Interview with Daniel Wong

The following is a Q & A between Daniel Wong and me.

Daniel Wong, Author/Speaker

Daniel Wong is the author of The Happy Student: 5 Steps to Academic Fulfillment and Success. He works with students, educators and parents in the areas of coaching, running workshops, and giving talks. His personal mission is to empower others with the mindset and methods to lead a meaningful and marvelous life.

In addition to his popular book, he writes regularly at his website, Living Large, about topics related to education, career and personal development. Interested in hearing Daniel speak? He will be a key-note at the NASSP Ignite Conference in Dallas February 2014.

My goal in posting interviews with successful leaders like Daniel is to inspire us to reflect on how our own choices, goals, and actions can affect our lives, our leadership, and our teams. I must also give credit to John Lee Dumas whose great podcast interview questions I have modified for the Q & A’s I have with my guests.

Daniel’s Bio:
Daniel Wong was born in Johannesburg, South Africa and grew up in Hong Kong and Singapore. For college, he went to Duke University in North Carolina, where he graduated with a double major in Mechanical Engineering and Economics in 2011. He currently lives and works in Singapore.

WDP: Thanks for the opportunity to learn from you! Can you start by sharing a favorite motivation quote?
Daniel: The difference between a stumbling block and a stepping stone is how high you raise your foot. – Unknown

WDP: Take us back to a failure or obstacle you overcame. How you did you do it?
Daniel: When I first tried to get my book, The Happy Student, published, I got rejected over and over and over again.

To overcome this obstacle, I asked for feedback, surrounded myself with positive and encouraging people, kept my focus on my deepest motivations for writing the book, and kept submitting the book proposal to as many publishers as I could.

I’m thankful that Morgan James eventually decided to publish the book!

WDP: Give one quick example of something you have done that required risk but created great results.
Daniel: I risked a lot of things when I wrote The Happy Student: my self-esteem (especially if the book project had turned out to be a failure), my money (not an insignificant amount), my time (countless hours of writing and editing).

I’m thankful that the gamble paid off. The book has been well-received, and it now comes in both an International edition and an Asian edition. It has also been translated into Bahasa Indonesia.

WDP: Have you had an “I’ve made it” moment?
Daniel: Not really, and I hope I never do. I think of life as a journey of continual learning, contribution, development and growth– so I don’t think I’ll ever feel like “I’ve made it.” I’ve learned to be content with what I have and with who I am, but at the same time I’m passionate about pursuing excellence because I know there’s always another level to get to.

WDP: What was holding you back from seeing the high levels of success you have been experiencing for years now?
Daniel: In my teenage years, I allowed myself to be defined by my performance. This caused me to lack self-confidence and to be depressed. It was only when I started focusing on my purpose instead of my performance that my life made a turn for the better.

WDP: What is the best leadership advice you have ever received?
Daniel: My mentor once said to me, “Don’t confuse your roles with your purpose.”

All of us have different roles in life: parent, son, daughter, friend, employee, entrepreneur, caregiver. We mustn’t allow any one of these roles to define us. Instead, we must be clear about what our higher purpose in life is, and remember that all of our roles are meant to serve this purpose. Our roles take on new meaning in light of our

WDP: If you could recommend a book for other school leaders, what would it be?
Daniel: Stop Stealing Dreams by Seth Godin (Godin’s ebook is a free download!)

WDP: If you could speak to the 20 year-old version of yourself, what advice would you give him or her?
Daniel: Dream big and dare to fail. Focus on contribution, not achievement. Make an intentional effort to build relationships, because the quality of your relationships largely determines the quality of your life. Acquire valuable skills so that you can add maximum value to others. Be generous, kind and helpful– with no strings attached.

WDP: I’m excited about hearing you speak at the NASSP conference! What can we expect to hear from you then?
Daniel: I’m looking forward to the NASSP conference too! At the NASSP conference in February 2014, I’ll be speaking about what educators can do to develop happy and successful students.

WDP: Thanks so much to Daniel for sharing his insights with us! If you want to connect with him, you can do so at, through Facebook at, or at his website

Now It’s Your Turn:
What are some resources you love for coaching students and parents on making school an incredibly successful experience? Share with the rest of us!

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William D. Parker
William D. Parker