Daniel Zolnikov: Be brief, be brilliant, be gone | 40 Under Forty

Billings Gazette

Company and Title: Broad Reach Power Energy Developer

Education and/or Background: Master’s degree in business administration, three undergraduate business majors at University of Montana. Four-term Montana State Representative.

If you couldn’t do this, what would you do instead? I really enjoy coaching and teaching. It is extremely rewarding to be able to influence positive change and help people maximize strengths, understand and minimize their weaknesses and identify aspects of their overall potential.

What other passions/callings are part of your life? I have been a public servant in Montana for the bulk of my adult life and am fortunate for the support I have received over the years. Being able to serve in Montana’s legislature allowed me to work on a myriad issues that positively impacted not only Billings, but the entire state. I was able to create Montana’s first law enforcement team that focused solely on human trafficking, carry legislation into law that allowed ride sharing companies to enter into Montana, create utility regulatory reforms that allowed for a more competitive energy environment, and enact national standards that protected our first and fourth amendment constitutional rights. The list goes on, including acting in a supportive role of some legislation, in an opposition role to other legislation, as well as experiencing some outright failures (but no one likes to talk about those). I love being able to identify problems and work on solutions on the political side of the world. As I have learned, a simple solution to a complex problem is usually wrong. I also appreciate how anyone can positively impact our state if they want to. This is why I love Montana and will always appreciate the opportunities I have been granted.

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What is the worst advice you’ve received and why? I can’t recall a specific piece of bad advice, but I have received more than my fair share of insincere advice. This advice is portrayed as being in my interest when, in reality, the advice giver uses the premise of advice as a method to get you to act in a certain way for their own gain. Not all advice is benevolent and I would argue the reasoning behind why the advice was shared is just as important as the advice itself. Even though sincere advice isn’t always helpful, it at least comes with good intentions of your best interest.

What advice would you give a teenager about success? You do you. Many people lack authenticity and commander other people’s version of success. My definition of success is much different than yours, so it is important to identify what success means for you and not be coerced into living up to someone else’s standards. And to really understand what your standard of success is, you will need to have a solid understanding of yourself. Or as the ancient Greeks said it, “Know thyself.” Understand who you were, who you are, and who you want to be. And then understand why you were the way you were, what made you the way you are today, and why you want to be different in the future. It amazes me how many people don’t think about this. Sometimes we are in such a rush to get from A to B, we forget to take a minute to ponder why we are rushing around in the first place. On a side note, I am a big believer of identifying your comfort zone and then taking more opportunities outside of this zone. How do you gain perspective of the world and of yourself if you never push your boundaries?

What’s your guilty pleasure? Superhero shows and movies, finding a great bargain, cheese and nachos, dark chocolate and being a contrarian.

What is one professional accomplishment you still want to achieve? Tough call. I like to venture into new areas and different fields, which means I never know where I might end up. Currently, I want to see our energy projects get built out. This would have a huge impact for our county and state and will ensure Montana maintains its role as an energy exporter. I would like to once again serve in office and continue my policy work that covers a variety of issues. On the personal side, I am looking forward to having children. I think I would be a great dad.

How do you measure your own success? Reaching the goals or completing the tasks we have in our sights. A deeper level of success can be understanding why it was identified as a goal in the first place and identifying the driver behind it. A tangent of that success is understanding how to come to terms with what drives us, finding the ability to lift our heads up from our computers and realizing what we have while we have it. Not having any major regrets at the end of the road is probably the final and greatest measure of success. One thing I know is that my answer to that question was not a success. He has.

What failure have you learned the most from? My life is an adventure. It has its ups. It has its downs. Neither can exist without each other and I can’t really sum it up to successes and failures. I have had great adventures, bad adventures, educational adventures and adventureless adventures. After landing my first job out of college, I moved 2,000 miles away and arrived on the job site. Upon arrival, I quickly came to the realization that the job mainly focused on software development. Sadly, it was not communicated to me during the very lengthy, multi-step interview process. I later learned I was recruited because I earned a major in Information Systems, which was thought to be a substitute for Computer Science. In case you did not know, it is not. Software development was not a skill set, nor an interest of mine. I attempted to work at the job with the company’s expectation that we would get trained and would adapt. I did not adapt because what was required of me was nearly the opposite of how my mind worked. Over time, I accepted the reality that this job wasn’t for me and moved on. The lesson forced me to begin differentiating between my strengths, weaknesses, exceptional skills and downright deficiencies. I wouldn’t consider it an outright failure, just a necessary step forward for a millennial to realize that I can’t actually be good at everything. Participation awards be damned.

What is the hardest part of your job? I am the type of person who needs to discuss topics out loud and talk through the details, which can be a challenge since I’m not always afforded this luxury.

What was the last show you binge-watched? “The Prince” on Netflix, “Chappelle’s Show”, “Arrested Development” and “Rick and Morty.” Real thought-provoking stuff, I know.

What is your favorite book? I have recently discovered audio books and am listening to all of the books that tie into Stephen King’s “The Dark Tower” series with the most recent book being “The Stand.”

What is the most rewarding/important aspect of your occupation? I get to work in a relatively flat structure. This allows me the independence I require and the support I need. There are endless amounts of moving pieces in development and there is never a dull moment. I think the most important aspect of what I do is working on the long-term vision of the projects. Identifying routes to success and removing future problems is more rewarding to me than reacting to short term problems. It is also rewarding to be able to partner with landowners, contractors and all types of Montana businesses who get to reap the benefits of our successes.

Who is your greatest mentor/inspiration? Tank Man. China’s Tiananmen Square protests occurred in 1989 where hundreds of thousands of Chinese protested the government on behalf of their basic rights including free speech, free press and government accountability. The Chinese military was brought in to squash the protests, which resulted in the deaths of thousands of people. Tank Man is the name given to the man who briefly stopped military tanks from moving forward towards the protestors. He did this by standing in front of the tanks and repeatedly shifting into the path of the tank as it attempted to maneuver around him. He did all of this while still holding bags of groceries in his hands. Think of walking home from the store with a bag of groceries and deciding that at this moment, you are going to be a single person roadblock and stand up to a tank. The overwhelming inspiration of Tank Man is to stand and do what is right when the time requires it, even if the odds are completely against you. Tank Man was never identified although it was rumored that he was executed afterwards. It was n’t his characteristics, age, wealth, education, successes or achievements of him that made Tank Man inspirational. It was his actions of him. We need more people like Tank Man. If you don’t know anything about this, please take a minute to search for it. The events of Tiananmen Square have been written out of China’s history so it is upon us to remember it. The picture itself is inspiring.

Do you have a motto that you live by? Be brief, be brilliant, be gone.

What advice would you give to anyone wanting to start a new business or excel in a business or field? Connect with and meet up with someone who has found success in their field or area of ​​interest. It is amazing how many people in Billings are willing to take the time to grab a cup of coffee and have a conversation. Business school 101 would suggest writing a business plan.

How do you view failure and success? Failure is derived from a lack of an attempt. Success is derived from either a failed attempt, or completed attempt. The lesson derived from a failed attempt is usually not something worth celebrating. But the lesson of why the failure occurred must have been needed or else the previous attempt would have likely been completed. The next attempt will more likely lead to the completion of the goal, or a diversion away towards a newer, better goal, which is a success.

What do you do for fun/relax/hobby? I have recently revisited an old high school hobby of floating the river on innertubes with cocktails. The true Montana way. I enjoy board games, fishing, road trips and using my air fryer.

What’s the greatest gift you ever received? why? On more than one occasion, I have been gifted a place to live by many of my friends and family. This allowed me to survive on a very low budget and spend my time and energy on my ambitions. By removing nearly all costs and distractions, I was able to fully commit to my goals at the time. Without this gift, I would not have accomplished what I have, developed into who I am and ended up where I am today. Regarding a more traditional gift, my favorite gifts tend to be personalized and thoughtful gifts. My wife Katie gifted me a personalized deck of cards with 52 things she liked about us and our relationship. It took a lot of time, was extremely thoughtful and I keep it with me to this day. I also appreciate the support, patience and time Katie gives me every day. Especially the patience.


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