Former Foster Kid Rose to Top of Hearst Group
by Marta Hepkler Drahos, Traverse City Record Eagle
Bob Danzig doesn’t know where he’d be without eight little words. ‘You are worthwhile,’ a social worker once told him. ‘You are full of promise,’ his manager at a newspaper later reinforced.
Now Danzig spreads versions of those messages all over the country as an author and motivational speaker, or spirit coach as some have called him. A former foster care child who aged outof the system at 16, he rose to become the nationwide head of the Hearst Newspaper Group and vice president of the Hearst Corp. before stepping down to inspire others with his personal experiences and insights.
Finding the best in yourself and others and using it to overcome obstacles in life will be the topic of his public talk at the Hagerty Center on Thursday, April 19. Seeds of Hope: An Evening with Bob Danzigbegins at 5:30 p.m. and is a fundraiser for Child and Family Services of Northwestern Michigan.
Typically at this time of year we do the Festival of Tables and that has been our big spring thing for 10 years, said Gina Aranki, marketing and public relations director for the nonprofit human services agency. This year is our 75th anniversary. We figured that was a big enough deal that any kind of public event should be mission-driven and more in keeping with the work that goes on here.
Danzig’s story of triumph over adversity starts with growing up in five foster homes. After graduating from high school with no family support, he took a job as an office boy at his local newspaper, the Albany (N.Y.) Times Union. Nineteen years later he became the paper’s publisher before taking over the helm of the Hearst Newspaper Group.
Becoming a motivational speaker or storyteller, as he puts it, happened almost by accident, Danizig said. In his work speaking to hundreds of newspaper staffs and businesses he found he had a knack for inspiring growth and self-value in others. He tested the waters by writing a book, The Leader Within You,which became a business best-seller. Soon he was getting interview and speaker requests from organizations like Parade magazine and Hour of Power.
After some coaching by Nancy Vogl of Nancy Vogl Speakers Bureau in Traverse City, he took his message on the road. Now he speaks to groups from sports psychology classes to school boards to corporations, and is booked into 2014. He also teaches at the prestigious New School University and is the guiding hand of the Hearst Management Institute.
Besides authoring five books and a novella he hopes will get a movie treatment, Danzig commissioned two inspirational songs. He is working toward adapting his adult-focused program, The Confidence Academy, for children.
Whether in life or in a job, he said, the biggest mistake people make is to amplify their limits rather than expand on their gifts.
People keep playing a self-talk record that focuses on their limitations, he said. When I teach a confidence course I say, Overwhelmingly people are taking this because they’ve been listening their whole life to some echo of a flaw.
While in the area, Danzig also will talk to the Economic Club of Traverse City and to a group of kids in foster care through Child and Family Services, Aranki said.
Danzig said his message to the older kids will be about the power of choice.
There will come a time when something in their visceral reaction is, This stuff is the high road and This stuff is the low road. And they’ll need to make a choice, he said. They have nobody in their corner. Because I come from the same background it has a different timbre to it when I talk about the power of choice.