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Rising Star Galya Davis: “Let’s start a kindness movement, that changes the current paradigm that focuses on the differences — class, race, religion, political views — towards bringing us closer together and celebrating our commonalities”

I think the most important things in the world are kindness and respect, especially in this day and age where so many facets of our society have become extremely polarized. With social media so prevalent and woven into our daily lives, it has become so easy to judge others and ourselves. And that is detrimental […]

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I think the most important things in the world are kindness and respect, especially in this day and age where so many facets of our society have become extremely polarized. With social media so prevalent and woven into our daily lives, it has become so easy to judge others and ourselves. And that is detrimental to our well-being as individuals, and as a society as a whole. I would start a kindness movement, that in some way changes the paradigm that focuses on the differences- class, race, religion, political views — towards bringing us closer together and celebrating our commonalities. I think we have lost the ability to listen respectfully to other people’s opinions and perspectives. Additionally, I feel that as a whole we have become so fixed on ourselves and our individual successes, that we have lost sight of the fact that we’re all little puzzle pieces that make up a much bigger picture and it’s up to each of us to make that picture as beautiful as it can be. As humans, we all have very similar wants and needs, so why not help each other succeed by lifting each other up? Every human deserves kindness and respect, and we should all take it upon ourselves to spread it by becoming shining examples. Offer to help someone if you have expertise in something they’re looking for, or go out of your way to compliment a stranger, these things aren’t hard and make a world of a difference. Going off of that, I think a type of ‘Shabbat Unplugged’ movement would benefit the world tremendously. As an observant Jew, every week from Friday at sunset, to Saturday at sundown, I completely unplug from all electronic devices as well as refrain from driving, using money, etc. I spend those 25 hours connecting with family and friends without any interruptions. It’s also a very meditative time for me, as I have time to reflect, connect to G-d, and just be totally present. I think it is one of G-d’s greatest gifts to humanity, and while Jews have been observing it for thousands of years, I think that given the hectic technological age we live in- it is beneficial for everyone, regardless of religion. I really think that a day off, uninterrupted by electronics and consumerism, could really change the world for the better.


We had the pleasure to interview Galya Davis. Galya Davis is a former competitive figure skater, placed first at the 2012 California Championships, 2nd at the Southern California Championships, and 5th at the 2014 National Showcase. She recently graduated UC Berkeley with a degree in Media Studies, and hopes to take all the lessons she has learned along the way towards making a positive impact on the world.


Thank you so much for joining us Galya! Can you share with us the “backstory” that led you to this career path?

Thank you for having me! So I have a bit of an unconventional story. Ever since I was little, I was always into sports, whether it’d be gymnastics, soccer, ballet- I did it all. I remember climbing everything in sight since I could basically walk. Fast forward to when I was 9 years old, and had to do a book report on a famous athlete (and also had to try the actual sport and report back on it). I wanted to report on gymnastics, but that sport was already taken, so the teacher suggested figure skating. I went to the library that day and checked out a book on American figure skater Tara Lipinski ( the 1998 Olympic Champion), and began my research. My parents took me to the rink so I could report on the sport, and I remember falling in love within the first 5 minutes. I begged my parents to sign me up for lessons, but it just didn’t work with their schedules. I was always a determined, strong minded child, so that didn’t sit well with me. To prove to them I had what it takes, I would take my roller skates out to the front driveway after school every day, and try to copy as many moves as I could after analyzing videos of Michelle Kwan and Sasha Cohen. After about a month, my parents caved in and signed me up for lessons at my local rink. I started in a beginner group class, and within the first 5 minutes, the coach bumped me up two levels. I guess the skills I acquired through rollerblading translated really well on the ice. That’s when the love story began.

By the time I was 11, I dropped out of traditional school, and by high school I was fully enrolled in an independent study program. I would spend hours training, and worked really hard to keep my grades up in school, despite having no in-person instruction. My teenage years were a lot different from my peers to say the least. I have a cousin who competed in Tae Kwon Do in the 2004 Olympics in Athens representing Israel, I’ve always looked up to her athletic abilities, and decided that my dream was to do the same with figure skating.

However, I was raised as a modern orthodox Jew and have observed the Sabbath my whole life. Unfortunately for me, almost all the competitions were held on Fridays and Saturdays. I tried my best to progress as far as I could with the competitions that were held on Sundays, but I could only get so far. This was very difficult for me, as I wanted so badly to move up through the ranks, but was not willing to break the Sabbath. Towards the latter part of my career, I shifted my focus to artistic figure skating which has more of an emphasis on artistry and choreography. I retired from competitive skating at age 20 in 2014, decided I was ready to go to college, and chose to go to UC Berkeley, which was an amazing experience in itself.

What would you advise to a young person who wants to emulate your success?

This may sound cliché, but I think success is all about mindset. If you have the drive and determination, you have what it takes to reach your goal. I also think that to reach success, you need to be ok with failing, as well as having the grit to put in the hard work, and persevere no matter the conditions. There will always be obstacles, and while we’re not often in-charge of what hardships may come our way, we are in control of how we react and what lessons we can learn from these challenges. I know I have learned exponentially more from my hardships and failures than my successes. Plus, success is so much sweeter when you have to work hard for it.

Is there a person that made a profound impact on your life? Can you share a story?

Yeah, my dad was definitely that person. He was so exemplary. He was the most brilliant, kind, caring, and humble person. He was very driven, and was always such a doer. Everyone who ever met him, loved him. He was my main supporter with my skating, and would sacrifice hours of his day to take me to and from the rink. When I was 6, I was obsessed with Ariel from the Little Mermaid. There were these shampoo bottles that were shaped as Ariel, and after seeing one at a playdate with one of my friends, I begged my parents for one. Finally one Sunday, my dad and I searched every drugstore we could find for this little bottle. After a few hours, I started crying — frustrated that we hadn’t come across it. We finally found it, and I remember him turning to me and saying “see Gali, never, ever give up, keep going until you achieve what you want.” That was honestly my first coherent memory of my dad speaking to me, and it has stuck with me my whole life. My father suddenly and unexpectedly passed away from a heart attack in July 2014, and it was the hardest thing I have ever had to go through, but since then, have vowed to keep his memory alive by emulating his all of his incredible qualities.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world? Can you share with us the meaningful or exciting causes you are working on right now?

As a recent college graduate, I haven’t had much experience yet in the ‘real world,’ but am really passionate about finding a career in which I can make a difference in the world. Last year after graduation, I volunteered as coordinator for the Friendship Circle (an organization that works with special needs children) and it was amazing to spend my time with such pure souls; I learned so much about life from them. In regard to a career, I’m exploring what’s out there through various internships, but am still on the hunt for the right fit. Through my time as Media Studies undergrad, I gained a deep understanding of the inner workings of the media, and the dangers of the messages that are disseminated to the public; specifically children, teens, and young adults. The most vulnerable age groups are taught so many things about how they should be, look, act, etc., and while things are moving in the right direction, I think there’s a lot more that needs to be done towards creating a media landscape with healthier and more meaningful content. This is something that I would love to help make a difference in.

I’m also really passionate about travel as well. I caught the travel bug when I was 20 years old, after my friend and I decided to backpack for 6 weeks through Europe. It was the summer after my father passed away, and I felt it was the perfect time to get out of California and clear my head a bit. I had been tutoring high school students as a side job for a few years preceding the trip, and basically took all my savings to pay for it. I truly had the best time meeting people from all around the world at the various hostels we stayed at, learning about different cultures and just throwing myself into such new experiences. It opened up my eyes as to how important it is to get out there and just explore. Travel has the ability to open our mind to all the possibilities out there. I fell in love because it gave me the ability to put down the magnifying glass of day-to-day life, step back and gain perspective in regard to my goals. Since then, I have gone on three more travel trips, and continue to learn so much about the world and myself in the process. Overall, I have so many interests career wise, between media, travel, and non-profit, that I feel that interning and gaining experience in these different fields will help me get a clearer picture of the best fit for me,

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I think the most important things in the world are kindness and respect, especially in this day and age where so many facets of our society have become extremely polarized. With social media so prevalent and woven into our daily lives, it has become so easy to judge others and ourselves. And that is detrimental to our well-being as individuals, and as a society as a whole. I would start a kindness movement, that in some way changes the paradigm that focuses on the differences- class, race, religion, political views — towards bringing us closer together and celebrating our commonalities. I think we have lost the ability to listen respectfully to other people’s opinions and perspectives. Additionally, I feel that as a whole we have become so fixed on ourselves and our individual successes, that we have lost sight of the fact that we’re all little puzzle pieces that make up a much bigger picture and it’s up to each of us to make that picture as beautiful as it can be. As humans, we all have very similar wants and needs, so why not help each other succeed by lifting each other up? Every human deserves kindness and respect, and we should all take it upon ourselves to spread it by becoming shining examples. Offer to help someone if you have expertise in something they’re looking for, or go out of your way to compliment a stranger, these things aren’t hard and make a world of a difference.

Going off of that, I think a type of ‘Shabbat Unplugged’ movement would benefit the world tremendously. As an observant Jew, every week from Friday at sunset, to Saturday at sundown, I completely unplug from all electronic devices as well as refrain from driving, using money, etc. I spend those 25 hours connecting with family and friends without any interruptions. It’s also a very meditative time for me, as I have time to reflect, connect to G-d, and just be totally present. I think it is one of G-d’s greatest gifts to humanity, and while Jews have been observing it for thousands of years, I think that given the hectic technological age we live in- it is beneficial for everyone, regardless of religion. I really think that a day off, uninterrupted by electronics and consumerism, could really change the world for the better.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you explain how that was relevant in your life?

I can’t think of a specific quote, but the biggest life lesson that I learned through my own experiences, is to ‘live for me.’ I know that sounds really simple, but it’s not. I’ve struggled with people-pleasing and perfectionism my whole life. I used to set really high standards and goals for myself, and when I didn’t reach them, I’d get devastated. I think this problem is something a lot of athletes face. I’d feed off what others would tell me about myself and my accomplishments, and almost view myself through their eyes. I just couldn’t let anyone down, as well as who they thought I should be. My confidence was based on their perception of me. About 5 years ago I realized how unhealthy that was. I started working on saying ’no’ and truly understood that while perfectionism can lead to success, it also takes away from the joy of getting there because nothing is ever good enough. I have definitely come a long way, and have embraced my many flaws and have even come to love some of them. I’ve really learned to enjoy the process and not just the destination.

Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Politics, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

Definitely Oprah Winfrey. My dream for the longest time (still is) was to have a talk show — as I was always super interested in journalism. I’ve watched her show since I was little, and loved how broad the topics she covered were. It is such a fascinating job to be able to talk to so many notable people and spread so much knowledge and goodness to the world. I also really admire her for overcoming such adversity from a such a young age. She is a true success story.

Thank you so much for these amazing insights. This was so inspiring

My pleasure, thanks for having me!

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