At NTT DATA we are always looking for the exceptional. Daniel Mendes’ story is an inspiration; his journey has the power to motivate everyone with his pure determination, drive and goal to succeed. This is something as a company we try emulate every day.
When Daniel Mendes became a professional boxer he opted for an unusual professional nickname: “My boxing friends all chose macho names like ‘The Lion’ or ‘The Bodysnatcher’ but I wanted something more humble that reflects my personality and there’s nothing more humble than a servant.”
Daniel ‘D. Servant’ Mendes has since racked up 11 wins and only two losses, clearly demonstrating that his humble outlook has done nothing to dent his passion to succeed. His humility stems instead from an awareness that things could have gone very differently for him, with early problems threatening to derail his ambitions before he got started.
There was a time when Daniel represented the archetypal ‘angry young man’ - excluded from school and a heavy user of cannabis and alcohol. But he has come a long way since then. Not only has his boxing career taken off, but he is working as a mentor with today’s crop of at-risk teenagers, as well as forging ahead with his other great passion – poetry. His first book ‘Tissues – a book of life and poetry’ is set for publication any day now.
“Everything I write is from the heart. I write about the things I believe in and stand for,” he says. “ My ambition is to try and inspire as many people as I can. It makes my life worthwhile if I can give others the hope that they can achieve, no matter where they’re coming from. That’s my short- and my long-term goal.”
The same drive is apparent in his work as a mentor for teenagers who are excluded or on the verge of exclusion from mainstream education. While his wealth of experience makes it easier for him to support them, he admits that he also gains a lot from the young people he works with: “It’s definitely a rewarding feeling to give back. It also makes me appreciate my journey because I see myself in a lot of them. A lot of them don’t have any hope and some have a lot less help than I did when I was their age, so it makes me more appreciative of things I should be grateful for.”
Daniel also believes that his experiences have a lot to teach any of us who are in danger of feeling overwhelmed by the challenges we face. “When I was in school I would always see this word in my school reports – defiant. That was quite negative, but now I think I am defiant in other ways. When I first wanted to turn professional in 2015 I had coaches telling me I was already too old to turn pro, but I used that defiant quality in me to prove people wrong. We are all capable of achieving things if we put our hearts and minds to it.”
“I also had people ask me early on, with all the sacrifices I was making, if I don’t get to where I want to, am I going to regret missing out on this and that? I said that my only regret would be that I didn’t start sooner and give myself more time to succeed.”
“If you give your all at something and you don’t achieve it you can’t have any regrets, whereas if you don’t give your all and you fail you are going to have a lot. Personally, I would find it a lot harder to sleep at night thinking ‘what if I had done this’ or ‘what if I had done that’. I want to make sure I do everything I can possibly do to succeed. I try and use my time productively and invest as much as I can into progressing.”
2020 has been a difficult year for all athletes and Daniel reckons he would probably have at least two more professional fights under his belt by now if not for the pandemic. For now, he continues to train hard and aims to keep match fit, as if his next fight could be next week. “I would love things to get back to normal, but I for now I just keep trying to be as productive as possible,” he says.
There was no single light bulb moment that turned things around for Daniel, but he did receive one piece of advice that really struck home: “ It was a speech about how everyone has a gift and not to neglect it or it will pass you by. At school I was very athletic and when I heard that I thought am I letting my gifts pass me by? That was when I stopped smoking for good.”
He also acknowledges that his twin loves of boxing and poetry form a pretty unusual combination: “I’m still unsure where my bigger gift is, in the boxing or the poetry or both, so I’ll just keep giving both of them my all and see what happens.”
“I sometimes question if people would care about the poetry if I wasn’t a boxer,” he laughs. “So I feel like I have to get in the ring and fight for people to listen to what I have to say.”
For the rest of us, perhaps the greatest lesson that Daniel can teach us is to just keep fighting. As his own poem says:
‘Where a great struggle is, there is also a strength greater in that exact same place’