Heroes Among Us: “Whether you like it or not, you are programmed to survive, and it is a choice to quit.” with Paul Szyarto and Marco Dehry Go to the profile of Marco Derhy
by Marco Derhy
Most of all, focus on your survival. People survive because they believe they can. People survive because they don’t quit. Whether you like it or not, you are programmed to survive, and it is a choice to quit. Believe in your ability to survive and you will.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Paul Szyarto.Szyarto was serving his country in the U.S. Navy at the age of 17 where he supported naval fleet and mobile unit operations for eight years and upon his honorable discharge, transformed into an American business executive who makes running companies and entrepreneurship look easy. With more than 20 years of executive experience, Mr. Szyarto has consulted on the topics of entrepreneurship, big data, business operations, program management, and development with more than 500 companies. In addition, he has initiated nine diverse businesses of his own in areas including management consulting, software development, construction management, banking lead generation, social media marketing, printing solutions, and community development, which still flourish today with activities taking place in more than 32 countries. His experience is not only in business creation, but also in keeping his businesses alive providing this global entrepreneur diverse management and communication skills through his travels. When he is not building world class operations, he is supporting the University of Pennsylvania and Rutgers University as a lecturer on topics in entrepreneurship, communications, business, and digital transformation or enhancing the lives of thousands through his mentoring platform Mentobo and through his volunteer work with the Northeastern Stem Starter Program in Mount Vernon, NY. Paul holds multiple management degrees and certificates from institutions including Oxford University and the Wharton School of Business. As a hobby, Paul is a professional mixed martial artist with over 20 years of experience and has trained with some of the most skilled masters in the world including Mike Vacca, Haim Gidon, Eyal Yanilov, and David Kahn.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a bit about your childhood “backstory”?
I grew up on the streets of NJ surrounded by violence, without guidance, in a home filled with dysfunction from an abusive alcoholic, drug using father who attempted to kill my mother at the age of 12. I was forced to become a “survivorpreneur” at a young age to ensure I had the basic necessities in life. I began building small businesses and bartering models at the age of six, which helped establish the core values I needed to become a highly successful CEO one day.
And what are you doing today? Can you share a story that exemplifies the unique work that you are doing?
Today, I am a serial entrepreneur who has a philosophy of build, buy, merge, when it comes to setting up operations. Today, my holding company manages roughly $8b in client operations and spans 18 diverse assets ranging from construction management, software development, project consulting, medical devices, healthcare, martial arts, and social media.
Can you tell us a bit about your military background?
I joined the military in 1996 at the age of 17 to become an Electronics Technical focused on nuclear reactor management. During my tenure I transitioned into communication systems, where I worked on satellite, ultra-high frequency, very-high frequency communications, weather management systems, precision approach radars, tactical communication systems, and cryptologic equipment. Over my eight years of service, I supported thousands of fleet and mobile operations throughout the world and specifically NATO operations in Yugoslavia 2000 and the Afghanistan War in 2001. In addition, I worked closely with several Marine deployments as part of the auxiliary security force to ensure base and fleet protection and readiness. Due to my integration between business and military, I havebeen dubbed, “The Combat CEO”.
Can you share the most interesting story that you experienced during your military career? What “take away” did you learn from that story?
On September 11, 2001, the United States was attacked by terrorists. During this time, I was stationed in Naples, Italy and I remember chatting with my Division Commander. While chatting, we saw a high alert message appear on the new channel we were watching at the time, and we shocked to have learned a plane has hit one of the Twin Towers. Within a few minutes span, we heard alarms going off in our facility. At the time, I was working at NCTAMS Eurcent, which supported fleet operations throughout the Mediterranean. This location was a top secret communications center which was vital to the security of the world. Once the alarms went off, our Marine divisions raced through the facility, ensuring the operation was on full lock down. At this point, me and the hundreds of men and women I was working with knew it was time to go to war.
Many tasks followed the lock down alert which incorporated full integration with the Italian and NATO forces to prepare and begin our operation in Afghanistan. Although we were prepared, I realized that no matter how mighty and in control one country, or person may believe they are, the world can change within an instant, effecting thousands upon thousands of lives. The philosophy of always being proactive versus reactive was embedded within me the moment we went on high alert.
I’m interested in fleshing out what a hero is. Did you experience or hear about a story of heroism, during your military experience? Can you share that story with us? Feel free to be as elaborate as you’d like.
As for being defined a hero within the military, it is not requested, nor is it a desired label. Every military personnel that signs with a government entity to selfishly and selflessly give their life commitment to protect and serve those that represent their country are defined as heroes. When I was in the military, we all sacrificed sleepless and painful nights to serve the purpose of protecting America.
I can provide a few stories of extraordinary accomplishments for several military personal I worked with.
Based on that story, how would you define what a “hero” is? Can you explain?
A hero is someone, anyone who would give their life for the freedom and wellbeing of another.
Does a person need to be facing a life and death situation to do something heroic or to be called a hero?
Not at all. Giving life also equates to giving time, effort, love, commitment, and even their life to ensure someone else benefits.
Based on your military experience, can you share with our readers 5 Leadership or Life Lessons that you learned from your experience”? (Please share a story or example for each.)
1.When it hurts so badly and your mind is telling you to stop, call upon your heart to find the strength to continue at all costs. I’ve experienced plenty of forms of abuse and extreme workloads in my life. I’ve been in fights, experienced hunger, ridicule, embarrassment, poverty, extreme working hours, lack of sleep, and just about anything else that would make you want to curl up and die. The fact is NOTHING will last forever. So, when it hurts the most you’ve got to dig deep and fight the hardest. The harder you fight, the shorter the pain and the greater the reward.
2. Repetition builds your survival instinct. Its human nature to never want to do something that hurts more than once. But when you beat the onslaught, you will find yourself ten times stronger and better prepared for the next time it occurs. You might even become smart enough to avoid the situation completely. The more experiences you have, the better prepared you’ll be for the future.
3. You can do anything you focus on doing. Yes, this is a fact. We are all made equal. However, some of us try harder, never quit, and reap the rewards of our success. There is nothing so difficult in life that you can’t overcome it. But it requires a plan and a no quit attitude. Simply execute the plan. If it isn’t exactly what you expected, then adjust the plan and never give up. You will achieve what you need to achieve.
4. Simply smile. This might sound stupid, but focus on the positive aspects of everything. What is the purpose of focusing on the negative aspects of life? Things are going to happen, and you can either dwell on the bad or leverage the good. There is good in everything. Dig deep within and find the good in everything. Hyper focus on the good to the point where you cannot even remember the bad. When focusing on the good things, the bad things only make us stronger and more skilled. Why? Well because the good things in life will support you in achieving greatness. When you are positive, everyone around you will want a piece of your outlook on life.
5. Acceptance versus rejection. You are given one life. What makes you think your life is worse than someone else’s? What makes you think it is better? Accept what you were blessed with and do your best to survive. Don’t make excuses; create results. When there are challenges find solutions.
6. Live Fearlessly. It is natural to be scared and have fear. But don’t let that fear control who you are, what you do, and especially what you don’t do. The business of life is filled with challenges requiring hard work if you want to thrive. Fear can be your best friend or worst enemy. The goal is to harness the fear to help drive your survival.
7. Most of all, focus on your survival. People survive because they believe they can. People survive because they don’t quit. Whether you like it or not, you are programmed to survive, and it is a choice to quit. Believe in your ability to survive and you will.
Do you think your time in the military helped prepare you for business? Can you explain?
Absolutely. The military helped solidify my Never Broken mindset. Throughout my life, I have been through really rough situations, and the model in which the military attempts to crack you under pressure only implanted this mindset further. Never broken stands for never being psychologically broken or financially broken. In business, you need to attack every situation with this mindset.
As you know, some people are scarred for life by their experience in the military. How did you struggle after your deployment was over? What have you done to adjust and thrive in civilian life that others may want to emulate?
For me, this wasn’t a very stressful conversion. I have a very accepting attitude in life. When things happen, they happen for a reason. Never regret what you have done and never regret the sacrifice.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
I am working with new entrepreneurs and opportunists on a daily basis and have just been having so much fun. I am currently investing in a Mixed Martial Arts and Krav Maga franchise on a national level and introducing a new fitness device to the market called eboxinghandles!
What advice would you give to other leaders to help their team to thrive?
A leader is someone who embraces their team, supports their team, gives their team ALL of the credit, in other words, worships the team to reinforce their drive to succeed to greater levels. Most leaders these days are too self focused. Stop focusing on yourself as the team is what is important.
What advice would you give to other leaders about the best way to manage a large team?
Large teams are just the same as small teams. Empower them to operate in the manner they know best by building a support structure to ensure they thrive.
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 about that?
My mom. Although my mom had to work 3+ jobs at times she instilled the value of hard work, never quitting when the road is rough, or seemingly impossible, and to do whatever it takes to ensure those who depend on you succeed.
Have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
I hope so. Everything I do is because I love the people I get to work with, the changes I am blessed to make in the world, and the opportunities I have helped thrive. Life isn’t about money. Life is about building wealth. Wealth to me is the ability to optimize the absolute constraint of time. If you can master optimizing time, you are a wealthy person. Optimizing time for me is ensuring my teams and the operations I have built are succeeding efficiently but they are not consuming me to allow me to focus on family, friends, and having fun in life.
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. 🙂
Well, my focus is on educating and inspiring people to achieve what they thought was unachievable. I come from a rough background and I believe if I can do it, anyone can. I am not the smartest, wealthiest, or best looking, but I never quit. I want to everyone to know that no matter how hard you think it is, you can still be great.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
I have been broke, but I will Never be Broke(n). I never allowed the lack of money or anyone putting me down influence my drive to achieve what everyone told me I couldn’t.
Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment 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?
Honestly, I have had the honor of speaking, working with, and being friends with some amazing people in my life which include CEOs, celebrities in sports and film, billionaires and so on. For me, the greatest opportunity would be to share my story with all of the kids and people struggling out there that are trying really hard to survive, thinking that no one is there to help them. I want them all to know not to give up. We are all here for a reason, even if it may not seem so right now. We were all given this miracle of life. Sometimes it takes time, struggle, tough love, to learn why and how we leverage the miracle we were provided, but I can assure you, if you live a never broke(n) mindset, focusing on being a survivorpreneur, managing stress, using time efficiently, and embracing failure and the tough times, you will find your wealth.
Thank you, this is very inspiring!
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