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Home  /  Podcast   /  Personal Development is Key with Dr. Danny Brassell – Episode #40

Cordell speaks with Dr. Danny Brassell, Keynote Speaker and Educational Consultant, about how trainers can engage their audience and focus on personal development. Listeners who visit can enjoy a complimentary copy of Dr. Brassell’s book “Read, Lead & Succeed.” Connect with Dr. Brassell on LinkedIn here.





Announcer: Welcome to Training Unleashed, the show that will help you design and deliver training that’s off the chain and will make a difference. And now, here’s your host, Cordell Riley in this special interview with Dr. Danny Brassell. Let’s hear that conversation now.

Cordell: Dr. Danny, as I’ve been prepping for this interview, I’ve gone out and looked at a lot of your videos and things that you have online and you say a lot of things that I absolutely love. But maybe let’s start off with you just introducing yourself to our audience. Tell everybody a little bit about who you are, what you do, and all of those great things.

Dr. Danny: Well, first of all, Cordell, thank you so much for all the work that you and Evan are doing with this podcast. You’re serving so many people and I feel very honored to be in the company of past interviewees like Patricia Fripp, Jeffrey Gitomer, and Santa Claus. So thank you for inviting me to be part of that.

Cordell: Santa Claus is a tough act to follow, Dr. Danny.

Dr. Danny: Definitely. I had no idea he had so many problems with the elves. I also really want to thank everybody listening to the podcast. People that listen to podcasts are the kind of people I want to be around. There’s nothing worse than being around complacent people and that’s why I love being around readers. I love being around people that are constantly seeking better ways to improve. My background, Cordell. We had a little chance to talk before the interview.

I’m a keynote speaker and a trainer. I primarily speak to education audiences, but I really want to serve your audience today. I know you work with a lot of B2B people on training and things like that. I currently live in Los Angeles. My family is going to be moving to Denver very soon. It’s a killer for me, but my wife and kids want a little bit of a change. And so if I’m going to be a family first guy, I have to walk my talk. I speak to probably about 100 different organizations every single year. I’ve taught all ages from pre-schoolers all the way up to rocket scientists. I can make that claim because I used to teach English as a second language to engineering students at the University of Southern California. And really my passion, Cordell, is really teaching everybody the importance of reading and how to love reading.

And so that’s sort of what I always talk about with people is what reading is, why it matters and how to get people to do it more. And as a thank you to you and all your audiences and to serve you, I’d like to make available to everybody a complimentary copy of my book, “Read, Lead & Succeed.” I’m sure you can put up some kind of connection on the website for it. If people can’t find that, I made a website for it called That’s a short book, you can read it in an hour but it can change your life. And basically, the whole purpose of the book was, I was with an elementary school principal who didn’t know how to engage his faculty. So I said, “Okay, well, let me write you a book.” And so, every week, I provide you with a concept, an inspirational quote, an inspirational story, a book recommendation on a book everybody should read but most of us are lazy because we’re adults.

So I also offer a children’s picture book recommendation so you can read that in five minutes. And really, again, the point is to get people excited about learning through reading. And I’m kind of preaching to the choir because anybody that’s listening to this podcast is definitely interested in how to be more effective in their business and in their life. So thank you so much for having me, Cordell.

Cordell: Those are great points that you touched on. I am going to go back for just a second because this is one of my passions too. One of the things I say when I’m talking with people in business… And again, we are somewhat preaching to the choir, but I think repetition is a good thing when it comes to positive things. I have a saying that says, “Your level of success will rarely exceed your level of personal development.”

Personal development, what are you doing to put back into yourself? You’ve talked about people who listen to things like this. You talked about people that read. I make it a point to read something positive, inspirational every morning before I start my day. Can you just talk about that a little bit more? I think it’s such an important thing to just reiterate with people.

Dr. Danny: Well, you’re doing exactly the right thing. I always tell people you are what you read. So read good stuff. It’s not a bad idea to start and end your day with reading for about 10 minutes. I’ll read something like the Bible or something positive. I avoid newspapers because those tend to be very negative. But really absolutely, you need to be getting people excited about reading. I always tell people the research is really clear on this. It doesn’t matter what you read, what matters is how much you read.

And I’m constantly trying to get people to do just a little bit of leisure reading to improve themselves. Personal development is key. Charlie “Tremendous” Jones used to say, “You’re the same today as you will be in five years except the people you meet and the books that you read.” So I always emphasize to all of my audiences, choose wisely, surround yourself with positive people, and read really good books.

Cordell: You say, “Great teachers care.” What does that mean, and how do you think that’s important to people in the training and education world?

Dr. Danny: Well, it sounds trite because there’s that old saying that, “People won’t…” Gosh, I’m forgetting the saying. I’m sure you know the saying is, “People won’t care what you know until they…” Okay, yeah. It’s, “People won’t care what you know until they know that you care.” I think it’s really important for us to be authentic human beings, especially in this day and age. I see a lot of negativity out there and you and I have the experience of training from coast to coast and internationally.

And I can honestly tell people that, you know, Americans aren’t these extremes that are often portrayed as most Americans are pretty… They have a set of values that’s fairly common, and it’s really important to us as trainers to reach out to people and connect with them in an authentic way. And when people talk to me about, “What’s the best tip you would have for a beginning speaker? I always say, “Well, why don’t you share your failures instead of your successes? Because not everybody in your audience has succeeded but everybody’s failed, and you’re going to be much more human to them when you share the moments in your life that you were very vulnerable.” I was just listening to a great interview with Denis Waitley, who’s a tremendous role model to everybody in the speaking industry. And he talked about his first book on success. He wrote it when he was at the biggest failing point in his life and that cracked me up.

I’m like, “I wonder how many people in our industry can actually agree with that that here we are talking about how to succeed and a lot of us are miserable, are having a tough time.” So in terms of caring, and this comes from my experiences. I was in Inner city teacher in South Central, Los Angeles and I’d be teaching a lesson and then I’d have a seven-year-old kid say, “Oh, my dad got shot this weekend.” And at that moment, I have a decision to make. Do I continue with my planned lesson, or do I take a moment and let’s address this? And I always chose to address this because I thought that was important.

And, you know, it’s interesting. I’d seen this in customer service. A lot of people, “My dentist isn’t the best dentist I’ve ever been to but he’s the nicest person and he has a thriving business because people like him. And I think that likability factor is really important. So for your audience, I think caring and just be authentic. I mean, I do what I do because I love it. I know you do what you do because you love it. I see some people they want to start off speaking and make $50,000 a speech. They don’t know anything about it like, well, that’s not the way to go about it. The way to go about it is be on a mission to improve the world a little bit.

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Cordell: You know, Dr. Danny, I agree with that so much. I, like you, do quite a bit of public speaking and I still get nervous right before I get ready to present. And every time I catch myself doing that, I say, “Cordell, you’re in the wrong mindset. You’re thinking too much about yourself. If you trip or you do something, the right mindset needs to be what are you going to share that’s kind of help your audience get their business to the next level?” So when I remove it for me to focus on the audience, what a mind shift that is and just comes across with a much better session so I completely agree with what you’re talking about there.

Dr. Danny: That’s absolutely right, Cordell. One of my favorite speakers, he’s passed on was a guy by the name of Keith Harrell. And Keith always spoke about attitude is everything. And rather than getting negative, you have to think about your audience as just like a product is, “Why would you sell a product that you don’t believe in?” Well, you and I believe in the product that we’re selling which is making a difference, helping people become better, whether it’s in their business, or in speaking or presentation skills, and we’d actually be doing a total disservice not to be providing that service. So you’re absolutely right about getting that mind shift and having a positive mindset about it.

Cordell: So Dr. Danny, you also say, “Great teachers engage their students, engage their students.” Talk a little bit about that if you would, please.

Dr. Danny: Well, and not to sound too academic, I can’t stand the academics around me all the time trying to impress me with all of their bibliography they want to unload. But there is one researcher that I always say really had a pretty huge impact on training. He’s a guy by the name of Howard Gardner, who’s a professor at Harvard. And he actually is a professor at Harvard. I always joke with audiences whenever I cite my research. I usually say it’s a Harvard study because for some reason that sounds much more legitimate. But Howard Gardner actually is a Harvard professor.

And back in the mid 1980s, he wrote a book where he described what he called “Seven Multiple Intelligences.” And then about 20 years ago, he came out with another book where he described two new intelligences so he charged another $20 for that book. And I always point out to people, Gardner actually stole his ideas from a more important educational philosopher in the late 1970s by the name of Gary Coleman. And Gary Coleman said something all your audience has to remember. He said, “Different strokes for different folks.”

So every time you give a presentation, you have to realize that not everybody in the audience learns the same way that you do. And so, I make a conscious effort whenever I give a presentation. I’m going to get everybody laughing, I’m going to get everybody interacting with one another. I’m going to get them singing, dancing, drawing. You have to accommodate different needs because people learn in different ways. And so to engage, all of us have our own different ways of engagement.

But I’ve always said that you definitely need to get people moving, especially if you’re doing, I mean, if you’re doing a full day training with somebody, you’re going to want to get them moving quite frequently. And I learned that working with the kindergartners is kindergartners won’t let you stink. You can’t. You have to be on all the time. And so I learned I had to mix things up constantly and throwing a lot of surprises. And, you know, it’s really important to me. I sing a lot with audiences and I know I look like a fool, but I always tell people, you know, that like, “Take your work seriously, don’t take yourself seriously because you ain’t all that and neither am I. And if you think you’re all that, teach kindergarten for one week because those kids will set you straight.”

I have a little… I remember a little girl Leshonda. Leshonda raised her hand and I’m like, “Leshonda, questions. She’s like, “Mr. Brassell, when are you going to trim your nose hair?” And I was like, “This afternoon. Thanks for bringing that to my attention, Leshonda.” I am not all that. It was a very humbling experience and it was kind of funny when I was a little bit reluctant to train at the corporate level because I said to a friend of mine who’s a very successful corporate trainer. I said, “Well, my experience is primarily in education.” And he said something that really made a difference to me, Cordell. He said, “Danny, you taught inner city kids that everybody else had given up on how to love Shakespeare. If you can get… If you can sell those kids on Shakespeare, you can sell my employees on how to sell better.” And I thought that was actually a really… So that gets to what you were talking about earlier with mindset, Cordell is that I had a negative mindset. It was very nice to have somebody encourage me to get back into that positive mindset.

So for your listeners, again, when you’re trying to engage an audience, you have to try different things. And so I would… You want to try and get people up. You want to try and get them singing and laughing. We all know that I’ve never given a presentation where six months later, somebody will come up to me and say, “You know, what was great about your talk, Danny was that one PowerPoint slide with 18 bullet points that you couldn’t read because the font was too small.” I’ve never had a person say that but I have people come up to me six months later and say, “I remember that song you taught,” Or, “I remember that book you shared.” Or, “I remember that funny story.” And so this is what we’re talking about in terms of engaging an audience.

Cordell: Yeah. Awesome, awesome. That’s probably a great segue into another one that I picked up, “Great teachers bring joy to education.” Talk a little about that if you would, please.

Dr. Danny: You know, I’ve done a lot of jobs that I hated and I think we need to laugh a lot more. I see so many… I mean, it’s become kind of a negative world out there and I don’t know why. I’m sounding more and more like an old guy where I just see people miserable all the time. And I… One of the tricks… So here’s a movement activity for people if they just want a quick movement activity is I’ll tell my audience, I’ll say, “Okay, I’m going to teach you a trick I used to teach my little ones. I want you all to take out your index fingers, put them on the side to your mouth, and push up.” And so you’re smiling. And they’d say, “Ha ha ha, we’re smiling.” I’m like, “You know, you need to smile a little bit more. Enjoy what you’re doing.”

I guess one of the things that kind of cracks me up sometimes when I’m speaking, a lot of my audiences, and I know this is the same for you, Cordell. They might not realize this but we’ve done this presentation more than once. And so sometimes we’ll throw in things just to kind of humor ourselves and I’m constantly looking for different ways to push a button to get somebody to laugh.

If I’m working with, whether it’s a corporation or school, I’ll look for the person that’s in charge and that’s the person I’m definitely going to invite on stage to make them look ridiculous in some way to get them laughing to signal to everybody else that we should all be laughing. I don’t want to be around people that think they’re that important. I’m much more… I’m more of the guy that… I’ll just give you an example because I fly a lot. And I was mentioning this to an audience recently that about one out of every four of the flights I’m on, I’ll have a flight attendant come up to me and say, “Thanks for being our nice passenger.” And that’s really depressing to me, Cordell. All I ever do is I get to know the names of all the different employees on the flight and I address them by their name. I say, “Hi, please. Thank you.”

Talk to them a little bit in small chat. Isn’t it sad that just those little small acts of courtesy stand out today because so few people do them? And so I’m trying to bring a little bit of joy into the world. I had, since I’m moving, I went down to San Diego yesterday to visit some friends. They had a little going away brunch for me. And so that’s how I started today was by writing thank you cards to all those people, handwritten thank you cards. And it’s amazing to me how few people do a handwritten thank you card for anything.

So it’s those little things to bring joy. Another game I play every day is I try and find the grumpiest looking person, try and figure out a way to get that person to smile. It’s those little things. I did this… A lot of it was just teaching in the inner city. It gave me perspective. There was things that I had students that had encountered that I wouldn’t wish on an adult, and I’m trying to get people to lighten up a little bit more. There’s there’s enough serious stuff going on in the world, our job is to bring a little bit of joy into the world.

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Cordell: Dr. Danny, I could sit and listen to this all day and I’m taking copious notes as we’re going along here, and I hope my audience is as well. But I want to be respectful of your time and everybody else’s time here. But again, I could seriously continue to do this all day because I’m finding this very, very enjoyable despite the fact that your Broncos took my Carolina Panthers Super Bowl that we’re supposed to have a couple years ago. So despite that, you’re really a nice guy.

Dr. Danny: Well, just so you know, again, my… I made a deal with God many years ago that said, “Just God, please get the Broncos one Super Bowl and I’ll never care again.” And we’ve been blessed. We’ve had three but just so you know, I was actually rooting for your Carolina Panthers that game because they had never won a Super Bowl. So I got that…

Cordell: I like you even more now, like you even more. Dr. Danny, maybe let’s wrap up this way, yeah. What’s one training tip you would like to share with the audience? First of all, you shared tons right now, but if you have one big training tip that you wanted to leave our audience with, what would that be?

Dr. Danny: Well, probably, I’ll leave your audience the same way I always ended class every day with my students. And it was this, I always told them education is valuable, but it’s execution that’s priceless. Knowledge is not power, only applied knowledge is power. Knowing what the right thing to do and actually doing it are two different things. Or, as my pastor always likes to say, “I don’t expect everybody in the audience to do everything I just suggested, Cordell, but for goodness sake folks that are listening, please, try something that we just suggested.”

Cordell: You got to do something. You got to do something. Dr. Danny, thank you again. This has been awesome. We are going to make sure we get your information, the book offer. We’re going to get those on this podcast so the people can actually get those and certainly connect and follow you more if they like so this has been very, very enjoyable. I want to also say thank you to our Training Unleashed audience for joining us for this session. Please continue to come back for others. We certainly hope that you all have a great and wonderful day. Take care all. Bye-bye.

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