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A Kiwi Trying to Fly

with Darsh Dahya

Audio Recording: 27 mins 13 secs

A Kiwi Trying to FlyDarsh Dahya
00:00 / 27:13

Audio Written Dialogue

A Kiwi trying to fly


While taking a mental break. I was approached about an interview perhaps exploring what tools I used as a leader. I don't really get into podcasts too much, I've listened to a few, but usually when someone close to me shares something with me they think is worth listening to.


But this was a little different, and I wasn’t really sure about me being on one.


I met an amazing woman that works with executives, largely CEOs and provides support to leaders, through mental, spiritual, and energy healing as well as life coaching.


She works closely with the minds of leaders, giving them tools for mental growth and coaching, so that they can be the best versions of themselves. This focus on how powerful our minds, thoughts and intentions are, and working through energy healing, resonated with me because these are the tools that I have been blessed with through my own support system of energy healers and life coaches.


Awkwardly, this was potentially meant to be a date, but as we shared stories with each other, what we both did for work, was intriguingly closely related and it was thought provoking for me on this common theme, or simply, just sharing my own story with others.


We reconsidered doing a blind interview before meeting, but I didn't like the idea of that too much and it kinda scared the shit outta me.


I followed up, however, curious as to the intention of the podcast, which was simply ‘to inspire others’.


Weeks have flown by and led me to here and now. It's kind of scary and makes me nervous and I already feel judged, like perhaps I shouldn't have put this ‘out there’.


I just want to add a quick note of caution that I have worked in an industry that in many countries across the world is illegal. There are and can be severe penalties and fines associated with the misuse and possession of cannabis depending on where in the world you are. My story does not talk about the use of cannabis or its benefits and disadvantages, but rather, focuses on staying curious, being a leader, and finding ways to be an effective leader.


I wasn't really planning on making a video or even writing anything, so I don't really know what this is. Do I have a message? Is this a good idea? Is it a bad idea?


Life’s about the journey we take and the people we meet along the way.


I wanted to share from my own experiences and hope to provide, if anything, some of the tools I use and have seen others use that I think make great leaders. I hope my story can inspire others trying to find their voice or path as a leader or anywhere else life is taking them.


As I close my eyes and think, my thoughts are always lined with music. Maybe the Rolling Stones or Maggie Rogers, filling the background in my mind. I listen. People always wonder why I tap my feet all day long. It drives my colleagues nuts to be honest. But, I’m always listening to something, always.


I love all genres of music. I wake up playing Rage Against the Machine. I dance through the day with Ben Harper and Justin Bieber on the guitar. I ride out the night with Metallica and smash through The Strokes. I transport myself with the Glass Animals and Kygo, secretly bop along to Taylor Swift every now and then. Evenings can be anything, maybe Khalid, after meeting him, his music became even more uplifting.


It was Kings of Leon's music that sang to my soul a long time ago.


In 2022 I taught myself the guitar and drums and just played till my fingers were bleeding and my hands couldn't hold the sticks anymore. I can’t read music, and I don’t know if I’m doing it ‘right’. But, I loved it.


I'm not famous or rich or the most incredible something, just another soul on a journey like everyone else.


But! I do have a voice. Just like everyone else. Trust me. Ask anyone who has met me, it’s very tough to get a word in. I’m a lot…


And I do have a story to tell, one that maybe can just inspire a few people.


I grew up in New Zealand. Father was a doctor in my small hometown Palmy, and Mum ran the practice with him. Mum and Dad were known by pretty much the whole town, and Dads ties to the Hospital, the Police, Rotary Club, the Race Track and his own Medical Practice,  I felt like someone would have heard of me when they met me. Big deal in a small town. Reality… Just a kid that didn’t know too much about anything. I was the oldest of four with three younger sisters. And, how Mum managed all of our lives, I’ll never know…


I studied, played sports, dabbled with music, drew and sketched, built things with my hands, went to church twice a week, had good friends, had crazy friends, did martial arts, sang on the radio, worked for mom and dad filing patient medical records, raced cars, skateboarded, BMX’d, swam for school sports, and even thought I'd be the president of the United States of America one day.


Back then. I don’t think I even knew how to find America on the map, but none the less, big dreams. I didn’t know how small my town was, it’s all I knew, and I hadn’t left the country but once to South Africa. I remember realizing our country could fit in one of South Africa’s safari parks.


At around 16, my parents divorced. Of course it had an impact, why wouldn’t it? I finished high school and started university.


We weren’t well off, as most people expected, my parents were raising four kids in a small town of only 80,000 people. Money was tight but we we always had what we needed. Fortunately, the New Zealand government provides assistance, to anyone who needs it, and help for study and living costs were funded through student loans till I graduated. I’m so thankful to have been raised in a country where each person has the opportunity for an education, if they choose it.


As I was starting university, there were three amazing professional mentors in my life. A CEO, a Doctor, and a Dentist (may he rest in peace).


These people inspired me in so many different ways, whether we were fly fishing at 4:30 AM on the Tongariro River, skiing on the mountain for the first time, or flying in my Dad's airplane through the Manawatu Gorge, whatever that inspiration was, I pulled many different things from them at this time in my life.


I want to share with young people or anyone facing their path to the future. Maybe, not sure what they want to do with with the rest of their lives.


This is what I gathered from all of their insights and accomplishments and what I think helped me along the way.


“You don’t have to know what you want to be, but choose something for the want of doing that thing, and not for the money.”


I thought about that a lot, because, I wanted to be a dentist. My uncle had a three-story house and go-karts, and that seemed like the right way to go.


But I chose Architecture. I had been awarded the top student in high school for graphic design, engineering, art, and mathematics, and I loved all of them. The first year, that passion started to fade and turned out to be a lot of hard ass work and no fun.


So I quit.


Out of all my high school subjects, accounting was just a ‘checkbox’ subject. I passed it because I needed to really, but, I decided to study business and accounting.


I wanted to know how companies and businesses worked. Eventually, I figured I’d just choose the best one and work there or run one.


I graduated university with a Bachelor's Degree, in Accounting and Commercial law, and a Graduate Diploma in Professional Accounting. I did three more years Postgrad and became a chartered accountant to get the initials next to my name.


Relationships - Girlfriends, hookups, breakups, text messages, long phone calls and email messages.




Never thought too much of weddings, but only because I thought that the promise made to someone is between that person the other person. The fancy ceremony is to show off to everyone for a party, photographs, and these days, Instagram or everywhere else.


But Weddings are also family, togetherness, friends, laughing, joy, that’s also ‘weddings’.


I moved to Canada and the US with one of my best friends, Punam, and we later married, discretely, with her older sister in New York.


We kind of had to for the US title of being married or what have you. But, also we would've, it just wasn't a must have. We told our families years later, maybe we felt bad we didn't have a wedding perhaps and missed the boat, per se.


Fast forward, separated, detached from employment and taking a mental recharge.


I'm 39 years young now.


I've been the Senior Vice President of Accounting for a publicly traded cannabis cultivator, distributor and retailer in the United States, the Chief Accounting Officer for a publicly traded ancillary goods company serving the cannabis industry and listed on the NASDAQ.


I also served as a Controller of a publicly traded health supplement company and a Senior Manager for the fifth largest accounting network in the world. I serviced largely manufacturing and distribution clients as well as the entertainment industry in Los Angeles.


While working, I also served on HR committees, social committees and culture committees. I led and designed training and development programs and I was a mentor for over 60 people through my career.


How did I do all this? Well, I was provided amazing opportunities and I had an army of people supporting me, helping me and caring for me.


K,F,C, three words that one of my best friends told me to focus on in any given situation. Kindness, forgiveness, and compassion.


I just did my best and by doing that, simply tried, if anything, to be a light in peoples lives, and spread more cheer than dispear.


Given the times we are living in now, and how much the world has been changing in the last three years, so significantly influenced by the global pandemic. I want to use my voice to say thank you to all the mothers, sisters, wives, daughters, and women in my life.


I eluded earlier to energy healers that have helped me along the way. By far, the saying where behind every great man is an even greater woman, sings so true. Even if that simply starts with just our Mothers. My ex, Punam, works as a hypnotherapist and energy healer. Helping damaged and frail minds and working with souls across the world. Her years of studies and passion towards energy healing and working with the subconscious mind, has certainly leant its hand to me along the way, and helped me along my own professional journey in a big way.


We are all the same, as human beings. We're all souls. On a journey. Women have been my coaches, therapists, teachers, lovers, family and friends. When going through my separation, I called my ‘coworker’ who reported to me at the time first. She wasn't just my ‘coworker’, she was one of my best friends, and her wife and me and her, we’re lifeies. We worked so closely together and had each others back. Our relationship transpired passed our work.


I'm still best friends with my ex through my separation. How can I turn a blind eye to a person that endured my shit and help me keep my feet on the ladder. I’m where I am today because of every single person that has helped me along the way.


I remember talking to some of my peers when I was deciding whether to take my first CFO role. The most hard hitting comment was. Brother, you made it because you are the best. For all of us with foreign names and colored skin, you represent all of us, and seeing you make it, we see one of us through you.


This was eye opening and I definitely saw what this meant for myself and others.


I had struggles to be who I was. I wanted to be taller, more muscular, fairer toned, wealthier and better looking. But, as I thought about that comment, I thought about everyone that had helped me get to where I was. I didn’t do it alone and it was their voices and guidance, that over the years shaped me to be the person I was. I called every single person that fit that description, until I talked to all of them and thanked them for being part of my life and always supporting me and helping me shine.!we laughed, we cried and we all were better people because we had each other in our lives.


Where we’re from, what we look like, where we grew up, what we sound like, our gender, and so many other things have become obstacles for positions of power.


While my struggle was real and hard, I acknowledged everyone else around me, particularly my female counterparts, and see how hard it is for amazing leaders to be given an opportunity because of the stereotypes and conditioning our society has for some kind of deep voiced, white, Ivy League male to take fit that role.


Most of my learning comes from females. Today we see graduation rates for females almost twice their male counterparts, yet we live in a male dominated society where it doesn’t feel like the smartest people for the job, are getting awarded those roles. The need for balance and equality and always making sure that the best ‘person’ is hired for a role, must be our main intention. People need to be measured based on the role needed and their ability to fit that role, the need to be paid accordingly, and that pay should only have ranges for a good, great and exceptional candidate.


I was inspired to share my story by a PodCast an amazing woman shared with me. This woman is kind, incredibly funny and her story is far more amazing than mine. Working in medicine, she literally helps change hundreds of peoples lives. This PodCast was shared with me and discussed some of the issues around the crisis facing boys and men, with Scott Galloway.


Among many things that resonated with me, it eluded to marriage, and the thought that with divorces rates increasing and marriage rates falling, in a hundred years from now, most of the population may be single by choice. That thought was interesting to me, and as I thought about it, I thought, single, but not alone. I may be single, but I’m never alone.


I don’t think of a separation or a divorce as a failure. Relationships come and go, and often, some relationships may not serve us in the same way they used to anymore, and I think that’s okay. Im still friends with my ex, another soul on another journey that taught me so much and probably still will keep teaching me.


So who am I? I'm all of you and all of me.


My curiosity to learn, to grow, to see and to do. Always be curious. Do something for the love of it, not to impress others. When we do what we want, for our own love for it, we can do anything.


Thank you to all the people in my life. If you've ever met me, thank you because you helped make me, me. You saw me and I saw you. I've had too many mentors to name, but just because of my accounting career path, you basically start by looking at numbers, then sorting numbers and explaining numbers, and fast forward a little, for most people in that line of work, it's CFO at the end.


When I became an SVP, or an executive or an officer for a company, I took on a responsibility to the public, to the company, to the investors, but, most importantly for me, but the people I would work with.


It’s 2023 and people's lives are important now and have been for centuries.


Nothing has changed, but let's look at how people's lives are affected. Let’s look around at the people we work with.


We have fear, pain, anxiety, depression, illness, and so many other things that affect our lives and so do I. We are all the same and all feel emotions, whatever they are.


I see value in people not things. I see value in building teams, developing as teams and working to live a more fruitful and rewarding life together.


I bring positive energy to every interaction I have, and if I don't, as my buddy John would say, I Taylor Swift it, or shake it off.


Negativity spreads, but, so does positivity.


Let's not be too cool to be kind, to forgive and to care for each other.


As a leader, no job is too small or beneath me. If someone has to do it, one of my team or me needs to take one for the group and do it. If it's me, then that's all there is to it. Support each other and you will feel supported.


I was told to always work smarter, not harder. That has always rung true for me, except I was always just working hard. The second insight I received was to manage relationships. Work relationships, family, friends, and even not so friendly ones. Manage them, attend to them, communicate to them, make time for all of them.


Communication, or more so, the lack of communication is at the root of all problems. When we trace back through all the potential causes, the number one cause of failures was a lack of communication. My number one priority as a leader for any company is to focus on the people.


A company is a ship or a vessel, whether an LLC or a partnership, a C corp or an S corp, it’s a vessel. A ship or a vessel is only as good as the people on that ship. I've been with companies and we’ve raised over a hundred million dollars in capital in a week. ‘We’,  raised, not one person.


Every single person contributes to what a company does, and without those people, nothing will get accomplished.


Our attitude towards something can make a world of a difference. I have bad days just like everyone else, but, because I have a team, they pick me up when I'm down, and we turn frowns upside down. That was an embarrassing choice of words there.


If we can create a culture of positivity and creativity, we can overcome any obstacles and find ways to work smarter, not harder.


What has been most important to me on my journey wasn't the role or the title or the money and in my latest role. I didn't even add up the dollars. My best friend and mentor did for me though, three days later, and he told me it was very decent and I did a good job.


He then said to me, he was proud of me and asked me what the company was so he could buy shares, because he said, anything I'm a part of will turn to gold.


The biggest role in my life. And I was lifted up by over 20 people, and I was ready. But was I, I'd never done the biggest role in my life. I'd asked two CFOs for their advice and one said, be yourself. And the other said, listen, I thought, holy crap, I'm screwed.


That's definitely not gonna help me talk on a public earnings call, but we talked deeper on it and I'm so grateful for those three words.


Be yourself. Don't be what you think you need to be Darsh based on what you've seen others do. Later on, you'll likely forget what you said and find it harder to remember. If you know your material and you have the support of your team, then just say what you would say as you would say it and be yourself.


Use your own words and say your own words.


The other advice was to listen, and I would run out of fingers if  I listed the people who have said that to me.


But, we already know all the things that we could say or might say, but we don't know what others have to say. Rather than spend time giving speeches, listen, ask questions, and then listen some more.


As a leader, you need to make decisions, and we do that by making ‘informed’ decisions. Listen and ask questions and you’ll learn far more than giving speeches.


Not all things we are going to do work out, but always know that if you make the best decision at the time, it will always be the best decision at that time. So be okay with that.


When we can't do something because we've never done it before, we often get stuck. But if we look at things as rather something that I have to learn, then there's nothing we can't do. Only more amazing skills we're going to gain.


I asked a CFO with over 30 years of experience, how will I know what decision to make when I bear the ultimate responsibility?


He reminded me of my team.


Ask them, call them, call a friend. Call me.


What am I most proud of in my career? Not the titles, not the money. Well, there’s not too much of that, but no. It’s The lifelong friends I’ve made along the way.


I have a network of incredibly talented and amazing people, and they’re everywhere. They're not in one place. They're not at one company, but everywhere and we're all working hard.


When I had the CFO opportunities at my doorstep, I was faced with the prize at the end, but I wasn't sure if I wanted it.


Rather than taking the job or moving forward with it, I didn’t


I resigned as SVP and took a break. After being asked be over five people, it felt good enough that I didn’t really feel like it wanted to do it at that moment or just not there, at least. Heart wrenchingly, I walked away from my team and say my goodbyes.


I renovated my backyard and built a small semi pool house next to my hot tub and built it in 13 days with my own bare hands.


I carried all the concrete, timber, doors, windows and flooring from one of my happy places, Home Depot and started building till it was finished.


I had never done any of that before in my life, but I knew I could. So I did. I decided though, the the architecture and builder life still weren’t for me, and I regathered my thoughts and thought about where I was at.


CFO, I thought. Maybe it could mean something different for me. choose fun only. I thought


I realized it wasn't the title. I loved my job and I was actually pretty good at it. I felt excited and thrilled to be able to be a different leader and use my energy in ways that I think can help Company’s and people.


I approach everything in my life like this now.


Happiness, a common goal in life amongst almost every single one of us. For me, I’m happiest when I'm laughing and having fun.


If I always approach my work, family and friends with positivity, I get closer and closer to happiness, and that's what it's all really about.


I’ve worked with leaders who have talked openly about meditation and encourage the use of things like the mindfulness app, even paying for a premium subscription companywide, to make sure that we all acknowledged the importance of mental health.


When you’re not at your best mentally, you’re not at your best. We need to encourage each other to take time to recharge, and even in times of extreme pressure, stop for 10 to 20 seconds and concentrate on deep breathing exercises, or going for a short walk, if only a way to give your mind energy, so you can make sure you can come back and be at your best.


Among all great leaders, I noticed that they all had one thing in common. They were just kind and good human beings, but they all had bad days, just like me and everyone else.


I've asked almost every leader I've worked with, what is the one thing that makes them a good leader?

“I can bring people together”

“I am the hardest worker in the room and can outwork anyone”

“Don't be an asshole”

For me. I wasn't sure, but I think if I had to choose something, it would be to “hold people together”.


If someone were to describe me, it would be ‘Compassionate’.


Leaders have a large impact on people's lives. They make decisions that directly affect others. In most of our professional careers, we encounter the phrase, “The tone at the top”. We study its importance, its significance, and the value this has directly on companies. As I look to the top, I see the importance of who is there and look to them for their vision and guidance. But it is all too often that that person is not someone I can easily look to for inspiration, vision, or leadership.


The importance of mental health and positivity is now and more than ever the most important issue and challenge facing leaders everywhere.


I believe it's important for all leaders to understand their positions and how many lives they can impact or have an impact on. By this very sentiment. I believe that any leader's, successfulness is given by their ability to let go of all ego and be strong mentally and to lead in a way that fosters an environment with positivity, creativity, innovation, and a culture of togetherness, or one team, just like a community.


Companies must be built the same way with people of all different shapes and sizes, skills and perspectives, and working towards a unified vision of living our best lives. Work doesn't have to feel like work when it is an enabler for other things that you love. It's our attitude towards doing something that leads us to feel good about it. I've seen more happiness in the eyes of people cleaning toilets in public spaces  just because their attitude towards it had changed.


I remember being hired l, and excited about the announcement and it was super exciting and I was super happy to hear the announcement, but I remember the headline, reading Company adds culture and diversity to their management team. And I thought, huh, me? ….. oh


But it doesn't matter how I'm viewed by others or what other people's opinions are. I know that I was hired because I was the best person for the job. And people are going to think all sorts of things or con all sorts of phrases about you, but it doesn't matter as long as what you believe remains true.


Just be the best version of yourself.


All leaders have a resume, that outlines our skills, our qualifications, our experience and education, things that make us suitable for the role. But what is most important, that can’t be discerned from paper, is what someone’s ability to lead is and how effective of a leader they are.


My top five things that I believe make a great leader are, one, KFC, or Kindness, forgiveness and compassion, two, curiosity and constantly learning, three, communication and positivity, four, listening, and, five, be yourself.


But there is so much more, and everyone is different with a different recipe for success.


I hope my story can inspire some people. I have three sisters that get emotional when I send selfies, so at least I know a few people will be sending me fan mail.


I chose to laugh, to have fun, and to always try and live my best life. Life’s not always going to work out how we think, but the journey can be every bit of amazing if we choose it.


Live your life to the fullest and be whoever you want to be.


Those that know me, know painfully how this is going to end.


Letttsss gooo.


Let’s go.

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