From the brink of despair to finding the “absolute best” in the worst situation – Dan MacQueen‘s story is a testament to the power of resilience and reframing challenges. Dan found himself standing on a London Tube platform, unable to see; a few trips to the hospital revealed a brain growth. A hemorrhage during the operation left him with a Traumatic Brain Injury. In this episode, Dan shares his harrowing experience and the long road to recovery that followed. Through his incredible story, we learn valuable lessons about resilience, perspective, and the power of reframing challenges. He reveals how he transformed the “worst place in the world” into the “absolute best” through a simple mindset shift, proving that even in the face of immense difficulty, we have the power to choose how we respond. Tune in to hear his truly EPIC journey to recovery.

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Worst Place To Absolute Best: Mindset Shift To Transform Tragedy With Dan MacQueen

I am honored to have Dan MacQueen join me. Dan, take a moment and introduce yourself.

Thanks, Zander. It’s a pleasure to be here. My name’s Dan MacQueen. I’m from Vancouver, Canada. My story took place in London, England. I’m a traumatic brain injury survivor and I can dive into that story if you’d like. Zander.

Yeah, please.

Traumatic Brain Injury Survivor

This story took place in 2014. I was having these headaches and when I say headaches, I mean like migraines. They were crazy. They were massive. I couldn’t see straight. I was on a tube one day that you did to get around London and my vision started to flicker. It started to go a little bit. I’m lumbering towards the Notting Hill Gate station, tube station, and the vision started to go from the sides. I arrive at the platform at Notting Hill Gate Station and I step onto the platform and the curtain falls. I can’t see. Think for a second. You are able to see person your whole life, I’m imagining. All of a sudden, you can’t see. You’re in a foreign country. You’re standing on the platform. What goes through you? I didn’t know what to do.

I stood there. I wish I said I had some great plan to come out of this pickle, but I did not. I sat there and I stood there and I waited. Luckily enough, the vision came back in under about three minutes and I carried on my day. The next day, I found myself back in it. I said, “I’m going to the bottom of this. Let’s figure out what’s going on here.” They thought it was vertigo. They sent me home. They told me on the way out, I could always get my eyes checked by an optometrist. An optometrist? They said, “Yeah. The eyes are extended to the brain. “Okay, that makes sense.


EPIC Begins With 1 Step Forward | Dan MacQueen | Mindset Transformation


The following day, the headaches were back with a vengeance. I found myself in Mr. Patel’s chair. He was midway through a routine exam when he stopped the exam. He excused himself from the room and he came back a few minutes later with a sealed envelope, which he handed to me. Zander, it tells me to go directly to Moorefield Hospital, which I did.

Zander, tell a lie. I stopped at home first to grab a Jack Reacher’s book, the phone charger and a few essentials. I made my way back to Moorefield Hospital. I handed them the sealed envelope. They ran the same test there and asked me to return to the hospital. I’m thinking, “We’re getting somewhere. This is good.”

It turns out I had a dangerous build up of pressure in my brain caused by a non-cancerous cyst that I have. It turns out I require emergency brain surgery. It turns out my world’s going to change altogether. After a frantic back and forth with the folks in Canada, the last text message my mom received reads, “I’ll see you soon, Mom. I think I’ll have a new haircut when I see you. Love, Dan.”

Mom’s in the air, flying to London on June 21st, 2014. I’m on the operating table. Something goes horribly wrong and I have a massive bleed in the brain. A brain hemorrhage. This cyst burst when they operated. I was in a critical condition. I was in a coma for four weeks. I was in and out of consciousness for months under this. Things were dicey. When all was said and done, Zander, I had to learn to walk, talk, and smile again. That’s where my story kicks off, Zander.

Epic Recovery Journey

That is quite the epic story. Clearly, you’ve been on an epic journey since then. What has your life been like? What’s different?

As you can imagine, it’s quite an abrasive shock to wake up in the hospital bed. I can’t talk. My mom, dad, and brother are on the bed and I’m trying to talk to them, but I can’t. They give me a pen and paper. I pointed at my brother and I wrote the words, “You get me out of here.” I pointed to him like, “You make this happen,” because I had a trachea removed and I cannot get my voice back for a little while. Luckily, he did not take me on my request or demand. I think they were quite happy to know that I was able to think, process, write and communicate because, with a brain injury, you’re not sure what the prognosis is going to be. How was it going to be after the injury?

The way they got the nurse got me talking again was she took me down to the park. Some kids were playing football or soccer across the park, and she said, “Those kids across the park don’t think you’re good enough to talk, Dan.” I found out pretty quickly that’s a good motivator for me. I love being told I can’t do something and I will bend the world to prove you wrong. I yell some profanity across the park. I’ll spare you and your readers, but needless to say, I put that in my backpack and understood that motivates me. Being told I can’t do something is a good motivator for me.


EPIC Begins With 1 Step Forward | Dan MacQueen |Mindset Transformation


I was flattered by this. I was in a wheelchair. The leg had atrophied in the coma. I couldn’t use my left leg. I had to wear a splint on my left leg. A splint took a cast of your leg muscle. They’re supposed to gently tease out the leg muscle. Gently was the operative word they told me. That’s bollocks. The first time I wore the splint through the night, no stress. I thought, “This will be easy.”

The second night, after twenty minutes, it was painful. After 30 minutes, it was dreadful. After 40 minutes, it was unbearable. I buzzed the nurse and said, “Take the splint off my leg.” I tell them, “Tomorrow, we’re doing this for an hour.” I can handle the pain, so I thought. The third night, they wrapped up my leg. They tie it off. They give me the clicker, the nurse call button. They go patrol the Wilson board. Now, the Wilson board is an L shape, short on the side, and long on the side. They leave me in a hospital room with that smell like the hospital room can smell.

Sanitized, sterilized. It’s clean, but you’re wondering what atrocities have been committed and died with this scent. After ten minutes, the leg is painful. After twenty minutes, the leg is dreadful. After 30 minutes, my legs were unbearable. A short pass-through by the fourth. I’m trying to strap my leg from the pain. I grab an eye patch to counteract the double vision that I’ve got from the brain injury. I didn’t have this at the time I was passing back and forth. I can’t see much of this. I’m feeling this out.

As the pain rushed up my throat, I was getting more enthusiastic until eventually, inevitably, I dropped the clicker and it landed on the floor. Three and a half feet down the ground. “Sugar,” I say. I look over there to the bed. I see the clicker lying on the floor. If I can only get to that clicker, I can stop this pain. I can stop this monstrosity on my leg. This thing is expanding exponentially by the minute. It is so painful. I can’t even tell you. The only problem was falling from that height, I thought I might break my arm. In fact, I figured there was about a 50/50 chance I would break my arm. A coin flip. They are not the best odds. I changed the tab.

I’m trying to undo the slip at the center of the ankle, not the hip. I’m not that flexible. I can’t reach that far enough. “Help.” The Wilson board was an L shape. Short on this side, long on this side. They were far from the room, they cannot hear me cry out for help. I decided to flip the coin, drop down, and grab the clicker. Even if I break my arm, at least I get the splint on top of my leg. That’s the most important thing in my world. I’m sure my prayers will change once my arm breaks. Let’s see what happens. I lower myself off at the edge of the bed. I crashed down in a heap.

Blankets, wires, and cables all go. The arm folds and I hammer the clicker, expecting the nurse to come bursting into this room to give me a rescue. They stroll in five minutes later. “What are you doing on the floor?” I say, “Let’s not worry about it. Let’s splint up my leg, please, and I’ll tell you all about this.” It’s not what happens to you, but how you respond that matters. I learned through lessons from that experience. That’s why I’m telling you this story now. The most obvious is that let’s not pass by a board. That’s pretty self-evident.

It took me a while to figure out this was the case. The second was not to splint up to the hip, not the ankle, and that we should do this should this happen moving forward. The third and probably most profound, is let’s always be solutions-oriented from this moment forward. Focus on how you can resolve your issue at the moment of contact. When things go wrong in life, which they will, how do you address the solution off the hump and fix that and only worry about that? That’s the lesson that stuck with me after this issue here, Zander. It’s a bit of a rant for you, bud. Needless to say, it was difficult. It was arduous. It was frustrating to do this stuff, to be honest, Zander.

It’s a fascinating story. Thank you so much for sharing. One of the things that I talk about in my book, which is all about people, we have epic dreams. We have the things that we want to do. Sometimes, you fall into what I call the epic unexpected, some epic journey that you’re on that you obviously never planned on, but here you are and you don’t have any choice but to go forward. Something that strikes me that I talk about all the time, and probably will resonate with you, is not yet. Those two words are very important to me. I think not yet. I’m going to guess in your journey, not yet is probably very important. “Can I do this?” “Not yet.” That doesn’t mean you’re not going to be able to achieve i. It just means right now, you can’t.

Zander, I love that. That’s very true. I’ve used not yet many times.

Yeah, I can imagine. You are having to rehab and stuff. I know I did not go through anything nearly what you did, but I crashed on my back in October of 2022 and shattered my shoulder. I had to have surgery twice on it. The rehab on that was, “Am I better?” “Not yet.” “Can I do this?” “Not yet.” I believe that I could. I look at you now and say, “There must be a whole lot of not yet.” I love that you said that for you, it’s very motivating if someone says you can’t do that.

It’s funny that you mention that because not yet is a huge part of my vibe, for sure. My motivation came a lot from that proving you wrong vibe. I can’t? Watch me. That’s where it came from initially. It’s like this toxic sludge of hate and spite and venom, but it works. I’ve transitioned that to the surface now. Your success is my success because when I beat you, Zander, the motivation disappears like it was never there.

It’s an empty hollow place that you’re left with like, “What happened? I was motivated this for so long, but it’s gone now,” because that venomous spite works and it works very well, but it burns you up. If you transition that to service, your success is my success, my success is your success, it doesn’t evaporate when this conversation ends. I’m not trying to beat you. It’s not like me versus you. It is us versus them. That is how you motivate and sustain for the long-term.

I also think that when we’re on these epic journeys, we have an idea, a goal of where we want to get to. When you get there, although it’s very satisfying, it’s not like the journey ends. In the past, I’ve run marathons, and I remember the first time I completed one. I was so excited when I crossed the finish line, but I did have the, “Now what?” I had spent so many months training for this thing and achieved it and it was great. I don’t want to discount it.

I can imagine for you, there are goals that you say, “I want to be able to do this.” When you get there, it’s like, “Okay, now what?” It’s not like it ends and you’re like, “All right, I’m done.” I think in business, we have goals of what we want to achieve, but when you get there, it’s not like you’re complete. You’re complete for that task, but there’s more that you now see that you could do or you think, “What’s next?”

My goals started off in the wheelchair, like in the early days in the hospital. Let’s get in the wheelchair in 45 minutes, not 40 or 45, not 50, then 40, not 45, then 35, not 40. I was constantly measuring myself against yesterday. Better than yesterday is how I approach life. I’m trying to incrementally improve my vibe day in and day out. Eventually, I ratchet that up to the wheelchair in 10 minutes, 7 minutes, in 8 minutes, then 6 minutes, in 5 minutes. It started at 50, it started at 45. It was so difficult to get in that wheelchair. It transitioned from in the shower. It transitioned from the wheelchair to the bed and walked to Tooting Broadway. I’m going to share the story about walking and Tooting Broadway. Zander, have you been to London, England?

Yes, I have.

Have you been to Tooting Broadway?

Honestly, can’t remember if I have or I haven’t.

From Worst To Best

I will let me set up the scene for you and the readers. Tooting Broadway is an area in South London. Here, they call it up and coming. Think of loud sirens, drugs, gangs. It’s dirty, hectic and busy. I’m walking with a cane. I’m walking with an eye patch. I’m literally Bambi on ice. I turn on the corner to walk on the high street for the first time. Immediately, I get slammed into someone. I stagger back a few feet. Someone scurries past me on the right-hand side. I thought I was done with the rats. Someone had been stabbed on the sidewalk over here.

I’m thinking, “This is a pretty wild place to have a walk.” After a few days, I was thinking, “This is the worst place to have a walk in the world. They see I’m trying to walk here. Can’t they see I’m trying?” One day, my perspective shifted. “Maybe this is not the worst place to walk in the world, but this is the best. If I can walk here, I can walk anywhere.” It went from the worst to the best in my mind. What are you looking at in your life that convinces the worst? Can you see it as the worst? Maybe this. Maybe you can find a way to turn down the suck a little bit.

Shift that perspective a little bit. Iron Mike Tyson famously said, “Everyone’s got a plan until they get punched in the mouth.” Your punch may not be a brain hemorrhage but it will be a job loss, a breakup, a diagnosis for you or a loved one. You’ll take that punch in the mouth. How do you respond? I’m offering a compass, not a map. It always points towards the true North, living that mindset, perspective and hacks.

My name’s Dan MacQueen and the reason why I told you this story about learning to walk in Tooting Broadway is when you change the way you look at the world, the world changes and you don’t need a brain surgery to understand that. That’s a whimsical lesson that I’ve got after the injury. Let me be very clear with your readers here, Zander. You don’t come with these whimsical learnings at the moment of contact. That’s a solution-based thing. At the moment of contact, you’re looking to survive.


When you change the way you look at the world, the world you look at changes.


Looking back after the fact, I’m connecting the dots and understanding that this is what I was thinking in my thought process, but don’t think about these cute little stories when you’re going through the deep stuff. Think about them afterwards, but that story about the worst of the best, that’s a real thing. It transformed my experience walking to Tooting Broadway. This is the worst one and this is the best and that feeling of I look forward to the contact, the stripe, the struggle like you’re making me better with this. I love that.

That reminds me, Dan. Many years ago, I was reading a book called The Diamond Cutter, which talks about this Buddhist monk who goes to work in the diamond cutting district in New York. Not to get too much into it, but there was this concept that I liked, which they said that in Buddhism, there’s this belief that nothing is inherently good or bad. It’s how you see it. I like that. That resonates with me and has resonated for many years. I look at, for example, the sun is out here in California. I go, “That’s great. The sun is out.”

Let’s say we are in a drought and I’m a farmer. Perhaps I see the sun being out not as good a thing because it’s killing my crops. It’s killing my livelihood. The sun being out in and of itself isn’t good or bad. There’s no value. It’s how we interpret that situation. As you said, if I can walk here, I can walk anywhere. When you were learning to drive and stuff, if there was lots and lots of traffic, it was hard.

If you knew how to do that, whatever is driving you, you may encounter it. If there’s less traffic, it’s not as hard. I can totally relate to your perspective of your situation makes a huge difference in what the outcome is. If you believe that you will be able to achieve something, you are a lot more likely to do it. There is failure along the way. It is part of the journey.


EPIC Begins With 1 Step Forward | Dan MacQueen | Mindset Transformation


I call it reframing. It’s like you’re not changing anything. You’re changing how you look at something. It’s like Tooting Broadways still up and coming, but it’s like it went from the worst place that I ever walked in the world to the actual best.

Make no mistake here. Tooting Broadway’s not the hardest place to learn to walk in the world, no doubt, but it’s not easy. From the nerfed-up world of the hospital to go into Tooting Broadway is a bloody gum show. I was so frustrated by this and so dejected by can’t they see I’m trying to walk through? I’m wearing an eye patch. I’m using a cane. I’m walking with a cane. I’m stumbling around. I’m staggering. People are bumping into me like this is the worst. Can’t you see him walking here? When that mindset shift happened, is this the worst or this it the best?

I began to look forward to that contact, that struggle. “Good, bring it on. You’re making me better with this.” I resonate with contact or competition. That worked for me. It may not work for you, but if you can change how you look at that, like your world changes, and it sounds like me paying lip service like perspective, it’s like how you look at stuff. I guess the worst is the best. You can choose how you look at it.

Any big challenge in our life, there are two ways. You either define your challenge or your challenge defines you. I prefer to say I will define my challenge because then I am employing the choice that I have. I am not helpless. I grant you, there are times in life when our choices are crapping crappier. Even in that, you have a choice. When you have a choice, you actually empower yourself and say, “I wish I had a third choice. I don’t. Here’s what I’m going to choose.” There is some power there. There are some personal like, “I can do this.”

A Big, Audacious Goal

I want to share one more story about goal setting, if I can, Zander. I was a big skier growing up. I skied a lot. Three days a week on the hill. I was a ski racer. I was working on the even bars of my rehab team after the brain injury. Early days, cheering for us, which is the hospital where I had the brain surgery in. The rehab team asked me what I was looking forward to get back to doing. I’m in a wheelchair. At this stage, I can’t walk. I think about this like, “What’s a big sport that I want to get back to doing? What sport that, if I can do it, signifies a big recovery on my side?” I thought about this for a minute.

I thought all the sports played with everything like soccer, hockey, volleyball, softball, and skiing. I landed on skiing because that’s the most difficult sport to get back to doing, like balance, core strength, and depth perception. The whole vision would make things interesting. I told them I wanted to ski again. They paused. They nodded in agreement and they said, “Okay, sure.” I’m sure there was a simple exercise, not even thinking about future goals, that has been burned in the back of my mind. That’s what I’m aiming for.

They asked me when I wanted to go skiing again. I said, “2022,” ten years from my last ski trip in Morrisey Mountain. We’re into March. They bought skis in the shop. They get waxed, they get sharpened. They couldn’t adjust my bindings. Those were too old. They told me for liability reasons, they could not touch them. That’s a good sign. No big deal. We took a stab at March. We landed on sun, which is glorious to me skiing in the spring.

I remember an old hack of the ski racer at the bottom. The last one on the gondola. That way, when you enter the gondola and you can rest your skis and your poles and the doors that close behind you. It’s like an OG hack to know you belong on the hill. I tell the boys like, “We’re going to be the last one in the gondola. Trust me on this. I got this.” I’ve probably taken this gondola hundreds of times.

We go up the gondola, get the spot, and the whole shot, rest the ski and the poles on the door. We’re on the gondola ride going up. Over the first tower, big forwards, big back. Now, if you all can close your eyes for a second. I’ll take it to the last leg of the gondola, please. If you’ll nip a cold on your cheeks, Dan, enough to let you know your altitude. We’re going to dock at the station above. You walk through the station into a wall of sunshine. Beautiful Bluebird Day. Big inhale. Smell the pines, fresh air, the snow, down the stairs, clang. Onto the snow, crunch.

Open your eyes, please. We’re going to sit with the boys. After ten years off the slopes, Zander, I ripped it like I didn’t know it would be possible. I was skiing so well, it was like I never missed a day. My turns were tight. I was an instructor after university for a season, so I was quite comfortable in the slopes, but it looked like I didn’t miss a day. I didn’t think this was possible when I said this goal out loud. It was a moonshot goal. Something bold to aspire to. There I’m skiing. I pose this question to your audience. If they’re goal-driven, what’s holding you back?

I’m able to walk, I’m able to talk, I’m able to smile. I’m going to share this quote from Confucius that helped me change my life and perspective a little bit here. It goes, “We all have two lives. The second begins when we realize we only have one.” This moonshot goal was impossible. This is something that I couldn’t even believe I was saying out loud, but I said it out loud to my rehab team and they agreed with me. They smiled and said yes. There’s no way they thought I was skiing. There I’m skiing and I’m not skiing. I’m ripping. I’m shredding. I’m like Warren Miller up there. It was wicked. It was amazing.



That must have felt so empowering, Dan.

It is the fastest I’ve gone in this brain injury. I used to go fast all the time before the brain injury. I used to drive motorcycles. I used to ski race. I used to drive cars. I was not supposed to, but I was driving fast. I love going fast. I love the speed. I love the high risk. I love the thrill of being on the edge. I haven’t been able to do that since my brain injury, except for the skiing. It might be I’m skiing like greens and blues. It’s not like crazy. Your ski can run a bit.

It throws turns late and I’m on the edge there for a minute. It’s like I missed this feeling and I loved it because it brought me back to my youth of this is the drug that I want. This feeling of like, “Am I going to hold on to this? I don’t know but I’m holding on. It was phenomenal. It was phenomenal because I said it out loud and I made it happen. I didn’t think this would be possible to do and I did it.

I did these brain scans at this brain injury clinic in Vancouver, Zander, called Health Tech Connect. It’s a brain injury clinic in Vancouver that does pro sportsmen big brain studies and my results came back. They put this cap in your head and they inject it with fluid and they tell you these questions like cucumber, sausage, pickle. They track the synapses that fire together when they say certain words to see how your brain responds. My results came back as average, Zander. after two brain surgeries, it is pretty good.

I read this as a shockingly average, Zander. I was so appalled that my results came back as average because I thought I should be superior in some space because I’ve done so well. I thought more about this, and I realized that’s actually a good thing because it means that I’m not smarter or better than anyone on this call, but I’ve chosen to go forward. I’ve chosen to stand the toes over the nose of my board and ride this wave down.


I’m no smarter than anyone on this cold, but I have just chosen to go forwards.


That means you can do this, too. I’m no better or smarter. I’ve been driven to make this work. I’m not gifted, but I’m average. I can make this happen. My medical stuff, I don’t say it to say, “Woe is me.” Look at how good I am, Zander. I’ll be honest, maybe a little bit of that is in there. It’s more like, look what I’ve done. Look what you can do, too. I’m not special. Look what I’ve done.

You are very inspirational because it is a testament. If you set a big, audacious goal, if you decide to go epic, you can. It does take a lot of commitment. It takes a lot of work, but it is possible. I know from my own life there are things not necessarily as big as yours, but I’ve achieved epic things. That’s why I talk about epic because I think we all do epic things but we don’t give ourself credit for how big that effort is.

You can do small, you can do big, so why not aim big? You may hit it. Why not aim big and see what happens? This is a moonshot goal. The ski is a moonshot goal. I didn’t think it’d be possible, and I’m skiing. I can’t tell you how surreal that day was for me like, “I’m skiing. This is nuts.” I said it out loud because I tracked this down because I fought my bones every day for years. I’m going to make this happen, and why not?

They said the odds of you being a human being down there are 400 trillion to 1. That means you’re more likely to live the lottery a million times than you have a life in the first place. That’s for the analogy. Let’s say we’re playing a round of cards. The cards were given to me, and one of them is the brain average. Am I going to muck the line because of this? No, I’m not going to muck the line. I’m going to play the hand as best as I did and I can.

That’s all we can do, Dan.

Don’t whinge about the hand. You’ve got to hang in the first place, brother. My hand only exists because of this card. If I didn’t have this card, I wouldn’t be existing now. Don’t whinge about it. Wishing something didn’t happen is an adequate way to resolve it. Acceptance is the key thing that I want to get across to your audience. Acceptance is the most important thing. Accepting the brain injury. Acceptance. It’s like, “Dan, you know my story.”

“Yeah, I know your story,” but acceptance is the key because you can wait six months to accept it and then after that six months, you’re back to square one. If you can rectify this and take steps forward from day one, you’re taking steps to improve your life. Wishing something did not happen is not an adequate way to resolve it. Acceptance is saying these are the new terms of service. Accept that. It’s not saying it’s fair, it’s not saying it’s equal, or it’s okay that it happened, but it’s saying that it did happen. To deny that that happened is not fair to you or anyone else in your life. Acceptance is key.

Dan, believe it or not, our time is up, but I want to thank you so much. It has been absolutely fascinating. Your story is so interesting and I am so excited for all that you are doing and achieving. Quickly, if people want to get ahold of you, how can they do that?

The best way, Zander is to reach on my website, You can see my demo reel there as well as @MacQueenDan across the socials. Thank you, Zander.

I want to thank you so much. I want to remind my audience that if you are ready to step into your epic, if you go to and put in the code, EPICBEGINS, you’ll get a $50 discount on either of the courses up there right now. I also want to remind my audience that epic choices lead to the epic life that you want.


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About Dan MacQueen

EPIC Begins With 1 Step Forward | Dan MacQueen | Mindset TransformationDan was a healthy, active 28-year-old who suddenly suffered from severe headaches. After an optometrist’s appointment to find the cause was cut short, he was handed a sealed envelope and told to go directly to hospital. What followed on June 21, 2014 was emergency brain surgery and a massive hemorrhage that shattered the life he knew. He spent weeks in a coma and months in a rehab hospital. What he learned along the way might surprise you: there is nothing like a brain injury to refocus the mind.
Driven by a positive attitude, Dan battled to recover and return to a job he loved. He’s grateful for the doctors who saved him and the friends and family who supported him. Now he wants to pay it forward. The tools that helped Dan recover can be used by anyone facing adversity and challenges. He will reveal strategies to help your team be better than yesterday and achieve your goals, one step at a time. The dark humour he sprinkles through his talk will make them laugh. His message will leave them motivated.
Dan has appeared on dozens of podcasts and has spoken to businesses, community organizations and to health care and government workers. He’s given speeches at Hootsuite, an international social media management company, to sales people at Spendesk, a Fintech SaaS company based in London and to rehab patients at the NHS Wolfsen Hospital in London. His audiences were moved and uplifted by Dan’s story and ready to use his practical approaches to triumph over adversity.