Never think you are not good enough. There is nobody better than you in this life because of the mere fact that you are not better than anybody. You have what it takes to make it. Dig deep, find what you need within you and you will succeed every time.

Resilience has been described as the ability to withstand adversity and bounce back from difficult life events. Times are not easy now. How do we develop greater resilience to withstand the challenges that keep being thrown at us? In this interview series, we are talking to mental health experts, authors, resilience experts, coaches, and business leaders who can talk about how we can develop greater resilience to improve our lives.

As a part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Bulent Kemal Gurcan of Bellem Entertainment.

Mr. Gurcan, born and raised in a third world country, migrated into the US by himself, learned the language, their customs, and the way of America. He went to the Iraq war as an American Soldier, educated himself and became a Federal Agent for Homeland Security. At no time in his life was anything easy, and being all alone did not help him either. However he found a way to keep going, to keep pushing forward.

Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your backstory?

I was born and raised in Turkey. Being poor strips things out of life and you learn to deal with them. I started to work when I was six years old. At thirteen, I was sent to the military, at twenty I migrated into the US. Alone. Not knowing the language, customs, or way of life, was hard to adjust to, but I did not have a choice. Deal with things or they will deal with you, was my mentality. 90s America was a different place; racism, sexism, and segregation were at their peak. Being a man-of-color, was an additional hardship, because there weren’t many of my kind. In 2000, I joined the US Army. This pushed me to learn, adapt, and overcome. Best lesson I have ever learned. Most whites hung out with whites, most blacks hung out with blacks, all Latinos hung out with Latinos, and I was all alone. From the Army, I went to school. The language barrier was a real hurdle for me. I learned to deal with that, quickly. After school, I became one of a few immigrants to be a Federal Agent, working for Homeland Security, enforcing immigration laws. After a decade in federal law enforcement, I decided to move onto TV. I joined the cast of Naked and Afraid for Discovery Channel. I have done five challenges with them to date. In 2021, I met my partner Tonia. We started to write screenplays, features, TV Series, documentaries, unscripted shows, Podcasts, Comics. We work a lot.

Can you share with us the most interesting story from your career? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘takeaways’ you learned from that?

As a Border Patrol Agent, I was assigned to process a felon who entered into the US illegally for the seventh time. Being an immigrant myself, this was not easy. As the process went on, the subject kept going on about how I don’t understand, cannot understand, what he has to go through. This was one of the few times I got angry at work. I started to yell at the subject saying: “I am an immigrant too, I did come from a country as f*cked up as yours, however, I did everything legally. I paid my dues. It was not easy, nor was it a fast process, but I did it, right. You only try to find an easy way out, without putting in the hard work, without going through the right channels.”

Lesson was clear, in order to get ahead in life you have to put in the hard work, countless hours, blood, sweat, and tears. Anything less will get you to less than what you deserve.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

As a filmmaker, we have to work with many young people. When I say young, I am a 48-year-old; at times, I have to take corrections from a 22-year-old. It gets hard, very hard, at times. Especially considering I was in the Iraq war when he or she was born, fighting for my country. As our lives evolve, so should we. Times are changing, the needs and wants of the new generation are changing as well. As an older man, sometimes it gets hard to change with it. However, we never stop trying and always adjust and overcome.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

I was in the Army, brand new; a private, young and dumb. I was assigned to latrine duty. After I was done cleaning it, 1st Sergeant Christian came in for inspection. He walked through, looked me straight in my eyes and said: “Private Gurcan, I want you to clean this Latrine in such a way, when my boss Sergeant Major Ortega walks in, his reaction should be: “God dammit only Private Gurcan could have cleaned this Latrine to this level.” Take pride in your work, put in more than anybody. Even if your job is to scrub the toilets.” From that moment on, I did and do, put in more than anybody to everything I do, 110%, every single time. This lesson, my 1st Sergeant Christian taught me, became the core of me. This lesson separated me from the rest in every endeavor I undertake.

Ok, thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. We would like to explore and flesh out the trait of resilience. How would you define resilience? What do you believe are the characteristics or traits of resilient people?

Resilience is when you keep going even when everything goes wrong. We have a different mind set than the rest. Some say we embrace the suck. Some say we just don’t have breaks to stop. In the face of hardship, you have a choice to quit or keep going, most quit. One of my mentors, David Goggin, when he went to selection for Navy Seals, one of the instructors approached him and said: “You know there has been only 35 African Americans that ever finished this training.” Automatically Goggin, the badass he is, thought: “What if I am the 36th?” He had a choice, keep positive or quit and go home. Today, he is the only member of the U.S. Armed Forces to complete Navy SEAL training, Army Ranger School, and Air Force Tactical Air Controller training.

Courage is often likened to resilience. In your opinion how is courage both similar and different from resilience?

Courage is the ability to take the first step into the unknown. Feeling the fear, feeling the shaky knees, feeling the pressure, and still moving forward. That is courage. Ability to jump into a shit show. Now, somewhere along that shit show, everything fails, everything crumbles, everything that wants to stop you, joins forces to drop you on your knees so you can quit. Resilience is the ability to rise after that fall. One of my favorite quotes from Rocky: “It is not about how hard you hit, it is about how hard you get hit and keep moving forward. How much you can take and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done.” In life, you have to feel fear, fear of taking the first step, fear of failing, fear of not being good enough, and still take that first step. The power that allows us to take that first step is courage. Resilience will let you keep going regardless of how close you get to quitting.

When you think of resilience, which person comes to mind? Can you explain why you chose that person?

Sylvester Stallone. Period. This wonderful human being wrote the movie Rocky. He shopped it and shopped it. After so many NO’s, he got an offer of $360,000 to sell the script. He wanted to star in the movie, but they said no. He did not sell the script. This poor man had only $100 in his bank. After some time he got so broke that he sold his dog to get some food for $25. Could you imagine how he was feeling when he saw his dog walking away from him. I believe that would be the lowest point a man can get. However, when he sold his script, he bought back his beloved dog for $15000. This man bounced back from the bottom, and today, well, we all know how great he is doing today.

Has there ever been a time that someone told you something was impossible, but you did it anyway? Can you share the story with us?

Well, quite frankly, that is the story of my life. Before I left Turkey, where I was born and raised, everyone, and I mean everyone told me I couldn’t get to the US. That was not possible, even if somehow I made it there, I wouldn’t be able to survive there. I got here in 96.

In the year 2000, I wanted to join the Army, everybody around me told me that I didn’t speak enough English to be accepted, and I was the wrong color. Not only did I get into the Army, I finished two tours to Iraq.

After the Army, I was told that they would never let an immigrant become a Federal Agent, especially an Agent that enforces immigration laws. I became a Border patrol in 2006 and CBPO in 2008, and I have over a decade of federal law enforcement experience.

When I was in law enforcement, I wanted to be on TV, once again I was told I barely speak English, I was too short, and I didn’t look good enough, why would anyone watch me. I have been in the cast of Naked and Afraid since 2018. I finished a challenge in Africa, after seven years of drought, temperatures reaching over 130 degrees F. In a place most other cast members said nobody should be alone in Africa, I was alone 30 days of the 40 day challenge and out did everyone of them.

Now, today, I am in the film industry and going strong. We are expecting a phenomenal 2024.

I dare all to bet against me. You have no idea how that fuels me.

Did you have a time in your life when you had one of your greatest setbacks, but you bounced back from it stronger than ever? Can you share that story with us?

After the war, before I was diagnosed with PTSD, I was alone and lonely. I started to drink everyday, not having any direction in life, trying to navigate civilian life, not having any family nor support system. One day, drunk out of my mind, I found a shotgun barrel in my mouth, ready to end it all. I’d had enough. It was too much. I heard a voice that said: “Don’t be a coward. This is not how this story ends. You still have 1st Sergeant Christian and Sergeant Major Ortega, you will work your butt off and you will make them proud.” After that day, my life was never the same, again.

How have you cultivated resilience throughout your life? Did you have any experiences growing up that have contributed to building your resiliency? Can you share a story?

Growing up in Turkey, life was brutal. I started to work when I was six. I still remember my mother, sitting on the stairs, waiting for me to come home, so she could buy food with my paycheck. Early in life, we never had a chance to quit. There were no other options, other than to keep going, keep working. Even today, when I am faced with difficulty, I never think about quitting. I always think I have to find a way to make it work and most of the time I do find a way. Other times, I find ways that give me other alternatives, but I will find a way. I never had safety cushions in life, I never had a father, mother, brother, to call when I couldn’t pay my rent. I ate nothing but noodles for two weeks, but I paid my rent.

Resilience is like a muscle that can be strengthened. In your opinion, what are 5 steps that someone can take to become more resilient?

– Never think you are not good enough. There is nobody better than you in this life because of the mere fact that you are not better than anybody. You have what it takes to make it. Dig deep, find what you need within you and you will succeed every time.

-Discipline, learn discipline. Every time you tell yourself you are going to wake up early and exercise, you are going to read more, you are going to eat better, your inner warrior is listening. When you don’t keep your promises to yourself, your inner warrior loses its faith in you. This in return, damages your confidence and creates anxiety. You show up to work everyday because you are told by your boss. When you tell yourself that you are going to do something, DO IT.

-QPO Quality people only. Surround yourself with people smarter, richer, healthier than you.

-Do something everyday that you really do not want to do. Your midcortex amygdala will grow. Trust in the process.

-Help as many people as you can, on anything you can while expecting nothing back. Karma works in great ways.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire 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 watched a documentary on the Hershey family from Pennsylvania. The couple could not have any kids, they had the means to open their doors to all the orphans they could, and raised them like their own. I would love to open an orphanage in every town. Growing up not belonging to anyone is horrible. If I can help even one orphan, I would die happy.

We are blessed that some very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them 🙂

It will be Steven Spielberg. His distinct visual style, thematic consistency, personal investment in his films, innovative storytelling, significant impact on the film industry, control over his projects, and influential body of work, is second to none. I would love to share a meal and learn from him as much as I can.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

I am on all social media sites, they can search my name, that’s easy.

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!


  • Savio P. Clemente

    TEDx Speaker, Media Journalist, Board Certified Wellness Coach, Best-Selling Author & Cancer Survivor

    Savio P. Clemente, TEDx speaker and Stage 3 cancer survivor, infuses transformative insights into every article. His journey battling cancer fuels a mission to empower survivors and industry leaders towards living a truly healthy, wealthy, and wise lifestyle. As a Board-Certified Wellness Coach (NBC-HWC, ACC), Savio guides readers to embrace self-discovery and rewrite narratives by loving their inner stranger, as outlined in his acclaimed TEDx talk: "7 Minutes to Wellness: How to Love Your Inner Stranger." Through his best-selling book and impactful work as a media journalist — covering inspirational stories of resilience and exploring wellness trends — Savio has collaborated with notable celebrities and TV personalities, bringing his insights to diverse audiences and touching countless lives. His philosophy, "to know thyself is to heal thyself," resonates in every piece.