Interview with Daniel Wong: On effectively motivating young adults


Vera: Your book “The Happy student” focuses on Academic fulfillment and success; why the focus on students and on academic success?

Daniel: For most of my life as a student, I found myself pursuing achievements and accomplishments without understanding the real purpose behind all of this striving. When I began to discover the keys to finding long-term success and happiness as a student, I decided to share what I’d learned through my book.


Vera: Your clear mission with students is to empower them to be happy and successful. Without splitting hairs, which come first and what’s typically the journey from that to the second?

Daniel: I’d say that they really go hand in hand. The more purpose-driven and fulfilled you are, the more likely you are to be motivated and focused. This, in turn, leads to greater success. And when you experience more success and see how that success allows you to serve others better, you’re more likely to find more fulfillment. The first step is to define success for yourself, and to identify what values you want to live by.


Vera: You’re known as the learning and teen expert- quite the accolade considering the challenges most people expect with teenagers, how would you describe this teen ‘’expertise’’ and how does one develop it?

Daniel: This “expertise” needs to be continually developed. Every day, I learn more about how to connect with teens and motivate them. The skills I’ve acquired so far have come as a result of working with thousands of teenagers and continually upgrading my knowledge in this area.


Vera: When you think about the world of work in say 10 years’ time, what do you hope these teenagers you reach with your work will be able to do that young people struggle with these days?

Daniel: As the world becomes an increasingly “noisy” place – with countless daily messages, notifications, emails, etc. – it becomes even more crucial that you’re able to be focused, disciplined, and self-motivated. I work with teens and pre-teens to help them acquire these life skills, which I trust will enable them to serve more people, create more value, and make more of a difference in the world.


Vera: What are the benefits of a strong academic record and what would you say are some key life values and skills students should develop in pursuing academic excellence?

Daniel: Having a strong academic record doesn’t mean that much in the long run, but the process of developing that record is one that can help students become more focused, organized, and driven. Along the way, students can learn other skills like collaboration, leadership, time management, and more.


Vera: Teenagers feel that their parents and other adults do not understand them. What are some of the concerns you hear from them in your work that we don’t often hear and what can parents/adults do to motivate their adolescents and young adults?

Daniel: Teenagers often tell me that they rarely receive encouragement. When they do “wrong” things, they’re scolded or nagged at. But when they behave well, they’re rarely encouraged for their good behavior. I’ve observed that the behavior of teenagers (that parents and adults focus on) tends to multiply. This means that if the focus is continually on the teenager’s bad behavior, that behavior will increase over time. But if the focus is on the teenager’s good behavior, that behavior will increase over time too.


Vera: If you had it in your power to introduce one rule in High schools globally that would bring a shift in how students develop, what would it be and why?

Daniel: The rule would be that the majority of tests and exams would be open-book. There’s so much information that’s readily available today on the Internet, so it’s less important that students memorize information, and more important that they’re able to apply that information in a meaningful way. If, as a norm, tests and exams were open-book, I think it would foster creativity and critical thinking in students.


Vera: As the learning expert, how do you keep learning and what are you intentionally learning now?

Daniel: I read lots of books and executive summaries, and I take online courses too. At the moment, I’m focusing on learning more about psychology and people management.


Daniel’s profile

Daniel Wong is the bestselling author of The Happy Student: 5 Steps to Academic Fulfillment and Success. He specializes in helping students to become both happy and successful. Get a FREE copy of his e-book, 16 Keys to Motivating Your Teenager.


For more information on Vera Ng’oma’s work and resources in leadership, personal and career development and excellence building, click here.