You are never defined by a moment, you are always defined by your entire body of work. Incorporate into your daily environment reminders of what your goals are. The fuel from pain is a higher octane than fuel from wins or success — use it accordingly.
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 Daniel Comparetto.
From navigating the hostile and extreme environment of a combat zone in Afghanistan with his teams of Marines to advising C-suite level leaders with some of their most pressing challenges, Daniel believes in a client and team-first mentality. He is constantly focusing on how he can be an enabler and performance maximizer, impediment remover, and force multiplier for everyone that he comes in contact with.
With over a decade of experience leading teams at some of the world’s highest-performing organizations, Daniel is hyper-focused on pairing that experience with the talent and drive that his teams provide in order to deliver an experience of excellence.
Daniel constantly focuses on methods to stretch himself and has routinely engaged in activities such as David Goggins 4 x 4 x 48, the Murph workout, Chadd Wright’s 3 of 7 Project: The Basic Course, and Andy Frisella’s 75 Hard.
Along with his decorated Marine Corps combat experience, he has earned the PMP®, SHRM-SCP®, HRCI-SPHR®, and SAFe® 5 Agilist certifications, and has received an MBA from the Kelley School of Business.
Daniel thoroughly enjoys living in Florida with his wife, son, and daughter. He enjoys an active lifestyle and can always be found running up and down and cheering on the sidelines during his children’s sporting events.
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 served in the Marine Corps after joining shortly after high school and operated in the Asia Pacific region for most of my time in. This experience was tremendously impactful and fundamental to who I am today. When I wasn’t shooting, I was operating heavy equipment in either a constructive or destructive manner, both building out and demolishing infrastructure. I was also heavily involved in logistical support for the various outposts all throughout southern Afghanistan. These experiences created the foundation for my leadership abilities today.
I have been fortunate to obtain great formal education — an MBA from Indiana University, a degree in finance from George Mason University, and I currently serve as a Strategy & Operations leader at Deloitte. I previously worked at MITRE, 3M, & Lockheed Martin in various internal finance and strategy leadership roles. My whole adult life and career to date has been predicated on not only learning how to survive in new and high-stakes environments but also thrive in those environments through rapid acclimation and extreme focus on impact potential.
On the personal side, I am married to a Nordic princess who goes by Kayla and we have two children, Isaiah — currently 8 y/o and Bella — currently 5 y/o. We are actively involved in their sports, gymnastics, and dance activities.
Can you share with us the most interesting story from your career? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?
Oh lord — this one is certainly embarrassing and a bit funny after the fact. Early on in my time in the Marine Corps, I was leading a small team on patrol in Afghanistan, and we began to take some small arms fire that started out not very accurate but as it progressively came closer, my real leadership skills under stress were put to the test. It wasn’t my proudest moment. We had trained for situations similar to this exact one numerous times and I had mentally prepared for something like this even more times but when the zaps and cracks of real life rounds impacted closer and closer to my position, all of that preparation was forgotten.
Instead of being resilient or boldly leading and directly my team or coming up with a proactive counter-plan, I instead began to talk very quickly, essentially saying anything that came into my mind. I was cracking jokes trying to make light of the situation, I was rambling, I was narrating what was going on (as if those around me had no idea!), I was trying to distract myself from the current situation, and was very a negative influence on doing anything productive. Thankfully no one was hurt and the whole situation lasted no more than 5 minutes. However, those 5 minutes have been forever burned into my mind and have been used to build off as I began to craft my future leadership skills and performance in high-pressure environments.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
Deloitte Consulting’s vision is to connect, innovate, transform, and leadership. We can help you imagine, deliver, and run your future, wherever you compete, using the latest technologies, from strategy development through implementation. As a strategic advisor primarily to C-suite level clients, my purpose is to lead teams that interface with all levels of the organization to assist them in prioritized decision making and coordination of support for execution of strategic initiatives across the organization. I provide analytic expertise to major strategic initiatives across organizations and focus on delivering outsized impact by creating superior results through workforce management, talent development, training, recruiting, and leader development in highly complex and multi-national environments.
In my current role advising other leaders, I am intricately involved in many decisions that impact various business units across organizations. Despite the natural tendency to believe the opposite in uncertain and difficult times, Leaders do not need to make the best decision. Leaders need to ensure the best decision is made, regardless of who makes it.
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?
This is such an important theme in a leader’s developmental journey and one that will stay will you forever. This mentor or influential person may change to someone else as you move through your stages of development as a leader but the concept of having someone at each stage to guide and mentor you along will always be present.
For me, the most influential leader that I am most grateful for is one of my senior leaders from the Marine Corps. He really leaned into my development when I was at a very influential stage of my leadership journey. Naturally, I had been exposed to leaders to that point but they all had very similar characteristics and leadership styles. Very much authoritarian and commanding types. Through this other leader’s guidance, I learned that there is another way to lead and it is much more effective and impactful. This leader was quiet. They focused on building relationships with multiple stakeholders and operated behind the scenes instead of making a show out in the open. They played the long-game and constantly prepared. He taught me that no matter what the standard was, to hold yourself to a higher one. I learned that the greatest way to impact others is through leadership and that leadership is not a right, it is a privilege. He may have been a “Quiet Leader” but he has been the most influential and impactful leader that I have met to date.
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?
I believe that resilience can be summed up by as the ticket to victory often comes down to bringing your very best when you feel your worst. The biggest competitive advantage for a person that is resilient is long-term thinking with a broad view of how different systems in the world are going to come together. One of the notable aspects of compound growth is that the furthest out years are the most important. In a world where almost no one takes a truly long-term view, the market richly rewards those who do.
When you look at those who survive and even thrive in a crisis, it’s those who know to devote 90%+ of their energy to the things they control, and little to none on the rest. The more precisely you define the problem, the more easily you can find a solution. I feel bad” can have a million causes. I didn’t sleep much last night and I haven’t exercised in a week” has a very straightforward answer.
Self-doubt is a natural reaction to any bold attempt to change your life for the better. You can’t stop it from blooming in your brain but you can neutralize it and all the other external chatter by asking “what if?”. When you fail, you learn what you are made of. When you succeed, you learn what you’re capable of.
Leaders that are resilient tend to incorporate these three concepts into their lives as they work to navigate uncertain futures and challenging times:
- Don’t Wait To Act, take the initiative based on you and your organization’s values and priorities.
- Have Ready-made Plans. It is impossible to have a contingency for any and everything that the future might offer but focus instead on high level scenarios that have similarities across a broad scope of factors. It is a lot easier to repurpose a plan written for another scenario than to improvise a new one. Leaders cannot use uncertainty as an excuse to give up plans. Keep in mind that Plan B is not an alternative to Plan A: it is part of it. A sign of a first-class strategist under uncertainty is the ability to hold two opposed plans (or more) in mind at the same time. And still lead their organization.
- Encourage Risk-taking. Leadership in times of crisis requires breaking some of the rules that are designed for normal times. Great leaders know this: they cover for those who break the rules.
Courage is often likened to resilience. In your opinion how is courage both similar and different to resilience?
Courage, Grit, Resilience, and Mental Toughness — they all are interrelated and have many similar characteristics but this is how I view Courage when compared to Resilience. Courage is not the absence of fear. Courage is the ability to act in spite of it. Resilience is about being able to persevere in the face of adversity, no matter how many thoughts of giving up run through your mind. No one can create resilience in you. It has to come from within. You have to find the motivation to commit to your dreams. You have to develop the burning desire work harder than anyone else, and push through roadblocks as you face them. Because you will face them. There will be times where you’ll want to give up. There will be times where you’ll fail. And there will be times where it all seems too hard. But resilient people don’t give up in the face of adversity.
Often, I ask myself what is the difference between a hero and a coward? What is the difference between being cowardly and being brave? To be honest there is no real difference. The only difference is in what you do. They both feel the same. They both fear dying and getting hurt. The person who is cowardly refuses to face up to what they have to face. The hero is more disciplined and they fight those feelings off and they do what they know they have to do. But they both feel the same, the hero and the coward. People who watch you judge you on what you do, not how you feel.
Great leaders don’t reach the height of success without facing major challenges and crises. From my experience, I have seen that most leaders are better because of their experiences weathering storms throughout their career. A great leader will rise to the top in difficult times, when tough decisions need to be made and decisive action must be taken. When facing a situation that requires resilience, exhibiting personal courage will help you power through. Make sure that you have an extreme bias for action. It is less important WHAT you decide than it is THAT you decide. More is lost by indecision than by a wrong decision.
Even difficult times bring an opportunity to build trust, strengthen partnerships, and examine your mental models. Most importantly, sticking by your team and partners is the best way to relay the unspoken commitment that you are all in this together for the long term. While the road ahead will be difficult, it is still possible to emerge stronger out of a crisis by acting quickly and strategically. Authenticity is your most precious commodity as a leader. When you are authentic, you create a certain energy, and people want to be around you because you are unique. The smartest people I’ve met have retrained their minds to enjoy being wrong. They get a dopamine hit when proven wrong because they’re excited to be closer to the truth. Be the leader that is not interested in whether the glass is half empty or half full. Be interested in figuring out how to fill the glass.
When you think of resilience, which person comes to mind? Can you explain why you chose that person?
Jocko Willink immediately comes to mind. Jocko spent 20 years in the SEAL Teams, starting as an enlisted SEAL and rose through the ranks to become a SEAL officer. As the commander of SEAL Team Three’s Task Unit Bruiser during the battle of Ramadi, he orchestrated SEAL operations that helped the “Ready First” Brigade of the U.S. Army’s First Armored Division bring stability to the violent, war-torn city. Task Unit Bruiser became the most highly decorated Special Operations Unit of the Iraq War. He now leads a premier leadership and strategy development firm, Echelon Front.
One of the big lessons that I have taken away from Jocko’s experience is that being resilient isn’t a mindset or an aspect of a personality type, but a skill that can be grown, cultivated, and strengthened. But like many skills, in order for it to be sharpened, it must be tested. Sometimes you have to retreat, but that doesn’t mean you quit the strategic mission.
A good leader does not get bogged down in the minutia of a tactical problem at the expense of strategic success. If you are down in the weeds planning the details with your team, you will have the same perspective as them, which adds little value. But if you let them plan the details, it allows them to own their piece of the plan. And it allows you to stand back and see everything with a different perspective, which adds tremendous value. You can then see the plan from a greater distance, a higher altitude, and you will see more. As a result, you will catch mistakes and discover aspects of the plan that need to be tightened up, which enables you to look like a tactical genius, just because you have a broader view.
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?
I remember back when I was transitioning out of the Marine Corps, I still had to finish up my undergraduate degree but I had started to think about what was after that from a grad school perspective. I sought advice from the faculty and I mentioned to them that I wanted to enroll directly into a top MBA program such as the Kelley School of Business’s full-time option. More than one person told me that was impossible due to my current non-traditional career path to date, my current status of being in the middle of finishing up my undergraduate degree, and my perceived “lack of qualifications and quantitative scores”. I decided right then that I was not going to listen. I prepared a very well researched and thoughtful application, coordinated my recommenders responses, and studied extra for the GMAT. I applied in the 1st round of applications and received a wait-list response. This news was hard to take at first but demonstrated that I was still in the fight. I began to identify any way that I could to interact with and get in front of people that were part of the MBA program. I was able to somehow get on the Alumni post-graduate webinar series distribution and was able to attend several of their sessions, allowing me the opportunity to add value and interact with current and former students as well as with faculty. I also took the opportunity to go out of my way to meet with faculty when they came to visit cities in my state. I made sure to do everything in my control that would allow me the opportunity to attend the full-time program and one day in the middle of March, I received that note saying “Welcome to the program!”. It was a great feeling of accomplishment and I continue to build upon the resilience that I crafted during that entire experience.
Did you have a time in your life where you had one of your greatest setbacks, but you bounced back from it stronger than ever? Can you share that story with us?
I have considered “giving up” many times and have experienced many setbacks, sometimes almost daily. It is important to note that every leader feels discouraged at least some of the time. It is what you do during these times that matters most. I always try to remember my passion, purpose, and the concept that no matter how bad things are, “Life happens for you, not to you.” Understanding that our decisions, not our conditions, are what ultimately shape the reality of our lives as leaders will allow you to make the decision to take the first step toward changing your state when you feel defeated or frustrated.
The most important conversations you will ever have are the ones you will have with yourself. You wake up with them, you walk around with them, you go to sleep with them, and eventually you act on them whether they are good or bad. I embrace struggles because it makes me stronger as a leader. It forces me to really know my “why”. Whenever you are struggling and the pain or sacrifices seem to be overwhelming, it is easy to forget why you started in the first place. As someone who is in a leadership position on a daily basis, we can lose sight of the ultimate reason why we do the things we do, and it’s easy to feel burned out. Instead, focus on the people that you can´t let down. Being a leader is about more than just yourself, it affects everyone around you.
Every action you take is a vote for the type of person you wish to become. No single instance will transform your beliefs but as the votes buildup so does the evidence of your new identity. This is one reason why meaningful change does not require radical change. Your goal is simply to win the majority of the votes every time. if you keep casting the same votes you’ve always cast, you’re going to get the same results you’ve always had.
Utilize past successes to fuel yourself to new and bigger ones because in the heat of battle when everything gets real, you need to draw inspiration to push through your own exhaustion and depression, pain, and misery. Whenever you get overwhelmed with a challenge, remind yourself: this too shall pass! There will be many setbacks on your way to success, but also many great times. Appreciate both of them, for the hard days allow you to grow and enjoy the good ones even more.
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?
As I look back on how I cultivated resilience, I can’t help but be reminded that confidence is a side effect or a result of preparation and taking action. You earn confidence from preparation and effort; you cannot just conjure it up out of thin air. Make sure to establish your confidence so that you know that your worst effort is higher than what is needed for any given moment because of the time, effort, and preparation that you’ve put into this activity.
You don’t want to rise to the level of your expectations but rather fall to the level of your training. Push yourself so hard that when bullets do start flying you fall back on really good training and it’s important that the point where you fall back is so high that you know you’re going to outperform the enemy or competition.
A required ingredient to resiliency is mental toughness as defined by a person’s willingness to stay the course, stay disciplined, stay confident, even though things are not working the way that you wanted things to work, and still be willing to keep showing up. The ultimate measure of a leader is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.
Grit will have more to do with your success than your IQ and other inherited gifts put together. Grit is not just simple elbow-grease term for rugged persistence. It is an often invisible display of endurance that lets you stay in an uncomfortable place, work hard to improve upon a given interest, and do it again and again. Grit is having the courage to push through, no matter what the obstacles are, because it’s worth it. Remember that every great story happened when someone decided not to give up.
You are never defined by a moment, you are always defined by your entire body of work. Incorporate into your daily environment reminders of what your goals are. The fuel from pain is a higher octane than fuel from wins or success — use it accordingly
Resilience is like a muscle that can be strengthened. In your opinion, what are 5 steps that someone can take to become more resilient? Please share a story or an example for each.
I would recommend the following tactical action to any leader going through a difficult time. Know your three most important daily activities, then block time out for them daily to make sure they are completed. When you have your three most important activities for each day, whether at the individual or the team level, figure out which one is the absolute most important one to do. It is important to complete your “1 Must” as early in the day as possible. When you sense yourself of the team being seduced by success, that is the time to pick on key activity and do up to 10% more that day.
I have found that during times of high-stress or crisis, there are a handful of moments in each day that deliver an outside impact. These are known as decisive moments and critical for leaders to realize and then capitalize on. Leaders who understand that very small adjustments can have a large impact if they make them early enough in the “game” are able to put their organization in the best position possible to come out of a difficult time in a better state than before.
Embrace your role as a future-facing leader while being more people-focused than ever before. By being intentional in your leadership approach, you will enable your team to collectively stay engaged, aligned and productive, with wellbeing at the forefront. This requires leaders to think and act with inclusion in mind. It’s imperative that leaders have clear messages, and that they balance humility and confidence, while being vulnerable with their teams. They achieve this by focusing on a singular aligning narrative.
Match the speed of the environment, and work to coordinate and communicate in a focused and streamlined way — while making space for deeper, inclusive conversations that foster trust and provide meaningful context. Focus on building trust with your team. Focus in on the right cadence connect your team with the right information, at the right time.
Realizing and identifying with the person you are today is the key to becoming the person you want to be. Remember that we never actually fail in life. We just don’t always get the results that we want. You cannot live a lie. You have to acknowledge and identify with what is most important in your life to ultimately, “Attain Belief in Yourself.” You may be reluctant, even scared, to talk about or acknowledge past behavior and habits that you regret. However, avoiding it only serves to amplify the pain and make us feel like victims. Get the truth out into the light by talking about your experiences with a trusted friend or a professional.
Give yourself time and space to find your equilibrium. Believe confidently and wholeheartedly that making these changes will prompt you to develop a stronger foundation. However, recognize that this will take time — and give yourself that time. When faced with adversity, reframe the negative response and choose the positive solution to keep you on your path to greatness. Grit is passion and perseverance for very long-term goals. Grit is having stamina. Grit is sticking with your future, day-in, day-out. Not just for the week, not just for the month, but for years. And working really hard to make that future a reality. Grit is living life like it’s a marathon, not a sprint.
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. 🙂
The movement that I would love to inspire would be centered around Personal Accountability and Personal Responsibility. I would define Personal Accountability as a way of life that is all about keeping the promises that you make to yourself. It is being able to recognize when you’re not doing what you need to do, and then fixing it immediately when that happens.
Every single person who wins big in life has one thing in common. They all hold themselves accountable to executing on the tasks they need to do every day. It doesn’t matter if they’re tired. It doesn’t matter what the circumstances are. It doesn’t matter if the world is on fire. They run their play every day.
Every successful business, every impactful movement, every great nation — is all rooted and built from personal responsibility. Everything in your life is your responsibility. No one else is going to come along and do the work for you. No one else is going to come along and hand you the life you want. No one else is going to fix your situation no matter how long you kick and scream. You have to accept 100% personal responsibility. Take action.
The difference between Personal Accountability and Personal Responsibility is that Personally Accountability is all about holding yourself accountable and Personal Responsibility has much more to do with taking ownership of your life. It’s understanding that everything in your life is your responsibility, and the things that happen in your life are ultimately your doing. If you have no sense of personal responsibility, it is very unlikely that you have any personal accountability. They go hand-in-hand, and are both crucial for you to reach your goals.
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 🙂
This would have to be fellow Indiana University Kelley School of Business alum, Mark Cuban. I love the story of how he got started and really believe that it provides a great example for us to follow. His attention to detail, focus on daily execution, willingness to embrace differing views, desire to surround himself with people more knowledgeable in certain areas, and his overall belief in a growth mindset allowing him to be in constant “learn mode” are characteristics that I strive to exemplify everyday in my career.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!