Danny Khursigara is a Hong Kong-based entrepreneur, a business transformation consultant and highly sought after certified success and executive coach. He creates transformational experiences and breakthroughs that lead to success in life and business.
With over 18 years experience in the banking world, Danny has worked in five international cities in Asia Pacific in the roles of COO and CFO. In addition to his dynamic appearance on TEDx, he’s a Quilly Award winner for the bestseller Road to Success, which he co-authored with Jack Canfield.
Named a Top 100 Authority by Influence Magazine, Danny has earned the much deserved rank of being one of the top executive coaches in Asia. The Influence Magazine team caught up with Danny at his FreedomOne office in Hong Kong and discovered a man who is passionate about helping people and companies transform and live with purpose.
We approached the conversation with Danny keeping a single goal in mind, and that was to share the human story behind his success. What we discovered was an engaging, deeply knowledgeable coach, author and speaker with a vision to touch 5,000 lives in the next five years.
Danny is one of our first features of 2017, the year of Authority here at Influence Magazine, and I don’t believe there could be a better opening act. Enjoy meeting Danny through our in-depth conversation and get in touch with him when you are ready to take your life and career to the next level.
I'm so happy to be talking to you in Hong Kong.
I'm excited to be honoured with a Top 100 Authority placement, thank you.
You caught our eye through your TEDx talk, your Quilly Award for the bestseller Road to Success and your unique relationship with Jack Canfield. I’m excited to know the story of the man behind the success. What kind of work do you do?
I’ve been a career banker for the past 18 years and I’m also the founder and CEO of FreedomOne International Consulting, my own Executive Coaching and business consulting practise, a different kind of executive coaching & consulting company.
What’s different about it ?
My focus as an executive coach is to work with people on transforming aspects of their lives. Transcending beyond self imposed limitations and belief systems and into limitless possibilities of growth and contribution - for individuals and organisations alike. Like co-creating your shortcut to success. It’s about defining success from a higher level of conscious awareness than your perceived version of current reality.
Transformation versus motivation?
Motivation and inspiration are part of what I do, but while motivation pushes, inspiration pulls. Motivation can be temporary. What I focus on is transformation. It has longevity because a shift in thinking occurs that brings about a sense of freedom. Sometimes it is a small shift, but it has a profound impact on the way someone experiences their life and their results going forward.
What kind of people do you work with?
People, C suite executives in particular, professionals and entrepreneurs who have made a decision in their lives to go to the next level. It may be with their career goals, business performance and personal growth. I believe that personal and professional aspects are intertwined and not uniquely separate in becoming successful.
Let’s go back to what you said earlier, that you’ve been a banker for 18 years. That surprises me! Talk to me about the decision to go into banking and the corporate world.
Well, I was born in Karachi, Pakistan. My family belonged to a small community called the Zoroastrians. It’s one of the oldest monotheistic religions in the world, a few hundred years BC. My family life has been very stable. I have an elder brother, and my parents brought us up in a very caring, supportive environment. What I am today is because of my parents, the amount of love and support they invested in us and gave us throughout our lives.
Is there anything in particular you appreciate about your childhood?
I’d say it was the freedom to make our own choices. I was not bound to do one thing or the other. If I made a choice and it was a mistake I could always run back [laughs], it was okay; I never felt like I was being judged.
So in those childhood years, any career dream?
I wanted to be an actor, it was a childhood fantasy.
[laughs] Well, when I watched your TEDx you have excellent stage presence so there is definitely something there. But you went into the banking and corporate world.
I was very enamoured of that world!
What aspects were you especially drawn to?
I liked the idea of certainty, control and more significance to life. That’s the world I aspired to. I would seek out those who have achieved what I want to achieve and learn from their experiences.
What did your path into banking look like?
I was very keen on becoming an accountant, so after my university I enrolled with Price Waterhouse. While I was there I was auditing a bank, amongst several other multinational companies, the Australian New Zealand Bank and they wanted to hire me as an accountant. Since I was aspiring to becoming a CFO it was a good move. After that, I worked for ABN AMRO, a Dutch bank in Japan.
That was the beginning of the travel and living in different countries?
Moving to Japan as the head of Finance took me to an international level. That was a big boost and a very challenging assignment. The learning I had during that period was just phenomenal. From Tokyo, Japan I moved to the Philippines as COO and CFO for theRoyal Bank of Scotland and then to Hong Kong and China in similar capacities and back to where I am now in Hong Kong.
Lessons along the way?
It’s had its challenges! I grew through multi-cultural environments, working with very, very different people and very distant cultures only to realise that people no matter who they are or where they come from are intrinsically the same regardless of culture, colour, faith or nationality.
What an education.
Yes, not just for me, but for my children. I have three daughters, 16, 14 and 12, and it's been an education for them as well.
As a citizen of the world, where is home in your heart?
[laughs] I get asked that question many times; for me, whichever country I'm living in is home. So although I originally come from Karachi and my parents are still there, when I was in Tokyo, Tokyo was home for me. When I'm in Hong Kong, Hong Kong's home for me. Then Shanghai ... Whatever city we are in we have our friends, and our occupations. It's being able to celebrate or learn form each moment, each experience and not get identified with or attached to a certain place, community or belief system. I’ve learned from experience it's better to be more open and accept what comes your way than to try and change it. Because that’s when real growth happens.
Was your corporate career a training ground for your work as an executive coach?
During my banking career, I was putting my own beliefs into action. I remember visualizing each position before I actually got it. You cannot have what you are not willing to envision and more importantly, become, at a subconscious level. Fifteen years ago I did not even know that this was a technique, I just felt it was right on a subconscious level. So now, when I work with executives I know where they are coming from. I can relate to their work and life experiences.
So the move from banking to executive coach, author and speaker, what was your motivation?
There came a point and time in my career, about a couple of years back, where I was asking the question, "Is this it?" Is this what I was aspiring for? I felt something was missing and I wasn't feeling that satisfaction, that fulfillment from my situation, in general. There's nothing wrong with the job, or nothing wrong with what I was doing, I was enjoying it but it was just not complete... I felt I was not using my talents and abilities to my maximum potential and that I was doing something rather trivial in the grand scheme of things.
Was it one door closing and another opening?
It was an evolution over a few years, actually. I was integrating coaching and mentoring within my banking organization for a number of years. It actually compliments your professional skills in the corporate world. But after a few years I wanted to be able to make a bigger impact, to do my work on a wider scale. That’s the beauty of this work, you can do it while you're in a job or running your own business...
In your book chapters and in your TEDx, you say that your talent is your calling. That it’s important to know your calling. Has your calling stayed the same or has it evolved?
I always felt I had that calling but I wasn’t able to define it.
The time I spent with my mentor Jack Canfield was a pivot point. Jack has this knack for bringing out things in you and what you really want and are good at at a subconscious level. That work with him turned the dial. In my chapter in the Jack Canfield book, Road to Success, I mentioned a conversation I had with Dannion Brinkley, a guy who wrote Secrets of the Light, which later became an HBO movie. My first call with him was transformational. It wasn't an awakening but a realization that I had to focus more on what I wanted to do on a wider scale.
What did you want to do?
Well, to come from a place of growth and contribution, making a living by doing what I enjoy and being of service. To some extent, you can do that even through your corporate life, believe it or not. It’s really not either or as most people might think it is. It’s about prioritising.
How do you put that into practice?
It’s been an evolution. At that time, being a manager of large teams, I started mentoring and coaching at the bank. Then outside with clients. The deeper into coaching work I got, the more I realized the power it has for impacting people's lives, including my own. I wanted to become an expert
Coaching helps the coach grow?
Yes, I grow in the process of coaching and mentoring others. It’s not just what you give to others but what you learn and gain through that exchange as well.
So each person you coach leaves you a little bit of a different person as well?
Of course. Absolutely. It does.
What’s the first step in working with someone through your company?
My first step with a potential client is a complimentary session. I want them to know me better and I want to get to know them. At the end of the day you want to work with someone who's coachable.
What do you mean by coachable? What are the characteristics of someone who is coachable?
The key question is - are you interested or are you committed? Somebody who is willing to do the work and somebody who's made a decision that they want to take their life or business to the next level. Some people, when they hire a consultant for their business or a success coach, they're not ready to go the full nine yards and do the work. They prefer to sit inside their comfort zone regardless how stressful or non-serving that is.
Walk me through the steps someone usually takes before they become, as you say, “coachable.”
It's the point when someone makes a firm decision that their present situation isn’t serving them anymore. I would divide that into four stages.
1. They receive an inspiration.
2. They form an intention.
3. They take action.
4. They experience growth.
And you can tell that in your first, complimentary session?
In my first coaching session, most likely I can sense if the person or a company has taken the decision to actually make a change. It’s a transformation that they want in their business, career, and/or personal life. They’ve made the decision to get to the next level and they’re hungry for it. Hunger is a good way to describe it. And that’s when it gets exciting and more valuable for the client. It’s a transformation they want in their career, the health, relationship or life. They’ve made the decision to take their life to the next level.
Is the process you go through with each client the same?
It’s unique for every person, but the process allows them to go really deep within themselves and ask the right questions. I believe that without introspection you can’t have transformation.
I know through reading your work that you believe in coaching that goes “deep.” What does this mean?
I mean it’s not just looking at the symptom of a problem, but what really lies on a subconscious level. Thinking affects outcomes so it’s important to understand the thinking that led to this outcome. The issue needs to be unraveled before it’s understood. Same thing applies to companies.
I know you say that the three personality traits that define Danny are passion, compassion and kindness. Bringing those three traits to the table must make it easier for your clients to get to the underlying issues.
I believe that people are doing the best they can with the level of awareness they have at that particular point in time. And by initially putting myself in the other person's shoes to really understand where they are coming from helps me make an assessment as to where it is that the client is getting stuck and then through a more informed perspective, seeking out if there is a limiting belief or behaviour that's holding them back, external involvement or if they are giving their power away as opposed to owning it. I guess it’s not always about what clients want but more importantly what they need.
So you take a deep approach to coaching. You guide people to questions and thoughts they haven’t explored yet.
Absolutely, it’s because the level of thinking that you currently have will only get you more of what you have now. So if you want something different, you have to do something different. If you want to take your life to the next level, you need to think different thoughts, hold different images, and take different actions. The definition of insanity is to continue doing the same thing again and again expecting the future to show up different. That won’t happen. Once you identify and overcome what’s holding you back at a subconscious level, you can create your roadmap to success. It’s like flicking a switch from ignorance to awareness, from anxiety to excitement. That’s when the fun begins. The level of thinking that you currently have will only get you more of what you have now. So if you want something different,you have to do something different. If you want to take your life to the next level, you need to think different thoughts, hold different images and take different actions.
I love that you find helping people transform fun.
Give me a glimpse of the types of questions you ask to uncover the real issues of why someone is either stuck or not achieving what they want.
Well, it has a lot to do with introspection. If it’s an individual, each session is different for different people. It’s also about understanding what gives people most joy doing as opposed to focusing too much on current reality and past experiences to move people forward. You can’t expect to drive a car looking in the rear view mirror the whole way. The feeling state is more important than the doing. What are you most happy doing? What lights you up? What particular thing that you do gives you the most joy?” as an example.
I love those questions, everyone should be asked those!
In most cases the answers to what gives them joy are genuinely quite different from what they are doing currently [laughs].
Okay, so what gives you joy isn’t what you are actually doing. It’s quite a revelation. What’s next?
You go through a more in-depth process in terms of deciding what you really want, clarifying your purpose, defining the talents and qualities that are unique to you, the qualities you brought into the world. Do you fully express them now? If you’re not expressing them, would your view of the world change if you were?
And what happens when these questions start getting asked?
A picture starts to make sense to them. It takes a while, but it makes sense and once they get it, it's like, a flick of a switch.
And after the switch?
We move from purpose into passion, vision and goals. That’s when it gets even more fun because now you're aligning your purpose with your passion, vision and goals and gaining the confidence to actually achieve it. It’s like creating your own success blueprint. I noticed with people I have worked with in the past, this is quite a revelation especially those seeking a career shift or seeking to make a quantum leap in their business and income, or seeking more free time to create a healthy work/life balance. Through clarity, focus and inspired action, results come about fast once you have dealt with what holds you back. That’s when it gets even more fun because now you're aligning your purpose with passion, vision and goals...
How close is this experience to climbing a mountain? Sounds hard but in the end it will all be worth it?
It’s only as hard as you make it. Using your analogy, as we take each step in the right direction the way gets clearer and clearer and soon we find ourselves on a roll and gaining momentum which ultimately leads us to our destination and desired outcome. The future always makes sense backwards
It’s a gradual process?
Yes, but with the experiential training, mindfulness techniques and exercises applied correctly and consistently you can get there much quicker. It takes courage to name what we know deep inside of us. Yes, that's why I always call it more of a transformation than motivation. Because when you get in touch with that deeper part of you, you start to transform, not just get motivated.
You mentioned before that you think motivation is fleeting and transformation has longevity.
Yes, absolutely. Motivation comes from the external. You might feel motivated in that moment, but if you notice what happens in many seminars, when people leave the room, 50% or more might not feel that motivated after they’re back into the daily routine of things. Motivation is difficult to maintain over a long period, but when you come at it from a deeper part of you, it goes beyond motivation and into inspiration and transformation.
Can people do this transformation work on their own? Why do they need you?
I think the biggest benefit in working with me is that you stay accountable and by consistently pushing boundaries, be it emotional, psychological or physical, the change you need to make within you to make things happen actually starts to happen. You’ll find that top athletes, performers, CEO’s all have coaches to drive them to higher levels of performance, success and fulfillment.