VIDEO: James Ruse Awards Day Speech – Living Your Dreams: What I Wish I Knew in High School

I was really honoured to be the guest speaker at my High School – James Ruse Agricultural High School’s Annual Awards Day – I talked about “Living your dreams: What I wish I knew in High School”.

Top 5 Audience Moments

1)      Mr Flood Impersonation @ 0.33

2)      Asian Parents Joke @ 8.15

3)      Girls, Nerds, Convertibles and why James Ruse = Hot! @ 9.30-10.30

4)      Having balls, a special volunteer and HSC Study Notes @ 11.08-12.35

5)      Let’s show the world what James Ruse Students can really do! @ 13.34

To all the students, teachers and parents – thanks so much for having me! I was blown away by how nice and humble all the students and there parents are, as well as all the teachers who care so much about helping other people achieve their dreams!

James Ruse students – would love your comments guys! What are you up to and what are your goals and dreams?

And everyone else – What would your advice be to the smartest young kids wanting to achieve their dreams? What do you wish you knew in High School?

P.S. Check out my other VIDEO: Incentivize Social Media Followers like Cows – I filmed LIVE from James Ruse recapping lessons from the school farm which I recently told in my speech at Affiliate Summit at the Hilton New York City!

Also WOW I saw the James Ruse Rap “Green and Yellow” and videos from the final assembly, hilarious! Well done to T-izzle, A-dawg and the Prefects! That must have brought the house down! So cool how all the teachers got into it too like Mr McFadyen!

Speech Transcript

Good Morning Everyone,

Thanks so much for having me. I’m really proud to have gone to James Ruse and I’m really excited to be back here. Just wondering which of my teachers are still here? You guys know Mr Alder?
Does he still say “Your algebra’s not up to standard peoples!”?
What about Mr Flood? This is my Mr Flood impersonation [hands behind head and put feet up]!

Anyway I’d love to share with you guys what I wish I knew in High School. So I’ll start at the beginning, on my very first day at James Ruse.

Do you guys remember Maths Olympiad in Primary School? I really wanted to be cool, so I decided to stitch my giant Maths Olympiad Badge on my James Ruse backpack. My first day everyone on the train was calling me “MathsBoy” which stuck for the next 6 years.

Anyway I actually started my first internet business while here at High School. I was 15 and my parents sat me down and said, “Son, we are sending you to work at the local Burger King” where they paid $4 an hour.

Now can you imagine sending a James Ruse nerd to Burger King in Bankstown? I would have been killed! Because let’s face it, there are some people at James Ruse, if they went to a normal school, they’d get flushed!

I pleaded “No, No, wait … I’m going to start an internet business” and I even stirred my Dad up by saying “I’m going to have clients in the United States and get checks in the post!” and he was like “this is ridiculous!”

But soon piles and piles of checks would arrive in the post from the US and Europe while I was at school, (I copied the first 50 from Year 10), so I successfully avoided working at Burger King!

Then later while I was studying eMarketing and Law at Sydney Uni, I turned a hypothetical business plan assignment into reality and launched a successful eCommerce store called ApeShop. I’ve run my own online businesses ever since and by the time I graduated law school I successfully avoided working as a lawyer!

But I still did internships in Banking and Law and I always thought that if we at James Ruse are the top 1% of the state in our marks, then we would get the top 1% of the jobs, the top 1% of the wealth and opportunities. Unfortunately, if you think you can just hide in a corner with your head down, get a high ATAR and first class honours degree and strangers will roll out the red carpet of opportunity for you, I’m sorry to burst your bubble but the world we live in does not work like that.

That realization did not hit me until I was looking to hire someone for my own business. So put yourself in my shoes. Imagine you are looking to hire someone to work closely with you, to share sensitive information with so you really have to trust them.

Who are you going to hire? A) A person that you know and trust, you have seen first hand somewhere at school, university, or through friends that they are brilliant … or B) A random stranger, who you have never met or heard of, none of your colleagues have ever heard of, but, they have a high UAI or ATAR. And that was the moment it all hit me.

Times are changing, in the past many companies had to interview strangers and use marks because they couldn’t find someone they already know and trust. But the world we live in is becoming much more connected then ever before and with Social Media our networks are far more accessible. A company can see straight away say on LinkedIn that a whole stack of its employees in the years above you in school or uni, rave about how amazing you are. Those recommendations are so much more powerful as the hard working qualities you guys have can’t truly be communicated on a piece of paper alone.

Now imagine you are in Year 12 and applying for university and jobs, but all your friends are in the same stage of life as you, it’s like the blind leading the blind! I realized all this when I got into salsa dancing as I met so many diverse friends – people younger than me, older than me, some were at uni, some were doctors. A good friend I met at Salsa did Law like me, but he was 10 years ahead and really high up in a law firm, and he just dropped into the conversation how he was busy looking at all the applications from Uni Students for Summer Internships! He said the “yes” interview pile is so full they reject everything unless it absolutely stands out and that student is highly recommended by somebody. So I wish I had friends to tell me things like that!

So a real secret to success in life is to make genuine friends with people that are also passionate about going where you want to go and people who are a few steps ahead of you in life and who are where you want to be, that have already been there and done that and can help you.

There is virtually no problem you can have that other people haven’t already been through, whether it’s with school, your parents or whatever.

So you guys need to make a real effort to do whatever it takes to connect with people outside your normal social circle, that is another reason why getting involved in extra-curricular activities is so powerful. And the best way to attract those people to you is to be nice and giving to everyone.

At James Ruse we are so lucky to have teachers here that actually care, fellow students that encourage you, and parents that support you. At University and in the corporate world, most people aren’t looking out for you. It’s very rare and special to be able to surround yourself with people that are genuinely supporting you to achieve your dreams – I travel the world and take 23hr flights just to connect with those types of people for a few days. And looking back at School and University I have to say – you will never have an environment where the people around you care as much about you, your dreams and your future as this place you are sitting in right now.

Another thing is to embrace and be proud of who you are and where you are from. Most of us from James Ruse, we are from a humble background. So like you guys I’m not from a rich powerful family that automatically brings privileges and opportunities. But earning it and making it happen yourself is a massive gift of empowerment. I didn’t really realize this until I went to my first conference in New York City. I had to travel to the opposite side of the world, where I knew nobody and make it all happen on my own initiative.

If everything is easy and handed to you on a platter – you end up with a false sense of self-entitlement.  Some rich kids may get one job or opportunity because they have family connections, so they may have been given one fish, but we’ve learned how to fish, that lasts a lifetime. I have so much respect for you guys, who have earned your place into James Ruse through sheer hard work. And if you apply this same attitude to any area of life you will conquer it. If you can survive James Ruse, the HSC and Asian Parents – you can do anything!

I say think Big and aim to hit it out of the Park. Setting goals and dreams outside your comfort zone – that’s where life is lived.

I know the HSC is stressful, but focus on the positive upside and tremendous opportunity. Don’t worry – no matter how badly you screw up, it will never be too late to turn it around. Many students in my law classes missed the cut-off for law, so they just did Arts the first year, aced it at uni, and transferred in 2nd year – and because they had such a good attitude they were the top students. But you are going to have to put in the hard work at some stage, and there’s no better time than now.

So be positive and focus on the things you do have. Life is not a 100% sum game, no matter how brilliant you are, not everybody will appreciate you, you just need to focus on the people that do. Stressing about what you don’t have isn’t constructive, but being excited about what you do have is. As hard working young people, you should all be really excited as your future is going to get better and better the older you get. Especially the guys in the house – like when I got Dux of Primary School girls would say “NERD!” but things change! Like the other week, I was driving down Bondi Beach in my convertible, and these girls just jumped into my car! And then when I told the girls what High School I went to, they said, “You went to James Ruse?! That is SO HOT!”

Also you guys are really hard working but make sure you apply that to the goals you are truly passionate about. There is a great quote from Anthony Robbins. He says: Choose, don’t react. Don’t take what’s given to you by the environment that you walk by each day.  Decide precisely what you want, decide what it will take to make that happen, and make that happen.”
Think what were your favourite moments growing up? What subjects, what activities, and what things did you love the most? What excited you? And that’s what you should study and continue doing!

I’ve been really lucky to travel the world and meet lots of inspiring people and I often think, what is it that sets these people apart and makes them so successful? It’s not that they all got a 100 UAI … the common factor is these people have balls, they put themselves out there, and go for it.

So, speaking of having guts, I would like to one student to volunteer to come up here and join me on stage! Preferably someone studying or who wants to study Chemistry and Economics, but anyone who is the first to come up!

These are all my notes from the HSC. I typed up everything for every point of the syllabus, even drew all the diagrams, there’s 100s of pages per subject, tonnes of practice essays … [To Esther who came up] – it’s yours to keep, I hope it helps, best of luck!

The people who really go places, are not so much those who are just technically talented, but those who can connect with and inspire other people; they share their knowledge and talents freely and improve the lives of the people around them. I am not saying for a moment that your marks are not important because they absolutely are. What I am saying is you need both.

So thank you so much for having me. Please keep in touch – My blog is, and I’ll put some notes and the video from this speech at I’d love to hear your comments and your goals and dreams.

And to all the teachers and everyone at this school – thank you so much for everything. It was my dream to come to this school, and it was also always my dream to come back and speak. I hope you guys take on board what I’ve said and put yourselves out there and go for it – let’s live our dreams and let’s show the world just how much James Ruse students really can do.


  1. Hey, I thought your speech was awesome today, especially the Mr Flood impression! I wanted to get into a corporate position, something along the lines of law/comm/finance, but after hearing you today, it seems so difficult and unattainable … then again, you did also say that setting goals outside your comfort zone is how to succeed 😀

    • Hi Rachel!
      It’s not unattainable at all! But you are right there are so many students out there these days with degrees even law degrees like I was saying with my friend at the law firm, any of these top Law Firms, Investment Banks, Management Consulting, Accounting even are literally flooded with applications – if you just get involved and go to a few events and meet some people at these companies before the interview that will be a great help and really set you apart! There are lots of associations and cocktail evenings.
      Also lots of my friends worked as paralegals for law firms and then obviously when they went to apply for a summer clerkship or graduate position at that same firm they have a HUGE advantage and rightly so because everybody at that firm would already know you and if you have been working hard and developed rapport with everyone they would want to take you more!
      anyway good luck and go for it!

  2. You speech was really inspirational and got me thinking about my future, thanks man!

  3. You gave an inspiring presentation today. Being at Ruse you realize the only people you really know and connect with are those around you. It was great having an outside perspective, especially when you’ve already been in our shoes. I’m aiming for medicine but I guess my main goal is just to find a satisfying purpose in life.
    Thanks again, and good luck!

    • Hi there! Thanks for your kind words! Well a good start is extra-curricular activities as any clubs or even sports at least you get to make genuine friends with students a few years above and below which can be a real help!
      Wow good luck with Medicine! Very tough but go for it! If you meet some Doctors and people in the industry that may be a huge help though – for example I go to these Young Garvan Evenings at the Garvan Institute which is basically cocktails, networking and speeches by doctors and you meet lots of people, even if you do things like the City2Surf or Blackmores Sydney Running Festival you can run for a charity especially charities like Cancer, Hospitals they have breakfasts after the run and you meet lots of great people – Doctors, researchers etc!
      Good luck!

  4. Hi, Dave! Great speech you gave today. I’ve always wanted to know more about how entrepreneurs begin, and your personal story has been very insightful.

    • Thanks Nick, glad you liked it! What a cool audience too 🙂
      The funny thing is some of those companies that sent me all those US Checks when I was 15 were at the conference I was speaking at in New York City a few weeks ago! If you want to be an entrepreneur there is really no reason not to just go for it now! I keep meeting these crazy young whiz kids at all these conferences who are only teenagers, anyone can do it if they just go for it!

  5. I loved your speech at our school today!!! So inspirational!!! I just wish I had more balls… those study notes looked good. And your impersonations were cool too!!!

    • Hey Josh thanks for your kind words! Glad you liked the impersonations! Haha having more balls helps, travelling is awesome as it forces you to step out of your comfort zone and meet new people, and actually when you do have guts and go for it so many people will respond positively, and those that don’t – don’t matter 🙂

  6. Hello Dave!! I’m currently a Ruse student in year 11.
    Firstly I’d just like to tell you how AMAZING AND INSPIRING your speech was today in assembly!! (to be honest, it was the only interesting part of the whole assembly haha).
    When I first moved to Ruse in year 10, I was so shocked by how intelligent everybody was and seeing so many students around me achieve unbelievably excellent results made me feel as if all this time, I had been living under the illusion that I was one of the best. I couldn’t come to terms with the idea that I was a nobody. Afterwards I think I lost the urge to participate in any competitions or try my best in anything because I couldn’t rid myself of the thought that at least one other person would ALWAYS do better than me, no matter how hard I tried. And it was painfully true – in everything I did I could never reach the top as I once used to.
    But what you taught us in assembly today has completely changed my perspective. You’re right – the reason why those top achievers could be top achievers was because they had the guts to give anything their best shot. And the reason why I couldn’t be one of them was because I was too afraid of failure to strive for the best. Thankyou so much for instilling confidence into me – now I feel motivated to try my best !!
    Oops I rambled on about irrelevant stuff 😛 but my dream is to become a dentist though I still have my options open 🙂
    Good luck for your eMarketing!

    • Hi Helen!
      Thanks so much for your kind comments! Wow I was blown away with how nice and humble all the students and parents and teachers are!
      Yeah I can imagine coming to Ruse in Yr 10 would be a big change … I was really sad at first in Year 7 as I was the only one from my Primary School far away so missed all my friends.
      I’m sure you can reach the top if you believe in yourself and go for it. But don’t worry as you are always better off surrounding yourself with people that are better and you will do way better because of it. Keep remembering even if some Ruse students are beating you that there is a whole world out there and you guys are beating them all! It will feel great when you step out of Ruse and see that!
      Good luck with becoming a Dentist! 🙂

  7. Hey Dave 🙂
    I’m currently a year 8 student at Ruse!

    I enjoyed your speech the other day and it was extremely inspirational. Thanks for sharing with us part of your life and how you became who you are.

    Because of your speech, I gained several ideas (e.g WRITING UP MY OWN NOTES FROM THE HSC SYLLABUS :D).

    Thanks for coming back to RUSE to talk to us about what you did.

    • Hey thanks glad you liked it!
      Definitely writing up notes for each point of the syllabus is a great idea! I started doing it in Year 8 – that way you cover everything and work smart not hard! If you look at the syllabus carefully you can pretty much tell the main things that they will be asking in the exam!
      Thanks again for the kind words and best of luck! 🙂

  8. hello ! 🙂
    your speech was funny and inspirational and interesting !

    i was just wondering how commerce was as a year 9 elective?

    thank you ^^

    • Hey! Thanks so much – Glad you liked the speech 🙂
      I actually loved Commerce in Year 9 and 10, was one of my favourite subjects and one of the most useful for later on if you want to be in business or study economics in the HSC or commerce or university. Would recommend doing Commerce all the way – most people who make it big are not on salaries but they are entrepreneurs or investors and commerce is a great foundation for that, plus hopefully you also get Mr Flood who is brilliant and genuinely cares about his students!

  9. Really great speech, simple honest entertaining relatable. Glad you impacted the students it seems! Well done on your successes in life through just going for it while retaining an open mind and ready going demeanour. Thanks for a good read .

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