Dan_HeadshotIf life gives you lemons you make lemonade.

It’s hard not knowing or understanding much about your family. Why they do what they do and ended up where they did. I had enough lemons dumped in my lap to fill an orchard. My childhood was was filled with physical and emotional abuse, including sexual abuse outside the family. It was an upbringing designed to drive a small boy crazy. At one point my mother thought it had and put me in the psychiatric ward of a hospital in Alberta. I wound up there because I was the only one in the family who would speak out at my mother. Everyone else was scared. I was 12 years old. Later I found out that the doctors thought that my mother should have been in there instead of me.

I found out that the ward was shut down because of wrongful practices. Like tying the children to the beds at night. Degrading and humiliating them. Drugging them at every turn. Verbal and physical abuse. I got out by manipulating everyone and playing their game.

I thought I grew up normal. Like every kid I assumed that we all experienced the same things. That our lives were pretty much the same. It wasn’t until I was 7 or 8 I really started to see the difference. I faintly remember a time of joy in my childhood. Camping, laughing, our small family gatherings, some birthdays and Christmas. Christmas was one thing my mom loved. Of course it didn’t last.

I never knew my father. He’s not among the memories, good or bad. He’s not to blame. He may have walked out, or he may have been kicked out. Maybe he hoped he’d be kicked out, given the relationship he was in and if he was anything like everyone else in my family.

My mom was a dancer. She moved to New York to make it on Broadway. I remember my family saying she did something there and was in a few episodes on a soap opera. She became pregnant with my older brother and left New York to come back to Edmonton. She had a dance studio and taught classes in Edmonton. Ballet, jazz, tap … I remember running around the studio in an old church, and just acting like a kid. Mom was really talented. She could do anything. But mostly she could screw it up. It was like she would run from anything that started going right.

I remember my step dad. He was not a nice man. He scared me. He was physically, verbally and emotionally abusive. When my mother left him he took everything. She lost the car, the dance studio…basically everything we had, which wasn’t much to begin with. She got to keep the kids she had with him; my two younger brothers.

She now decided to become a teacher.

I was on my own, trying to figure it all out in dangerous ways. I ran with a bad crowd. Basically good people who did bad things. But if it wasn’t for those guys I’d never have made it to California to fight. I’d been training since I was a young child in boxing, kickboxing, Filipino Kali, Jeet Kune Do, Catch Wrestling and Jiu Jitsu. A friend said I should try out for Frank Shamrock’s Team USA. It meant taking the famous Lion’s Den test, which was based more on mental strength than physical strength. I made the team and five-times undefeated UFC Champion Frank Shamrock became my mentor.

Dan_3I turned professional … boxing and kickboxing, then MMA and fought till 2005. I was good, but it never felt right. Like I wasn’t meant to punch people in the face and break them down. But it led to other things. I didn’t walk away, I got good at turning one opportunity into another. For awhile, I ran a team of four guys guarding Jessica Alba. Everything I have now came out of sucking it up and keeping my eyes open and knowing that it would come my way sooner or later.

My mom was a mess, but thinking back she was also my muse. She’s shown me that it’s easier to walk away from things than face them head on. And when you do, you never see the opportunity hidden behind whatever it was you wanted to avoid. I learned you can do anything. The trick is to keep at it, do it right and don’t piss off the people who are trying to help you. I listened, I learned and I’ve never hesitated to try something that seemed impossible and following it through to the end whatever that turned out to be.

Now I have a great career in the Stunt Industry in Vancouver, a production company with a feature in the works and a charity I co-founded and really believe in. My charity is called Project Solution Jamaica. Right now we feed all the students at the Granville Primary School in Trelawny, Jamaica. This year we started a scholarship program. I have plans to expand it to other countries.

Oh, Yeah … my Mom eventually became a teacher. I respect her for that. Going to university full time and raising four boys. Even ‘tho she did a bad job of it. But then she managed to get blacklisted in the Public School System and moved on to get blacklisted in the Christian School System. A few years ago my dad contacted me on Facebook and I learned a few things from him. My aunt has told me a bit for some reason my family doesn’t really want to talk about anything that happened in the past. My brothers and I were always told “it’s none of your business.”It probably explains why I’m so hands-on now with my company and my charity.

It’s all my business.