TEDx Talk: Lost in Transition | Narratively Literary Journal: "I Escaped the Cult, but I Couldn't Escape the Cult Mentality"
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Theme music by: Ruel Morales
Brian Schoenborn 0:00
Hello, hello. Hey everybody. Our next guest today knows pretty much anything about everything with culture. She’s been studying intense, interesting, and sometimes horrifying cultures her entire life. She was actually third generation raised in one of the worst modern-day religious cults, known as the Children of God.
Brian Schoenborn 0:25
At the age of 15, she escaped this cult, made her way to San Antonio, where she inserted herself in a high school, graduated, got a college education, moved her way into the army, where she became a captain in military intelligence. During her service. She deployed twice to Afghanistan, becoming one of the first women to conduct deliberate ground combat operations at a time when it was illegal for women to do this.
Brian Schoenborn 0:53
These days, she does organizational behavior, cultural strategy consulting and she’s a renowned international speaker including TED Talks. She’s a leadership coach, and she’s a podcast host. She helps CEOs and business leaders develop and employee an intentional growth culture in their organizations. Among other things, she enjoys a nice glass of Cabernet. Give it up to my friend, Daniella Young.
Brian Schoenborn 1:22
My name is Brian Schoenborn. I’m an explorer of people, places and culture. In my travels, spending over 20 countries across four continents, I’ve had the pleasure of engaging and authentic conversations with amazingly interesting people. These are their stories on location and unfiltered presented by 8B Media, this is Half the City.
Brian Schoenborn 1:49
Daniella Young 1:50
Brian Schoenborn 1:51
How’s it going?
Daniella Young 1:52
It’s going great. So happy to be here.
Brian Schoenborn 1:54
Awesome. Maybe you can tell me a little bit about…I’ve been, I’ve been talking origin stories lately. Right? So, you know, I feel like in order to get to where we’re at now, we kind of need to start from the beginning and kind of work our way up there.
Daniella Young 2:14
Absolutely. It’s certainly a bit of a complex tale. So let’s actually start way before I was born, in the very late 60s. Which was the middle of the course, the hippie era in the United States, a lot of young people rejecting the culture at the time and searching for something new.
Daniella Young 2:35
So this man who was from a family of preachers already started preaching on the beach to the hippies, of California, and he found a market for his message. And he started this group it was called “Teens for Christ” and then it quickly became called “Children of God”. Later became known as the “Family of Love” and the “Family International”. And it started off as, you know, leave everything in the world behind, love Jesus, love each other, live communally, and go out and preach the gospel — and of course, prepare for the end of the world.
Brian Schoenborn 3:13
So I mean, that sounds like a pretty good mission.
Daniella Young 3:15
It sounds okay. Yes. It very quickly became, you know, he began to preach that he was the anointed prophet of God, His followers were the army of God put on earth for the end times. So literally, the exact definition of a doomsday cult, and those usually don’t end well.
Brian Schoenborn 3:34
I mean, we’ve Jonestown and stuff like that.
Daniella Young 3:37
Pretty much. And actually, if you listen to some of the stuff on Jonestown, it was very similar.
Brian Schoenborn 3:43
Daniella Young 3:45
The Children of God grew actually a lot bigger. So it lasted for about 40 years, it dispersed all over the world. It had up to about 100,000 members pass through it, but it was usually 10,000 strong at any given time. And slowly has message changed from being all about God’s love to being all about sex as a way to show God’s love. So this ended up including, you know, what they call religious prostitution or using sex to bring new members into your organization, new members or money.
Daniella Young 4:23
Children started coming along and it started introducing a lot of pedophilia, a lot of incest. As you know, really, people were trying to navigate a society that they had built that wasn’t liable to the laws or morals of any normal society. He then, you know, got a revelation from God that America was evil and he needed all of his followers needed to change their names and go abroad to third world countries to, to win the world for God, which is also of course, a great way to hide from authority. Right?
Brian Schoenborn 4:59
Yeah, you can say that. Low profile.
Daniella Young 5:01
And so, my mother was born into this, my mother was actually one of the first children born into, into this cult, which was by then very much a cult. My mother was born and raised in that, went through some of her own especially harrowing experiences, and then ended up getting pregnant with me when she was 14. My dad was about 43, had, you know, 6 to 10 other children, was married to someone else. This was all this very, you know, I don’t even know that the term polyamory was invented at the time, but polygamy you know, more everybody living together and all of that stuff.
Daniella Young 5:45
So I ended up being born in the Philippines with a you know, 15-year-old American mother but who had not been in America for her entire life. And I, you know, born literally in a commune behind big concrete walls topped with broken glass, with people from all over the world, mostly Americans, British, you know, other sort of modern Western cultures. And then there would be a lot of sort of local disciples, wherever that commune was at. And it was very much run with kind of a military structure where there was different levels of leadership all the way up to the top with the leader who lived in hiding for the rest of his life.
Daniella Young 6:28
And we we moved around to kind of very similar to the military. So I ended up you know, spending the first couple years of my life in Asia, then moved to South America, where I was in Peru, and then for about 10 years in Brazil. So I spent, you know, the majority of my, my youth growing up in Brazil, but still in an American commune in Brazil.
Brian Schoenborn 6:51
That’s crazy. So, so there’s a lot to unpack there, but I don’t want to dive too deep on it because we’ve got other stuff to talk about. Right? And I don’t want to I don’t want you to have to, I don’t want you to be defined by that. Right? Like, it’s part of, its part of your story part of who you are. I’d love to know tons of details about that, obviously. But I’m more interested in, you know, so you’re raised into this environment. That backstory is, I mean, it’s the whole like, the way that everything came together with that and like how you came to be because of that is to me, it’s fascinating.
Brian Schoenborn 7:34
But I’m curious about how you went from there to where like, this is the only thing you knew, right? This was your world, right? You’re born into this your mom, your dad, everything like this. You know, when you’re when you’re in an environment. When you’re in your own world, that’s all you know. And so that’s normal, right? So I’m wondering like, you know, you, you, you escaped, at 15. I want to know, like, how you like what, what it was that made you realize that what you’re involved in was something that you shouldn’t be in. And like, you know, where that was when that point clicked? And how you made the decision to make that escape. Make your way to San Antonio. All that.
Daniella Young 8:22
Yeah, for sure. So I made my way to Houston.
Brian Schoenborn 8:24
Oh, Houston! Sorry. For some reason to San Antonio in my head. I’ll fix it.
Daniella Young 8:30
You know, so I would say one of the, like, you mentioned, this is a whole story. Of course, I’m working on a book. But, you know, there’s, there’s sort of these big things when you grow up in a world like that, you know, and I, when I do speak about this, I say, you know, yes, as children growing up there, we all experienced, sort of sexual abuse, physical abuse, what they’re now starting to define as religious abuse. And then there was also this kind of denial of an education.
Daniella Young 9:01
You know, we said we were homeschooled, but really we just weren’t educated. And so, but altogether what this rolls up to be is, we were denied a childhood, you know, so there was a whole group of about 5000 children that just didn’t have a childhood. You know, we spent our entire childhoods in institutions, standing in lines. I described it these days when I see my crazy daughter acting out, as I was not allowed spontaneous moments of joy in my childhood. And I’ve, I’ve realized very interestingly, because I’ve been asked my whole life, you know, how I didn’t get brainwashed, or like you said, like, how I came to even decide to get away.
Daniella Young 9:46
And I think you’ve hit on some very interesting things. And one is that when that’s all you know, that’s all you know, and it is very, very difficult. And even these days, when I tell the story, or when I read other people’s accounts, it seems surreal even to me, because I’ve been in the normal world for 17 years now.
Brian Schoenborn 10:04
You’ve lived a whole different life at this point.
Brian Schoenborn 10:05
Oh, yeah, totally. I was a super rebel.
Daniella Young 10:05
And it was so crazy. At the same time I, I’m one of those people, I was certainly one of those children that is very high energy, always questioning everything, always poking and prodding, which has worked out great in my adult life. In my childhood, what did that mean? That meant I was always in trouble. You know, I was always in isolation, and I was always getting, you know, sort of physically punished. And so then I wanted to act out. And you know, you could kind of compare this to like, a 15-year-old teenager in the normal world that’s never getting love or attention from the adults around him.
Daniella Young 10:32
Exactly. And so I was a super rebel. I just happened to be rebelling against something that the normal world considers to be bad in the first place.
Brian Schoenborn 10:58
Daniella Young 10:59
So you know, at the time, like when I was 15, everything I was doing was wrong. Years later, now that everyone’s out of the cult, they can look back and see that, oh, hey, I had the right idea. But from the age of, you know, I was 6 years old when I was told, you know, if you’re if you grow up and you backslide from the family, you’re not in the family, then you’re going to hell and I remember thinking, man, Hell’s gonna suck, but I’m not gonna stay here. You know, when I was eleven…
Brian Schoenborn 11:25
You’re like, Hell’s gotta be a shitty place, but it’s way better than this, right now.
Daniella Young 11:29
Yes! And when I was 11, I started trying to make plans to escape. But of course, I lived in the middle of Brazil, and I had nobody on the outside. So the plan to escape was more just one day I’m going to be gone. And then a very interesting story I’ll share with you which I um, you know, have a published article on 911. We were in the US, actually, just sort of briefly traveling through the US. Which was the first time for me.
Brian Schoenborn 11:39
So you were still in the cult at this time?
Daniella Young 11:58
We came to the US, which was the biggest culture shock of my life, coming to the United States. And then 911 happened, and that was actually the first time I saw live TV on in my house, right? Like live news.
Brian Schoenborn 12:11
This is what you were…?
Daniella Young 12:13
I was 14 years old. And I remember, of course, being horrified, being scared, sort of the same feelings that everyone had. And, but we were immediately told by our leaders, you know, this is God’s punishment on America. America is evil, which is something we’ve been told our whole lives, that this is the beginning of, you know, the Antichrist coming, or Jesus coming back, whatever it was. And I specifically remember this moment watching a profile on the terrorists, and they called them religious extremists. And I’d never heard that term before. And I somehow immediately made the connection that we were also religious extremists.
Brian Schoenborn 12:53
That’s really crazy that you would, I mean, again, going back to that whole concept of this is all you know, right? And then the first time you ever see live TV, 14 years old, you see these burning buildings, right? And then you hear about these religious extremists. And you immediately make that connection. Like that, being able to put those things together when you don’t know anything else is just like, like that…it’s mind boggling to me. Like it’s, it’s like amazing, like I can’t, you know, like, like the way that you can just put that together when you don’t know any better, when you don’t know any different. I don’t know how somebody would be able to make that connection. It just blows my mind.
Daniella Young 13:38
Yeah, and I would say a lot of it came from, you know, I was also unhappy. You know, I was a unhappy teenager, I was not, you know, some people’s personality, I think trend towards being not that anyone’s okay in that environment. But being a little better off. You know, I talked to friends of mine that grew up in the same cult and they said, you know, my job generally happy, like, we believe some crazy things, but my childhood was generally happy. Whereas I was a very unhappy child, I was always in trouble, acting out. And so, for me, it was another step of I think, I think wanting to get away.
Brian Schoenborn 14:15
Daniella Young 14:15
And then, you know, I started this whole sort of track of rebelling, which is really easy to do when everything is controlled, and sort of eventually got to this place where I was being half, you know, in cults or religions, they call it excommunication. Half kicked out. And they didn’t want me there. They didn’t know what to do with me. But at the same time, my, my parents were very famous, well known people, they were in the leadership, and I was a third generation, I was actually the oldest third generation. So it was kind of a big deal.
Daniella Young 14:50
My family was a bit of celebrities in the cult, so it’s kind of a big deal for me to leave so they didn’t want me to leave. And actually my, you know, I was 15. So even though it’s sounds today like I was super brave. Like, I was a 15-year-old that knew nothing about the real world. So I was pretty scared. Like I wanted to go to high school. All I wanted was to go to high school, which was a huge crime in the cult, right? It’s like saying you wanted to go to a worldly education.
Brian Schoenborn 15:16
Daniella Young 15:17
That was all I wanted to do. But at the same time, I was freaked out. And my mother actually pulled me aside and, you know, took me for a walk where nobody could hear and was like, “Look, we have a place for you. You know, we’ve, we’ve arranged to send you to, you know, a step sister of mine.” My mom at the time was married to an older man. I had a stepsister, I have 24 siblings, okay, so it’s all over the place. One of my stepsisters I’d met her maybe three times in my life and they’re like, “We’re gonna send you there” and she was like, “Are you sure you don’t want to go?”
Daniella Young 15:51
It was very much hint-hintm Daniella, this is your opportunity. Take it. You know, and these days I’m, I’m incredibly impressed. by her, say that, like, you know, she wasn’t strong enough to get herself out. It took her till she was almost 40 with eight children of her own to break away from the cult. But she was able, at a time that I really needed it, to give me the push that I needed. She brought me to Texas, she dropped me off with my sister with zero dollars, so that was fun. I had definitely had a little bit of help, you know, could not have done it on my own.
Brian Schoenborn 16:28
So your mom orchestrated that whole thing?
Daniella Young 16:30
Brian Schoenborn 16:31
Just I mean, that’s just, that’s crazy. I mean, that’s the bravery that she even portrayed, right? Because I mean, you just mentioned like, they’re like celebrity. They’re very strong, powerful leaders in this organization. And for your mom, and she was born into this too.
Daniella Young 16:46
She was born into it too. And also not to mention like, let’s not forget the belief.
Brian Schoenborn 16:51
Daniella Young 16:51
So even while my mom wanted to get me away, and knew that there was a better life for me, she 100% believed in the religion in the beliefs of the cult. It was breaking her heart. I was backsliding from their religion. Oh, and by the way, I was going to lose contact with all of my family, right? Because nobody in the cult could talk to anyone outside of the cult. So it was quite a drastic thing.
Brian Schoenborn 17:23
It reminds me of legs like stories that you would like, like, almost like fairy tale sort of things, right? where like, like you…in medieval times that kind of stuff where, you know, somebody helps someone escape because, you know, they need that better life. It’s, it’s really like it’s like a modern day, like a
Daniella Young 17:43
It sounds like a really good book that you want to read. Right, Brian?
Brian Schoenborn 17:45
Daniella Young 17:48
Just wait about a year.
Brian Schoenborn 17:49
That’s exactly what I’m talking about. Um, but you know, it’s like, it’s like a modern day like, story like that, of like heroics. And you know, …
Daniella Young 17:58
Brian Schoenborn 17:59
…extreme bravery, and stuff like that. So you escaped to Houston. And then what?
Daniella Young 18:08
Yeah, so great story. So I’m in Houston, I’m 15 years old, I show up. You know, me and my sister who also by the way, never went to school, grew up in this cult, left when she was like 25. Um, so she’s been out for a year, not even.
Brian Schoenborn 18:24
So she’s still trying to get her bearings.
Daniella Young 18:25
So she’s, you know, yeah, you know, she’s she’s working at a bar. She’s trying to figure out her life. She’s got a spare room in her apartment, or a spare bed in her one bedroom apartment. And I’m there, and we show up to the high school to enroll me. And literally, Brian, I had a US social security card. That was it. I had never been in school for a day. So there’s no record of me. I had never had a vaccination or been to a doctor, really. And so I show up like, “Hey, I wanna enroll in high school”, and…
Brian Schoenborn 18:35
And they’re like, “Who are you?”
Daniella Young 19:05
They cannot even comprehend. They are like, and I just moved here from Mexico at the time.
Brian Schoenborn 19:11
So you’re like an undocumented immigrant, essentially.
Daniella Young 19:13
So I am like an undocumented child from Mexico, except I am, you know, super white with blond hair down to my waist. And they literally said to me, “Okay, we cannot enroll you in high school because you don’t exist.” You know, all evidence to the contrary standing in front of them, …
Daniella Young 19:33
“You don’t exist.” So…
Brian Schoenborn 19:33
Like, “We see you…
Brian Schoenborn 19:34
“…we hear you, but we have no records.”
Daniella Young 19:36
…it’s really fun to be told you don’t exist. But then they said, “But now that we know that you exist and, you know, we have your address here. You need to come back with proof that you’re enrolled somewhere in five days. Otherwise we have to call the cops. It’s the law.”
Brian Schoenborn 19:53
Yeah. Truancy or something.
Daniella Young 19:54
And, again, you know, here’s me just standing there and You know, so basically I ended up having to go me and my sister navigating this on her own, like having to go all the way up to the, to the, like, Houston School District level, to, you know, be in front of the right person and be like this is a 15-year-old child who was begging to go to school. There is a way to put her in school. And you know, it ended up being this process. I, you know, finally got into school out six weeks before the end of what should have been my sophomore year but it was really my my first day of high school ever.
Brian Schoenborn 20:25
Your first day of school ever.
Daniella Young 20:33
First day of school ever, absolutely.
Brian Schoenborn 20:36
Let alone high school.
Daniella Young 20:37
I had to, you know, take like 22 tests to test out of everything, to try to end up still graduating at 18 not at 20. You know, kind of the funny harkening back to to Mexico, so, I guess whatever admin was putting in my paperwork was like, “Daniela from Mexico with no records. Okay, put her in English as a second language homeroom.” And so, I walk in there, which is totally fine with me…
Brian Schoenborn 21:09
Did you grow up speaking, is your native language, or…?
Daniella Young 21:11
I grew up speaking English in a vacuum of English-speaking countries. So I had what I call the international kid accent. But I also spoke Portuguese, and I also spoke Spanish.
Brian Schoenborn 21:22
Daniella Young 21:22
And so I like I said, I had no problem. And in fact, I probably actually fit in better with the Mexican kids that are in the English as a second language class than I did with the sort of normal American children. But yeah, I was just another funny story. So I was, you know, I was handed a schedule and they said, “Go to class.” And by the way, it was a small High School of only about 4000 students.
Brian Schoenborn 21:47
It was bigger than my town.
Daniella Young 21:49
Yes, so it was a giant inner city, Houston High School. And there was oh my god, so many moments, but let me tell you one, you know, the first test I had to take the Give me this thing. It’s called a scantron and…
Brian Schoenborn 22:02
Oh, scantron! Yep!
Daniella Young 22:03
I can figure it out, you know, there’s bubbles and I color them in. And so a few days later, we got our test results back and I have a zero. And I’m like, “What?” And I go to talk to the teacher and I filled it out with pen. You, of course, have to use a pencil for the machine to read it. You know, I’m trying to explain like, it’s not even that I didn’t know that it’s I didn’t even know how to ask the question about what I did wrong. Because the teacher is just looking at me like, “You idiot. Why did you fill out a tantrum with a pen? Like, you’re just being a rebellious 16-year-old.” You know? And so it literally, I mean, we would just go around in these circles and it, you know, I will never forget my first day of school ever.
Daniella Young 22:48
I’m standing in a hallway and, you know, 4000 students are walking by and I somehow zeroed-in on this one pair of students having a conversation, what I would today say was just like a discussion or a debate. A logical back and forth: “Well, what about this? Well, what about this?” And you know, I’m from a world where you don’t argue, you take everything on faith, and you believe it. And as a child, if you ask too many questions, you get in a lot of trouble. And so logic and debate was completely foreign to me. And I just stood there thinking, you know, I’ve been thinking of myself as Daniella from Brazil, or I’m from a different country. And in that moment, I was like, I’m from another planet.
Brian Schoenborn 23:37
Interesting. So I mean, so how did you, I mean, eventually, you kind of, you made that transition, right? Couple of bumps, you know, a couple of bumps in the road, that sort of thing, but like, at what point did you know that like you made that transition from, from Children of God to successfully getting in through and getting into and going through high school?
Daniella Young 24:02
At no point. That will come years later, we’ll get to that. I will say that I, you know, there were some things even when you talked about like you can’t understand coming from that background and like having sort of certain personality traits and I think you know, everything…A lot of things always harken back to socialization or a group that you come from or where you were born.
Brian Schoenborn 24:25
Daniella Young 24:26
Brian Schoenborn 24:27
Everything is a construct. I can’t say that enough.
Daniella Young 24:28
And one of the, the things that we grew up with, and I would say, is, has been a benefit of my life — although, of course, there’s psychological downsides — is that we were taught that we were the best, right? We were God’s chosen people. We were special. So even though, you know, I would never wish that life on anyone, what really benefited me as a 15-year-old by myself trying to navigate the world was nobody ever had to teach 15-year-old Daniella to believe in herself.
Daniella Young 24:59
I showed up with, I’m going to be a straight-A student. I showed up with I’m going to go to college. Yeah, I don’t know how, but I’m going to go to college, and I’m going to figure it out. And so, you know, it’s very, uh, it’s interesting. And you and I, Brian, have talked about this too, that for motivated people, all you need is for someone to tell you that you’re going to fail. And I felt that about 10,000 people were not just waiting for me to fail, but wanting me to fail, that 10,000 people on the cult, so they could be like, “See what happens?” And so, and so I had drive.
Brian Schoenborn 25:35
Nothing better than being able to, like, prove all the doubters, all the haters wrong, right?
Daniella Young 25:42
Brian Schoenborn 25:44
You know, if you don’t love me when I’m there, you can’t love me when I’m here. You know what I mean?
Daniella Young 25:49
Yeah. And then, you know, I would also like to talk about…there was this moment that I realized the benefits of the hardship that I gone through or the story that I had. And this has now remained true for the rest of my life. And so I mentioned I wanted to go to college, I had zero money, working for minimum wage, 40 hours a week supporting myself, and so I was going to join the Marines, which you will appreciate.
Brian Schoenborn 26:17
Ooh! I do appreciate that.
Daniella Young 26:19
So that was my idea. I want to be a badass, I’m gonna join the Marines and they’re gonna help me pay for college. And I was talking to recruiters and I was doing all that. And then one day in high school, in English class, we had to write our college entrance essay.
Brian Schoenborn 26:30
Daniella Young 26:31
And you had to write it as a paper for English class, even if you weren’t planning to go to college, which is literally the best thing that ever happened to me. And the prompt of that essay was what makes you different.
Brian Schoenborn 26:43
And can’t think of anything.
Daniella Young 26:44
Nothing. No, so I’m sitting there going, “What do I write about? Do I write about the fact that I have 24 siblings? Do I write about the fact that I live on my own? Do I write about the fact that, “Oh, hey, I was raised in a cult”? Which ended up being the title of my essay. But a friend of mine sitting next to me, who, you know, I would help her with her English homework. And she was the perfect, you know, all American cheerleader. From the outside has, you know, what seems to me as this wonderful charmed existence, and she could not think of a single thing to write.
Brian Schoenborn 27:18
Because she’s like everybody else,
Daniella Young 27:18
What makes her different.
Brian Schoenborn 27:19
She’s a cookie cutter.
Daniella Young 27:20
Um, you know, and interestingly enough, she had something. We, we decided to write about her living through her uncle dying of cancer. But it was kind of this very interesting moment for me when I realized, “Oh, hey, there’s something about me, that makes me different. And that’s going to end up being a benefit”, which it turned into in two ways.
Daniella Young 27:42
So of course, there’s money. And in fact, I ended up getting, you know, several different packages of $24,000 of independent scholarships to go to college. And the other thing was that it got the attention of the right people. And so in high school, that was the high school counselors and the high school principal — and, by the way, 100% of those scholarships I got, they applied me to…
Brian Schoenborn 28:04
Daniella Young 28:04
…because I had no idea the process of going to college. And so, you know, my high school counselor, which to this day still impresses me because she had 1000 students. You know, she read my essays, she took me under her wing, and she basically forced me into college.
Brian Schoenborn 28:25
Daniella Young 28:26
And so yeah, so it turned out, I was like, cool, I got 24 grand, I’m going to college. And then I went to college and realized it costs a lot more than 24 grand.
Brian Schoenborn 28:38
Just, just a bit. But it’s a good start, like, let’s be honest, like that’s, you know, that’s a good chunk of money to start, you know, making your way through school. Um, well, I think you touched on something that was pretty interesting, though. Right? Like, you know, say, “Hey, I realize some different”, right? A lot of kids, a lot of high school kids, maybe they’ve been insecurities about that sort of thing. Or they take it as a point of pride. But it’s one of those things where, I mean, I can’t say this enough, but you know, everyone’s unique. Everyone is their own set of moments and their reactions, right, to those moments.
Brian Schoenborn 29:20
Everyone has their own set of their unique experiences. You know, who you are today or who you were in high school, are different people because you’re evolving and you’re shifting every single day, right, depending on which decision you make and where you wind up and all that stuff. You know, there are a lot of people that want so badly, or think they want so badly, to be like everybody else. And if they’re different like that, maybe a lot of times they can take that as an insecurity. Or like, you know, like, like, “Oh, I’m different. Why can’t I be like everybody else?”
Brian Schoenborn 29:56
But when you realize being difference fucking awesome, and being different means you stand out and you can do things, you know, you can you can do things that normal people can’t do. And you realize how much power is in that? I think that’s when you start winning the game, right? Winning the game of life or whatever, however you want to say it, I don’t give a shit.
Daniella Young 30:19
Brian Schoenborn 30:19
But, but you know what I mean? Like, that’s a pretty…it’s a pretty incredible insight you got at a young age.
Daniella Young 30:25
Yeah. You know, there’s this great comedian I love, Catherine Ryan. And it’s interesting to me that comedians are actually political activists, right?
Brian Schoenborn 30:32
Oh sure, yeah totally. Totally.
Daniella Young 30:32
That’s their real power. Yeah. But she says, you know, a lot of people want to be normal, but there’s no such thing as normal. There is only ordinary.
Brian Schoenborn 30:41
Exactly. That’s right!
Daniella Young 30:43
I love it. But, you know, so, let’s fast forward through college. You know, college was, of course, an incredible time and I learned to sort of develop my mind and ask questions.
Brian Schoenborn 30:52
Daniella Young 30:53
But to get to your point of when I really felt I was kind of through the transition, and — I’ve been, first of all, transitioning my whole life. I’m kind of a unintentional transition expert. And I think it takes about six years minimum, to just get through a major life transition. So think about right around the age, you’re ready to send your kid off to school, to get about six years to transition into being a parent.
Brian Schoenborn 31:17
And it changes all over again.
Daniella Young 31:19
Or, you know, for me it was leaving the cult, getting through two years of high school, four years of college, and I couldn’t believe that I was going to have a college degree. And I, I definitely felt this like, “I’ve done it. I’ve made it,” and I felt this like awe. And you know, I was graduating valedictorian from college, and I was giving the speech and I was trying to figure out what I was going to do next with my life. And now I look back and I realized I had no frickin clue of how to operate on my own without an institution. But at the time, I felt like I was so successful at this transition, I owe so much to the United States of America and to the American Dream, and I’m going to go join the military.
Brian Schoenborn 32:01
And so you joined the Marines.
Daniella Young 32:03
Hahaha, no. Because by then I wasn’t that crazy. So I joined the army.
Brian Schoenborn 32:07
Well, we can’t all be perfect, it’s all good. So, but, for real, I mean, listeners check this out, like, no education. She started education at 15 and graduated college as valedictorian. Like, how the fuck is that even possible? You know what I’m saying? Like, I mean, we don’t have to get into it that much but mean…I’m just like.
Daniella Young 32:36
Brian Schoenborn 32:37
Daniella Young 32:37
It’s very simple. Let me tell you. There is no end to what a child who’s denied an education will achieve.
Brian Schoenborn 32:46
I guess so.
Daniella Young 32:47
So there’s a very, or I should say, what they are driven to pursue as far as education. So there’s a very good book out now called “Educated”, and she you know, another version of grew up in a crazy family that denied her an education, and she went through and got a PhD.
Brian Schoenborn 33:03
Daniella Young 33:03
I’m actually going back for my PhD next year. And, you know, I, in college like, I wasn’t skipping class, are you crazy? I knew exactly…
Brian Schoenborn 33:15
I was crazy. I skipped a lot of classes.
Daniella Young 33:17
And most people do. But I mean, it literally took me until junior year of college to relax enough to like, think that if I missed one day of class, my world wasn’t going to implode. Like, I was so viscerally aware of what, first of all, every class, every class was costing me $53…that was a lot to me. I wasn’t missing that. And I valued it. You know, I didn’t see a class as something horrible. I was like, and first of all, I majored in literature and I was like, “I get to read books, which I was never allowed to do growing up. I get to go to class and discuss books. I get to have the opposite point of view of my professor, and they encourage me, and they stimulate my mind.” So, college was a wonderful, wonderful experience for me. And you know, when you do what you love, it’s easy to be good at it.
Brian Schoenborn 34:14
Absolutely. Nice. So you kicked ass in school. You joined the army. What happened with this, you know, let’s I want to talk about that point where you’re like, this clicked. You made that transition…
Daniella Young 34:28
Yeah. So, you know, at the time, like I said, I described it as, you know, I still always had this lingering, kind of like 911 was one of my first experiences of being introduced to America. So of course, I have this very, you know, visceral feeling of: I’m an American, there are terrorists out there trying to attack America. I also have this, like, I owe this debt to the American Dream. I need to pay something back, you know, and I found out about the army officer program which says, so, you know, first of all, let’s let’s caveat and say I was graduating with a degree in English literature in 2009. So I wasn’t gonna get a job anyways.
Brian Schoenborn 35:07
The peak of the Great Recessaion was at that point.
Daniella Young 35:08
Yeah. So, you know, I found out about the officer program where they’re going to pay me $45,000 starting…
Brian Schoenborn 35:16
which is more than you’re gonna make as a teacher…
Daniella Young 35:17
…right, which is more than any of my friends were making coming out of college, even the computer science kids at that time, and they’re going to train me. And I’m going to do three years and then I can leave. And then, I think way I saw it is like, at that point, I will have paid my debt to America, and then I can go just be awesome for the rest of my life. Now, you know, knowing what I know and as much time as I have spent thinking about studying and teaching about socialization and group behavior and all of that, you know, I, I was institutionalized.
Daniella Young 35:47
I grew up in an institution and while college was about free thinking, there’s still a structure to college. You know, you sign up for a class, you have advisors, they tell you what to do, and where to go. I think back now, if I hadn’t joined the military after college, I don’t know that I would have known what to do. I don’t know that I would have known how to just like, go out and get a job or figure out what I wanted to be or any of the things that I’ve done now since leaving the military.
Daniella Young 35:49
So I went into the military and you know, again, this is where my kind of personal drive comes in and my desire to be the best because I was like, “Okay, I’m gonna join, you know, in college is graded on grades, so I need to have a 4.0 and military in my mind was graded on physical fitness. So I better quit chain smoking and go become a runner.” And I will say by the time I got to basic training, I could run six minute miles. So that is kind of my, my level of drive. Sometimes good, sometimes bad. But in that situation, it worked out for me.
Daniella Young 36:53
So I get off the bus at basic training, and, if you’ve ever served in any branch of the military, you’ll know this experience: basically you get off the bus, you have a bunch of heavy duffel bags. There’s a bunch of drill sergeants yelling at you. It’s always in the rain. I think they plan it like that. I think they just wait for a day in the rain. And in the army, at least you spend about an hour holding your duffel bags, two huge duffel bags over your head, and getting yelled at. This is me standing there, holding that 100 pounds up over my head, getting yelled at, and I just was standing there going.
Brian Schoenborn 37:34
“What did I do?”
Daniella Young 37:35
“What did I just do with my life?”
Brian Schoenborn 37:36
“What did I get myself into?”
Daniella Young 37:37
“I just graduated from college valedictorian. Why am I here? I just joined another cult.” And that was my, that was my moment in basic training. And I think we all go through that moment in the military, right? Which that’s exactly what in fact, basic training or bootcamp or whatever each branch calls is designed to do, right?
Daniella Young 38:01
It’s designed to take individuals breakdown…
Daniella Young 38:04
Break everyone down to the lowest common denominator…
Daniella Young 38:06
…your constructs, your socialization, and build you back up as a team.
Brian Schoenborn 38:09
Daniella Young 38:10
So, and honestly once I kind of realized that or once I got used to it and also just resigned myself because I wasn’t going anywhere for three years, basic training became really easy for me. Because it was like oh, getting up before dawn, standing in line, never being alone, getting yelled at, having to like, deal with, like, physical pain and mental pain and emotional pain was run of the mill for me. Was, so again, this was another kind of, another time of advantage for me where there was a lot of, you know, wonderful, wonderful people that have joined the military. But for most of them, that’s their first time leaving home, their first time dealing with any real sort of hardship, not for everyone, by far, but for many people. And so it was, you know, certainly for me a bit easier. Not to mention I was, you know, 22 years old with a college degrees to the average age of 17.
Brian Schoenborn 38:59
Let me tell you about my initial boot camp experience. So I was a bit of a rebel, right? Like, I wanted to be a rock star in high school. I got accepted to one of the best music schools in the country, probably the world, whatever. I didn’t go, you know, I spent a semester at Central Michigan and then I joined the Marines because I was just fucking bored.
Brian Schoenborn 39:21
When I got off that bus, for like, the first week…no, probably about the first, like, day-ish, probably less than a day. You know, I’m standing at attention and they’re like, barking down your face. You know, they go their…they’ve got their finger in there, their index finger and the thumb just like, you know, like this close together just right in your face. Right? And I’m just standing here at attention, just, like, smirking and trying not to laugh. Cuz I’m like, “What the fuck am I actually what is this?” I’m like, I can’t take this guy seriously.
Brian Schoenborn 39:56
They wiped the smile off my face real quick.
Daniella Young 40:00
Oh yeah, they tried. I will say that my drill sergeants failed miserably at breaking me from the habit of saying, “Yes, sir” and “Yes ma’am”. You say that to officers, by the way, for all the listeners. You don’t say that to drill sergeants.
Brian Schoenborn 40:14
We said that in Marine Corps boot camp.
Daniella Young 40:15
However, I spent 15 years of my life saying “Yes, sir” and “Yes, ma’am” to everyone, every day, all the time. And yeah, yeah, they definitely socialized me into the Army, but it took me quite a long time to learn to not say “Yes, sir” and “Yes, ma’am” to every Sergeant Major that scared me, even once I was an officer.
Brian Schoenborn 40:32
That’s funny. I remember the specific moment that I was in. Like, you know, because I went from being this rebel kid you know, this point, I was a punk, right? I was a punk rocker, all that stuff. I was having a hard time taking this thing too seriously.
Brian Schoenborn 40:53
So Marine Corps boot camp is 13 weeks. This is probably about six weeks in. There was a guy in my boot camp platoon that literally pissed his pants on the squad bay, or not the squad bay, on the parade deck. Because we were out there drilling for like, five, six hours that day, and they didn’t let us use the bathroom. But I think it was the same guy. So this guy was like super out of shape. And the drill instructors were like, “Fuck this. We’re gonna get him in shape.”
Brian Schoenborn 41:17
So he calls me and two other guys and this guy up to the front. And they’re just like, “You gotta do fucking push ups”, right? However they set it. And we had to go as hard and as fast as we could, and we could not stop until this guy couldn’t take anymore. And, you know, it was this breaking point for him, because he thought he couldn’t do anymore. But yet, you know, he thought he couldn’t do anymore. The drill instructors were trying to get him to quit trying to get him to give up. And that was when I was at this point where I’m like, “You are not fucking quitting! Let’s fucking go!” and like, just pushing and pushing and pushing and pushing. And finally he had his breakthrough moment where he was able to, you know, he was able to satisfy the drill instructors. And that was my breakthrough, when I was like, “You know what, I’m a fucking leader. I’m in.” And I went from being this like punk fucking rebel kid to like falling in line and being one of the top recruits in my unit.
Daniella Young 42:20
Brian Schoenborn 42:21
Yeah. fucking crazy.
Daniella Young 42:22
And, you know, it’s so interesting to me about that story, Brian, is that okay? I will say that a lot of, of the Children of God cult survivors end up going into the military afterwards. That’s one thing that, you know, kids without a great education can with a lot of drive can do and be successful at.
Brian Schoenborn 42:39
Daniella Young 42:39
But most of us report kind of the opposite moment, right, where we all have that experience where it’s going on it is evangelical level of holy rollin, shoutin, physical activity, blah, blah, blah. People are crying. There’s American flags flying, right? Toby Keith is singing…We all have these moments and us cult survivors were looking around going, “Oh, this is the brainwashing.”
Brian Schoenborn 43:09
Yes, that’s exactly it is.
Daniella Young 43:10
You know, so one of the interesting things for me with my experience in the military was, they never quite got me. I was, you know, I serve for six and a half years I went to war twice. I was an officer, I was a leader. Super proud of my service, did all this stuff, which we’ll talk about, but I never just, like, bought in hook, line and sinker. In fact, I went specifically into military intelligence, which is one of the reasons I had to run so fast, because it was a competitive branch. But my job, I was the expert on the bad guy.
Daniella Young 43:42
So my job was literally for the colonel or the general to say, you know, “We’re going to go take this village”, and I, it was my job to look at them and be like, “Sir, you’re gonna die”. Here’s all of the things you’re not thinking about. So it was my job to be devil’s advocate. And I think that’s the only reason — I was very good at that, by the way, he was very good at being devil’s advocate, very good at seeing the other perspective, which, you know, as I’m, like, sort of writing and telling my whole life story, I’m like, oh, like, you know, when I left the cult, and I had to learn about how to be a normal American person. Like, now I have to go to Afghanistan and learn all about, you know, how the al Qaeda terrorists are thinking, you know, and it’s, of course, two very different groups of people, but it’s just another research project. Like I just need to go and learn…so this ability to kind of be like, I don’t understand how these people think, but I can immerse myself in it and learn it. It’s, it’s been, you know, another outcome that I interesting outcome that I’ve seen from my life,
Brian Schoenborn 44:46
Yeah you know, it’s, it’s interesting, um, you know, just the studying of cultures and people and stuff like that, right? Like, I think we kind of share something like that in a sense, you know, like with with my travels, but even in America. You know, I grew up in Michigan, but I lived in San Diego, Las Vegas, Boston, New York, LA. I’ve been in Seattle for a couple of months. And every place that I’ve been, you know, I’ve had to rebuild my network, right? So every time you’re rebuilding your network, you’re meeting people, that kind of thing. You’ve got to study those little micro cultures.
Daniella Young 45:24
Brian Schoenborn 45:25
Those, those subcultures of Americans, you know, as easily as people can be like, “Oh yeah, we’re fucking all Americans. We’re all the same.” It’s not true, that’s not the case.
Daniella Young 45:34
And you know, the people that are, are the super connectors and are the kind of powerful people that can go anywhere. You know, I’m similar like you Brian, I can go anywhere and build a community around myself…
Brian Schoenborn 45:47
Daniella Young 45:47
In anywhere, you know, and it’s but it’s because you become a chameleon.
Brian Schoenborn 45:52
Daniella Young 45:52
You know, and because for me, I grew up without ever having to learn to relate to anyone because we were all the same. We all no matter where we moved in the world, we all had the same life. We just fit into another little commune. It’s the same reason military people love other veterans, right? Because you find out to be some information about them and you have a connection. But people that fit in well in any culture, any society are like learning to be chameleons, right? And learn that everyone has a story and everyone, everyone loves their culture. Right? And so if you talk to people about their culture, and you learn about their culture, you know, of course, it’s not the same experience as being one of them. But you can be, …
Brian Schoenborn 46:34
Yeah. And, you know, like, I just want to finish this point really quick. But like, you know, when I say like, “Oh, you know, different subcultures are different”. I’m not, you know, I’m not saying bad, right? Like, I don’t…I’m not a believer in black and white. I’m not a believer in good or bad necessarily. I think, you know, I think most people at their core, they all want the same stuff, right? They want a good life, they want to, you know, make a little bit of money, but to take care of themselves and take care of their families and whatever else. And, you know, the differences are more in the details on how they go about it. Right?
You can appreciate it.
Daniella Young 46:34
…you can be accepted in those groups. And you learn so much about socialization about how we think, you know, so these days is one of the things I actually do is teach classes on building community. Look, everywhere you go, you know, I teach for military women and military spouses. And, you know, it’s easy for people to say, for example, “Oh, we’re, you know, we don’t have a support network because we’re here away from all of our families”. I’m like, you know, I moved to Washington four years ago. And my husband and I spend a night out once a month without our toddler, because she’s with someone in our network that we have built actively and intentionally built a network around us. Next year, we’re moving to Houston, and I already have a spreadsheet for all of the different types of people that I need to make connections with, for the transition plan for my family, because we are moving to a new culture, to a new place. And even though it’s Houston, and that’s where I went to high school, it’s, it’s been a minute and now we got to go back in we got to reintegrate. You know?
Daniella Young 48:14
Brian Schoenborn 48:15
Or the types of or the types of relationships they build or whatever else.
Daniella Young 48:19
Brian Schoenborn 48:19
Um, you know, obviously, you, you know, you’re, you’re on the same page with that, right? Um, I’m wondering, like, as you’ve been doing this research, right, the research and the American culture, the military, and then, and then Afghanistan with the intelligence. How did the, like, how did that translate? So so you’re doing this, you’re doing this research stuff? How does that translate when you’re, you know, looking at Al Qaeda in Afghanistan?
Daniella Young 48:48
Yeah, you know, so I definitely agree with you, like you said, and I think that actually, as humans, we get into trouble when we try to put everything in black and white, right? Nothing’s all good. Nothing’s all bad. And one of The things I say these days a lot is that, you know, people ask me all the time, like, “How did 100,000 people get sucked in by this cult?” Right?
Daniella Young 49:08
Well, cults do some things, right. Human beings want community. They want love, they want connection, they want purpose. And that’s what organizations like cults, like the US military, and like many other organizations do very, very well. And in fact, that’s one of the things I do today with business leaders. It’s like I say, you can’t spell culture without cult. Okay? Everything you need to do to build this strong, amazing culture that you want that motivates your people has downsides to it. So how are you protecting against those downsides?
Daniella Young 49:43
So for me, it was very interesting in, um, in Afghanistan, doing what I did with intelligence. So, you know, because on the one hand, I’m American, I’m an American soldier, and I am, you know, getting attacked by these terrorists or seeing other people attacked by these terrorists and, you know, hearing reports of people all of the time.
Daniella Young 50:05
My entire team that I was patrolling with pretty much was killed on one mission and so I, I very much am viscerally connected to that. At the same time, I have this ability to kind of disassociate myself with that, and, and still realize why the terrorists want to do that, right? And so it goes back to that religious extremist, their religious extremists, but they believe they’re right, that’s all they know. And in fact, you know, several different moments where I would hear you know, my, my counterparts describing, you know, the Afghans as animals because they would be planning roadside bombs with a two-year-old in their arms as a shield against, you know, whatever the Americans have in the sky, or as inhuman because their kid gets blown up on the street and they come three hours later to the base to ask for money. But that’s also their world.
Daniella Young 51:00
Afghans, Afghanistan is called the graveyard of empires. Afghanistan has been at war for as long as human beings have existed. And so, if my child went out on the street in America and got blown up, a lot of people’s lives would be destroyed. Like, not just me and my husband, right, everyone that knows my kid would be like, “What the hell?” For them, that’s, that’s Tuesday. So it’s not that it’s any less horrible when that happens to them, but they are socialized that that just happens. You just recover. You move on. It’s not different than, you know, 19th century America where you had 12 children because you wanted six of them to grow up.
Brian Schoenborn 51:45
Daniella Young 51:46
Right? So it’s the way that we act is very much determined by socialization. And, you know, I will say for me, and this is essentially the crux of the, the article that I have published, which is at that funeral, when my my colleagues, my very good friend was, had been blown up, horrible, horrible event. 10 people were killed. But you know, we’re standing on the airline and we’re watching the coffins being loaded, and the generals are saying all of the words that they say when soldiers are killed, right? That “they died doing fighting for what they believe in”, and “they died on the right side of history”, that “they’re amazing men”.
Daniella Young 52:36
Well, part of me, of course, felt that and still does to this day. The other part of me just had this thought that, you know, the guys that killed them, they think the opposite. They think that they’re on the right side of history. They think that the people that they lost are, are heroes and martyrs, and are going to heaven, and are doing the right thing.
Brian Schoenborn 52:59
Daniella Young 52:59
And it was such this moment for me of being able to understand that really no one person is better than any other person. These people that joined a terrible cult aren’t any different than. And in fact, they’ve done studies to bear this up that there’s no one type of person that joins a cult, right? Um, it’s just you, you are a product of what you know, and you only can possibly believe the things that you’re surrounded by, which is, you know, a reason that diversity is so important and having discussions with people that think differently from you, is so important. And that all, hundred percent, came into play in doing intelligence operations in a war zone.
Brian Schoenborn 53:43
You know, it’s interesting, you’re talking about, you know, both sides thinking that they’re doing what’s right. I mean, essentially, that’s why wars are fought because both sides are so firm in their beliefs, right? Just kind of reminds me of my travels through Vietnam.
Brian Schoenborn 53:58
So, I don’t know a couple years ago, I spent a few weeks backpacking Vietnam. And, you know, the people are fucking amazing. And like, they’re so nice. They’re so friendly. They love Americans, right? Even though we had that whole debacle 40 years ago or whatever it was. Um, in, in Saigon and Hanoi, they have these war, War Memorial museums, right?
Brian Schoenborn 54:32
I went to this one in Saigon. I went, I went to two in Hanoi. One was the War Remnants something or other. I’ll have more details when I’m sharing my story. But there was one it was like the War Remnants Museum. The other one was the Hanoi Hilton, where John McCain and all these other guys, these POWs, were held. And the thing that really blew my mind there was, from an American perspective, I’m like, “The propaganda here is ridiculous”, right? Because it’s all about, “Oh, we treated the American POWs so well, but the Americans treated our people like shit”, and like, you know, “We’re on the right side of history” and all that stuff, right?
Brian Schoenborn 55:09
And when I was seeing that stuff, I was like…it hit me that, whoever wins gets to tell the story, right?
Daniella Young 55:18
Brian Schoenborn 55:18
And of course, you’re going to put yourself in a good light. And again, nothing black or white. So I don’t want to get into politics of Vietnam. But it made me realize that every piece of history that America tells, it’s all fucking propaganda too. It’s the same shit.
Daniella Young 55:36
It is. It so is, you know, and in the military from like, you know, doing cadences where we’re shouting, you know, “Kill! Kill! Kill! Rage!” Like, this is brainwashing. This is propaganda.
Brian Schoenborn 55:47
Giving the enemy derogatory names.
Daniella Young 55:49
Right and to the flip side…
Brian Schoenborn 55:51
Daniella Young 55:52
…of intelligence, and this was actually something like as a, as a leader, as the chief of intelligence and all that like I had to work really hard with my own team. Like, like you were saying, like, “No, we don’t use derogatory names”, you know, we don’t all this stuff because…In fact, one of the biggest dangers that the American military has in the wars that we’re fighting now is under estimating the enemy, right?
Daniella Young 56:16
Thinking that Muslim culture is backwards. Thinking that terrorists are stupid. Thinking that, first of all, that those two things are one in the same, you know, and all of these things like, if you don’t respect your enemy, they are going to get you. And these people are much more hardcore than we are. You know, so, you’re really, really behooves us to, like I mentioned earlier, think like them. You know, you have to think like the opposite side, which can be very, very hard to do. And, you know, like we mentioned, we’re avoiding politics, but I’m sure we can all immediately think of what side of the political spectrum we’re on right now. And I have a hard time. I can’t relate to the other side. But it’s worth trying.
Brian Schoenborn 57:04
Daniella Young 57:04
And it’s worth listening to them.
Brian Schoenborn 57:08
I mean, because if you can’t, if you can’t have the conversation with somebody from an objective perspective, just to kind of like learn, like, what makes them tick or whatever, then there’s never going to be any middle ground made. There’s ever going to be a sense of understanding. And if you don’t have that sense of understanding, then you’re essentially just digging your heels in, and you’re and you’re getting ready to defend yourself and fight the other side. Whether that’s, whether that’s US-Afghanistan, whether that’s the political climate right now, you know, whether any of that stuff.
Daniella Young 57:36
Brian Schoenborn 57:37
But if you don’t spend the time to say, Hey, we we differ on how we think about things. Why do you think like that? Share this with me. I’m not trying to attack I just want to understand.
Daniella Young 57:47
Exactly, you know, and it’s, it’s okay. Um, you know, so one thing is: you always think your idea is right. Of course you do. That’s why you have that idea. The second you didn’t think it was right anymore, you would change ideas. So, It’s totally okay to be opinionated. It’s totally okay to be passionate, but it’s not okay to not listen to the other side and consider the other side. And so, you know, for me with my entire experience in the military, like, I’m not trying to say, I’m not trying to offend anyone, I’m not trying to say that America isn’t on the right side of history or that we are fighting for the wrong thing.
Brian Schoenborn 58:20
Right. Of course.
Daniella Young 58:20
Who knows? Fighting war is wrong in general, let’s, you know, most likely.
Brian Schoenborn 58:25
We’re a couple of hippie veterans.
Daniella Young 58:27
Oh, I know, right? But if we’re not constantly questioning why we’re there, you know, why we’re there, what we’re doing, and learning and knowing and respecting what the other side is thinking. And by respecting, I don’t mean you have to be like, Oh, yes, this is a valid opinion. But you have to respect that they see it as a valid opinion.
Brian Schoenborn 58:51
Daniella Young 58:53
You know, and that’s why people every time you try to convince people that their religion is wrong, or their politics around or whatever, it doesn’t work, right? Because to them, it is a valid opinion. And when you come at them like it’s not a valid opinion, you’re immediately on opposing side.
Brian Schoenborn 59:07
Well, it’s just like we were talking about earlier. Like, what happens when someone tells you you can’t do something or you’re wrong.
Daniella Young 59:13
Brian Schoenborn 59:14
You’re going to do everything…
Daniella Young 59:14
…the first thing you want to do is do it…
Brian Schoenborn 59:16
…humanly possible to prove them wrong, right? You’re saying, “Oh, hey, the clothes you wear are not right”. Or, you know, um, “Your opinion on this religion or that is not right”. You know, what are people gonna do? They’re gonna get pissed off. These are closely held beliefs and values that they have. Right? And it’s part of who they are. And if you tell somebody that part of who you are isn’t valid, or it’s wrong, like, what greater insult can you give somebody? You know what I mean? Of course, they’re gonna get fucking pissed. You know.
Daniella Young 59:57
Brian Schoenborn 59:59
That’s just kind of my thought. Um, where else where are we at?
Daniella Young 1:00:04
…should we go to war?
Brian Schoenborn 1:00:04
Brian Schoenborn 1:00:06
Let’s get to war.
Daniella Young 1:00:06
You wanna talk about that?
Brian Schoenborn 1:00:07
I want to talk about this. And let’s talk about your time in Afghanistan. Your two tours.
Daniella Young 1:00:11
Brian Schoenborn 1:00:13
Daniella Young 1:00:15
So okay, so my first deployment, I deployed pretty much right after I, you know, I commissioned, I went to the intelligence training. I requested the 101st because I wanted to, you know, make sure I got to war before it was over.
Brian Schoenborn 1:00:27
That’s Airborne, right?
Daniella Young 1:00:28
…which is funny. Yes. And I was in an aviation unit. So think, you know, Army helicopters. And I went overseas to Afghanistan, to Kandahar for a year. And so my, sort of like, my day job or my regular job was I was, you know, a lieutenant in intelligence in the brigade headquarters. And I did a lot of stuff with, with collections of assets so think, you know, eyes in the sky, Security Operations. We were the group that was in charge of like, sort of any down helicopters.
Daniella Young 1:01:07
At the same time, so this is 2011-2012. And this is right when behind the scenes is raging a debate about women in combat. And there’s still, you know, in 2011, there’s still a combat exclusion, which says that women are not allowed to be in combat.
Brian Schoenborn 1:01:29
Right. I mean, it has basically been like that as long as America has been around.
Daniella Young 1:01:33
Yeah, it started. It was like they had I just learned this recently, they had to make a switch to allow women to pilot helicopters. And so part of the whole political negotiation of that was we’re going to put an exclusion for ground combat. So to make everyone tolerate women in helicopters more, we’re going to say they can’t be in ground combat. So, and to be very, very clear, in no way was I ever one of the first women operating on the ground, right?
Brian Schoenborn 1:01:58
Daniella Young 1:01:59
There have been women fighting in every conflict fighting on the front lines, in every conflicts since the Revolutionary War.
Brian Schoenborn 1:02:05
Daniella Young 1:02:06
Every single one here have always been there historical documentation of all of it.
Brian Schoenborn 1:02:10
And we’re not talking like Mulan-type fighters, right?
Daniella Young 1:02:14
No, no, no. They check to make sure what sex you are, what gender you are, before you enter the military. So you know, you can’t pretend. No, but there is that you know, certainly in the Revolutionary War, there was still a lot of women dressing up like men to go do things, but there’s just always have been, but it’s always been under the carpet. It’s been behind the scenes and it’s been you know, most harmfully brushed over.
Daniella Young 1:02:40
So there’s, there’s several things from the perspective of these women. One is, you know, we deserve the right to compete for our roles, just like any man does, and to have everything that we’re capable of us open to us. And by the way, we’re capable of all of it, as we’ve now proven.
Brian Schoenborn 1:02:55
Daniella Young 1:02:56
The second thing is that women were doing this, but they were not getting essentially the credit for doing it, right? So there’s several instances of, like, suicide bomb went off and the male guard who got killed got cited as you know, death in combat or killed in action, and the female guard get citations as you know, killed while supporting combat action.
Brian Schoenborn 1:03:22
I wonder why you think that would be. Is the politics of it?
Daniella Young 1:03:25
Yeah, because it was illegal for her, technically, to have been in combat, but…and the thing is that, that law was made back when there was still more traditional warfare with front lines. Right? And so, you know, the way it broke down to the Army was in any kind of combat unit, women couldn’t be — even once they started integrating them — women couldn’t be lower than, like, the brigade level, because that was considered tactical line unit, even though nothing about this war operated that way at all.
Daniella Young 1:03:55
So, you know, and then from the perspective of the military, people love to say like, “Oh, the military is not your social proving ground. Like, this is not, we don’t need to risk lives so that we can make you feel good or equal or whatever, you women.” Well, the thing is, you know, we’ve already talked about this the diversity of perspective. Of course, you know, it seems so simple to us nowadays, now that we’ve integrated all Combat Arms that we’ve had such success that, of course, you want the perspective of the other 50% of the population in something as serious as life and death warfighting. But at the time, we were focusing on can women be for 250 years, we had the argument can women be as big and strong as men?
Brian Schoenborn 1:04:37
Daniella Young 1:04:38
And we find started putting us into combat, we realized we don’t need us to be as big as strong as men. We need us to be women, because we bring something else to the table. So I was in Kandahar, and they wanted volunteers. So basically back up at Congress, they’re still saying no, the American people can’t take, you know, a story of a mother being killed overseas. The commanders on the ground are saying we need women, because we’re fighting an insurgency, which means we’re not fighting the Afghan people. We’re fighting the terrorists on their homeland. We need the Afghan people to support us and not them. And so in order to do that we can’t be trampling all over their culture. We need to respect their culture. And their culture says that men can’t touch women, men can’t search women.
Daniella Young 1:05:21
So essentially, the first experiments with this, were putting women onto Combat Teams, pairs of one or two women onto Combat Teams just as an attachment. I mean, this started happening for what we consider to be non-combat missions, you know, way back in the 2000s, as soon as this conflict started. However, in 2010-2011, the Marines started first and then the Army followed the next year, was when the commanders on the ground said, “No, we need women attached to every deliberate operation”.
Daniella Young 1:05:57
So deliberate operations are going out for a combat mission, guns blazing, expecting to encounter, you know, expecting to take an objective expecting to capture people, you know, with that being the mission, right? Take this, take this village, take this whatever, capture this person. And we need women. And you know, the crazy thing about it is we were doing it completely unprepared.
Daniella Young 1:06:21
So we had 40 hours of training: cultural classroom, cultural sensitivity training. We had about two days of, you know, we showed up to the unit and the guys were like, “So you want to be in the infantry? All right, we’re gonna make you bleed.” And once we proved ourselves, we were part of the team, right?
Daniella Young 1:06:39
But then what the military realized very quickly was now the danger is, you know, these men by saying like, women can’t be in combat units, all we’re doing is keeping them from being trained. Right? So not only getting the training, right, the patrol training, the combat training, but also getting to train with your team.
Brian Schoenborn 1:06:57
Daniella Young 1:06:58
You know, this team, so I was attached to a team that was called the Pathfinders, and they’re these guys that are super highly skilled, super trained, their Rangers, they’re all this other stuff, and they’re attached to an aviation unit to deploy within 10 minutes or less to the site of any downed aircraft, cut the aircraft apart, rescue or recover all souls on board, and then bring everything and all sensitive equipment back home. So that was their kind of highly specialized mission.
Daniella Young 1:07:25
In the meantime, and fortunately, because we didn’t have a lot of downed aircraft in Afghanistan compared to other wars, they were a highly trained infantry force. And so they would do other patrols. And so I was, you know, given the opportunity to be a part of that. And I would say, even though it was very thrilling at the time, like, I knew it was a big deal. Like, I came home and I remember being like, after my first mission, being like, “I was in a fighting position pointing my weapon at potentially, potential enemy, my loaded weapon”, and my friend was like, “Well, was there any enemy there?” And I was like, “No! But that’s not the point. The point is I was there on purpose.” I wasn’t there because I convoy got interrupted, I wasn’t there because of a random attack, I was there on purpose sent by a general into this mission.
Daniella Young 1:08:15
Which of course ended up you know, for for brevity sake, let’s just say, you know, so in 2011 we’re doing this. In 2013, the combat exclusion was actually repealed by Secretary Panetta. And then in 2015, I believe, the first two female Rangers were qualified. And July of 2019, the first four-star female general took over an infantry division.
Brian Schoenborn 1:08:46
Yeah, that’s right.
Daniella Young 1:08:47
Um, and, and, and again, very, very quickly, we started realizing all these things. So I’ll share you know, a short story that I had, which was we, we jumped off our helicopter, we’re going went to this village and there’s still like dust everywhere you know, you can hardly see. And these very highly trained men immediately notice that something is wrong with the ground, right? There’s disturbances in the ground.
Daniella Young 1:09:10
And I meanwhile, at the same, in the same 10 seconds, I’m like, “Where all the children?” Like, we never approach this village without being swarmed by children. Like, sometimes like we have to like shoot weapons in the air to keep them away from our helicopter blades. So where are all the children? Together, we realized that, okay, there’s a bomb in the road there. And we’re able to put that together very quickly, we’re able to respond to it and, like, nobody is killed that day. You know, we’re walking back to the aircraft and the commander is like, “I love having women on the team. You guys notice the silliest things.” You know, but totally serious. We just lost a bunch of people, you know, so like, we we take it very seriously, of course.
Brian Schoenborn 1:09:54
Yeah, of course.
Daniella Young 1:09:56
And it was a, it was a real compliment. And you know, what’s interesting is, I was telling this story. I was filming something and I was telling the story, and a special operations soldier was operating the camera. He kind of said to me afterwards, he was like, “Really? They didn’t notice there was no children there, even though like we’re briefed about that all the time?” And I was like, “You know, you just made my story stronger. Because I know you’re briefed about it all the time. I was the intelligence officer. I’m the one that’s always telling you it was, where there’s no women and children, that’s a danger sign.
Brian Schoenborn 1:10:25
Daniella Young 1:10:26
But what we had never realized before was like, again, we noticed different things men and women have different life experiences. And what was sort of behind the scenes there is that I noticed that when little Afghan girls see me and realize that I’m a female soldier, which is something completely unheard of in their world, right? Their eyes get wide, they smile, they light up. And so for me, in Kandahar operating in a world where I generally don’t see children unless I leave the base, this was a cool moment for me. So I just viscerally noticed that so much faster, literally because I’m a woman, I noticed faster. Would they have gotten there eventually? Probably, but I noticed faster. And together and, you know, five or 10 seconds or one second can make all the difference in combat when there’s a live bomb in front you, right? So, hundred percent, and and this is something that, like, I mentioned before, has very quickly become part of combat culture now, righ? Is having women on the objective, having women training with the men, and, you know, the benefit even that we had with with my team specifically was our, our commander and the men on the ground were into it. They wanted the women they knew that not having the women was a handicap, and they constantly, constantly re-emphasize to us speak up. If you see anything silly, speak up. I don’t think I would have brought it up “where all the children”, if I hadn’t been told over and over again. If you see anything that you don’t understand bring it up.
Daniella Young 1:12:01
Which, you know, these days is one of the things I teach leaders like, “Hey, you know, when you get new people into your organization, and they asked so many questions, it’s exhausting, it’s like your four year old? That’s an advantage to you.” If they ask you a question, and your answer is to, “just because the way we’ve always done it”, you need to stop.
Brian Schoenborn 1:12:18
Daniella Young 1:12:18
And you need to reassess that process, because that’s how you’re avoiding groupthink. Right? And that’s how you’re avoiding the danger sign. In the military, we understand that, we call it 360 degrees of safety, you need to have eyes on 360 degrees around you. Well, if you’re only one type of person, there’s no…physically you get up, you can have eyes on 360 degree.
Daniella Young 1:12:19
…mentally and psychologically. There’s a lot of things you’re just not noticing it and it’s just a fact.
Brian Schoenborn 1:12:47
You know, that’s, that’s a couple of interesting points. One is like, the irony of like, excluding women for so long, you know, maybe it’s because of historical things like, “Oh, they’re the ones that, you know, bear the next generation right? Carry the, carry them, um, you know, the fetuses or, you know, the babies, right Maybe that’s the reason I think that’s the reason, but I don’t fucking know. Um, but the irony of excluding women for so long, and then realizing how fucking obvious it is, you know, like how much sense that makes.
Daniella Young 1:13:24
You know, it’s also the thing with any kind of social change that the problems people think it’s going to be, especially when talking about diversity, the problems that you think are going to be there are not going to be there.
Brian Schoenborn 1:13:34
Daniella Young 1:13:34
Like, you might have other things.
Brian Schoenborn 1:13:36
Daniella Young 1:13:36
But it’s not going to be the debates that people have. And so if we look back, and so I always think it’s funny when people say the military is not your social proving ground, because in fact, the military has always been the social proving ground has always been in the forefront of cultural change. But if you look back, like we didn’t want to integrate black people into the military, right, we thought that was going to be the end of successful warfare. Then we didn’t want to integrate women, and then we didn’t want to integrate gay people, and then we didn’t want to integrate transgender, which is, of course, going on right now. And every single time I was on my deployment, same deployment in 2011 was when Don’t Ask Don’t Tell was repealed. And everyone was freaking out, it was going to break the Army, blah, blah, blah. And then you know what happened on September 20, 2011? Nothing.
Brian Schoenborn 1:14:19
Daniella Young 1:14:20
Brian Schoenborn 1:14:21
Daniella Young 1:14:22
All of those people are brothers and sisters that were serving right alongside of us were the same people they had always been, and allowing people to be who they are openly allows them to bring the benefit of the richness of their experience to the table.
Brian Schoenborn 1:14:37
Daniella Young 1:14:38
And so even you know, with diversity even I’ve I’ve coached some leaders that are like, “Well, I did a bunch of diversity hiring and I have every color of the rainbow at my table, but it hasn’t changed anything.”
Brian Schoenborn 1:14:48
Well, the thing is, though, is…
Daniella Young 1:14:50
…the thing is that’s on the leader.
Brian Schoenborn 1:14:52
Daniella Young 1:14:53
So if you’re staffing every position with someone has different in color, you know, you found all the purple squirrels, but you expect them to show up as, with your opinion, right toe the party line, or to be kind of the, the same idea as everyone else, then you’re not getting diversity of life experience. You’re not getting diversity of opinion.
Brian Schoenborn 1:15:15
Daniella Young 1:15:16
You know. And so when my, my infantry commander came on, you know, we were both lieutenants, he’s just the one in charge. And he’s like, “Hey, Daniella, tell me about yourself.” I was like, “What do you mean?” He was like, “What makes you different?” And it was that same high school and I was like, “All right, we’re going we’re doing this.”
Daniella Young 1:15:35
And, but he was one of the first leaders that expressed to me like, “Oh, my God, like, you have such a different take on everything because of your experience. And by the way, that is useful to me in my combat team.” And he literally tapped me because he asked me just like you, like, “How did you escape from that? How did you even start questioning that group think?” And I was like, I don’t know. It’s just something about me. So then he can kind of tasked me with, “Okay, Daniella is your job to question all of my orders.” And he was like, literally, he was like, “I mean, when I say get get down, bullets are flying. So get down. But, that’s why we’re going on that mission in the first place.” Right? It’s like, this is your value to me, I want you to question everything. And that turned out to be incredibly, incredibly important to our mission and our team.
Brian Schoenborn 1:16:24
Yeah. I mean, so going back to the, kind of piggyback on that, like the diversity thing. You know, it’s so funny that people you know, you hear so much about, oh, hey, we got to do diversity hires and all that shit, right? I’ve had I’ve, I’ve known and I’ve had people close to my professional circles, that are like, “Oh, I need to hire a black person to get my ratio up.” Right?
Brian Schoenborn 1:16:57
And I remember this was happening a year ago. Somebody that was pretty fucking close to me. And I’m telling this guy, I’m like, “Dude, you don’t hire a black person because they’re fucking black. You hire people based on what’s on their mind, you know, based on their fucking skill, their drive, you know, their minds and their hearts. And if they happen to be a person of color, or they happen to be this, that or the other thing, fucking A.
Daniella Young 1:17:28
Brian Schoenborn 1:17:29
You know, you want to get that diversity, you know, you want the diversity there, but you can’t force that shit. It’s gotta be natural, you know?
Daniella Young 1:17:37
You see, I think that, okay, with diversity, it does have to be intentional, because the thing about the lack of diversity is it’s self-perpetuating.
Brian Schoenborn 1:17:46
Daniella Young 1:17:46
So, we’ve all been in military units where everyone looks like everyone else, right?
Brian Schoenborn 1:17:51
Yeah, no for sure.
Daniella Young 1:17:52
Typical stereotype of a Marine, right? And that’s because human nature is to not like to feel out of place. We don’t enjoy feeling out of place.
Brian Schoenborn 1:18:00
Daniella Young 1:18:01
So, you know, there’s, there’s a part of it that needs to be intentional, right? So I think that for leaders, you should have kind of a danger, danger signal, if everyone…if you walk into your conference room and everybody is one gender or one race or from one part of the country or from only Harvard right like there, are companies that do that. That is a dangerous sign. And so it’s important to know like, yes, I do want to hire more black people. Yes, I do want to hire more women. Yes, I do want to hire disabled people. But like, so it’s like that works into your consciousness. But it’s, you know, the way I say it for leaders is look, diversity in your business is not about social justice.
Brian Schoenborn 1:18:46
Daniella Young 1:18:46
It’s not about these people deserve it.
Brian Schoenborn 1:18:50
Daniella Young 1:18:50
That’s a, that’s a great outcome of it, but it’s about what do they bring to the table?
Brian Schoenborn 1:18:56
Daniella Young 1:18:57
You need to hire a black person because an actual African American has a completely different life experience than you do as a white man. Right? I have a completely different experience than you do as a man.
Brian Schoenborn 1:19:08
Daniella Young 1:19:08
And so, yes, you need to hire, you know, this kind of idea of check the block, like, yes, you need to have as much diversity around you,
Brian Schoenborn 1:19:16
But you got to be smart about it. You’re not just checking the box to check the box.
Daniella Young 1:19:19
But it’s how you, it’s how you engage with that, you know.
Brian Schoenborn 1:19:21
Daniella Young 1:19:22
It’s how you if, if we say we want more, and I’m just going to talk about women, because obviously, I’m a woman. If you just say we want more women, but then when I bring up an example, yeah, but when I bring up an example, so I’ve built a whole networking class around a fairy tale, and I was listening to with my daughter, and that’s the analogy that I use, and it’s phenomenal and people love it. And I can do that because I work for myself. But I don’t know, if I was still working at you know, fortune 500 corporate america like I know when I got out of the Army, if I would have been like, hey, let me tell you this analogy and not been laughed out of the room. Right?
Brian Schoenborn 1:19:57
Daniella Young 1:19:57
So if you know if we say we want to hire more women, but we don’t want to let them bring the fact that they’re a mother, which by the way, is incredible leadership training to the table, that we don’t really want to hire more women for the potential. We want to hire them so that we look good. And that’s what I heard you.
Brian Schoenborn 1:20:17
That’s the point that I was making. You don’t just hire someone so you can say, oh hey I’m hitting my diversity shit.
Daniella Young 1:20:22
It’s about what’s behind it,
Brian Schoenborn 1:20:24
Daniella Young 1:20:24
…it’s about and so I always explain it to leaders where I said that diversity is not about social justice, diversity. Hiring is about increasing your profit and decreasing your risk.
Brian Schoenborn 1:20:38
Daniella Young 1:20:38
Right? And that is what we found in the military. It wasn’t that like, Oh, we answer the question that women can be just as good as men or this is fair to allow women to, you know, sign up to sacrifice their lives just like the men do. We found out that, oh, women actually make a safer. You know, interesting study showed that almost every culture in the world, men hesitate before killing women. Obviously a benefit in combat, right? So nowadays,
Brian Schoenborn 1:21:07
If you hesitate, you’re dead.
Daniella Young 1:21:07
…only what eight years later after they were recruiting me? When I wasn’t allowed to have my hair down, I had to be dressed right dressed in uniform, which by the way means I look like a man in uniform and helmet and gloves and everything. Now that when they recruit special operators and the women, they want you to have long hair, they want you to have your hair down outside of your uniform, they want you to have a headscarf. They want you to not wear your gloves when you’re interacting in the village, so people can tell you’re a woman, because just you being a woman is a safety benefit to that team. And we can play off of that. Right. Which…
Brian Schoenborn 1:21:41
Yeah, I mean, even going, going a little bit deeper on the diversity stuff. Like for me, for example, personal anecdote. You know, I know I’ve got a pretty diverse network, right? Like, I’ve got friends like you that are, you know, veteran who do stuff like that. I’ve got friends that are entrepreneurs and diplomats and, you know, people that work in companies, you know, corporate people. You know, even one of my best friends from high school, you know, he works, he works a fast food job. And that’s, you know, he’s happy doing that, right?
Brian Schoenborn 1:22:22
But with everybody that I know, and everyone that I talk to, I asked them the same questions, right? Because every single person, regardless of social stature, or you know, wealth, or whatever it is, right? Education level, everyone’s got their own set of experiences, which means they’ve got their own frame of reference, and their own knowledge base, right? So, you know, when we’re talking diversity stuff, I think it’s super important to talk to anybody and everybody that you possibly can when you’re trying to make a decision, for example. Because you get different perspectives, and quite often, you know, you talk to one person, you’ll hear something one way; you talk to another person, you might hear something completely different. And somebody that you talk to, might shine a light on something that’s super important that you wouldn’t have recognized or realized, without having talking to some without having to talk to somebody with with their life experience like that, or that sort of resources.
Daniella Young 1:23:26
Well, exactly, exactly. And, you know, just from being friends with you, Brian, I’ve heard you say, “When I was living in Beijing, I learned this.”
Brian Schoenborn 1:23:34
Daniella Young 1:23:34
“You know, the Chinese people do this way.” And so, you know, like, that’s, that’s the proof point, right? Like, it’s a completely different culture and how much of that have you incorporated into your life?
Brian Schoenborn 1:23:45
Oh, sure. Tons.
Daniella Young 1:23:45
Because it is useful, and because it is beneficial. And, you know, and, and the other thing too, is like, no matter how much we know, and how much we study and how much we even engage, you cannot understand, I truly believe you cannot understand the experience of a group that you’re not a part of. And so, you know, like, I talked with my husband about this all the time. Like, he’s the most equal minded, questioning, intelligent, amazing man. But he’s a man, he can’t understand what it’s like to be a woman.
Daniella Young 1:24:17
And so every once in a while, I will have to say like, “You just have to trust me, like, this is my experience as a woman.”
Brian Schoenborn 1:24:22
Daniella Young 1:24:23
“You just have to I know, it doesn’t make sense to you, but you just have to trust me.” And so, of course, we should all be doing the work to try to become more knowledgeable people. You know, like, right now I’m reading only books written by women of color, because I’m trying to understand a different life perspective. But, but like you said, it’s not about checking the block and be like, I read books of women of color. It’s about actually learning.
Brian Schoenborn 1:24:49
Yeah, it’s not like, “Oh, hey, I’m so woke.”
Daniella Young 1:24:51
But just because I do that, that doesn’t mean I’m now an expert, and I don’t need a woman of color on my team.
Brian Schoenborn 1:24:56
Daniella Young 1:24:58
It’s still just means, like, that’s hopefully so I can understand a little bit better and not in unintentionally do things that are awful to women of color. But as I’m building larger and larger teams, I still want to make sure that I have that perspective. And not only that I have it, but I engage that perspective. So you want to give, you know, you want to balance of giving everyone the chance to be just the just the all-American normal, major point of view, because they probably have that too. But then you also want to give them the chance to be like, “Hey, what do you think differently about this?”
Brian Schoenborn 1:25:37
A little more nuanced opinion.
Daniella Young 1:25:38
“Because of your experience, and because of what you have”
Brian Schoenborn 1:25:40
Daniella Young 1:25:41
…and one of my, one of my leaders, so this will probably be a good segue on my second deployment when I actually I didn’t used to, you know, talk a whole bunch about how I grew up in a cult when I was an officer in the army. And I ended up sharing my background with my battalion commander, this colonel in the Army and he, you know, he thought about it. He didn’t say anything immediately, he thought about it. He came back later.
Daniella Young 1:26:02
And he said, “Daniella, do you know, the kind of insights that you must have between growing up in that community and then serving in the military? Like the kind of insights you must have about culture and leadership and teams and all these other things?” And at the time, I said, “No.” You know, but I’ve continued to think about it. And this, this man has continued to be a mentor. And even as I was starting my business, and almost every other mentor was telling me, “Don’t talk about the cult, just talk about the military, just talk about this amazing stuff you did in war. That’s enough. You were a captain in the Army.”
Daniella Young 1:26:36
And he was like, “No, your, your life experience is important.” And he was like, and he was like, “Don’t stop there. It’s not just the cult. It’s not just war. It’s the fact that you are an extreme athlete. It’s the fact that you are a mother. It’s the fact that you are trilingual,” and as he started listing off all of these other things, like, “You’re an Army wife,” like, all of these other things that I never would have thought about. And you know, the funny thing is now I do speaking and teaching and all this stuff. And I’ve used examples of everything.
Brian Schoenborn 1:27:08
Daniella Young 1:27:09
I have literally used examples of breastfeeding challenges to talk to, like, a 50-year-old white male CEO about something he’s not considering in his, in his operations, you know, and it’s, it’s this whole person thing. It’s we are, you know, so for that example, specifically with that leader, like, I did think about what he said for five years now and studied it and all of this and these days, you know, I can say, “You know, Brian, I have 23 years of experiences of being embedded in giant organizations with strong cultures, right, between my my cult time, my military time, and even more when we think like, I’ve been in corporate America, I’ve done the nonprofit world, etc, etc. And you know that I never liked the term expert, but that makes me a pretty knowledgeable person, on the subject, right?
Brian Schoenborn 1:27:59
You’re a wealth of knowledge when it comes to cultures and leadership stuff, I mean.
Daniella Young 1:28:01
When anyone has 23 years of experience in any field, we we give them a lot of credibility and a lot of benefit.
Brian Schoenborn 1:28:07
I mean, in some, some cultures, they would call them a guru.
Daniella Young 1:28:12
Which is I love this conversation that we’re having, very intentionally allowing me to be like, connect it back to like, you know, like, when I was six years old at the time, I didn’t realize this, but now I realize, like, there’s all the factors that were in play. And it’s why, you know, I mentioned earlier now, I’m going back to do the PhD, do the doctorate. You know, put a lot of this stuff into context, create some original research and all of that.
Brian Schoenborn 1:28:39
You know, it’s kind of like, I guess, to relate it to my own personal experience, you know, after you know, I had that PTSD-inducing event in the Marines. You know…
Daniella Young 1:28:52
Brian Schoenborn 1:28:52
…military sexual trauma, I was, you know, drugged and raped and shit. It was fucking horrible. I still deal with it. But you know, after getting after dealing with that, and then getting a other than honorable discharge, directly related to that and the treatment, I spent the next 15-17 years, you know, focused on building my own career determined not to, kind of…I spent, I spent 17 years building my career, trying to hide that as much as possible, right? All of it. The military stuff, like, it being a Marine, you know, being a veteran. The whole PTSD situation. I like, I tried to hide that as much as possible because I didn’t want it to define me. And it wasn’t until, I want to say, a couple of years ago, maybe a year or two ago, something like that. When I got to this point, I’m like, you know what?
Brian Schoenborn 1:29:58
It doesn’t define me, but it’s part of who I am. It’s part of my story. And once I decided to start, I hate using the term lean in, but like once I started to own that, once I took ownership of that, and I said, You know what, this is my fucking story. You know, once I started to own that, that’s when things started, um really changing, things started changing quite a bit.
Daniella Young 1:30:24
And that’s very much the same experience that I’ve had, right? Like, I was even told, I was told everything from like, “Well, your cult story is alienating to people.”
Brian Schoenborn 1:30:32
Daniella Young 1:30:32
And once I started sharing that, like, so part of all of the advice that you get from people about like, don’t share or don’t talk about that. I always think of it as that’s on you, Brian, right? And that was on me to share my story in a way that it allows other people to open up and not close off. Right? So my, my cult story has been far from alienating. My cult story has allowed me to connect with so many other people. And when I I’ve been telling my story. You know, last year I, I told my story on the TED stage and the entire evening after the big conference, right? It was people just coming up to me and being like, “Let me tell you about what I went through in regards to the fat and the other.” And so I think you know, I love the well the entire idea of this show, right, is everyone has a story to share and everyone has just incredible lessons that they’ve learned and incredible value that they bring to the table. Every story does and no, you know, I have with some people like to think of as a really crazy story, but it’s not any crazier than anyone else’s.
Brian Schoenborn 1:31:36
I’ve got a crazy story, man. Let’s be honest.
Daniella Young 1:31:39
Or any more valuable or any worse than anyone else’s.
Brian Schoenborn 1:31:43
That’s exactly it, right? It goes back to you know, there is no black and white. Everything’s a fucking construct. Everyone’s got their own story. It’s nothing, it’s not better or worse or whatever. It just is. Right?
Daniella Young 1:31:55
Brian Schoenborn 1:31:55
And the sooner that you can come to terms with your story, for better or worse in your own mind, the sooner you can come to terms with that and own that shit, I think the sooner you can really become, like, the whole you, right? Without trying to stop trying to be too deep or whatever, but you know what I mean?
Daniella Young 1:32:17
No, absolutely. And that’s when you start seeing how everything connects, right?
Brian Schoenborn 1:32:21
Daniella Young 1:32:21
Like we’ve already mentioned today, like you’re a whole person, but you’re also a different person. And so if you never go back and share those stories, you know, if I had never started sharing my, my cult stories, you know, I always looked at it. This is just something hard that I’ve overcome. I didn’t look at it as this entire theme of my life, right, or entire, you know, like, these days I guess I’m, I’m a pretty good expert on socialization and group culture and organizations and how they work and how they grow and the, the good sides and the bad sides and what you can do to build strong culture and how you can avoid building a cult, and I never would have realized all of that value that I bring to the table if I hadn’t started sharing my story. There’s power in stories.
Brian Schoenborn 1:33:07
There’s probably no greater power than a good story.
Daniella Young 1:33:10
Brian Schoenborn 1:33:10
To be honest.
Daniella Young 1:33:11
Brian Schoenborn 1:33:12
Yeah, I mean, Daniella, it’s been a great conversation so far. Um, I think we’re, I think we’re in a pretty good spot to start kind of wrapping it up here. Maybe you can tell us a little bit about like, where you’re at now with your story. Um, things you want to push things on a plug, right?
Daniella Young 1:33:33
Yeah, you know, so where I’m at now is I left the military about four years ago. I’m married to a, you know, active duty Special Operations helicopter pilot, which is…
Brian Schoenborn 1:33:47
So he’s badass.
Daniella Young 1:33:47
…yeah, he’s badass It’s fun. It’s scary.
Brian Schoenborn 1:33:49
I mean you’re pretty badass too, let’s be honest.
Daniella Young 1:33:51
I’m literally an expert in everything that can go wrong with all of his missions. So it’s, it’s quite fun. We have a beautiful three-and-a-half-year-old who werre raising in, like you mentioned, three languages, which is a very, very cool, interesting cultural experiment. For me, you know, other than just the, of course, intelligence and language benefits for her. And I, I worked for corporate America a little bit. And then I started doing my own thing a few years ago, and I realized I wanted to be a speaker. I realized that I love teaching adults, innovative things and innovative ways and that I can bring a lot of value to the table in that.
Daniella Young 1:34:31
So these days, I am a member of a really cool company called CavnessHR, and it’s a virtual HR firm for small businesses. So basically, you know, you don’t need a full-time HR person, you do need full-time HR coverage, and there’s a lot of things that can go wrong and can bankrupt a small business. So the average the average cost to a business for every HR incident is 10,000 per employee for a year. So if you think You have, you know, if you have 10 employees, and you have one issue that could cost you $100,000.
Daniella Young 1:35:06
So, we come in and we do all the the back end HR work. We get, we give you a 24/7 HR expert. It’s a veteran-owned company, it’s really cool. We’re putting a lot of technology into it. And then I am sort of the resident cultural strategy person. So I, I can do, of course, kind of a lot of different things: organizational development, culture, leadership, etc. But I really focus on two things. And one is that a lot of businesses have a lot of business plans, but they don’t really have a culture plan, right? They don’t have a culture strategy. So how are you going to get there, they just think like, a good culture is just something that will happen because they’re good people. And it’s not. And the thing is, if you’re not building kind of a positive culture, you might be unintentionally building a negative culture. So that’s the downside.
Daniella Young 1:35:56
And then on the on the other end, you know, I also help companies implement leadership development programs. And this is a lot of the speaking that I do. And I really kind of focus on young leaders. So you know, my situation I was 22 years old, I was handed the commission and a bunch of people I was in charge of and said, “Go to war.” And there’s a lot that you can do to step into your own leadership when you’re a young person.
Daniella Young 1:36:20
And, you know, so I’m now 32, I’m right in the middle of the millennial age group, and most of my colleagues in the corporate world are getting into their first kind of major leadership positions. And there’s a lot that the company can do to implement leadership training programs for them, but there’s also a lot that they can do themselves, to step into their leadership to develop themselves and that’s what I do, and I also host a podcast called, the CavnessHR Culture podcast. And that is where I interview people across a huge diverse spectrum of types of career fields and I interview standout leaders to talk about leadership and culture
Brian Schoenborn 1:37:01
Nice. And you’re working on a book, what’s up with the book? Tell you what,
Daniella Young 1:37:06
So I’m working on this book. It’s currently called “Cultured”. But basically, it’s a memoir. It’s, you know, going to be a longer version of all the things we talked about and where I am today, and it’s gonna be…
Brian Schoenborn 1:37:19
It’s gonna be a wild ride.
Daniella Young 1:37:20
…gonna be, you know, socialization and group behavior and overcoming and a lot of the different things that we talked about today.
Brian Schoenborn 1:37:27
Right on. Well, I appreciate you taking the time, Daniella. Everybody, give it up, Daniella Young.
Daniella Young 1:37:34
Thank you so much, Brian. This is an amazing conversation.
Brian Schoenborn 1:37:38
You’ve been listening to half the city with Brian Schoenborn presented by 8B Media. Be sure to subscribe to this podcast, share it with your friends, and leave a solid five-star review to ensure these stories get spread far and wide. For more information, as well as listen to other shows, including “Relentless a Survivor’s Search for Passion, Purpose and Inner Peace” and “Beyond Relentless”, be sure to check out 8Bmedia.com. Thank you for listening.
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