We had the good fortune of connecting with Dr. Danny Brassell and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Dr. Danny, what is the most important factor behind your success?
Persistence. Never giving up. It took several years for my company to improve our product, market more efficiently and reach the right people. Finally, all of our hard work is paying off. But we would have come away with nothing if we had given up. Former President Calvin Coolidge said it best: “Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan ‘Press On’ has solved and will always solve the problems of the human race.”
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
Nothing excites me more than seeing the sparkle in a person’s eye when they learn something. Over the past 25 years I have taught all ages – from preschoolers to rocket scientists, in classrooms and boardrooms – around the world, and I am still thrilled to ignite a spark in people’s enthusiasm for learning. While others may collect trading cards or stamps, I have always collected stories. I’ve always had a knack for remembering jokes and tales, thanks to my Irish heritage. I’m probably proudest when I convince people to believe in themselves and see the treasure that is inside of them. Everyone has it, yet so few recognize it (largely due to the negative noise they expose themselves to every day). Nobody’s journey is easy. Everyone experiences trials and tribulations, and I am no different. I’ve made tons of mistakes, but I hope I have learned from them. I’m still learning. Famed UCLA basketball coach John Wooden wisely said, “It’s what you learn after you know it all that counts.” I began my career as a journalist and “fell” into education for the noblest of reasons: the high pay. I discovered I could earn more teaching in the inner city than I made as a field reporter. That turned out to be a life-changing decision, as I soon discovered I loved teaching – all ages! In education I have worked as a tutor, an administrator, a professor and researcher, but I have always considered myself first and foremost, a teacher. While I hated reading as a child, my early experiences as an inner-city teacher humbled me. I quickly realized that I had grown up with both my parents in the home. My parents always read in front of and to my siblings and I, and we always had plenty of access to reading materials in our home. Some of my students had so little and grew up with so many negative forces around them, that I discovered my life’s calling: bringing “joy” back into education and the workplace. Every person is different, and yet we insist on creating systems that create “herd mentalities.” What works for one does not necessarily work for all, and the job of a good teacher is to discover what makes each individual tick. We all have something. Sometimes I discover it at the beginning of a school year, and sometimes it takes until April. Working with plenty of corporations and small business owners, it always amazes me how people can work alongside one another for years without really “knowing” anything about one another. A night of bowling often reveals more about an employee than 23 interviews and meetings. When my business partner, Nestor Santtia, and I created our company five years ago, we wanted to help families help their kids succeed. To me, the best way to do that is to get kids excited about reading. Most schools teach kids “how” to read, but what good is that if they never “want” to read. I teach kids “why” to read so that they will do it for a lifetime, not as a chore. Reading is the key to all success in school, and I challenge anyone to offer me many examples of successful leaders in any walks of life that are not also avid readers. I’ve never had to tell a kid to watch TV. I’ve never had to tell a kid to play a video game. And I never want to have to tell a kid to go read a book. I want to ignite a passion in kids to love reading so much that they make it an unconscious part of each day – a habit. Resolutions are temporary. Routines are permanent. I want the world to know that learning success does not have to be hard. It does, however, have to be enjoyable, as human beings only do the things they like. Nobody “chooses” to do something miserable. So why do we force kids to read things they don’t like when research clearly indicates that it doesn’t matter “what” you read; what matters is “how much” you read? It doesn’t matter if you’re reading James Joyce or “James and the Giant Peach:” people who read more read better. Trust me, the little boy who only reads “Captain Underpants” is going to be a better reader than the little boy who doesn’t read anything. “Captain Underpants” is the gateway drug to Shakespeare. We have become so consumed as a society with accountability and standardized tests that we have forgotten the basic premise of education: to spawn curiosity. If people aren’t asking questions, they’re not interested. Silence may be golden in a movie theater, but quiet classrooms are deadly. I want to change that. I want our education system to reflect the 22nd century, not the 18th century. And I am greatly optimistic…if we consider the individual needs of students rather than the group needs of bureaucracy. That’s why we help parents and teachers help kids read MORE, read BETTER and LOVE reading in just over two months. By creating positive daily habits, all students can flourish.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
While others fret about restaurant and bar closures during COVID, I have mourned the loss of trips to our wonderful public libraries and bookstores. Fortunately, the pandemic has allowed a lot more time home with my family, and we still get to go outdoors here. Our area offers an abundance of beautiful hiking and biking trails, and for around $100/year you can invest in a pass that provides you with unlimited access to our great state parks. And just driving in the mountains can relax the most troubled soul.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
My co-founder, Nestor Santtia, constantly inspires me. He is the true American success story, as he arrived in this country from Argentina over 40 years ago with no money, limited “formal” education and unable to speak English. The man works harder than anyone I have ever known, and I have always thought I worked harder than everyone else around me. While I have spent over 15 years traveling the world to motivate audiences, Nestor is the person who motivates me. He constantly pushes me to get better and get comfortable with being uncomfortable. He has helped our company explore avenues I had never considered, and because of him our company serves students, teachers and parents on five continents. Naturally, as someone who is committed to transforming struggling and reluctant readers into more passionate and proficient readers, books have always guided me. I have my parents to thank for that, as my mom reads at least a mystery a day, and my father spent his life as a public librarian. It is ironic that I hated reading growing up, as now I spread the gospel of reading everywhere I go. I have been blessed by wonderful mentors, teachers and friends throughout my life, and my hope is that I can encourage others to make a positive difference in the world. Life is too short to be consumed by negativity. Each of us can impact others’ ordinary lives every day in the most extraordinary ways.
images courtesy of Nestor Santtia