DaveI recently participated in a non profit event in my city called “Fast Pitch”.  This is where I met Dave Bonk who runs an amazing non profit called “Hearts and Hammers” that fixes up homes for people with disabilities so families can stay in their home and together.  I met Dave for coffee and was amazed at his story and resilience. He, once a vulnerable youth, has over come much in his life.  I wanted to share his story on my blog for those who perhaps are at risk right now themselves, or if you work with youth at risk.  Also for parents who may have a youth at risk of the same that Dave went through, I know his words will encourage you and give great advice to youth in need of some inspiration.  Dave will be coming alongside Mpact and myself in a few weeks to speak to youth at risk in various school assemblies.  I pray his story encourages you, and thanks Dave for allowing yourself to be seen.  May your courage spark bravery in others. – Connie

Dave Writes: Street PHD – Education for the Wild Ones

As I put the car into Reverse and started backing out, I heard the child in the back seat. This stolen car is turning  into a child abduction. I quickly re parked the car and we got out, RUN. Another driver in the 7-11 parking lot witnessed what we attempted and was on the phone with the police as he chased us. As I lay in the dirt under a bush of a nearby field, feeling the heat of the police search light, I contemplated my life and the dangerous risky game I was playing.
When I was 13-15 years old I was certainly on a path to destruction. For these 2 years, I was not in school, had run away, slept on couches, floors, jail, and was just generally a screw up. Classified by police as a violent offender at 14 years of age, and voted by teachers, youth pastors, and my community as the most likely to end up going nowhere, or worse.

Hi! I’m Dave Bonk. I’m 36 years old, owner of real estate investment company, founder of a non profit organization that changes lives, award winning speaker, and father of a 12 year old boy. I’ve travelled the world, live in an estate home, and have everything I could want. Life is good! So how did I get here from there? A high school drop out with no family support, having loser friends, and a young offender record to now, a respected contributor to society, a successful person who makes a difference.  That’s what I’m here to share with you or someone you know; hope and the knowledge that it is possible, against all odds, to succeed no matter what your circumstances, economic situation, formal education, family support, or past. Here are 4 key principles absolutely anyone can incorporate despite their age.

#1-Purpose and Intuition.

My assent forward begins at 15 years old, walking down the street with a garbage bag of clothes away from my parents home, never to sleep another night in my bedroom. Kicked out for the last time, I sat on some grass waiting for a bus to take me somewhere I didn’t know. I remember it was a Sunday afternoon, sky was blue, I wiped the tears from my eyes and said to myself that I will succeed. I spent the next months on whatever piece of carpet or couch I could find, at one point, hiding for months in an unfinished basement of my, at the time, girlfriend’s grandmother’s place so I did not have  to be on the streets. During that time, I looked for a job and was finally offered a position at a car detail car wash. The money offered was ok but as I looked around the manager’s office environment who was hiring me, I knew that there was no future in this so I declined that position. This was the first of many times that people called me crazy. Listen, if you’re going to get a job, make sure you look forwards in that career and like what you see. A few days later I answered a classified ad for a job in Hardwood flooring, it read ‘must be honest, reliable, and hardworking. Must have vehicle.’ Well, I was too young to drive but I knew I had the rest, so I met with the boss and got the job. I worked hard for that boss and received a $1/hour raise every few months, bought a $1000 car, got a basement suite, and was now living paycheck to paycheck! While my friends and peers partied, finished high school, went to post secondary; I worked hard, and worked closely with the owner of that small business. I went along with him to do the estimating and sales, meet with suppliers, and I eventually managed other staff as the company grew. By working with a small company, I was able to not only learn the technical aspects of the flooring trade but also the business aspects. This was very valuable education, and by the time I was 20, I opened my own flooring company, Boardwalk Flooring Inc. Yes I was the newest and youngest player in this already competitive industry, but I had an edge. Being young and looking at things from an innovative perspective proved to be valuable. As the age of internet was just beginning, I capitalized, and had one of the first and best sites up which gained us brand awareness, credibility, and new clients. There are many industries ripe for innovation and the young newcomers are the ones who will see it and profit from it.

So that’s success principal #1-  Look for entry positions that you want the bosses job/lifestyle and provides opportunity for you to learn his or her job, ie small business. Make sure it’s an industry you think you would enjoy and don’t worry about what the crowds are saying, trust your intuition. Don’t get caught up in fear and just take the first thing that comes along; look up and over the situation from a higher level. Think about what is best for you in accordance with what you feel your natural gifts, talents, and purpose are.

#2- Who are your friends

When my family moved from small town Saskatchewan to Calgary when I was 12 years old, I found myself bussed to an inner city school and had to remain there over the lunch hour. I not only didn’t wear the ‘right’ clothes, but I knew NO ONE. I was very uncomfortable with this and as my family moved several times within Calgary so did my school. By grade 9, I learned how to fall quickly into a crowd, the trouble makers turned out to be the most accepting. As there were also problems at home for me with regards to my parents fighting and financial difficulties, I quickly found myself skipping school and not going home at night. My so called ‘friends’ held me to absolutely no standard and I could do no wrong. There was no real loyalty or love in those relationships, just people to be with while we all trudged through our troubled and aimless  young lives. Here’s an example of my best friends.. When I was 14, things were bad at home, and at school, I was in trouble with the law and just wanted to RUN. A friend of mine and I decided to run away to New York, how would we get there…train. I knew where the train yard was and I was prepared to jump on one and head out of town, thrilled that I had a buddy agree to do it with me. So we agreed, in 2 days time we would meet at night and off we go!  In the meantime, we were  to gather as much money as possible for the journey from wherever we could. I snuck out of my house late the night of the meet and found that my travel buddy was not alone. He’d brought another guy and the intention was to rob me and leave me. RUN. So, on my lowest moment, totally alone and vulnerable someone who was supposed to be my friend tried to benefit from that. Listen, on our paths in life there will absolutely be ups and downs. On those bad/low days we need our friends, if our friends are all sitting on bar stools they will not be able to support us and we will all end up lying on the floor. If our friends are strong, stable supports, we will merely lean into them and not fall at all. We don’t need to fall all the way down when life has trouble; it’s hard to get up from a long fall. Sometimes, what needs to happen however is that we fall hard, life needs to teach us something. We need our friends and people in our lives to pull us up. That’s still my litmus test for any relationship I enter into, does this person drag me up or down.

#3- Integrity and Credit

At 14 years old, I had a job at Petro Canada pumping gas, on a slow night I filled out an application for a credit card that was sitting by the till. I lied on the application, said I was a doctor and made oodles of money!  A few weeks later a credit card came in the mail; with no concept of what I was doing I quickly racked up the card and soon after, the phone started ringing. Let me tell you, the creditors were ruthless and unrelenting. I eventually paid back the credit company, but my credit was ruined for the next 5 years. Although I turned my life around, had a job, an apartment, and an interest in getting ahead, my inability to get any credit was an obstacle. I learned my lesson at a young age how valuable credit is. You need money to make money, and if you can’t get money because your credit is poor, you’re going to be out of luck. Trust me when I say, opportunities will come along for you, whether it’s to buy real estate or invest in a company; having the financial tool of good credit is very important.  So, not only do I now have an excellent credit score with the banks but also with my friends. If I need to borrow $300,000 to buy a property, I can make a few phone calls and have that done. This is just like credit but is due to personal integrity. Be someone who does what he says, when you say you’ll do it. When it’s not possible to keep your word, address it right away. Send a text saying you’ll be 5 minutes later than you committed. If you forget to do something you gave your word to, call the person you committed to and acknowledge you didn’t do it and recommit to a timeline. People will respect you and learn that you are a person of integrity. They will trust what you say to be true, it’s like money in the bank, believe me. A rule I strive to live by is, ‘To have what I say be so’. I mess up all the time, whether its’ over embellishing a story I heard on the news, exaggerating a past accomplishment, or overstating my experience, it happens sometimes that we say things that we don’t mean to say.  In those moments, we stop and think, that’s my opportunity to clean it up and say, wait a minute, I would like to take  back what I just said and clarify what I meant by that. People will not only be very gracious with you but also trust you. I don’t want to beat this topic to death but it’s so important, here’s one more example of how to take integrity to the highest level: When you’re in a conversation with someone and you zone out and completely miss everything the person said in the last 2 minutes, instead of just smiling and nodding, stop the conversation and politely say, ‘sorry I checked out for a second, I really want to understand what you’re saying could you please repeat that?’. It’s common for people to zone out; it’s uncommon for us to value the other person and their time enough to ask them to repeat themselves.


When I was 13, a friend’s dad hired me by the hour to load a pile of garbage into a dumpster in front of a home renovation project he owned. It was a gloomy Saturday morning, I was totally unsupervised, and I worked as hard as I could. I always enjoyed work, the financial rewards, and to please my boss was always very fulfilling to me. With this attitude, I didn’t spend very many years working for others before I started my own company.  When my friend’s father returned to the site and found that I had completed the job in just 2 hours, he not only gave me a bonus but hired me for the whole summer. This is one of the very few things I did not need to learn the hard way in my life, but I definitely see the laziness, slowness, and uninspired action of a lot of people out there. It’s a way for you to rise above the crowd, put your heart and back into everything you do. Show initiative and run at challenges. Set your goals high and don’t let not knowing how to do something stop you from doing it. The important thing is to start with the first step, you don’t need to know how to do step 4 until you’re standing on step 3.  By the time you’re standing on step 3, you’ll know how to do step 4 and there will be people there to help you.

So although I was unable to follow the traditional path of formal education, I certainly by no means advocate dropping out of high school and missing out on all the rich opportunities that post secondary can provide. They write books about the one in 10,000 guys who can say they succeeded despite a  formal education, you don’t ever hear about the 9999 whose lives did not live up to their full potential. For those of you like me, who absolutely cannot complete your education, know there is hope and you are capable of HUGE amazing things in your life. For those of you who can take your formal education to more standard levels, consider adding these principles to your life: Intuition, Friends, Integrity, and Hard work, they will serve you well. I highly value education, there’s just more than one way to get it.

“Some complain roses have thorns, me, I’m thankful thorns have roses”

Dave Bonk

Dave C Bonk lives in Calgary, AB Canada. He is passionate about domestic dog rescue, creating affordable housing, and adjusting trajectory of troubled youth. If you would like to contact Dave to speak at your event please contact, david@davidbonk.ca