5min reading time

Face into your fears

An AFLW Inspire Story

Danielle Di-Masi

Marketing and Communications Strategist, University Lecturer, Keynote Speaker

 

It was New Year's Eve 2014 and a bunch of friends were asking each other what they wanted to achieve in the coming year. Danielle Di-Masi thought for a few minutes before finally announcing, 'I want to meet the Dalai Lama!' Her friends first laughed at the big goal but then quickly realised that if anyone could pull off getting to meet one of the world's most popular leaders, it would be Danielle.

 

Over the next few months, she researched His Holiness the Dalai Lama's interests and discovered he was very concerned about the issue of young people being bullied online. Coincidentally, so was she. As a digital behaviour expert looking at the ways in which people can empower themselves and avoid falling prey to online trolls and bullies, Danielle contacted his office and had a series of exchanges about how youngsters could be helped.

Then in June 2015, she received a late night email from one of the Dalai Lama's staff, saying the Nobel Prize winner would be in Brisbane the next morning, asking if she would meet him there. 'I was actually on holiday at the time with my sister in Coffs Harbour and only had a few swimming things and no proper clothes with me,' she says.

'So I went straight to the only shop in the area still open at night – Target – and bought a dress and some shoes. Then I went to bed and got up at 2 am the next morning to drive the five hours to Brisbane. I got dressed in the restroom at the venue. It was so worth it; I watched the Dalai Lama speak to 5000 people first, then had my meeting with him. He was such an impressive, inspiring person, and told me I was doing very important work about keeping moving humanity forward while we spend more time online and that I should keep talking about it.

I kept my faith all the time, even if it meant I had to keep finding other ways to reach my goal.

'That meeting was something I passionately wanted to have, so I thought about how I could make it happen, then I focused on making it happen and I never gave up. I kept my faith all the time, even if it meant I had to keep finding other ways to reach my goal.'

That's an approach Danielle, 35, has employed time and time again to make the seemingly impossible, possible. At the high school she went to, it wasn't cool to be smart, and people would laugh at the students who did homework. But Danielle thought this was crazy, and being a naturally curious person, she studied hard in her own time, even taking extra classes later. As a result, she enjoyed a corporate career in investment banking before carving out a whole new career in the world of technology, innovation and human behaviour. Today she lectures at university about how to use social media in professional careers and how to be a digital leader. She's about to graduate with her MBA (Masters of Business Administration), and is listed among the top 20 business keynote speakers in Australia.

'It wasn't always easy to reach the goals I set. Like most people, I've sometimes doubted myself or I'd hear that voice saying, "You're not good enough, you can't do this, this won't work",' says Danielle, who won Woman of the Year in the Asia Pacific Stevie Awards in 2014, their Innovator of the Year and Female Entrepreneur of the Year both in 2015, and the Most Innovative Communications Professional of the Year in 2016. 'But I'd just say to my brain, "Yes, I hear you, but now we are going to figure out how to do this, and then do it and keep doing it."

'That's a favourite part of what I do now; helping young people understand that sometimes we all get scared we can't do something, but you have to face into the fears and prove those silly thoughts wrong. Many of the young people I teach have grown up with technology and social media and sometimes they're not aware of the unconscious patterns that can take over their lives. They don't realise that the number of Likes they get on Facebook doesn't determine their worth.

'So if young people are being bullied online, I encourage them to trust themselves, and take control of the problem. If we take back control then we can each start to narrate our own stories.'

Danielle's certainly learnt to do that time and time again. She was watching morning TV a while ago, and was enthralled by some of the guests who came on to talk about their passions in life. She immediately contacted those shows and asked if she could be auditioned. She ended up with regular gigs on Network Ten's morning shows over the years. 'I was inspired,' she says, 'and I wanted to share my passions, thinking maybe I could do the same by inspiring others.'

For Danielle, it's also important to think about how you can do something special for other people in the world. In 2012, she won a CBA business blogger award and the prize was a $10,000 trip to Africa. But she wanted to do more than simply be a tourist on the trip. So she decided to donate 1200 books to an Australian-run orphanage in Kenya. But first she made history. She got all the students and teachers at a Sydney school involved, and created a new Guinness World Record for the most books – 998 – balanced on people's heads. Then she arranged courier company Aramex to generously sponsor delivery of 300 kilograms of books.

For me it’s abouthaving a cool, positive attitude about what you want to do and fighting to get it done.

'It was enough books to fill their brand new library,' she says. 'It was life-changing for so many of those kids. And it came about just because I wanted to think differently, outside the square. For me it's about having a cool, positive attitude about what you want to do and fighting to get it done. It's that simple: be good, do good, be human.'

 

Believe in the Dream Collection by

Sue Williams

Sue Williams is an award-winning journalist and columnist who's written for all of Australia's leading newspapers and magazines. She also appears regularly on TV and on radio, and has had her own TV segment on SBS TV's popular Hotline program. Born in England, she has worked in print and TV in the UK and New Zealand, too.