It’s evident from the jump who David Angelo is. His office, one of the more colorful this writer has stepped foot in, is rich with sports memorabilia and houses one of the best collections of coffee table books in Los Angeles.
Angelo is a diehard sports fan, with strong rooting interests in his Oakland Raiders (we don’t touch on their imminent move to Las Vegas). The coffee table books? I imagine they harken back to Angelo’s interests—being creative and creating—and his apparent longing to keep learning.
Noticeably absent from his office are the hundreds of awards he and his team at David&Goliath have won. They are displayed for all who roam the halls of David&Goliath to see, perched along the wall of the El Segundo–based company’s office.
Overcoming Your Goliath
Around the corner and down the hall lies what may truly be one of Angelo’s crowning achievements. They call it the Wall of Goliaths. Adorning the plain white wall are floor-to-ceiling black picture frames of differing sizes housing David&Goliath team members’ Goliaths—something Angelo feels people and brands have to overcome before they can achieve greatness.
Before Angelo, 55, achieved his own level of greatness he was the middle child of seven siblings, was expelled his senior year of high school, raised by a decorated veteran of the Korean War who—back home—was a teamster and truck driver. His father unquestionably taught him the value of hard work but also taught him to “always give 100 percent and never forget where you are from … which to me means, honor your story,” Angelo explains.
After expulsion, Angelo’s father landed him a job as a teamster, working the graveyard shift at a local distillery. Far from conquering his Goliath, Angelo began to take classes while working at night, ultimately putting himself through college. He would obtain a BFA in advertising from the Academy of Art College and then move to New York City (one of Angelo’s Goliaths), landing a job as a junior art director for DDB NY and co-creating the NY Lotto’s historic “Hey, you never know” campaign.
Today, he has more than 28 years of experience as an advertising executive under his belt. The majority of those years have come at David&Goliath, a company he founded in 1999—thanks to an opportunity from Kia Motors—with the belief that he could create a company and a culture – built around a one-word philosophy called brave – capable of conquering the biggest industry challenges.
Angelo and his team conquered Goliath and then some. David&Goliath has been an industry leader for nearly two decades, working with clients including Kia (still a client), New Amsterdam Vodka, and the California Lottery. “We’ve always had a clear idea of who we are and what we stand for,” Angelo recalls when discussing the agency’s growth and success.
Conquering a New Goliath
As we sit in his office, Angelo is unwavering and laser focused. His interests, along with his passions, are evident. He works in advertising so he knows a thing or two about effectively conveying a message, and over the last 18 months that is exactly what he has been doing. The message? “Today, I’m Brave.”
Today, I’m Brave is the newest David&Goliath venture, a nonprofit organization that—similar to the organization Angelo founded in 1999—asks people to confront their biggest Goliaths and their worst fears. Confront them and conquer them. You might be thinking “easier said than done,” and you would be right. The key, in Angelo’s eyes, is that this is difficult, not impossible. “Live your truth,” Angelo advises, explaining how much easier things get once you are true to yourself.
In the Summer of 2015, Angelo met Tiffany Persons, the founder and director of Shine on Sierra Leone and a Woman of the World honoree by the United Nations, who shared the story of her organization and the work they were doing in Sierra Leone (rife with Ebola at the time), specifically at the Muddy Lotus school in Bongema.
Angelo, touched by the story of these children who – faced with unimaginable obstacles – just want to better themselves, created an initiative built around one simple word to show his support – Brave. Brave, as Angelo defines it, “is simply about listening to your inner voice and believing that there is something stronger in you that is capable of overcoming any type of challenge out there.”
Angelo shared, via video, the meaning behind “Today, I’m Brave” with the students of Muddy Lotus and the Brave initiative took off. Angelo’s team would build out the slogan with a set of ten affirmations, manufacture T-shirts, and produce business card–sized “Today, I’m Brave” cards that listed the affirmations.
It is simply about listening to your inner voice and believing that there is something stronger in you that is capable of overcoming any type of challenge out there
Before Angelo could ponder what would happen, a video was sent back to him from The Muddy Lotus School documenting their own transformation and how being braved impacted their lives. As he watched the video of them chanting “we are brave,” Angelo got hit, immediately, with a wave of emotion and a crystal clear “aha moment.” If “Today, I’m Brave” was able to rally and move people over 6,000 miles away, imagine what it could do for the rest of the world.
It turns out they can do a whole heck of a lot. “Today, I’m Brave” has partnered with numerous nonprofits around the world including Los Angeles–based Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, Covenant House, New Directions for Veterans, and Project Angel Food, sharing what it means to be brave one story at a time. The “Today, I’m Brave” Facebook page has 143,000 likes and the T-shirt and placard swag has expanded to a Brave speaker series, fan videos, and—most importantly—a burgeoning community, globally, of individuals stepping up and conquering their Goliaths.
Bravely Speaking Up
Angelo is far from done. He truly wants to spread the “Today, I’m Brave” message to everyone. He believes that by empowering individuals to speak up, admit what they are afraid of, and take it on, they will become better people for it. If everyone does this, he feels the world will simply become a better place.
At minimum, it has worked on him. Angelo jokes he has not taken a sick day in 18 years and admits that part of feeling successful is “doing what you love with the people that you love.” Elaborating, he proclaims, “knowing I gave 100% of my heart and soul to something … Waking up every single morning with this infinite passion toward a goal.”