Dan Carter Beats Big Odds

Mindset Reading Investment: 9 minutes


The Millionaire Mindset magazine talked to this fascinating son of Ontario to gather the truth, the testimony, the life lesson, that we could share with you our readers, of how anybody could transform his or her mindset to move from the worst situation this world could plunge you into, to the most successful person possible

We’re breathing metaphors, us humans. We each of us embody ideas and theories and testimonies of life with vibrant, alive flesh and blood, walking out what it means to be a human being; kind of like the fleshing out of what’s possible. Inside each of us is this seething expression of life, of what being human means.

Here, for example, is Dan Carter – a man who today is the living embodiment of human potential. I interviewed Carter at his office at Oshawa City Hall in a Boardroom on a hot day last August, and walked out of the room after, with a deep sense of awe. Carter had shown me that he is a personification of what is possible for the human being. He’s a walking, living, breathing metaphor of the reality of human potential.

Carter started out on life’s journey with possibly the most unfortunate hand that anybody could be dealt: his Mommy died when he was a six-month-old baby. His Dad had to work and raise the other seven children, and this new baby, just six months old, needed nurturing and care.

So Children’s Aid stepped in, and took Carter away from his Dad and siblings. Still a gentle, vulnerable baby, Carter started life separated from his family, with his mother no more on this earth, and a ward of the State – at six months old. He does not know if he cried the day they took him away from his father and siblings to a cold bed in the Children Aid system.

Dan Carter, human being extraordinaire
Dan Carter, human being extraordinaire

Strange nurses nurtured him and raised him at Children’s Aid till he was two years old. Then the System put him up for adoption, and at two, the boy became adopted son to the Carter family of Agincourt, Toronto, and brother to new siblings, two brothers and a sister. He took on a new identity, with a new name, Dan Carter.

He grew up, learning to love his new family as his own, knowing nothing of his dramatic bayears, of where he had come from to grace this earth. Then, at 10 years old, his Dad sat him down and told him the truth: he is an adopted child, and Carter is his adopted family name and his Mom had passed away when he was a baby.

Life for Carter was never the same again. Despite his loving adopted family, with parents who cared deeply for him and gave hi the best in life, with siblings he loved and adored, Carter started developing the a defeated mindset.

Dan Carter, at the Day of Hope and Leadership, his charity to offer hope to marginalized people
Dan Carter, at the Day of Hope and Leadership, his charity to offer hope to marginalized people

Since he started school, he had always found it hard to read and write, and back in those days – the 1960’s – the system concluded that he suffered a learning disability. His school days turned out to be horrible, because he failed Grades over and over again. He always failed to advance to the higher Grade, but the school eventually started moving him up anyway. Later in life, he learned he had dyslexia, a learning condition. His dyslexia caused tremendous problems in school, and he suffered bullying, got badly beaten up, and felt alone and misunderstood. “I had started to believe that I was dumb, stupid, unable to do anything good,” he said. His mindset had plunged to the lowest self-image – at 13 years old.

At eight years old, a stranger had raped him. And he refused to tell anybody, keeping it a secret for decades, talking about the experience only in his 30’s, a raw wound bleeding inside his troubled spirit.

Such a start to life would weaken, break, damage any soul, and for Carter the severe breakdown came at 13 years old, when his adopted brother, a police officer, got killed. He could not deal with this accumulation of lifelong pain. At 13 years old, he got addicted to drugs and alcohol, and chose to become estranged from his adopted family.

He turned 31 years old in 1991 homeless, bedraggled, destitute, on the streets of Toronto, stoned with drug and alcohol addiction. “I was broke, and felt this terrifying fear of death, that I was going to die soon,” Carter said.

He lived with a dreaded fear gnawing angrily at his soul, and a crippling insecurity. “I was physically, mentally, emotionally broken. I was homeless in Toronto”. That moment, at 31 years old, became his wakeup call, and the starting point for him to transform his mindset, and his life.

Today, Carter stands tall, dignified, a magnificent man of immense enthusiasm. He serves as Regional Councillor for the Region of Durham. He rubs shoulders with the elites and powerful of Canada. His boundless energy, optimistic smile and loud calypso colors of clothing – including his exotic socks – generates an air of a man who commands respect, love and a well-to-do lifestyle. Today, Carter’s mindset is the millionaire mindset, one of success, abundance, and a deep confident sense of self-worth.

How did this man transform his mindset to evolve, within a single lifetime, from a destitute, homeless, drunk drug-addict to become one of Canada’s most inspirational, powerful, exciting leaders?

The Millionaire Mindset magazine talked to this fascinating son of Ontario to gather the truth, the testimony, the life lesson, that we could share with you our readers, of how anybody could transform his or her mindset to move from the worst situation this world could plunge you into, to the most successful person possible.

Were anybody to bet on Carter when he was 31 years old, a drug-addict and drunk homeless street person, or when he was 13 years old and starting to be addicted to drugs and alcohol, or at two years old when he was moving from Children’s Aid to an adopted family, or at six months when his mother died, the bet would be against him ever achieving anything of worth.

Yet, Carter beat all the odds, astonishingly overcoming all the challenges this world threw in his face, conquering every battle he got thrown into, to come out a seasoned warrior, strong, worthy to be the best among humans in this 21st century global village.

He speaks of his past with a matter-of-fact, easy normalness. With a perpetual warm smile hovering around his mouth every moment, Carter looks back at his life with a calm acceptance, immune to bitterness, regret, or self-condemnation. I interviewed him and took notes, listening to him in utter consternation, his life story sounding like a fantasy tale to my ears. How could life do that to a six month old baby, a two-year-old child, a 31-year-old man who grew up in an adopted home? But Carter’s mindset had developed a quiet wisdom, unlike mine, a knowing that life teaches one its wisdom through experience.

That experience sees the man now a leader of outstanding excellence, with a character so humble, approachable, kind. Talk to anybody from any strata of society in Durham Region, especially Oshawa, where Carter is a household name, and each person would tell you that Carter is a gem of a human being.

The Millionaire Mindset magazine found out why he’s such a well-liked, popular, inspiring leader in the community. His life journey prepared him for greatness, and he’s just now starting out to carve that path.

Carter is campaigning across Oshawa to become the next Mayor of the city. As the fastest growing city in Canada, Oshawa is on the cusp of a major transformation, with $700 million worth of development projects underway. Oshawa is the only designated Teaching City in North America, with the University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT) fast becoming its flagship project.

Were he to win the Mayoral race, Oshawa could easily become one of the most dynamic city in the world under his leadership. Leadership is everything in cities, nations. And leadership grows out of the fertile ground of a life that taught the leader significant life lessons. Carter is not the career politician, nor is he from the Establishment: he’s self-made. He inspires anybody to believe in the meritocracy of Canada, that anybody could rise to the top, no matter how low life laid us.

In 1991, 31 years old, estranged from family, friends, homeless, at death’s door, Carter reached deep into his mind and found the little voice that pleaded with him to ask for help. So he called his sister, Maureen. He still loved the family that had adopted him, but he felt shame and so stayed away from them. Maureen welcomed his call, and when he told her he needed help, she told him to come over to her house right away.

Dan Carter
Dan Carter

He took the bus and went to her home. And within 48 hours, Carter was on a flight to a long-term addiction treatment center in California, USA. Canada did not have such a treatment program back then. His sister booked his flight, and made sure he got on the plane. She paid for it.

In California, he immediately got admitted to the ICU, and spent several weeks there to deal with withdrawal symptoms and other illnesses from his street life and addictions.

He spent a year in California, overcame his addictions, transformed his mindset, and moved to Durham Region in 1992, becoming an Oshawa resident after finding a job in the city. Carter worked at odd jobs, as waiter, janitor, anything to get by. He had no education and could not read and write.

In his jobs he started meeting people who would remark on his charisma and ability to ask questions and be interested in the stories of people. One guy talked to him about maybe starting a TV show on Rogers’ free community channel. Carter pitched the idea to Rogers. The company readily took him on, as it had an initiative then to roll out free community shows in every city. Carter excelled in the show, and before long started hosting a real paid gig on Channel 12 in Oshawa.

That TV program propelled him to stardom. He interviewed people of all walks of life on TV, community leaders, politicians, Prime Ministers, Premiers, business owners. And he was learning fast how to carve his niche in the upper echelon of society, yet remain humble, engaging and inspirational.

His TV program was doing well, with a good contract from Globe Media, the firm that owns the Channel.

Interviewing him, I started relaxing in the interview, thinking Carter’s life had finally settled into a calm, peaceful norm, after such a dramatic story. But it wasn’t to be.

“On May 17, 2000, my sister committed suicide at the age of 50,” he said, shattering the atmosphere with this news. His sister had helped save his own life, and now she had taken hers. The closest person to him, now gone.

The numbness, the pain and shock and dread came flooding back into his soul, carving a new hole in his spirit.

One day he was driving out of the Oshawa Airport parking lot after covering an event for his TV show, and he felt an urge in his spirit to turn into the parking lot of the Embassy Church on Taunton Road. He parked, and walked in to the reception, and asked the lady at the desk, Ruth, if he could speak with the Pastor.

That meeting transformed his mindset, and his life forever.

Pastor Doug Shneider – an immense character in his own right who we will feature in the Millionaire Mindset magazine – became Carter’s close buddy, and introduced him to the life of faith. Carter had attended church when he was a kid with his adopted family, but Pastor Doug led him on a different faith journey. Today, Carter is now a fixture in the Church community, and a dear friend of Pastor Doug.

That meeting with Pastor Doug helped Carter cope and deal with his sister’s passing, and led him to salvation in Christ, “to eternal life”, he said.

“When I was given a life line, I hung on for dear life. I held on to it. I was so fearful of dying. My survival instincts kicked in, and it saved me,” Carter said.

Now, he’s on a mission to be the best servant-leader he could be. “This era calls for a leader of a different experience. I believe there’s purpose to my life. I am here alive today because I’ve got some kind of mission. My life experiences built empathy, understanding, love. We need new concepts, new vision; to think differently. This is a moment that calls for innovative, exciting leadership. It’s an opportune time – the most in the last 20 to 30 years. So I’ve got this mission to transform the mindset of our community, to change the culture of how we develop our city. Government has to exercise discipline and patience. We have to grab the imagination of city residents,” Carter said.

He’s developed a six-phase development plan for Oshawa, and recognizes that to change the social environment, to change people’s thinking, to transform the mindset of how development happens, “we have to transform how we see ourselves”.

“For three to four years after my sister died, I was struggling tremendously. I felt I had nowhere to turn. I drove to Embassy Church and told Pastor Doug that I was mad at God. And he told me that I need to know that God isn’t mad at me,” he said, and that impacted his mindset. He walked away from that meeting a brand new man.

Pastor Doug offered him a Bible, but he said he could not accept it because he could not read it. He told Pastor Doug that he got dyslexia issues. So Pastor Doug gave him a toned-down version of the Bible, called the Message. Carter, with determination, started reading a passage from it every day, struggling to grasp the ideas, but sticking to it.

Today, he quotes wisdom from the Bible with ease. He even dreams of attending Bible College.

Carter comes across as an exceptional human being, a special breed of soul. His story astonishes. He’s literally a walking movie, so dramatic and interesting is his life.

Apart from all that’s detailed in this feature, he’s been married three times, and though he does not have any child of his own, he loves and adores his three children from his marriages – Amanda, 31; Jennifer, 39; and Alexander, 29. His three grandchildren – Carter, 5; Bennet, 3 and Carolina, 1 year, are the joy of his life.

He’s also connected to his biological family, and met his biological father. He’s got seven siblings from his biological family.

Carter’s story is a literal miracle. We’re so honoured to feature him in our inaugural edition of the Millionaire Mindset. He never got far in his education, but transformed his mindset from a homeless street druggie to today being an Honorary Doctorate of Law at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT).

His life experiences equip him, uniquely, to understand with deep empathy, both the depressed areas of Oshawa, and the thriving development that’s transforming other areas. He, more than anybody, could bridge the socioeconomic divide that defines Oshawa.

His wife Paula now offers him the abiding love that nurtures his great ambition to serve humanity, to use the life line he’s got to live out a sound purpose, to leave a legacy of a mission accomplished, of a life well lived. After interviewing Carter, I became a man with a renewed appreciation for life and the struggles that people overcome to lift humanity to new heights.

Dan Carter, human being extraordinaire
Dan Carter, human being extraordinaire

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