. Hey, if they bully you don't talk to them. If they don't, don't talk to them. It's like a wall you put to protect yourself.

The problem with that wall is, of course, you can't break it down and you can't get help from people. This was a point where I was stagnant for a while. The way I broke through that is by learning slowly but surely, to let people in. Let people in slowly and gradually, I have a crowd that I can really count on, and they count on me so the relationship goes back two ways.

Brendan: What was the catalyst for breaking down that wall?

Danyal: I didn't want to stay like this, but it was only almost like a subconscious flinch my body was doing to really stop me from getting hurt. I have to stay away from people, but I wanted to get closer to people. It was like I can't have it two ways. The catalyst was just speaking to myself. 

Hey, I know this happened. I know it did and it's not okay. I know it's not, but we have to move in a certain direction and we have to really move forward in this way so that we can see better things and can experience better things because being alone is good as well. But being alone for too long and being lonely is not and it's not okay.

Brendan: In some of the stuff I've watched, you put yourself out there and I want to explain actually, just to you. I haven't explained to you and I think the listeners would be really interested, why have I brought you on to the podcast because you’re probably not the normal guest we have. A lot of guests that we have are very, very experienced and I say this respectfully. They're very, very experienced in the space they're in. 

You're a young lad. You said you're 19 years old, but you're the school captain of your school and you've done all sorts of things. You're dabbling around with stuff. What I saw in you and your approach was that there's something about you that there are no excuses, you're giving things a try. You're trying to find this path and you're on a certain path now, which is very different from maybe the last few years for you. 

That's why I felt inclined to really have you on. You had that energy about you and it was youthfulness energy, but just no excuses, not scared of anything, and putting yourself out there. I'm interested to understand where that trigger came from. I get the story you've just shared. I've heard that and breaking down the wall was the term. 

You said something in some stuff that I watched around you and it was growing the greatness within. What was that point, because you come from a dark place where you're being bullied, and teased, all that sort of horrendous stuff, then to grow the greatness within? That switch doesn't just flick, something flicks it.

Danyal: No. Before I answer that, I'll tell you a story. Let's say I tell you right now, I'm not going to make lasagna today. What do you think?

Brendan: I love lasagna, mate. I'm very sad to hear that.

Danyal: I'm telling you I'm not going to make it today, so what would you do? You know already that I'm not going to make it so I won't go read the recipe for it. I won't go ask for help to make lasagna. I won't get the equipment to make lasagna because I've already told myself I'm not going to make it. 

Some of us have already told ourselves that we're not fit for greatness, therefore we don't look for books that will advance us. We don't ask for mentors. We don't look for mentors. We don't meet people at all, because we've already convinced ourselves completely that that is not for us. I looked into this guy named—I don’t know if you know him—Earl Nightingale.

Brendan: I don't know him, but I've heard of him.

Danyal: Something that stuck with me. He said, you become what you think about. Now look at this from the perspective of the place where I came from. You become more about what you think about. What do you mean I become what I think about? I really have defensive walls right now? Do you think I want to be here? 

I just kept listening to it because sometimes the hardest things to hear are the things that we need to hear the most. Yes, I was being bullied and I was in a dark place. Yes, there were things I was being bullied about that I couldn't change about myself, but I did have that little bit of control still, didn't I? When I was choosing not to act on it because I was focusing externally and not internally. 

Once I switch that around and focused really internally like okay, Danyal, this is happening but where do you actually want to go? What do you want to be in five or ten years? Do you still want to be where you are right now? No. So you keep listening to it. I started saying, You know what? Maybe I do want to make lasagna. I will get the ingredients. I will read the books. I will talk to the necessary people. 

Gradually, it happens like that. Nothing happens overnight, but if you make the necessary moves, the necessary steps, take the necessary precautions and routes. I've said this before as well, birds of a feather flock together. Meet people that want to go where you want to go. Be around people that really want to inspire you and want to look at your well-being, because that will really drive your motivation forward. 

There is no point in me saying I want to be at this point in the next few years but right now, I am here, which is okay. From A to B, have goals, and I know where you are right now, but make the move to go there. Don't stay where you are.

Brendan: Who's most inspiring you on this journey so far? Who's that person that's most inspiring you?

Danyal: I have mentors. I have a lot of people and I want to say their names because I think it's important to really acknowledge the people that we stood on their shoulders and that have elevated us. Chris Hall has been the mentor from [...] a massive, massive help for me. During school time, actually, while I was at school, he would invite me to these business events and these leadership events. I will just go okay, after school, I got to make it here because this is important. 

I didn't know it completely at the time, but you sit in these things and you just soak up things. You just soak up the information. You don't process it all, of course, but like everything else, it gradually comes in and goes all right, you know what? This does make sense. This is what we've spoken about. This is what this person spoke about. 

My parents, of course, mom and dad, have been a huge huge elevator for me. They have been my motivators and I don't get to tell them enough. Thank you so much.

Brendan: We'll cut this clip out numerous times and send it to them, shall we?

Danyal: I think they'll put this on their ringtone or something

Brendan: Awesome. Sounds fantastic, mate. In regards to your mom or dad then, they must be fantastic people I'm absolutely sure. What were their driver for taking you and I think other brothers and sisters out from Sudan to Australia?

Danyal: Just a better life, I think because my auntie and grandma were living here already as well in Australia. They were looking for opportunities for us to really spark, and they felt that Sudan is not the right place for that. Egypt is kind of, but not the right place for that, so they came here. I am so grateful they did because I wouldn't have met and done all those things because it's opportunity-based.

Brendan: You mentioned one of your mentors, Chris, and I'll get you to mention a couple of others, but just in regards to that. What did Chris see in you? Why is he taking the time to work with you, help develop you, and mentor Danyal Diallo?

Danyal: He told me himself. He sees himself in me. When he was my age, he was driven, and he did a lot as well. He showed me his material. He really taught me the principle of think big, start small, move fast. It's good to have big goals. It's good. Have them as your map. Also, don't forget to narrow it down and say okay, what do we need to get done today, tomorrow, and the next day? 

I could tell you right now and I could speak to you right now about goal setting, the steps to do it and stuff like that, but I think that comes secondary. The important thing is to really listen to the voices in our heads. Why do you think you can't do it? What made you believe that you can do it? Why? If not you, who? Who can do that thing? You can and it's okay to fail. Hesitation killed more dreams than failure ever did because you have a goal and you go, okay, I'm going to relax on it. I'm going to just see it out, plan it out. 

I've interviewed Holocaust survivors. I've interviewed Stolen Generation members. I've interviewed singers and artists who have had those same moments. I've met people so talented that I was like keep going, but fear is stopping them. They don't say it out loud, of course, it's fear. They just say I'm not in it right now. If not now, when then? You tell me you're not in it right now, then tomorrow I asked you the same thing. I'm not in it right now. The next day, I'm not in it right now. 

There is no right time to actually go for your dreams. The right time was yesterday, the next best right time is today. You have to really take the opportunity, take initiative to go for it. Of course, you'll fail. I expect you to fail. It's okay to fail because you're learning. You didn't know before, but now you do. Now you can try better. 

When you meet people, people that see that, see you heading in a particular direction and they want to help you, all of a sudden you wonder why does this person want to help me so much? Because they see and they feel your energy and they say you know what? This person going somewhere. You basically said that at the start. Why did you give me a chance? Because you see something.

Brendan: Absolutely. You mentioned that you had various mentors, who are the other ones that you want to mention and why do you think it's important to have multiple mentors for you?

Danyal: The other mentor is Shelly Flett. She is the author of The Dynamic Leader and she has been a huge, huge mentor for me. Even in times of just me wondering, okay, I’m at this cross end of my life, where do I go next? Where should I go? 

Nobody can make decisions for you. You can make decisions for yourself. The only thing that you only do is you can allow them to influence you. but at the end of the day, it's your choice, it's your decision. You have to call the shots. 

Having people around you that have been in those situations before or are going through that or going towards that goal. If you ask them, they would have a better understanding of where you're at right now than if you ask somebody that is not in the right field or not interested in where you're going. 

That's why I think it's very, very important to have mentors in your life and have multiple mentors because then you don't just get one perspective. One perspective is one scenario. Multiple people are multiple scenarios. Then you can gauge and understand where to actually go on, an indication of what the right decision or right call is at that point in time.

Brendan: I want to ask you about the phrase on your LinkedIn profile and what you use, enjoy the journey. I don't think you've used the word that I've heard in the interview so far, but that phrase—enjoy the journey—why is that important to you?

Danyal: That's good. I'm glad you asked that. You've done some good research right there. While I was getting out of the defensive mode, I became very focused on the next thing. Let's do this, let's go to this event. Next event, let's speak, let's aspire, and let's do this. It became just work, work, work, work, that's all it was. I didn't really enjoy it. I was good at it. I loved it but I wasn't enjoying it. It wasn't really inspiring me anymore because I lost that spark, that enjoyment out of it, and learning to get the politics away from it. 

As you can tell, once you get on the stage, there is the mic check, there are people expecting you to deliver, and that's all well and done. But are you enjoying it? Are you enjoying the process? Part of that is people choosing a path that is not really for them and they don't really get to talk to themselves about are you really enjoying the journey? Did somebody pick this up for you? Did you see somebody else go through this and you were going with them just because they were going? Are you enjoying the journey? 

It's one thing to be doing amazing things, to be great at doing those things. It's one thing to excel at them. But are you enjoying it? You only get one life. Are you enjoying it? Do you want to be later on 80, 90, 100 (hopefully), and look back into your life and say, you know what? I've done a lot, but I didn't really find much joy in it. That to me is the scary part. That to me is life wasted. Did you enjoy it? Are you enjoying life so far? If not, what are the necessary steps that you need to take to change that?

Brendan: Let's go to the end of that journey, Danyal. Let's say you've reached 100. You've made it to just over 100, you've got your letter from the Queen, the Prime Minister, and all sorts of people that you get when you're 100, but your journey has ended. Danyal is in the box and you're looking back at yourself in this out-of-life thing. What do you hope to have achieved? What sort of impact did you want to have on the world?

Danyal: There is a message on my Facebook page right now, of a lady a few years ago who was going through chemo for cancer. While I was speaking, she was letting me know hey, Danyal, your stuff is great. You inspire the world. I want you to keep going. May God bless you.

Brendan: Is the lady you did the ride for? 

Danyal: No, I don't speak about this at all because this is the internal thing. This lady was going through chemo and she was sending me messages—hey, keep going. You inspire the world. At the time, I didn't know she was going through chemo, she had cancer, and she was just sending me these. I was like thank you, just another person sending me a message telling me to keep going. Then she sent one really long one where it says you've inspired me. You've helped me through this cancer journey. 

Then a few days later, I got another message from a friend saying she passed away. You can't dismiss that. You can't just dismiss that. The impact you make, you don't necessarily see it sometimes. It's like putting seed in the garden and then moving away from that garden, moving far away from that garden. You don't know. It's like, think of a circle, you're in the circle, think of a bigger circle inside that circle, and that circle is inside a bigger circle. It just branches out. 

When you speak, your voice and your message just go off. People that are listening might not tell you they're listening, but they're listening and they're thinking about what you're saying. They're watching you and they're saying, hey, this person has been going on for a while. He's been going on for a while about this. Maybe I should listen, maybe I should take that on, maybe I should take the necessary steps. 

That's why I'm so driven to really maintain this pace and maintain spark because I want to live truth to truth, so help me God. It's like the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help me God. I don't really want to feel regret and I speak about regret a bit. You felt regret before Brendan, haven’t you?

Brendan: Absolutely. 

Danyal: Absolutely, and it stings. Imagine feeling regret at an older age where you (I guess) can't move anymore, can change things. That's going to stick around.

Brendan: With that frame of regret, what regret do you have around that experience you shared with the bullying and people calling you limpy?

Danyal: I regret (I guess) holding on to it for so long, having it impact me for so long, because it is wasted time. I don't like to say it's like the grieving process. When you get out of it, you get out of it. There is no rush. The sooner you do it, of course, the better. And it's made better by the people around us.

When I interviewed William Harvey, a holocaust survivor—this guy survived three holocausts—talking to him, just sitting around him—he was turning 97—and asking him, how were you so upbeat about this when you deliver the message? Why don't you feel resentment? Why don't you feel anger?

These people came into your home, stole everything, took you and your family, separated you. He was telling me the story of how he stood in line with the sticker and the shaved head and just was going two separate lines. I was like, how do you feel joy after going through that? He said, you can't hold on to that. It's that poison, absolutely like poison.


Brendan: Taking that conversation into your own life and taking action on it may have just alluded to—I'm not sure, I want to get some clarity around this—if you could take one thing from that conversation with William and to help improve yourself on impacting on your journey, which is then impacting on others as you explained, what would that one thing be?

Danyal: It would be to just have an open mind. When you're in a situation and you're in the situation, it's easy to just be closed off and say, this is all that it is, this is the world that I'm living in now. But if you start to reframe your mind to a position where it's opened, it allows other people to come in, and other ideas to come in, and other thoughts to come in as well.

It's just coming back to that lasagna thing. You open up your mind and to really affect you in a way that you'd never thought was possible in that situation. That's the main thing that I took out of that conversation. 

He just said, I don't hold on to hate. I don't hold on to resentment, not because I am some superhero that doesn't get affected by it. We all get affected by it. It's okay when we get affected by it. Looking to resolve that gradually in the long run is the situation that we should be heading towards, looking to resolve it. It might not get resolved straightaway. No one's an overnight success. I know you've heard about the overnight successors, right?

Brendan: Is there no such thing?

Danyal: I just laugh. I laugh every time. I had an interview a while back with a student from Monash University, who has gone towards her medical degree and she's finished it. I was like, fantastic. What's happening? Why are you here? She said, I don't think I want to do that anymore. I don't think it's my purpose.

What do we get told? Find your purpose and stick to it. Stick to it. Hold on to dear life to it. Your purpose isn't your morals. Your purpose is the thing that you want to do. That might change over time. It will change because you discover new things, you meet new people, and you go to new places.

You grow, you learn, so your purpose sort of shifts. I wanted to be a soccer player when I was younger. Now I'm a public speaker. Now I work in the Department of Health. Now I help out of the church. Now my mom, now my dad.

It's these little things that we've put on ourselves that we have to do this in the right, correct way. You don't. Just take it easy. Relax, but at the same time, head towards a better resolution being talking to yourself. Am I okay right now? Am I enjoying the journey? Because if not, that's something to look into.

Brendan: For clarity's sake then, what is Danyal Diallo's current purpose?

Danyal: This version of Danyal, his purpose is to help out the community while being invested into the arts. I don't know if you saw some of the stand-up comedies that I do.

Brendan: I might have. Several.

Danyal: Public speaking is different to stand-up comedy in the wider sense. Even though you're standing on stage both times and you're holding the mic both times, the expectation is different. In public speaking, you have a message in your head. The audience is there to really take on that message and be impacted in some way, shape, or form.

In comedy, the audience is there primarily to laugh. When they sit down, they're like, all right, make me laugh. I want to laugh. This is it. Tell a joke right now. It's a bit like, oh, my goodness, okay, now I have to say something funny, I have to say something good.

I wasn't sure that I could do that. You know why? Because I don't think I'm that good. I don't think I want to make lasagna. I don't want to. But hearing that inner voice, I was like, you know what? We're doing it. Just because of that, we're doing it and we're seeing the outcome of it.

Write a set. Just start being around comedians. Start looking for the chefs. Get the right tools. What do you need? Read the books, do the work.

The first time on stage, hey, this is all right, this is not bad. The second time on stage, hey, I'm good at this. Third time on stage, hey, I'm enjoying this, oh, my goodness. It just progresses on from there.

You got to do the work after you find out, do you want to do this? Please, please, please, I always forget to say this always. Evaluate at every point, whether you're enjoying it. If you're not enjoying it, stop it immediately.

Brendan: Why was stand-up comedy a challenge that you wanted to overcome?

Danyal: Knowing my background, I take things sometimes quite literally and too seriously. I wanted to challenge that. I can be funny. Why can you be funny, Danyal? Because I want to be funny.

That's a skill set that I think I can master. I don't think I have done it yet, so just keep going forward. Keep progressing forward meeting new people who advance those skill sets. Have you tried stand-up comedy?

Brendan: I haven't personally, although I am involved in Toastmasters. We do a short section called Funny Bones. I challenge myself from time to time to do it, but definitely not enough, which is why I'm asking the question, why did you sort of want to take up and overcome that challenge?

Danyal: Because I was already a public speaker, represented as well. But I ask, what else? What else? What else is there? I'm on stage most of the time and holding the mic, talking to the people, inspiring them. By the end, they go, oh, my goodness, well done, and then I walk off the stage.

What else do I want? I started making mini skits in the public speaking that I do. Then I was like, you know what? How about I do one just all skits? How would that go? That changes the art form, doesn't it? It changes slightly from public speaking to comedy, and then I just held on to that and kept going.

If I'm in a field, I want the subsections of it as well. Standing up and public speaking is great, but it's more motivational leadership, corporate hybrid. But when you change it to comedy and add comedy to it, it changes the art form. I want to be not just a master of public speaking, but a master of the subsections of it.

Brendan: Now I understand. Watching some of the stand-up comedy that you've done, again, it was really interesting to me because I watched a number of sets and there was a number of similarities. It was easy for me not being an expert in comedy at all but to see where you've started and then sort of getting to.

Even through that journey, the audience, you can tell joke X one night and you get a pretty decent reaction. Then you can tell joke X another night, different audience, and it doesn't hit the mark. How do you cope with that? How do you balance that out whilst you're on stage, because this is live stuff?

Danyal: In public speaking, normally, when you say something, a message, and people go, yeah, that's right, that's true, that is very spot on, that's where I'm at right now in my life, you'd learn to keep that in the speaking. You learn to, okay, this is good, this resonates with people. You keep it on for the next public speaking gigs.

For comedy, it's on the spot. If I say something that's not funny and I just get quiet, I either go, oh, my goodness, tough crowd? Oh, my goodness. And then I make light of that, because I can't really move on to say this joke, and then that joke, and then that joke, and then that joke. It has to flow in a way that makes it more of a conversation.

It's difficult, for sure. That's why (I guess) not many venture into it because it is very scary when you're onstage and expecting people to laugh at your stuff. But then nobody laughs and then you're like, ah, man, this sucks. I spent so much time on this. I put work into this. That's the failing part, isn't it? That is the failing part. 

I love the journey, that's why I'm still in it. I'm like, okay, this works. One joke that might work here in this venue might not work in this venue, so you're like, huh, why? Full house laughed here, so why didn't they laugh there? And you just delve into that.

Part of that is just asking, hey, even when they don't laugh onstage, live on stage, you say a joke and nobody laughs, you just point to the audience. Hey, I felt like you should have laughed. That generally gets a laugh from the majority. That's just being really good at improvisation and thinking on the spot.

Brendan: Improv, definitely a great skill to have. I can see where that's in a comedy really helps to accelerate that. It goes back to before. You mentioned that evaluating process or always evaluating. To me, I don't think there's much better than stand-up comedy. You're getting that instant feedback, so you're able to evaluate that in the moment. Once again, you're putting yourself out there. You're actually doing stuff. There are no excuses. You're not scared to try stuff.

One of the things I need to ask you, though, because this appealed to my weird sense of humor to some point, but you talked about hating small talk on set. You go on, why don't people just come out? You said, hey, [...] Yeah, I'm well and all this sort of stuff.

You said, hey, if you're a witness protection, what name would you choose? That was quite funny to me at that moment, but now I'm interested to know. If you were in witness protection, what name would you choose and why?

Danyal: My name, it would constantly change. The reason being is to keep people guessing. What is his actual name? That would be my answer.

Brendan: What would you start with?

Danyal: I would start with something mundane, like Darrell or David, and then go into Randy or something. It just keeps constantly changing. That set I did was on small talk. I get not bored, but it's more just conversations. I feel it should be interesting at times.

It's good for me to say, hey, Brendan, how are you? You say, good. You ask me the same thing, good as well. Awesome, fantastic. What did you do this week? What was your highlight this week? Where's this place that you can recommend?

I'm looking to do this. Can you say something about it? It's more just ebb and flow rather because we're so stuck on, hey, how are you? Good, good. That's it, that's where we stop. It's more just making a conversation.

Really invest in the person that you're in. Converse [...] talking to. Invest in them because they definitely know something that you don't. It's a learning experience once you really invest in them. I feel that the, hey, how are you? Good, fine. Dandy. Talk is just to keep people just there.

Brendan: Certainly, anyone interested in going to your Facebook page—we'll put all the contact details in our show notes anyway—check out some of the videos you're doing, some of the sets. Again, there are some good laughs there. Well done, mate, on what you're doing there.

I want to go on to breaking down stereotypes because that was the title of the TEDx talk that you did in TEDx Casey. Once again, congratulations on that process and getting an opportunity to do that. It was a really fantastic talk. I found it really good. Breaking down stereotypes. What stereotypes are you breaking down?

Danyal: Breaking down stereotypes. That topic was dear to my heart. It still is. It's more multiculturalism in Australia and the integration process of it all. I didn't mention this, but it was with the education system at the time as well. And the media.

At the time, the media was reporting a Sudanese man, Sudanese boys, Sudanese gangs, robbing, stealing, doing this. There was no other side to the story. Sudanese man, Sudanese boy, Sudanese groups have started these initiatives, have sparked creativity. There was only that one negative side. I couldn't stand it because I have little siblings that will grow up in this world. I didn't want them to see, is this it? Is this all that was recorded about us?

I want to be that positive aspect of, okay, these guys are doing this, but this guy is doing this as well. It's more of that balance. The reporting of it was one big part. That was the part that I wanted to break down.

Brendan: How do you feel you're progressing on that journey?

Danyal: So far, based on the people I've met, based on the amount of work, (I guess) it's that garden and the seed again. I can only do so much and I can only speak so much. But at the end of the day, I'm giving out messages. I am telling people, you've got this. You are a beautiful human being. Don't let people, really anybody, tell you otherwise.

For me, I struggle when somebody has a goal in life and somebody else comes and shuts that goal down without them having to try it on. Because then, I'm sitting here wondering, why didn't that person progress forward or they go anyway? Why did they listen to that?

I feel that in the African community, there's a lot of passion. There's a lot of creativity. There's a lot of joy to be had. We are right now still very, very stagnant, still very hesitant, and moving forward. It's just, keep on going.

Part of that is my work in multicultural youth support services. I worked there for a bit. A part of that is just working to help out the African community in the education system, as well with their homework, so they can actually finish it well or they finish schooling to a standard grading.

It is hard, Brendan, because let's say a 13-year-old spoke English his whole life and knows the system backwards and forwards. Still learning, of course, but spoken for his all life. Then we get somebody else that has never spoken English before. You put them in the same year level. Expect them to do the same amount of work in the same amount of time. What's the expected result?

How do you expect a person to cope like that? It's completely a cultural shock, a system shock. Getting support for those people that have come from different places—because we're all from different places—that haven't spoken the language before or experienced the culture, that was the work where I felt that I was being more impactful as well. So, seed again. Seeds.

Brendan: A big part of leadership in my books is about elevating others and setting others up for success. You've just sort of linked to that in my mind. Moving forward in this life from now, 19 years of age through to that 100+ mark that we're going to get to, how do you help elevate others? What do you do? What will you do to help elevate others?

Danyal: First and foremost, the most important thing for me is to stay true to myself. Part of the reason I like public speaking as well, is if you come up and speak, and you say something that is hip and cool so others could like you, people will pick that up, because it's not authentic. It's not you. Staying honest to yourself, others will see that. You will automatically radiate, because you're speaking your language. You're comfortable in your skin.

Others will feel that and they will really want to know more and really get into it as well, so to speak. Just staying authentic to yourself is the thing that I'm planning to do. Because then from there, anything I say and every step I take, it's with purpose. I'm meaning to do it. Even if I missed that, it's going to happen a lot.

I will redirect myself and I'll be honest about my mistakes. I'm not ashamed of it. Being honest to myself first is the first step. Just to speak as well about somebody that I forgot to speak about, and I know I'm going to get hurt later on for not speaking about this person, is the Bible, Jesus.

Honestly, I don't know where I would be right now without His help. As I said before, I do stuff at the church right now, the community events we're planning and stuff like that. It’s thank you to Him. At times where I was down, at times where I was very much confused, I just asked, hey, where do you want me to go right now? Where do you feel I need to be?

We have this habit of asking questions and not listening for answers. I'm asking you lots of questions. Oh, my goodness, Brendan, answer me this, and toddlers love this. Answer this, answer that, answer this. But are we listening for the answers? Are we taking on the answers? And are we moving accordingly?

That's what worked for me. I don't know about you. I can't speak for you. That's the honesty part. But I know that what's worked for me is that Jesus—I say His name—and that I am authentic to myself, honest to myself. I guess it shows in the stuff I do. That's where I'm hoping to keep moving towards. Because once I lose touch with myself, that's it. I've lost, why am I doing this? Who am I doing this for?

Brendan: A friend of mine runs a business. Her name is Julie Watson and her business is called Stronger Than My Excuses. I thought of her and what she does when I was learning and researching more about what you do.

One of the things she talks about a lot is being positive versus being confident. Choose to be positive, but not confident. She's learned that positivity doesn't take you places, confidence takes you places.

You've got confidence, there's no doubt, which is fantastic. There's not an air of arrogance. It's just a strong self-confidence there. How has faith and your belief helped you in developing confidence, if at all?

Danyal: It has, significantly. For me, coming to terms with it was the thing I avoided because my parents are Christians as well. I was going younger, going to church, getting dressed, hearing the pastor speak and like, when is this ending so I can go to lunch, go meet my friends? I didn't really care much about it. But then when life hits you, you tend to see things differently.

What I mean by that is I've been a youth leader at churches, by the way. The point where I was at the moment was that defensive aspect and learning to really open up to others. I'm not trying to preach to you guys, but Jesus came here to die for your sins.

He didn't die in vain. He didn't die so we can live in shame. He didn't die so we can live in arrogance, so to speak. He didn't die so you can still be chained up. When you move, move with purpose, because somebody loves you.

You're made in His image. That's what the scripture says. We're all made in His image. You don't need others' validation to make you happy, because somebody already loves you. Why would you bother?

Just knowing that is one thing, but really experiencing it is another. I have been blessed enough to really know Him from a young age because of my parents, but really experience Him at a later stage, and still now.

Brendan: Thanks for sharing that, mate. Again, I guess the thing I want to speak broadly around really briefly is that a big part of leadership in the work that I'm doing. My humble understanding of leadership is actually just being clear on what you stand for, your beliefs, and your values.

Whether that's faith-driven, whether that's sort of other things driven, but just having that clarity. For you, at such a young age at 19, I certainly didn't have that level of direction at that age. Once again, well done on what you're doing and how certain things are helping to drive you forward.

I know we've got to be, again, conscious of time for you. I just want to start to move down the closing up path. I'm really interested in what you have to say here about leadership impact. What or who has had the greatest impact on your 19-year leadership journey at the moment?

Danyal: Leadership is the buzzword at the moment. I'm a leader. I've done this, this, this, this, so I'm a leader. But what about the mom? What about the dad? They're leading. What about the small business owner? What about your friend next door? They're leaders, right?

They might not be an out-there leader, but they are leading in their own way. The best definition I've ever found of leadership is that leadership is the ability and the willingness to influence others towards a goal. When I get up there and I speak, getting others to follow me is not really my aim or my goal, nor do I want that.

I don't really want that, but I do want them to take on what I have to say. Consider it to a certain extent, apply it to their life, and just try it. See if it works. Awesome, great. If it doesn't, Danyal's full of crap and he was lying to me all this time.

If I can ask you, who in the Bible wanted to be a leader? Nobody. When Moses is picked to lead his people out of Egypt, what did he say to God? He's like, hey, I don't want to. Could you imagine if you're talking to God for a minute, just speaking to God is like, hey, you got to do this. He gives you instructions, do it. No, I don't want to.

He goes, oh, okay, I told you to do it. I don't want to. I'm a stutter. That's one of his excuses. His excuse was, I stutter. I'm not good in communications. I can't really inspire people to do things. That was his excuse.

He was left in that box of what's limiting to him, not knowing that his creator was actually above. He knows best. He knows him. The scripture says God knows you before you were born. He's here making excuses. God's calling him for a greater purpose to lead people out of Egypt, out of the pharaoh's capture.

He said, you know what, I can't do it. Call my brother. Get somebody else instead. Why am I being called to this? Get somebody else. God told him, hey, I know that you are like this. I accept you. It's okay. As the story goes, he let the people out of Egypt.

Those initial conversations that we have with ourselves, firstly, when we have a goal, when we have a purpose in mind. Those thought points, where, okay, I've got an idea, but I don't think I can do it, so I'm not going to do it, because I think it's going to fail. I don't think anybody would care. I don't think I can really influence people. I don't think I'm a leader. I think I'm just making a fool of myself. I don't think I'm really worth it. 

Moving forward, you start to shrink yourself even more. But if you say, okay, I've got this, I'm going to try this, and I know I'm not going to influence a lot of the people, but I can influence the person next door. I can influence my friend.

Instead of going to parties every night and every day, and really wondering on Monday, oh, my goodness, I've got nothing in my bank account, why don't you start to go out less? Really influence your friends as well saying, you know what? Hey, how about we meet at my place today or meet at your place, instead of going out? How about we go to the gym today, instead of really going out to parties?

How about we start reading books? How about we meet people? How about we go to the seminar? How about we go to this webinar? Start small. You're super impactful. Start small. You're thinking too big. Start small. Gradually, it will grow.

I keep saying and I keep telling people this. I know I'm not going to make it immediately. It's never going to happen. Let go of that, but I will make it absolutely and definitely.

Brendan: I like it, mate, this growing the greatness within you, and the confidence around growing the greatness, and taking the action and the steps to grow that greatness. It's fantastic to see. I look forward to seeing what that journey brings and the enjoyment that the journey brings you.

Danyal: Can you tell? Look at this. When I speak, if I don't feel it, it's not me. I'm getting really emotional right now because I'm like, oh, my goodness.

Brendan: I certainly see that, mate. Maybe let me lighten the mood for you a little bit because I wonder, why does this such young man come from not sleeping with a pillow? Because apparently, that's a weird thing about you.

Danyal: No, it does. I've heard of that before.

Brendan: Do you sleep with a pillow now or you still don't like sleeping with a pillow?

Danyal: I never used to like it. It just felt weird. The neck and head were elevated. It gets hot as well and I was like, you know what, just get rid of the pillow. But now I do.

Brendan: Good on you, mate. I don't know how I could sleep without a pillow, to be honest.

Danyal: I don't know how you know that.

Brendan: Well, it was mentioned on a podcast you did some time back. I watched it and it appealed to me. I thought if the opportunity came up, why not raise it?

Danyal: Yeah, good. Good thing you raised it.

Brendan: A massive thank you for coming on The Culture of Things podcast. Once again, your wisdom is beyond your years, definitely. Again, if it is about not sleeping with a pillow, then I think I need to start not sleeping with a pillow. That will help me a lot.

As I said before, I really, really look forward to seeing this journey you're on. Hopefully, we'll get to meet face to face at some point. Watching you and seeing you grow this greatness and having the confidence to develop this greatness within you, which I know you've said it before in your talk and some of the podcasts you've done, is it's within everybody.

It's within our unique greatness within each of us. Having the confidence to do that, to grow that, develop it, and to take steps, and to put excuses behind you. Once again, mate, thanks for being a guest on The Culture of Things podcast. I appreciate you very much.

Danyal: Thank you so much for having me.

Brendan: Leadership is the ability and willingness to influence others towards a goal. This is the definition of leadership that most resonates with Danyal. Given his involvement as a youth leader, his focus on mastering the many aspects of public speaking and his journey to break down stereotypes about the Sudanese community, I would say he's doing everything he can to live out his preferred definition of leadership. As he mentioned, he won't make it immediately, but he will make it eventually.

These were my three key takeaways from my conversation with Danyal. My first key takeaway, leaders try new things. They don't let fear hold them back from learning something new. If they want to learn something, they understand there's a process involved to learn it. And there is another level of discipline needed if they want to master it. Either way, having the courage to overcome any fear of learning something is how the best leaders try new things.

My second key takeaway, leaders understand the value of mentors. They know that great mentors will provide guidance and emotional support. A great mentor will also provide motivation to help you achieve and is a role model to look up to. Surround yourself with the right people who inspire you and who are in the environment you want to get to. If you have this mentorship in place, you are a leader who understands the value of mentors.

My third key takeaway, leaders enjoy the journey. If you're on a path that isn't for you, make a choice. Either choose to enjoy it or choose to leave and do something you will enjoy. Don't choose to live with regret. Life's too short for that. Find something you'll enjoy and take the steps to make it happen. Leaders make the choice to enjoy the journey. 

In summary, my three key takeaways were, leaders try new things, leaders understand the value of mentors, and leaders enjoy the journey.

If you want to talk culture, leadership, or teamwork, or have any questions or feedback about the episode, leave me a comment on the socials or you can leave me a voice message at thecultureofthings.com. Thanks for joining me. Remember, the best outcome is on the other side of a genuine conversation.


Outtro (music): Thank you for listening to The Culture of Things podcast with Brendan Rogers. Please visit thecultureofleadership.com to access the show notes. If you love The Culture of Things podcast, please subscribe, rate and give a review on Apple podcasts and remember a healthy culture is your competitive advantage.