Dan Waldschmidt

by Dan Waldschmidt

October 28, 2017

Dani Johnson: It’s Hard To Be Different. But It’s Worth It.

Dani Johnson never imagined in a million years she would be happily married with five children. She didn’t plan on living long enough to think about that life. 

At 21, Dani dove into Hawaiian waters with the intention of not coming back out. She was broke. She was homeless. Living in her car she parked overnight at a beach a 40-minute drive from where she was planning on ending it all right now. 

She had become everything she had hated. She had become her parents. 

Dani grew up in an abusive home. She was beaten and molested repeatedly by her stepfather for years. Her mother was aware of what was happening, but did nothing. 

She watched her parents drink, do drugs, fight, pass out — and then do it all over again. 

She promised herself that she would never turn into them. She would do something with her life. But that something never seemed to happen. The years sped by. So did her dream to do something different. 

But it never happened. 

At 21, she was a waitress in a small Hawaiian town — with one big problem. She couldn’t afford the cost of living in Hawaii. Not on her meager tips. But she knew where to find men she could go on dates with so they would feed her and she knew how to party with her co-workers. Those things came naturally to her. 

One night, she was out with the girls. Everyone was drinking. Everyone was dancing. Everyone was doing cocaine. Including Dani. It was a party of epic proportions.

She had spiraled out of control. She had become everything she never wanted to be — and worse. 

She woke up on her beach mat the next day exhausted. And miserable. Her body craved more cocaine. She would have done anything to get it. Including sell her body. 

That was not the life she had ever planned. She felt herself slipping away. In that moment, she decided to do something. If she couldn’t control herself, she would get rid of herself. 

That’s when she decided the ocean could have her life. She didn’t want it anymore. She hated what she had become.

So she walked into the waves and dove in. Underwater, she wasn’t fighting for breath. Dani was just letting go. And then she heard what she describes as a voice that said, “pick up your mat and walk.” 

Maybe the ocean was talking to her. Maybe it was her subconscious. Maybe it was God. 

It doesn’t matter who it was. It matters what Dani did next.

Dani listened to the voice. She got out of the water. She grabbed her mat. And she walked. 
She walked back to her car and got in.  She drove the 40 minutes back to the beach she lived at. She didn’t know what her next move would be, but she knew she would be alive to make it.

She didn’t crave the drugs anymore. She didn’t crave the partying. Dani knew that something inside her had changed. She had changed.

Looking out from the back seat of her car, the sunlight sharply reflected off something up front. Dani looked to see what it was. It was a partially used bottle of weight loss formula that she had ordered long before — and never used. 

Something inside her just clicked. She had an idea.

Using one of the last coins in her pocket, she decided to call the manufacturing company and find out what she needed to do to sell their product. 

First, she needed a phone. Then, she needed an address. Finally, she needed customers. 

She had none of those things. But Dani refused to give up.  

She called a local telecommunications company and inquired about getting an answering service line. The number was going to cost her $15 a month that she didn’t have. After talking to the sales rep for a while, he gave her a phone number to use and told her to mail him a check. She had solved one problem. 

She wrote up a flyer talking about the product she was selling.

She put her new phone number on it and hung it at the post office. She crossed her fingers and hoped for the best. That hope turned into her destiny.

Within 3 hours, she had 25 phone calls about her product. 

She called back the first number. Dani didn’t know how to sell anything, though. When the customer asked how much the product was, Dani just told him. He told her it was too expensive and hung up on her. Ouch. 

At that moment, Dani knew she needed to try something different. She made a phone call to a weight loss center close to where she was.

When they answered, she told them she was inquiring about their product.

The person on the other line started asking her questions like, “how long have you been trying to lose weight?” and “what else have you tried?” Dani wrote down every question they asked her on sticky notes and she stuck them to the pay phone glass in the order she would ask them to the other 24 people on her list. 

Dani wasn’t great at reading. She was dyslexic and hadn’t even read a book until she was 21. But she was determined and she was resourceful. 

She still had one problem. Even if she could fulfill the orders, it wasn’t like the post office would deliver to her car. She needed an address. 

Dani went to a nearby liquor store and asked if she could have some packages delivered there. 

They agreed. 

Dani had worked out all the answers to her problems. 

She started meeting with prospective clients. She listened to their stories. She never mentioned that the car she drove to their house was also her home. She focused on helping them. She wasn’t worried about her situation. 

By the end of the first month, Dani had collected $4,000 for a product she didn’t even have with her when she went to sell it. In fact, she didn’t even have any literature. Or a bank account to deposit the checks. 

All she had was a listening ear and a possible solution to their problems. 

And that’s all she needed. 

Less than a year later, Dani had made a quarter of a million dollars. And she had opened her own weight loss store in Kona. She was so busy that she had to hire people to help her. 

Her business grew faster than she could keep up. She became less involved with the people buying her products and more involved with growing her empire. In truth, her salespeople didn’t give the personal touch she had started her business on. They didn’t care like she did.

She made a couple bad business deals and got taken advantage of a time or two. The business was suffering. 

Instead of giving up, Dani decided to get back to her roots. 

She started training her salespeople to treat their customers like people — not like a sale. She taught them how to ask questions. She taught them the importance of listening. She taught them that everyone has a story to tell. 

Dani firmly believed that it was her listening ear and empathetic nature that created the sales. She pushed her team to get back to that place. And she succeeded. 

It took another year of hard work, but her business was back on track. She sold her company, keeping a percentage of the royalties. The company expanded and thrived, making Dani Johnson millions of dollars. She went on to start five more companies. 

Today, Dani Johnson teaches her practice of putting others before yourself all over the world. 

She has been featured on Oprah, the Steve Harvey Show, CNN and many other outlets globally. 

She has come a very long way from that desperate day on the beach, feeling desperate and alone — living a life no different from her abusive parents.

Her story is like thousands of others. Except with one huge distinction. She did hard things to break the spell of her old life and be different.


That’s the truth. You can’t change your life for the better without being different from who you are right now. You can’t get better without trying something new.

It’s hard. And uncomfortable. But it’s worth it. 

So get started. Your destiny is waiting. 

About the author

Dan Waldschmidt

Dan Waldschmidt doesn’t just talk about leveling up. He’s obsessed with it. He's set records as an ultra-runner and been the personal strategist for the leading business leaders of our time. He wrote a book, called EDGY Conversations that accidentally became a worldwide bestseller and continues to share his insights from the stage as a keynote speaker and on the blogs and podcasts you will find here. Most days, you'll find Dan heads-down, working on breakthrough strategies for his clients at EDGY Inc, a highly-focused, invite-only, business strategy execution company based out of Silicon Valley.