We got cosy with David Downs to talk all things Movember, storytelling and his incredible life journey so far. He’s an ex-comedian, TV and Radio actor, semi-finalist for New Zealander of the Year, and a genetically modified organism who documented his battle with cancer in his book A Mild Touch of the Cancer.
David is now CEO of The New Zealand Story, an ambitious organisation marketing New Zealand to the world, and will be giving a talk at our Movember event later this month. David was kind enough to chat with us over a virtual cuppa – which we spat out quite a lot through laughing because he’s a bloody funny guy…
So, David, what does Movember mean to you?
Movember does two really important things –
- It raises money for really important causes (and let’s not forget that’s the primary purpose! Sure grow the mo, but even more importantly, raise the cash!)
- It’s a visible sign of support. Making yourself look like a dick is a great way to show support for people going through tough times
Why do you think Movember is so important in New Zealand in particular?
The causes Movember supports are near and dear to NZ – mental health, prostate cancer and testicular cancer. NZ has high incidences of all of these, and as ‘staunch kiwi blokes’ we haven’t always been great about talking about our nuts, or our heads. When you see a bloke with a Mo in Movember, take a moment and ask him if he’s checked his testicles lately… or keep it above the belt, and just ask how his day is going.
Who inspires you?
I’ve been lucky enough to be a judge for the New Zealander of the Year awards again this year, and just finished reading literally hundreds of stories of amazing people doing amazing things – these are not some sort of special superhumans, they are just ordinary people who thought ‘someone should really do something about this issue’ and then realised the ‘someone’ could be them. They are the people I admire – the ones who get stuck in and do something, particularly for other people.
You’ve been described as a real storyteller. Why do you feel that storytelling is such an important way to communicate?
Stories are memorable in a way that humans relate to – data is dry and boring, facts are important but easily forgotten – stories are sticky. There is a reason we as humans watch TV shows, go to movies, tell each other stories – it’s primal, and a way for us to share information in an interesting way.
You’re an inspirational person who has gone through a significant journey – is there a single mentality that you subscribe to? And has your way of thinking always been the same or developed over time?
Aw thank you, that’s nice of you to say. Mentality – yes, and we’ll talk about this at the event, but the short version is that I’ve found in life that leading with optimism is a great way to approach the world; when you are open and optimistic you notice opportunities in a different way, and you build mental resilience. I’ve always thought this, and since going through my cancer experience, I’m even more certain that this is the best way to live.
Look forward to talking to you all more later in the month!