For Dan Dacquisto it’s always been about performance, on-and-off the field. Learn from the best and then put yourself to the test.
“I got a big part of my work ethic looking up to athletes,” says Dan. “Their goals, their ambition, their drive. It started with Michael Jordan, then watching guys like Kobi Bryant. Kobi’s obsession with what he did was amazing. He had to make a lot of sacrifices to be as good as he was. I was like that in high school. I was a very outgoing person, but I had to push myself to adhere to the disciplines to accomplish what I wanted.”
Dan grew up in Milwaukee, where sports and the outdoors were always front and center. “Growing up football was a big part of my life,” says Dan. “Me and my brother and my Dad were always watching ESPN. I was outside running around, playing hoops, out on the playground, even joined a rec league we had in the summer. Growing up in the city there were always kids playing outside. That was the first 11 years of my life. But then my parents decided to move us to the suburbs, to get us into better schools. That was tough for me. When my dad first told me we were going to move I was just so sad. I knew I’d have to make new friends. Going from the city to the suburbs, it was a different way of life.”
Time for Dan to put on his game face. He had no choice. “A few years after we moved, my dad lost his job and started drinking more,” says Dan. “I was going into high school. My dad wasn’t really there for me or my brother. There was a lot of arguing at home between my mom and my dad. It really upset my brother and I. So I would leave and go and hang out with my friends. My brother is younger and he and my mom stayed in the house so it pained them a lot more. I’m disappointed I was not there more for them, but I learned a lot from that situation and it has helped me with my current relationships, as well as leading my team at work.”
As an outlet to what was going on at home Dan says he put his energy into football and academics: “For three years I was insane, sticking to the regimen of football and school. I had a very strict routine, workouts and training. Each year I got better playing linebacker and safety. By my senior, year I was All-State. I had learned so much watching the professional athletes at the top of their game.”
As he pursued a degree in Exercise Science in college, Dan’s obsession with outstanding performance led him to an internship with a performance training company. “In the summer of 2013 they offered me a full-time position with benefits,” says Dan. “I worked with that company for two years and ended up becoming the Director of Operations in Loudoun County, Virginia. But eventually I didn’t like where management was coming from. The guys above me left because of the owner and that’s when I started to look for other jobs. I found an opportunity on LinkedIn.”
For Dan it was a game-changer. He met with Jamie Blumberg, a Division Manager with USHEALTH Advisors and learned more about the career. “I was 24-years-old then,” says Dan. “I knew it was insurance and I saw the numbers and what it could be. I knew I could have flexibility with this job. So I passed the exam, came into the office and started making calls. I had a script and I kept grinding away. What kept me going was I knew what this could be – stock options, quarterly bonuses. I kept grinding and got energized by others around me. I think by my 3rd month I was advisor of the month. I made about $9,000 in that month, way more than I ever made. I started going out on appointments with some other agents and I was then surprised at our Christmas party to learn I was being promoted to an Field Training Agent.
Dan’s experience with his high school football team made it a natural transition to go from individual performance, to part of something bigger. “I changed my goals to team-based,” says Dan. “I had no idea what I was getting into and it was a challenge. The first year was a bit of a struggle. Once I was able to go to last year’s Leaders Meeting, it was a good wake-up call. It’s just an awesome company, an awesome environment. There is such a desire by so many to be great. The cool thing is, it’s not easy, but you have so much support at USHEALTH.”
But Dan has also learned it’s about getting back up off the mat. As Les Brown would say, “if you fall down land on your back, because if you can look up, you can get up.”
“It’s so much about how I deal with the down days,” says Dan. What I’ve gained from that is learning to deal with anything in business and the rest of my life – customers, agents, girlfriends. Because I have had to deal with the struggles. It’s almost necessary. But if you have a great work ethic and go all-in, then you win. I’ve found the best days I’ve had at work are the ones where I don’t want to come in. Most of the time great things happen to me. You feel good just because you went, you showed up. It goes along with everything else you do.”
For everything else he does, Dan brings the same level of drive and discipline, especially when it comes to his health, the foundation of everything: “In my spare time, my me time, I’m really big on going to the gym. I go six days-a-week, it’s in my map of life. I workout early in the morning, or sometimes after work. Because I know how important your body and good health are for you. I try to keep healthy eating habits as well. But my gym habits carry over to everything else I do. Even back in college my friends would say, ‘how do you do it? How do you go out at night then get up and workout?’ It’s an addiction I’d say, a good addiction. You just get used to it. It’s a great time of day to be alone in a sense and challenge myself and see if I can do more than I did yesterday, or to go longer. There are no excuses in the gym, it’s just you and you. You can’t really blame anyone else.”
At only 26-years-of-age Dan is on a fast track to success in all areas of life. And he uses lessons from his dad to fuel him. “Going back to my dad and my experience with him, he wasn’t a bad father, I just wish he would have been around more to teach me. But I use these lessons now for my team, how important it is to be there for them. I push them and push me to reach our potential.”
As with anything in life, especially when you lead, you learn that living is giving. Dan has embraced the lessons he has learned in life from another great teacher, his grandmother. “My grandma on my dad’s side – I spent a lot of time with her growing up,” says Dan. “She was a very religious, sweet woman. Very spiritual. I never heard her use a bad word. She died at age 96, in her sleep. What a great way to go. There were a lot of people at her funeral. They all met my grandma and always said how she put everyone else before her. Her mentality, her heart, the meaning of her life rubbed off on me as well.”
We are all pieces of our life’s experiences and we should use these in a positive way to share our gifts and to teach the world. Dan says for him it’s about clarity in purpose: “I think it goes back to having a vision for yourself. Make it clear. What do you want to accomplish? Surround yourself with great people, but know what you want to do won’t be easy. Make a lot of sacrifices. There are very few super successful people in the world. Don’t point fingers. Embrace different. Promote change in a positive way.”
That sounds like a good game to play in life. Dan would know, he’s got game.