10 Life Lessons I Learned From David Darst

#10: Presentation Crispness

This idea hails from a picture hanging in the office of Steve Ballmer during his tenure as CEO of Microsoft and can now be seen around the halls of Morgan Stanley Global Wealth Management; it is the practice of being able to communicate a business idea and potential solution in a series of five concise steps. Let’s face it, many successful businessmen or women regard their time as their most valuable asset so when they are looking to build a team around them, they want problem solvers with the ability to convey clear and concise messages.

The model is as follows:

  1. Summarize the Situation (6 seconds)
  2. State the Idea (10 seconds)
  3. Explain How it Works (15 seconds)
  4. Reinforce Key Benefits (21 seconds)
  5. Suggest an Easy Next Step (28 seconds)

Rumour has it that if you were to walk into Steve Ballmer’s office with an idea, you had better been able to deliver your message within this time frame.

Key takeaway: Get things done right, and right away.


#9: The Power of Writing Things Down

David Darst’s ability to recall facts, dates, and statistics is like no other I’ve seen, his mind is razor sharp. I asked him on his way back to his hotel one night how he is able to recall such a large number of facts on a moment’s notice and his response was “You’ll notice whenever I learn something new, I write it down.” The key for David is having a second point of reference in his own writing that he recognizes and that will register in his mind.

Key Takeaway: Find your learning style and stick to it.


#8: Subtle Non-Verbal’s

David has a magnetic presence when he enters a room, whether it is in a restaurant, lecture hall, or conference ballroom. People are often looking to him for the answers to their questions. Because he interacts with so many people on a daily basis from all walks of life whether it is a high net worth Morgan Stanley Wealth Management client, a CNBC news anchor, or a Dalhousie Commerce student, they often only have a short time period to interact with David because his time is in such high demand. David uses his non verbal communication skills to make the person he is interacting with feel as important as the person he just finished speaking with. Whether it is a slight touch of the elbow when he shakes your hand, reaching out to you mid conversation or at the crux of a story, or opening up his posture so his body language is receptive to your message. They are all subtle but very powerful ways that David engages with people and allows them to feel comfortable and at ease.

Key Takeaway: Be an engaged speaker and listener.


#7: Population Growth Reshaping Global Economy

With many of the advanced economies in the world experiencing stagnant birth rates (ie. Japan, and many EU countries), many of the emerging economies are experiencing rapid population growth (ie. Indonesia, Vietnam, and India). The global economic landscape is starting to shift. Birth rates are critical statistics to economic forecasts because if a country cannot expand its workforce or at the very least replace it, its economic output will start to shrink. The Western World is used to being a global force; however, there are many Asian countries that many Westerners are largely unfamiliar with that are growing at rapid rates and turning into economic engines in the global economy.

Key Takeaway: See #6


#6: Importance of Family and Public Education System

David stressed the critical role that parents play in the upbringing and development of their children, in tandem with the strength of a nation’s public education system. He believes that there are far too many video games being played and not enough reading being done in the homes of the majority of North American households. He doesn’t believe that it is the high-end colleges and universities that are the key to the Western World maintaining its competitive advantages over certain parts of the world but rather the strength of North America’s public education system. It is essential to give every child a proper educational foundation with the opportunity to grow and excel into part of an educated workforce.

Key Takeaway: Stay true to your roots.


#5: Sense of Belonging

One of David’s keys to productivity whether it is in a corporate office or as part of an athletic team is a sense of belonging. David strongly believes that for a group of individuals to be successful and cohesive as a team, all must be treated with dignity and respect, regardless of their rank. Employee empowerment is paramount in David’s eyes.

Key Takeaway: Treat others with the respect and dignity you would like to be treated with.


#4: Perspective is Key

This comes from an article (www.purposefairy.com) David gave to all DALIS members titled: These four spoke to me the most:

  • Forgiveness vs. Unforgiveness: Really happy people know that it’s not healthy to hold on to anger. They choose to forgive and forget, understanding that forgiveness is a gift they give to themselves first and foremost. “Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned” – Buddha
  • Selflessness vs. Selfishness: They do what they do not for themselves, but for the good of others, making sure that they bring meaning, empowerment and happiness in the lives of many. They look for ways to give and to share the best of themselves with the world and to make other people happy.
  • Dreaming Big vs. Being Realistic: These people don’t really care about being realistic. They love and dare to dream big, they always listen to their heart and intuition, and the greatness of their accomplishments scares many of us.
  • Taking Responsibility vs. Blaming: They take full ownership over their lives and they rarely use excuses. Happy people understand that the moment you choose to blame some outside forces for whatever it is that happens to you, you are in fact giving all your power away. These people choose to keep the power for themselves by taking responsibility for everything that happens to them.

Key Takeaway: In the words of Conan O’Brien, “It is our failure to become our perceived ideal that ultimately defines us and makes us unique. It’s not easy, but if you accept your misfortune and handle it right. Your perceived failure can become a catalyst for profound reinvention.”

#3: Stay Humble

After hearing some interesting stories from David about some of his interactions with the social circle he has built around him, let’s just say there are some rather well-known names in his circle. Yet, during his time spent with us, his graciousness and appreciation for all the youthful business minds he was able to meet with at Dalhousie was so sincere. At the end of the day, we’re just a student run society on the east coast of Canada relative to the institutions and clients he’s used to meeting with on Wall Street or at The City in London, England. David said the key to staying humble is a close-knit family and finding appreciation and energy in life where others don’t. When in New York, look up at the architecture. When speaking with a young business student, appreciate their perspective and youthful intuition. Every experience is an opportunity to grow.

Key Takeaway: To take a page out of one of my favorite lines of Rudyard Kipling’s poem “If”, “If you can talk with the crowds and keep your virtue, Or walk with Kings –nor lose the common touch… You’ll be a Man, my son!”


#2: The Importance of Your Mother In-law

If your girlfriend’s mother or your mother in-law doesn’t like you, you’re doomed!

Key Takeaway: Whether you like them or not, eat your peas!


#1: The Power of Names

I learned a lot of things from David but this was one of the most impressive and fascinating things I’ve ever witnessed… Over the course of David’s 48 hours in Halifax, I would guess he met upwards of 50 people and he remembered every single person’s first and last name in that span. Not only did he know nearly everyone’s name, he gave us all a lesson on the origin and meaning behind all of our names. Case and point, David met one of our members, Gilberto, who hails from Brazil. Without skipping a beat, David conversed with Gilberto in Portuguese for a minute in front of the audience, moving on to tell us about the #1 Brazilian song of all time as voted by the Brazil people, spinning that into a lesson on the meaning of important English words and their Latin origins, and then proceeding to recite by heart Act II, Scene I of Shakespeare’s “Love’s Labour Lost”. It was one of the most impressive feats of the human mind I have ever witnessed and speaks to how well versed David is in so many facets of life.

Key Takeaway: Your ability to remember and address everyone you meet by name only deepens your connection with him or her and allows you to be a superior communicator.


David, it was an absolute honor and pleasure. You inspired us all.


2 thoughts on “10 Life Lessons I Learned From David Darst

  1. Pingback: Coffeetalk: Episode 2 with David Darst | mwilkes

  2. Pingback: Mike’s Mailbag: Week 10, 2016 | mwilkes

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