Dan Johnson: 5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me When I First Became A Professional Athlete

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Listen, learn, and understand: Most people don’t know what it truly means to do this because all we want to do is assert ourselves instead. However, if we only ever wait for our turn to speak, many messages and lessons are missed. So sometimes, it’s actually better to take a step back and let others show their card first. In fact, it’s often the quiet person in the room who speaks last that you need to pay attention to.

As a part of our series called “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me When I First Became A Professional Athlete” I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Dan Johnson.

Dan Johnson is former NCAA men’s lacrosse player and professional referee. He now is an assistant professor for the College for Financial Planning® — a Kaplan Company and is the creator and lead instructor of its Sports and Entertainment Accredited Wealth Management AdvisorSM program. In addition, Dan is a part-time instructor for Boston University and the University of California — Los Angeles, and actively engages in private consulting through his independent practice. Dan resides in Chicago, IL.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! We are honored to have you with us. Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?

Sure. Growing up I was somewhat of an only child. My two older brothers came from a prior marriage on my mom’s side and the age gap was significant. I didn’t see them too much and, as per my parents, they went through an ugly divorce. I was quite young at the time and the net outcome was numerous court battles, supervised visitations, and physical/mental abuse.

After that was over, I lived with my mother. We didn’t have much, but we lived a fairly happy and simple life. I spent most of my time playing outside with the neighborhood kids and learned to be independent. After all, my mom was busy working and going to school, so I had to learn how to take care of myself.

Then my mom remarried for a third time. I wasn’t happy about this marriage and was quite angry at her, but she wanted to give me a better life and felt this would somehow help — it didn’t. Regardless, we moved to a new city where I had no friends and started over. During this time I became a very bitter, angry, overweight, and isolated kid with low self-esteem. My grades were bad, teachers thought I had a learning disability, kids constantly bullied me, and I hated my home life. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was developing depression and anxiety.

Then one day things changed. I finally made a neighborhood friend and he played lacrosse. I wasn’t very good, but we would play catch for hours in his backyard and had a lot of fun. Unfortunately, he moved away, but shortly after in gym class, the teacher noticed I was pretty good compared to others.

He encouraged me to try out for the school team — and so I did. Again, I didn’t know anyone and wasn’t very good, especially compared to the other more experienced players. Still, I liked the sport and it became an outlet for me, plus the weight room. In fact, I became hooked and I quickly realized that although I lacked skill, I worked significantly harder than everyone else. So, I used that to my advantage and eventually became one of the better players.

Meanwhile, I became fed-up with my school’s teachers and being patronized. I knew I wasn’t stupid and could perform well, I just didn’t care enough yet. Finally, however, I reached a breaking point after a backhanded teacher remark. From that moment forward I became angry and used that a fuel, driving myself into being a straight-A student.

So that became my life: school, lacrosse, and the weight room. But that soon would include money too because I surprisingly won a snow-cone machine at a local school auction and decided to make a business out of it. I quite simply found the concept of money fascinating and spent hours reading blogs, books, and articles on the topic. I also felt a personal attachment to it because I grew up relatively poor.

Anyway, as the years went by and I finished high school, I had become a top-tier student-athlete and was eventually recruited to play college lacrosse. I was very excited about this opportunity and decided to study finance/financial planning since it matched my interests. When I finally left for school, it was much of the same story: school, lacrosse, and the weight room. However, I also decided to start officiating lacrosse because it was great money and I had actual playing experience.

This setup worked well for me, but I was quite an intense person. I also experienced several stressful events during this time. First, I became involved in an abusive relationship that resulted in a pregnancy and subsequent abortion. Second, my godmother didn’t have enough money to see a doctor and eventually passed away from ovarian cancer. Next, my mom divorced her third husband. I was actually quite happy about this, but like her previous marriages, it was abusive and the divorce was ugly. Lastly, and in cruel irony, my mom then became sick with melanoma. She was diagnosed in the fall of my college senior year, but it didn’t really hit me until Thanksgiving break when I saw her for the first time and saw how much weight she had lost.

Perhaps even more frustrating was that my mom eventually met her fourth (and final) husband. Thankfully he was not abusive, but he was a compulsive hoarder with severe ADHD. Regardless, and despite disliking him, I tolerated him because he actually loved her and took care of her until the very end. Altogether, you could definitely say my mom lived too much with her heart and not enough with her head. Still, it was bitter to watch her slowly suffer and die and there were many mixed emotions.

Indeed, it was hard when she finally passed, but I didn’t have time to process it because I was now graduated, homeless, working full time for an abusive boss, and studying for my certification exams. My friends also complained that I didn’t make time for them, but they just didn’t understand my struggle to survive. Nevertheless, I was eventually was taken in by a family friend, found my own apartment, passed my exams, switched to a better employer, and went back to graduate school. My lacrosse officiating career also started taking off and soon I was working the best games in the state and region. Lastly, I made it a point (and still do) of traveling internationally every year and exploring new cultures.

Still, the depression and anxiety was catching up with me and many times I contemplated suicide. I also found myself exhibiting many of my mother’s traits. For example, I became involved in two serious, yet abusive, relationships and also went through several negative employer experiences. In addition, my dad reappeared in my life briefly and had remarried an African refugee with several children of her own. Although he tried to rekindle the relationship, he hadn’t changed. He was still an abusive alcoholic and after seeing him in a detox hospital in my mid-twenties, I decided to cut him off for good.

Eventually, however, things started to turn for the better. Namely, I took a chance by switching careers into academia and used my job’s remote working setup as an opportunity to start fresh and move to Chicago, Illinois. I picked this city because it’s a major international/cultural hub bursting with opportunities, plus my best friend lives here. So far it’s worked out and I’ve been able to greatly expand my personal and professional life, though I have retired from athletics completely. Lastly, I’ve also been able to address many of my personal issues via therapy and medication, albeit it’s still a work in progress.

Overall, my journey thus far hasn’t exactly been easy or conventional, but thankfully it’s worked out and I’m lucky to be surrounded by many great people who have helped me along the way.

It has been said that our mistakes can be our greatest teachers. Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

I have definitely made my fair share of mistakes — many of which are funny when you look back. For example, when I first started officiating men’s lacrosse I was adamant on making my presence known and I was a bit of a maverick. I was the youngest official and had experience playing the game; something many officials lacked. Still, I had much to learn.

Case in point, I had just been selected to officiate an all-star championship game and it was a big honor; something reserved for only the top-tier referees. Out of arrogance, I didn’t position myself correctly during the game because I thought I was fast enough to make up for it. Well, I ended up getting caught behind the play, fell backwards flat on my back, and my belt snapped causing my shorts to fall down. Keep in mind this all happened in front of a huge stadium of people and some of the top players and coaches in the country. Everyone laughed, including me once the initial embarrassment wore off. And thankfully, I was able to quickly rebound from the mistake and ended up having a good game. Everyone went home happy and I thankfully received a strong evaluation.

Still, I walked away with a key reminder: you are never too good for the basic fundamentals and ultimately it’s not the mistake that matters, but rather how you learn and respond. Failing to prepare is preparing to fail!

What are some of the most interesting or exciting new projects you are working on now?

Now that I’m retired from lacrosse and officiating, most of my focus has been on academics and private consulting.

Academically speaking, I’m currently conducting research on the NCAA’s recent “name, image, and likeness” rule changes and what that means for high school, college, and professional athletes, plus the states, schools, boosters, and businesses. More specifically, I’m investigating how financial advisors can help this niche because there really is a growing market here and they have a lot of unique characteristics and needs compared to typical individuals.

So far the projects have been going well and I’m booked for several presentations in the coming months. I’m also working on a few pieces for publication and looking to collaborate with interested athletes and leagues. So far I’ve made contact with the Premiere Lacrosse League (PLL) and Major League Soccer (MLS) and it’s looking promising.

Aside from that, I did recently start my own private consulting business called “Principles Financial Consulting, LLC” and I already have a contract in place. The business is mainly geared towards helping advisors with their practices and advanced clientele, but it also serves as a way to promote my brand, land speaking or media engagements, and republish my research. I may perhaps one day expand the business and start performing financial planning for select clientele (like athletes and entertainers), but that day is still a ways off.

Lastly, I will be going back to school in January 2023 to pursue my Masters of Business Administration (MBA) from Warwick University in the United Kingdom. Right now my education and skillset is very focused, so the MBA will add an element of roundedness and provide international network opportunities since it’s based overseas.

Who are some of the most interesting people you have interacted with? What was that like? Do you have any stories?

I’ve always been a little bit different, with much of that coming from how I was raised. That in many ways has resulted in my tendency to gravitate towards people, opportunities, and places that were not like me. Altogether, I’ve collected many stories over the years.

For example, as a child I was a Minnesota Vikings fan and met Randy Moss, Chris Carter, Randall Cunningham, and Randall McDaniel. I even fished alongside former coach Dennis Green at a local lake once. Later on in life, I officiated Rick Spielman’s kids — the former Minnesota Vikings executive manager. His oldest played lacrosse at Ohio University and the other played wide receiver and running back at Nebraska and TCU, respectively. I also temporarily worked with Gregg Jennings when I was a practicing financial advisor and later ran into him again, this time with his wife and kids, at a Timberwolves basketball game. They were a very nice family.

Then when I got older and started working in college, I landed a summer job as a golf caddie at Hazeltine National in Chaska, MN. The Professional Golfers Association (PGA) has regularly toured there, as well as the U.S. Amateur and Ryders Cup. During my time there, I caddied for many executives, athletes, and entertainers and you definitely see people’s true character out on the course. Although I can’t mention names, a few stories come to mind. First, the baseball players were normally the worst players simply because their body mechanics are programmed to swing a bat, not a club. Second, I once caddied for a professional NCAA/NFL referee and learned that they typically prefer the pros because they do not talk back as much, otherwise they get fined. In college, many of them don’t care because they’ll never go pro.

The best golfing story, however, was when some pro athletes bet me $100 dollars to get the phone number of a beer cart girl. She was older than me, extremely attractive, and way out of my league. Regardless, and much to these guys’ disbelief, I was able to get her number. What I didn’t tell them, however, was that I made a secret deal with her to split the money. And per that woman, I never actually paid her, but instead used the full $100 to take her on a nice date. She appreciated it and we had a great time with a happy ending.

As per lacrosse, I played with and against a lot of guys who turned pro in various sports like lacrosse, baseball, football, basketball, and hockey. Again, I can’t mention names, but one of those guys ended up playing with the Philadelphia Eagles. One year they failed to make the playoffs and we coincidentally ran into each other over the holidays at a local nightclub. We instantly reconnected and he was kind enough to introduce me to the club owner and share his VIP section. Overall, it was a great night.

As far as officiating, I have had the privilege to officiate many college, professional, and international lacrosse players — or players who later turned pro in other sports. One of my favorite memories was a tournament in Bozeman, Montana. The mountain scenery was amazing and many teams across the country, including Canada, were present. The Canadians in particular are fun to watch because of their unique style of play and many of those guys played in the NLL or NHL. Coincidentally, I have also refereed with some lacrosse officials who also officiated in the NFL and NHL — and I’d get to see them on television. Finally, one summer I had a lacrosse official-friend invite me to referee his daughter’s flag football league. It was an awesome league that surprisingly was filled with many retired professional football players that now served as their daughter(s)’ coach. They were extremely competitive and passionate — including their kids!

Lastly, I’ve crossed path with many athletes, celebrities, and public figures throughout my personal life. For example, one of my old neighbors growing up was a Greco-Roman wrestler and Olympic medalist. I then met Owen Wilson at The Bungalow Bar in downtown Santa Monica. He was a real nice guy. Later I met Rihanna’s brother at a local bar in Barbados — again, fun times. Another time I had an MLS soccer star as my Uber driver in Boston and he was kind enough to give me an autograph (he got a nice tip). Afterwards, I randomly met professional lacrosse player, Myles Jones, at a nightclub and we had a pretty good conversation. Next, my current gym has several amateur boxes and UFC fighters and we’ve managed to become friends. Finally, I used to date a Colombian woman and she was previously married to a professional MLB player. She told me a lot of stories and I met some players, managers, and their wives through her — now those are some crazy stories that I can’t tell in public!

Side note: prior to my birth, my mom was living with my two older brothers in California. She was very young at the time and working as a server at a local diner. Two of her regulars were legends Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Joe Cocker. She has signed autographs from both of them on the back of her plain old diner napkins and now they are in my possession.

Overall, there’s many more stories to share, but some stories are better left untold — at least in writing!

What would you advise a young person who aspires to follow your footsteps and emulate your career? What advice would you give?

Well, I’m still quite young myself and I’m not exactly sure if my career is worth emulating. In fact, the first piece of advice that I would give is to not follow in my footsteps or the footsteps of others. Instead, I’d start by forging your own path. This means thinking deeply about who you are, what you want to do, your strengths and weaknesses, and what you need to do to accomplish your goals. After you do that, you then need to craft a plan for how you’re actually going to do it and start implementing it right away; don’t wait. Your plan doesn’t need to be perfect and you don’t need all the details or answers figured out. Instead, just have a broad vision of where you want to go and start moving in that direction. Over time, your vision will become clearer and you can narrow your focus from there.

However, life is also full of surprises, so it’s important to keep an open mind because your interests and vision will likely change with time. As such, I think it’s important to be curious and inquisitive, ask questions, learn as much as possible, network with others, and constantly adapt and evolve. I believe these things will develop you into a more well-rounded person and [likely] lead to many pleasantly unexpected opportunities.

Lastly, don’t be afraid of failure and rejection. It can be an uncomfortable feeling, but it’s a necessary part of the growth process. In fact, if you’re not consistently failing, learning from it, and correcting course, then you’re probably not pushing yourself hard enough. Personally, I’m thankful for my early struggles because it allowed push past my comfort zone and develop resiliency. In fact, I always tell myself this, “You can both spend your life wondering ‘What if?’ or you can take the risk and know for sure.” Of course, you should be taking smart calculated risks and not behave recklessness, but the key point is to embrace the discomfort, know how to respond to it, and finally leverage it to your advantage. In the end, you should dream big, but live bigger.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

To be honest with you, I’m still trying to figure that out and I don’t exactly know my true life’s purpose. I am a bit of an enigma to even myself and I often ponder questions like, “Do I bring any value to the world? If so, what is it? If I die today, how will I be remembered and am I okay with this? What do I want my legacy to be? How do I actually want to be remembered?”

Notably, something that has always felt foreign to me is intimacy, vulnerability, and relationships. For example, I’m not one for fancy gifts, sweet words, grandiose displays of affection, or even simply checking-up and spending time with others. I don’t expect these things for myself, so it’s hard for me to remember to do it for others.

I think this is because I spent much of my life raising myself and figuring things out as I went along. From an early age I knew I was a bit different and there were a lot of personal, educational, and professional setbacks along the way. Yet somehow I was able to get through it all and continuously evolve. In fact, it reached a point where I was no longer phased or surprised by anything. You could call it a gift and a curse, really. It was a gift because, despite my age, I had accumulated a lot of life experience and remained calm, cool, and collective in almost any scenario. However, it was also a curse because I slowly numbed out to the world around me.

I don’t think that is exactly something to be proud of, however, because ultimate humans are social creatures that need at least some level of intimacy and close personal relationships. As such, I have challenged myself to find ways to connect and enrich the lives of others, even if my ways will probably always be a bit unconventional.

For example, I have unique and specialized knowledge in personal finances and strongly believe in its powers. In many ways, I view it as my gift to the world. Unfortunately this is a gift that takes time, patience, and hard work to fully realize and most people don’t want to do that. Still, even if my gift isn’t fully understood or appreciated in the moment, it isn’t going to stop me from moving forward and helping others. Someone out there appreciates it.

So, in the end, I’m using my success thus far to promote the value of financial planning, whether that be through teaching, writing, public speaking, or private consultation. Overall, one’s own pursuit of knowledge, wisdom, and understanding is a noble cause, albeit a selfish one if not ultimately shared with others.

The truth is that none of us can achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person that made a profound difference in your life to whom you are grateful? Can you share a story?

Growing up I didn’t have a functional family support system, but I have been fortunate enough to be surrounded by strong friends, teammates, coaches, colleagues, mentors, doctors, and therapists. In many ways, that is my team and my family — as unconventional as that sounds. That said, there isn’t one individual who necessarily stands out above the others, as each has played a key role in my life and bestowed upon me invaluable life lessons. However, if I had to pick someone, I’d chose my late mother out of respect — Margaret Mary Johnson.

My relationship with my mother was complicated and there was many things I didn’t discover about her until after she died of cancer. In fact, there are still many mysteries about her that I don’t know. Yet despite her being a bit of an enigma, what I do remember about her is that she was truly a unique person who marched to the beat of her own drum.

For example, she was sharply intelligent and competitive, but also incredibly creative, resourceful, quirky, and introspective. She also had a way of befriending just about anyone and was a very soft, kind-hearted person that was pure of soul towards people, animals, and nature. Lastly, she was highly resilient and persistent. She had an abusive childhood, went through several bad marriages, worked in a male dominated industry (engineering), went to school and work at the same time, and periodically struggled financially. Yet despite everything, she still managed persevere, find success, and raise three boys as best she could.

Altogether, she truly could do anything she set her mind to and lived an exotic and adventurous life. In fact, I’ll never forget the hundreds of people unexpectedly showed up at her funeral to pay their respects. Some of these people hadn’t seen her in over 30 years and many came from a variety of backgrounds across the world. This gave me insight into who she was behind the scenes and that she didn’t care about race, religion, nationality, gender, sexual orientation, or politics. She just saw the person behind all that and followed “The Golden Rule”.

That being said, my mother was not one for straight forward life lessons. Instead, she led by example and gave me and my two older brothers a lot of freedom, flexibility, and trust from a very young age. In many ways, she was more so like an older sister or a friend, rather than a mother, and direct guidance was limited.

Regardless, and as controversial as it may be, that was just her way of raising us. Simply put, she wanted us to make mistakes, figure out solutions, and approach the world with an open mind so we could ultimately become independent thinkers that were resilient and resourceful. For the most part, we accomplished that — with a few bumps along the way, of course (ha-ha) — and we were able to make the right decisions when no one was watching. In many ways, we are a reflection of who she was.

That said, there is, however, one explicit life lesson I do remember from her.

In May 2014 I had just graduated college and my mom was near the end of her life. (Note: she was diagnosed with melanoma in October 2013 at the start of my senior year). Although my other two brothers had graduated college, they never had a ceremony, so my mom was adamant about seeing mine despite being on doctors not to leave the house. As you know by now, she was stubborn and went anyway, traveling several hours to my college. After the ceremony, we then went to the beach and stared out over Lake Superior; which is one of the largest lakes in the world and looks like an ocean.

In this moment it was just the two of us and she turned to me with tears in her eyes, but with a strong conviction, and said, “Dan — I will never see you grow up and become the man I know you can be, nor will I ever meet your soulmate or see your children, but I know you are meant for great things. So just remember — life is short, make it interesting”.

Several months later in August 2014, she passed away at the age of 56; just ten months after her initial diagnosis. It was truly bitter to have her gone, but also sweet to finally see her free from pain. I also realized shortly after her death that she spent the majority of her suffering and sacrificing and only started living freely and happily towards the end when nothing else mattered anymore.

So, I took her words and that epiphany and made it a point from that moment forward to really push myself, go after the world, and not wait on anybody. It hasn’t been easy, and at times I still struggle, but I have somehow managed become accomplished many areas of life. I’ve also developed a strong and eclectic network while simultaneously acknowledging my insecurities, turning them into positives, and learning to be vulnerable and interdependent after so many years of being hyper-independent.

In the end, those words have become somewhat of a life motto and I’ll never forget them.

Can you share your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Why does that resonate with you so much?

A life lesson quote that has stuck with me for a long time is one told to me by my best friend, Cory Coleman. In his words, “Keep flying, the flight doesn’t land here.”

The backstory behind the quote is that during 2017 we were on vacation together in Barbados. I had already traveled abroad quite a bit, but it was Cory’s first time (fun side story — he forgot his passport in the airport shortly before boarding and we nearly missed our flight). We were very excited for this trip, particularly because we were both young single guys looking to party and chase after women. We were 25 at the time.

Well, what ended up happening instead was that shortly before leaving, I was dumped by a woman I was seeing and I had become a severely heartbroken shell of a person. We weren’t official, but it just got to me because I had unexpectedly fallen in love. It also didn’t help that just three years earlier my mom had passed away from melanoma cancer immediately after I graduated college. I don’t think I ever took time to properly grieve her death and just kind of moved on from it because I had to quickly become an adult, start working full time, and live on my own. Overall, everything just caught up to me and I was very lonely, depressed, and anxious. You could say I was having a quarter life crisis.

Anyway, one night during our vacation we were sitting together on the beach under a washed up fisherman’s boat and staring out at the ocean. It was an amazing sight because you could hear and smell the ocean, see all the stars and planets, and couldn’t tell where the sky ended and the ocean began. In this moment, Cory could see that I was struggling and he just said, “Dan — keep flying, the flight doesn’t end here”.

That quote really resonated with me and continues so to this day. To me, it’s the simple yet powerful message that life is going to have ups and downs, but they key is to not give up and keep pushing forward because eventually good things and people are likely to come along and enrich your life. It was also symbolic given my mother had provided me with a similar message several years earlier on a beach.

In the end, Cory’s support, and the support of his family, really helped get me through this time (and plenty of other times too). For that I’m eternally grateful. Meanwhile, we didn’t meet any pretty women on the trip, at least not until the day we were leaving at the airport (ha-ha), but we still had a good time together and met some interesting characters; including Rihanna’s brother in a local town bar. So altogether, it was a pretty great trip and became a turning point in my life.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. (Please share a story or example for each)

  1. Limitations are meant to be broken: As I mentioned earlier, life is filled with many failures. However, it is important to become comfortable with the uncomfortable because otherwise we will never know our true limitations. We are far more capable than we realize and very few of us ever tap into our full potential.
  2. Experience and education are equally important: Education gets a bad rap these days and many believe experience is all you need. This is faulty thinking, as you can have low quality experience just like you can have low quality education. The real winners are those who improve both in a balanced and varied manner.
  3. Listen, learn, and understand: Most people don’t know what it truly means to do this because all we want to do is assert ourselves instead. However, if we only ever wait for our turn to speak, many messages and lessons are missed. So sometimes, it’s actually better to take a step back and let others show their card first. In fact, it’s often the quiet person in the room who speaks last that you need to pay attention to.
  4. Don’t expect to be liked or understood: Ambitious people are dangerous because they know what they want and are not afraid to go after it. But sometimes this intensity can rub others the wrong way and lead to criticism. Whether or not this criticism is warranted doesn’t matter. What really matters is how you respond to it and how you deal with your struggles. This is where character is born.
  5. Time is your number one asset: It’s cliché, but it’s true. Time is the one asset you can’t buy back — once it’s gone, it’s gone. So, learn to prioritize your time and leverage it to the best of your abilities. You don’t want to wake up one day and be looking back thinking, “What if…?”.
  6. Bonus — check your ego, you’re not special: It’s important to take pride in your accomplishments, but if you ever reach a point where you don’t think there’s room for improvement or that you’re the best — guess what, you’re wrong. In fact, you’re probably not that good and the world will soon notice.

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

It sounds cliché, but I’m a big believer in the quote, “Give a man a fish, you feed him for a day. If you teach a man to fish, you feed him for a lifetime.”

Given that I’m in the university and private consulting business, education is important to me. I’m always trying to learn and discover new things. Unfortunately, education gets a bad rap these days because of the rising costs, poor educators, irrelevant classes, worthless degrees, and so on. Another factor is the rise of “hustle culture” on social media, which commonly eschews traditional education in favor of alternative forms of learning; often from unqualified self-proclaimed “gurus”. Lastly, there is increasing employer expectations that require advanced knowledge and skills for often just average pay and opportunities.

But hey, I get it — on all sides — because I’ve been in all four positions: student, employee, educator, and employer. As I student, I’ve paid outrageous fees, had poor educators, and taken classes that had no relevance to my career. As an employee, I know what it’s like to have impressive credentials and outperform my peers and superiors, yet still get paid far under my market value or be made false promises of raises, advancement, partnership, etc. Finally, as an educator and employer, I’ve taught and trained students and employees who lacked basic skills needed for the job at hand despite looking impressive on paper.

Quite frankly, traditional education has lost a lot of its return on investment and there is a misalignment between educators, employers, and students/employees. We need to evolve the way we think about education, workforce preparedness, and life skills. Thankfully, I think the COVID-19 pandemic has created many opportunities to do just that and we’re seeing a rapid increase across the board.

That said, one area that I’m interested in is the advancement and promotion of personal finance in high schools, colleges, and workforces. Why? Because regardless of who you are, where you’re from, and what you do — money is going to impact your life and the lives of those you care about. Some examples include budgeting, insurance, investments, employee and retirement benefits, taxes, estates, career planning/networking, etc.

As a personal example, I’m a bit of a nerd because I find this stuff interesting and started renting personal finance books from the local library when I was just thirteen years old. My high school also offered a personal finance class from a trained professional; which very few schools do. Altogether, I have been able to leverage my personal finance knowledge into multiple streams of income, build a strong retirement nest egg, earn high quality education at discounted prices, and take cool trips around the world for free using credit card points. And I did all of this despite having very little savings, inheritance, or earnings power at the beginning of my journey. Now that I’m entering into my 30’s, I’m pretty far ahead of the game and it’s no longer a question of what I have to do, but rather what I want to do — and that’s a pretty cool feeling to have.

Notably, I’m probably a bad example because I’m inherently draw to this stuff and had the added bonus of receiving education on it early in life. But many others do not have the same kinds of opportunities because they lack the resources and wherewithal. Also, few (if any) states, colleges, and jobs require this kind of curriculum, despite it being such an important and transferrable life skill. Florida is one state that recognizes this and has just mandated personal financial education in secondary schools, but there’s still a lot of room for improvement across the board.

Overall, there [of course] needs to be a desire on the individual’s part to learn and apply the knowledge. But people don’t necessarily need to become experts at this stuff — a basic understanding of how some of these things work and how to leverage them to your advantage can really get you a long ways. And if something goes beyond the individual’s capabilities, that’s when you hire a qualified professional to help.

In the end, I don’t think money buys happiness, but I do think financial knowledge and independence is a powerful tool that can help create exciting opportunities, experiences, and relationships with others that ultimately leads to happiness — and who doesn’t want that?

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them. 🙂

To be honest, I’ve never had a burning desire to meet just one public figure or celebrity. There’s just too many amazing people in this world for me to narrow it down to one choice. So I guess here’s what I would say — if my interview and message at all resonates with any readers and you want to work together, interview, or just connect over coffee, food, or drinks, please feel free to contact me.

How can our readers follow you online?

I don’t have Twitter and my dancing skills aren’t good enough for TikTok, but you can follow me via LinkedIn linkedin.com/in/dantjohnson or Instagram https://www.instagram.com/dee_jaay_/. You can also send me a personal email at danielthomasjohnson123@gmail.com.

Thank you so much for joining us. This was so inspiring.

Thank you as well, I appreciate it.

Dan Johnson: 5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me When I First Became A Professional Athlete was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.