Rising Through Resilience: Kawan Karadaghi On The Five Things You Can Do To Become More Resilient During Turbulent Times

An Interview With Savio P. Clemente

Savio P. Clemente
Authority Magazine


Have 3 Trusted Mentors- In all my life I have gone to people in my corner that I confided in when I didn’t understand what was happening with new stressors and problems I didn’t quite get such as interpersonal or business decisions. However a mentor is someone who has walked the path of life and sees things objectively, creatively or has life experience. Mentors can help you see the different angles of problems, raise your standards and encourage you. Which all help you be more resilient when the time comes.

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 Kawan Karadaghi.

In his youth, Kawan Karadaghi spent most of his life directionless and underwent many trials. A near death experience changed the course of his life. Yearning for success and fulfillment, Kawan embarked on a journey and vowed to improve daily through fitness, mindfulness meditation, and gaining knowledge through books and mentors. Today, Kawan Karadaghi owns four gyms, is a podcaster and blogger on strategy, high performance and self-improvement.

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 in Romania and my mother and father divorced when I was seven, which led to my mother and I traveling to the east coast. My mother got me into martial arts and reading health and fitness magazines when I was young. I got into fitness when I lived in Virginia, however I never took it seriously. I would live for twenty years on the east coast before moving to Los Angeles to pursue a call that would turn into a quest of self mastery in fitness and business.

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?

In each level that I grew in, I realized that in order to stay relevant and continue to grow. I always would start from a zero knowledge base and work my way up. Much like a student that receives a new belt in martial arts. I worked a lot of different jobs and upon moving to Los Angeles, I had to start in difficult low paying restaurant jobs. During this time, I had been working out for four years and had gained a lot of experience.

I didn’t know what it all meant at the time, moving to LA and working in restaurants. However, thinking back, it all made sense now. I couldn’t move upwards in life without mastering myself. I had to solve smaller scale problems first before I could move up to solve bigger problems like health and fitness. Restaurants teach you systems, speed, processes, empathy and efficiency. Which are the basics of performance in business.

Around the same time, I was in a tough spot financially and a friend took an interest in me and offered me a job as a personal trainer. I rose to master trainer and became one of the top trainers of a nationwide gym chain. There are levels in life, and one must climb each one, acquire the skill set and graduate to the next. You can’t move levels if you don’t master the one you’re on, entry to the next level is dependent on the readiness and mastery of the current one. On the journey to success, mastery is something that you can’t fake. In order to be an authority figure, you have to have credibility.

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

At Anytime Fitness we stay connected to our members and provide a place of belonging and a non intimidating gym environment. Focusing on delivering results, community. True fitness is in an overall sense of health including physical, mental and general well being, not just workouts. Our gym goes beyond fitness as the sense of camaraderie exists both inside and outside the gym by forging relationships with our members.

When we first opened there was a chef named Jeremy who had lived in San Diego in search of a fitness facility and became our member. Along with a member named Ernie who worked at a nearby bookstore, I trained both of them and guided them as Ernie lost 55lbs and Jeremy went on to put 10lbs of muscle on. We build a bond based on betterment, common goals and just a plain old connection of friendship. We signed up for a Tough Mudder pre-pandemic in 2019. We trained together for the race, going on long runs consisting of five to ten miles. The training was brutal, but we finished the race together and shared a feeling of accomplishment. There’s an old African proverb that says “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” Creating memories from the relationships we form and doing meaningful work is what life is made up of.

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?

There are many people who have helped me to succeed and get to where I am, in fact it would take an entire page. If there is one person who has continuously invested in my success as a human being, its my mother. She has helped me in some of the toughest times I’ve had, listens and helps me solve problems. When you think of the people that have had the greatest to do with your success, it’s the ones that have stuck around the longest and invested the most time and energy throughout your entire life. Few people can stand the test of time, these are the people you keep close and take care of. Since I’ve been a small baby before my memories formed, my mother has been by my side through it all. Thinking back, I pretty much owe my life to her, because without her I wouldn’t be born.

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 the ability to be flexible to change and being able to maximize the opportunity between a setback and a comeback while simultaneously decreasing the amount of time it takes you to bounce back. In my life, I had many hard lessons growing up. Including not doing good in school and having a hard time in relationships. I noticed that when I had setbacks, it would take me weeks to bounce back. I came to a realization:

I could spend the entire time dwelling on how bad it all was, or I could make the most of it, absorb the learning principles and improve. As I grew more and more, the window of time it took for me to bounce back minimized into days, then hours, to eventually a few minutes. Your ability to effectively accept, learn and bounce back from hardships increases your chances of success in life or business. You can’t turn back time and wish things were different, however you can accept the reality you’re in and improve moving forward. Vow that you will do your best to never make the same mistakes. It’s as John Maxwell said “Sometimes you win. Sometimes you learn.”

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

Courage is the ability to do something that frightens us, everyone feels fear. It’s what we do when fear comes, going through it is courage. Resilience is how we bounce back and our elasticity to the tough events that happen to us, or that we subject ourselves to..The two support each other hand in hand as resilience supports courage when events become difficult or unforeseen by being courageous, it gives you the ability to stay the course to support courage.

Courage supports resiliency by being the guiding light and overarching theme. When you’re resilient, you need courage to move forward. When you’re courageous, you need resiliency to bounce back from unexpected events, things that didn’t go as planned and dealing with obstacles. They are similar in regards to the environment they live in which is within us, and have a symbiotic relationship with each other.

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

When I think of resiliency, I think of my mother. She left the opportunity of a medical career and moved to the U.S. not speaking any English and raised a rebellious son. She founded a non profit organization helping thousands of refugees find homes and obtain citizenship and independence all while battling depression. To say she achieved a lot is an understatement, through it all she always kept her calm and showed humility, compassion and a hard work ethic. I’m still in awe of how she pulled it all off.

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?

The best moments come from those that underestimate you. Growing up and not doing well academically, I was looked down upon by some teachers and peers. I noticed it a lot and was always intrigued by why people thought the way they did.

An example was before starting on my fitness career, there was a time when I was out with a friend and someone had made a comment that I wasn’t able to put on muscle and surpass him. I had asked what he meant by that and his response was passive and polite but deep in my heart I knew he thought I couldn’t. This person became the inspiration as I built my physique into the unstoppable force it is today. As the years went by, he stopped working out and he would see me often as I grew, the best was when our mutual friends talked to him about the progress. When people underestimate you or tell you can’t do something, this is a gift to be used as fuel. Use it as inspiration and fuel and then let your results speak for itself.

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?

The one that comes to mind was waking up in the emergency room and seeing where I was in my life, after a near fatal car accident I knew things had to change. I felt great pain physically and emotionally and required stitches all over my body. I was getting older and I formulated a plan with a friend to move to the west coast, leaving the environment with all my friends and family. It was tough but the best decision I made for myself.

I wouldn’t be where I am today if I didn’t go to the emergency room. Setbacks of any kind can have a few different effects on us, however the ones you internalize and make real as the catalyst for change are the most beneficial. It’s up to us and how to find them, the teachers and lessons are all around us everyday. It’s our reaction to the painful events that dictates our next steps.

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, my mother and father divorced and moving to the United States not speaking the language was at times a challenging transition. Being rebellious in school, I never really found direction and wasn’t inclined towards sports.

I found meaning and discipline through fitness and health and realizing that every setback I had incurred was an opportunity to go to the school of self mastery and learn from some of the decisions of my rebellious nature. A near fatal car accident helped me to see things more clearly, fitness helped me realize resiliency was a daily practice that was to be performed in every single repetition you did, set after set, day after day. I became obsessed with the triumph over the painful days of forging my body and learning from the pain I underwent.

Fitness and weight training require resilience as a prerequisite when embarking on the journey to create the body you want, without resiliency, learning from things that don’t work, you won’t be able to go through pain barriers that are everyday norms in the repetitions you put in in the school of improvement known as the gym. Its the ability to see the pain that awaits you on this next set, and telling yourself you will go through it with a smile, because on the other side awaits results and the realization of your potential.

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.

1. Embrace and accept change- When change gets thrusted upon you, understanding your situation or circumstance is one of the most important steps in being resilient. When my business partners and I first opened our first gym, I had a tough time adapting to it all. We got rocked from every angle as most business owners do. I was trying to make sense of all the chaos and the mess of doing business, the amount of change was staggering. However there came a point where I simply accepted that it was going to be hard for a little bit. I accepted that there were going to be long days and that I wouldn’t have all the answers or know when it would slow down. When this happened I embraced change and understood what needed to happen: a new reality was taking place, the only thing that was making it difficult was my inner resistance to it all. Once I stopped having resistance to change, I bounced back and gained mastery of the day to day. We spend unnecessary energy fighting change rather than accepting what it is, and adapting.

2. Improvement- Reframe setbacks as challenges. tell yourself that the reason you’re feeling this way is because you don’t have the skills, systems or process to deal with what’s at hand. Remove your ego and don’t take things personally. It’s important to realize how long you have been doing something before you get proficient at it. Quantify your improvement metrics by telling yourself you will read 3 books on a topic you don’t know about. Watch 10 videos on marketing or sales to better understand what they are. I used to bus dirty tables and wash dishes for years and in the world of restaurants, you learn systems, processes and speed, which gives you opportunities to improve quickly or get fired. The work was demanding, but it allowed me to assess my work by immediate customer satisfaction which made me always analyze my performance. Acquiring new tools, outsourcing tasks, leveraging technology, reflection and learning a hard work ethic are all ways to improve depending on the current problem.

3. Have 3 Trusted Mentors- In all my life I have gone to people in my corner that I confided in when I didn’t understand what was happening with new stressors and problems I didn’t quite get such as interpersonal or business decisions. However a mentor is someone who has walked the path of life and sees things objectively, creatively or has life experience. Mentors can help you see the different angles of problems, raise your standards and encourage you. Which all help you be more resilient when the time comes.

4. Manage Your Stress- You’ll always be solving problems in some capacity. However your health is a non changing variable, you’ll have the same heart, mind and body as you go through years of wear and tear. Because I was driven by purpose and enjoyed what I did, I built up resiliency from working long hours and no matter how mentally resilient I was, stress was taking its toll. Cortisol increases with stress, and the body and mind need to repair from long bouts. As trainers we learned that training was cumulative, meaning overtime it added up on the body as wear and tear. In order to be a high performer in sports, business or life, you need to know when to strategically pull back. When you’re constantly stressed, you won’t have the physical and mental wherewithal to be resilient because you’re busy trying to balance your health and the outside work world. When you’re well rested, you remain in a state of flow which allows you to conquer your days with ease. I engage in physical activity and mindfulness meditation daily and also have two therapists to help manage stress. Leverage strategic rest periods and slow down to speed up. The last thing you want is to be bed ridden because of exhaustion.

5. Effort- Understand the most important thing that will separate the good and great is repeated effort in an attempt to gain mastery. Success is measured by how much effort you put towards something and not just waiting for things to happen. You have to put the work in on things you want to change, or believe in. In anything that I thought I wasn’t good or proficient in, I asked myself “how much effort did you put into actually learning about this?” I would then write down the numbers in terms of hours. Usually it was a few hours at best, I then was able to make sense of not being the best because a few hours doesn’t translate to being a pro at anything, experience and time does. Resiliency takes effort and repetition just like a muscle, it becomes stronger over time.

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. :-)

Improvement. Betterment of the world, organizations, and relationships alike all start with ourselves. Put on the mindset of a learner and Invest in yourself with self education and health. Knowledge and strength help you to liberate yourself from a non productive mindset, poor performance or a lack of knowhow which can all hold you back from being successful.

If everyone focuses on raising their standards and improving themselves, you’ll have a world that is always looking to be better and aid each other in becoming more knowledgeable and more fit.

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 :-)

I have a long list of people that I’d like to sit down with, Robert Iger, Patrick Bet-David, Noah Kagan, Tim Ferris and Seth Godin are a few.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

Please visit me at www.kawankaradaghi.com and drop me a message if you want to talk or need advice.

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.



Savio P. Clemente
Authority Magazine

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