How I Left the Path of a Gangster and Became an Alpha-Genius

by David · 30 comments

Gangster? Alpha Genius? Honestly it’s all true, I’ll explain:

I grew up in a place called Hackney. A small but dangerous part of London where gangsters and poor people live. Education is bad, police don’t always turn up and the fear of getting robbed is a given. Oh, and I can’t forget gun shots, lots and lots of gun shots!

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Growing up In Hackney

I remember a friend telling me he stabbed another guy in the stomach five times. He said it casually, extremely calm and I couldn’t help but feel he was proud. That was scary. Someone I knew was telling me he stabbed another human.

He described everything in detail, from how he psyched himself up, to how the knife slid in like knives cut through butter. He intended to push the knife through once. But he got a kick out of it, so he did it again, and again, and again.

I didn’t know what to say… or think. Just the the other day we talked and he said it’s not something he’d do.

But now things had changed, and now he carried a knife. A butterfly knife, It was the same knife he used for the stabbing.

Admittedly, I thought it was cool. Not the stabbing. No. But the knife? Yeah, that looked cool as hell!


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I remember when another friend had his new trainers stolen. That sounds funny. Well, at least it did at the time… But what’s funnier is they were yanked from his feet – that day he literally walked home on the cold filthy concrete. I felt sorry for him. As you can see, Hackney was a cold place to live.

But to my surprise things could get colder…

It was cold friday night. I was out with the lads, and we were on the hunt for chicks.

We stood in the line outside of the club, acting as mature as we could. I think at the time I was sixteen.

I looked over and locked eyes with a young lady, my best friend, but we had for some reason fallen out so she turned her head away quickly.

We got to the front of the line, but then the bouncer asked for ID. We pleaded, but nothing. All he kept saying was, “No entry without ID”. There was nothing we could do, so unfortunately we had to leave.

A big group of teenagers were now marching down the street looking for somewhere to go. Someone knew of place twenty minutes away on the bus, so we stood at the bus stop and waited.

It was cold. Really cold. But things were about to get colder…




I turned my head and there stood a group of twenty guys. I knew who they were and this was of course bad news.

“I hope they’re not calling me… I hope they’re not calling me… I hope they’re not calling me” I whispered while trembling and turning. I didn’t want to draw attention to myself, but then:

A cold husky voice bellowed, “You with the black hat, come here!”

I looked around to see who they were calling, but I knew I was the one with the hat.

I turned and I looked, then he signalled he wanted me to walk over.

I was scared, my heart was beating, my palms were sweaty, but for some reason my legs took me towards them.

Something was going to happen. These guys were always up to no good.

I looked around for my friends; they, alongside everyone else were stood watching.

As soon as I got close they tugged me forward. I was now standing in the middle, surrounded.

In one quick scuffle they took off my hat, jerked off my chain, tugged off my jacket and ripped off my shirt; they pushed me, slapped me, kicked me and punched me. I think it lasted 30 seconds, but honestly it felt like a life time.

The guys all dispersed; they had taken my stuff, and left me on the street humiliated.

I was now standing with my torn t-shirt. But surprisingly pleased to not be bare feet.

I wanted to cry. I couldn’t believe it. My best friend – her name was Zalika – ran to me, hugged me and started to cry. Whatever we had argued about the other day no longer mattered.

“Why did they pick you David”, she sniffled. I whispered that everything was ok.

I looked over her shoulder and saw everyone watching, including all of my so called friends.

I was cold night.

Extremely cold.

Hackney was a cold place to live.


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In Hackney, people getting robbed and beaten up was just something that happened, and often for no apparent reason.

After the above incident I felt both embarrassed and angry. I didn’t want anything like that to happen again – I’m ashamed to admit it, but can you guess what I did? I started to carry a knife…

My ‘friends’ said I was crazy. I screamed they were stupid. Like, I never actually wanted to use it.

Carrying the knife made me feel somewhat powerful and I felt that no one would harm me.

After going through an unhappy cycle a few times, I think it’s normal to want to do something.

What Happened Next?

Well, you’ll be happy to know I never stabbed anyone, and I never got into a situation where I wanted to use it.

When you’re surrounded by negativity, eventually it has an effect on you. In my case, I went from an innocent kid to one who carried a knife.

More than a handful of my peers went to prison – for everything from drugs to violence.

I moved from hackney to a nicer part of london – which on it’s own didn’t bring a new mindset.

I really changed when I started picking up books. I read everything: self-help, business, travel, fiction ect, ect.

I can’t stress how much books and learning has changed my life…

They’ve made me into a brand new person.

Sharing this story was tough, but all I really want to illustrate is that no matter where you are in life you can change things around.

I grew up in a place full thugs, but today I’m a real big geek. I’m addicted to learning, developing new skills and traveling the world as often a possible.

I’m proof that your past doesn’t dictate the future.

Now, why do I call myself an ‘alpha genius’? Well, besides that I think it’s catchy, I think I have the potential.

In all my reading, and speaking to people commonly considered ‘genius’, I’m yet to see anything that made them different from everyone else.

I always see hard work, dedication and passion.

If that’s what it takes – and I believe that it is – then I’m on my way to becoming a genius 🙂

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  • That’s quite a story… and frankly, one to which I can relate. Before I reached the age of 20, I had been homeless, beaten up, cut, and even shot at. I’d seen my cousin imprisoned and my brother dead by gunshot. There wasn’t much left in the world that had the power to surprise me. 

    By contrast, I find myself today in an amazing job and at a high place in my career, I’ve traveled more than most people I know, I’ve got a great girlfriend and great group of friends all over the world. I have no doubt that spending time learning things had a huge part in getting me here.

    • Wow! Thanks for sharing Randy! 

      It’s interesting to hear you’ve had a similar experience, especially as you’re someone I look up to in many ways. 

      I’m always taken aback whenever I pass through my old neighbourhood and I see that not much has is different. 

      It stands to be true that little things add up and facilitate big change. 

  • Really insightful post, David. I’m glad you chose the path away from all that ruckus. You’re definitely a better person for it. 

    • Thanks Steven! 

      It wasn’t easy, but I’m on the other side and loving it ^^; 

  • I relate with that story though I’ve not been that path before, I know what it is to have been that road and still came out to be a philomath, in my community it is actually so serious that it is a nightmare to the community.

    There are days you wake up and you heard a guy has just been shot, gangsterism and cultism is a serious effect on the society.There are  a couple of my childhood friends that have gone that path, a couple are dead and still others are still living but bad news.

    I am so proud of you for sharing that awesome story, it is a success story. 

    • I think It’s sad that communities like this even exist let alone what they can do to people. 

      Thanks for stopping by Akinwale.  

  • Mae

    What an inspiring story! Thanks for sharing it. You’re absolutely right:  If you want to change things, then just do it!

  • Diananieto

    I’m proud of you David!! thanks for sharing your story!!! you’re definitaly a person to look up to!! 

    Hugs from Spain!

  • Hello David,
    Very interesting your story, you have showed us that the background does not define who we are and what we will become in the future, books and learning can for sure change us quite a lot, but the desire came from within you, from your inner being, and the desire is stronger than anything.

    • I agree. I think anyone can change their life around, but you have to *really* want to. 

  • qzchris

    I was quite blown away by this, especially since I could never have guessed that this was your background. You’re a highly enthusiastic, optimistic and well-educated lover of just about everything. Who knew you came from such a terrible place! Your story reminds me somewhat of Moses McCormick, who also started life in rather “dire straits”, yet managed to pull himself out of it, become open-minded and start learning about the world. I imagine it took quite a bit to share that story, but I respect you all the more now for having done it. Thank you!

    • Thanks so much for your kind words Chris!

      Yeah, it was kind of hard to share this story(and I have many more), but the fact that it would show people how life can change with perseverance was strong motivation to press publish.

  • alice

    Dear David,
    Your story brought tears to my eyes. I’m so glad that you never used that knife and that you turned your life around.  If you don’t know of him already, you may be interested in the artwork of Kehinde Wiley. I mention him, not because you share a similar background, but because he too took something that could have made angry or bitter, and turned it into something original and beautiful. What he did with his art, you appear to have done with your life. (Life is also a work of art!)

    I truly hope that you will act as a role model for other young people who find themselves in similar situations.

    All my best wishes for your happiness and sucess.

    • Thanks Alice! I agree, Life is art, I try my best to paint a beautiful picture 😉

      Also, I checked out the artwork of Kehinde Wiley and his work is great! 

  • SusannaZaraysky

    David, What a path you have taken. I hope your blog serves to inspire others to use education to get out violent situations. 

  • Sarah

    Thank you for such a honest, uplifting post! I’m so glad you were able to turn your life around, it is a testament to your strength of character and I hope by telling your story, you inspire others to do the same. Something tells me you will 🙂

  • I can also relate to an extant.

    I grew up in Oregon, USA, where I eventually became homeless for 9 months with my family. Surrounded by drugs and gang violence, I ended up here in Minnesota/North Dakota and was somehow able to stay away from all of that stuff that went on back in Oregon. Now I go to college and should get my degree at the end of the year.

    Good story David, glad you made it out. 

    • Thanks! Glad you made it out, too!

      • Hottgurl01

         This is an inspiring story I am from South London, not far from Croydon and I can relate to some extent…but I generally find London overall a safe place..but it all depends on exactly where you are I guess. THank you for sharing.

  • Ryan Jonathan

    Great story! I got robbed once aswell, but not beaten up though. What I think helps alot, is the mindset and appearance you create when out on the streets. Its as if gangsters can smell fear, they obviously wont pick on a big angry looking dude.

    • That’s true to an extent, however size doesn’t matter when you’re up against numbers.

  • That’s absolutely fantastic! I had a similar story… and now people who hang around with me, call me a genius too haha. I think that when we get through certain things, we become stronger and we start to know exactly we gotta do or what we love to do. Some experiences come to our lives to make us “smater” regarding to life. I really believe that my past was great, even though I made a lot of mistakes, because this same past turned myself into what I am now. Thanks for sharing your story man!

    • Yes! The only mistake you make in life is the one you fail to learn from.

  • fi fi

    what a touching story.. i total agree we can not allow our circumstances, or stereotypes to dictate our outcomes in life. change the environment, rather than just complain. keep up the exquisite writing.

  • Aliyah

    Wow, this story was so penetrating. I’ve never even heard a story quite like yours, David and it really touched. I live in a city where there’s virtually no crime, so hearing your story gave me a first-hand perspective of just how hard life can be. But to see how far you’ve made is so impressive. Learning and reading literally changed your life, and your story is magnanimously inspirational.
    Thank You,

    • Thanks for the kind words Aliyah. I think it’s unfortunate that so many people have to go through the struggle i did but it’s totally possible to turn it around with will power and dedication. Hopefully I can inspire some people.
      Thanks again for dropping by 🙂

      All the best, David

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