Every journey in life has its setbacks. Some will make you question yourself for just a moment. Others will bring you to your knees – daring you to find the strength to get keep moving.
But there is a way to break through this “wall”. If you can find that one motivation – something so deep and powerful to keep you moving in times of great despair.
As an entrepreneur the ability to bring an idea or vision to life from a blank canvas has always fascinated and inspired me. Thus I am most energized when surrounded by forces of great creativity.
And perhaps the epicenter of such creativity is the beautiful lighted fountain in Lincoln Center, New York City. Feeling the rut of life sink in, I booked a ticket to NYC in search of revival.
But the skies were gray and gloomy as a suffocating blanket of hopelessness descended on my soul. The fountain was empty; no inspiration; no spirits lifted. I felt alone and afraid. I hit “the wall”.
A sudden urge to run and hide overwhelmed me. But instead I closed my eyes, took a deep breath and decided to give time a chance. Let’s wait just a moment before leaving.
I walked to a nearby coffee shop with my laptop. A few moments later someone sat next to me. We struck up a conversation and gained invaluable advice on our website and logo.
I realized the simple act of collaborating with another person on a creative level revived the heart and soul. As dusk turned to night, I left the coffee shop and returned to the fountain.
But this time the fountain was alive with passion and energy as lighted streams of water shot high into the air. My spirits lifted in rhythm with the rising waters.
The wall was torn down.
Whatever your goals in life, find your deepest of motivations. So when you hit that wall – you‘ll be armed and ready to tear it down and continue on your journey…
What is your greatest motivation that keeps you going?
“This means nothing to me.”
It’s not exactly the words you want to hear when describing your company to someone.
We were at the bar hovering over a napkin with a mission statement on it. We knew this whisper of a dream called Yucaroo should be a social entrepreneurship corporation – a hybrid between a profit and nonprofit entity. We wanted the work to make a difference – to help the world and all of humanity. So proud of the concept we showed it off to the bartender.
“We’re a social entrepreneurship corporation! Aren’t you excited?!”
Her eyebrows raised and there was a worrying pause,
“This means nothing to me.”
She continued at our crushed, frowning faces to explain:
“Look, your work – whatever you company does – will show this. It will be clear by what you do.”
And then it dawned on us – it was all backwards. We didn’t need to put the motto out there but rather just let the work show for itself.
This is why, as an entrepreneur, going out and talking about your ideas in the real world is critical for success. Don’t live in the confines of your home office or your mind. Get out there and share your ideas with the world. The feedback may alter the direction of your business forever…
(Stay tuned for our first Project to show what we’re made of)
As a citizen of a united planet Earth, the term “minority” always seemed a bit… alien. Yes, we may be the majority in one place but dropped in a remote location of the world and suddenly you’re the minority. However, intentionally injecting oneself into such a strange world can offer a fresh new perspective on life. So with a bit of hesitation, I delved into the unknown…
There is perhaps no better way for a white male to become the minority than by attending the Hispana Leadership Summit: a conference to empower Latina women professionals and entrepreneurs. Held in South Florida the conference provided the perfect opportunity to learn and appreciate a different culture and perspective.
Of all the valuable workshops and presentations, one speaker delivered a phrase that will stay with me forever. It was the kind of saying that so beautifully crystallizes our role as men in the world:
“We need men that are not afraid of the size of our wingspan.”
Both in the workplace and in the home we should all help lift our partner’s dreams up into the clouds. Everyone, regardless of their gender, deserve the opportunity to reach their highest potential without fear of injury by a shattered glass ceiling.
The goal of the conference was to educate, enlighten and empower Latinas to be the best they can be. Dare I say, as a white male, I too was inspired. Inspired to help foster an environment that will encourage and support such empowerment. Not only for women of Hispanic origin – but all those who would feel threatened by a majority intent on suppressing the freedom to excel.
So to those who attended this conference and women everywhere: go ahead and extend your wings. Fly high and free into the sky – for I promise to do my part and help clear the way…
“Stay in the truck and don’t get out.”
As I looked outside the window of the fire rescue truck, the perfect storm was brewing. Car accident on the highway. A roll-over. Wearing no seatbelt, the driver was violently ejected over 30 feet onto the cold, hard pavement. Involuntarily turning my head from the window, I closed my eyes for just a moment to prepare for what was about to unfold. My mind instinctively traveled back in time to the Fire Chief’s office just a few days before.
“I’ll put you on a rescue truck for a day to see what it’s like. But the true test to see if you can do this job is the blood. You must be able to handle the blood.”
This was it – this was the test..
I opened my eyes and braced for battle. The victim was rushed in on a stretcher screaming in agony. He was just a kid – only 18 years old. But the only way I knew that was because someone had to tell me. For his face, neck and shoulders were shredded to pieces. Soaked in a layer of dark thick red blood, only thin streaks of grayish white lines were visible – his jaw bone…
“Damn it, I can see straight to his freaking trachea! No neck brace – too risky – bandages only!”, A paramedic shouted.
The paramedic held his head steady – the thick ooze now covering her hands as if they were dipped in a bucket of red paint. She was an amazing sight to witness. A rare combination of knowledge and experience – she also was able to comfort the patient with a calming voice. My mentor for the day, she was my guide, my teacher. But school was over; and the orders began:
“I need you to get me a pair of black handled scissors from that bag. Do it now.”
At my feet was a medical bag. The bag was huge with dozens of pockets, filled with supplies and equipment that all looked alien to me. I frantically started searching the pockets. After what seemed like an eternity, a pile of scissors appeared deep in one of the pockets. Different types and different colors but no black handled ones! I froze; took a deep breath and pulled myself together. In one full motion, I scooped up all of the scissors with both hands and showed her:
She pointed to a green handled one and calmly replied, “That’ll do.” and began cutting off his clothes. The orders continued.
She turned to me again,
“Goggles! Get me a pair of goggles now!”
Fortunately, while searching for the scissors earlier, I had noticed a pair of goggles in a side pocket. I reached for them quickly and handed it to her. Mistake. She hesitated for a moment and her disapproval filled the air like a hot humid summer night. Her hands were busy stabilizing his head so she had to release one hand from the patient to grab the goggles to put them on herself. At the same time, I watched a firefighter put on goggles for a medic that requested them. I made a mental note of my mistake for later but for now carried on in the moment. No time to dwell on errors right now.
As we sped toward the hospital on the highway, the truck was filled with screams of pain, cries for help and endless questions of confusion. Once we arrived at the ER, he was quickly surrounded by a crowd of nurses and doctors and then rushed into surgery.
After the situation stabilized, a group of firefighters and paramedics gathered in the hallway to discuss the accident. I stayed back from the group, uneasy of my place during this “private” ritual. Everyone turned around and stared in my direction. A firefighter called me over to the group,
“It’s ok – we’re trained for this – stress reduction, come on over.”
It was a nice feeling of belonging. We discussed the accident, then headed back out to the rescue truck and spent a good deal of time cleaning up the blood.
Back at the firehouse, the paramedic showered, changed and headed straight for the kitchen.
She saw my expression – a mix of absolute astonishment and admiration. She shrugged her shoulders,
“Oh – you get used to it…”
It was a humbling experience to know that there are heroes who do this kind of work tirelessly without any desire for fame or fortune. I have never witnessed such courage in my life that day and I am not sure if I ever will again.
It’s very easy to say that we’ll do in a time of crisis and a very different situation when we’re actually faced with it. I still don’t know how I managed to grab that pair of scissors for her in a midst of trembling hands and a queasy stomach. But I do know that the hardest part of dealing with that emergency was not the actions during the event. It was the initial decision to get on the rescue truck earlier that morning.
Those first 20 seconds of courage after a decision is made that set your actions in motion. And quite possibly change your life forever…
A few years ago I decided to take a “soul-searching” trip and travel across the United States. One of the cities on the list was Los Angeles. I love LA and some of my favorite places are Grauman’s Chinese Theater, Ameba Record Shop and Pink’s Hot Dogs. Feeling adventurous one night, I went cruising down Sunset Boulevard soaking in all the great nightlife energy. After fully touring the strip, I pulled over to have a smoke (I was heavy smoker back then). I happened to park in front of a Psychic’s shop.
As I puffed away, an older woman came out of the shop and said, “You look like you’re at a crossroads in your life.” She was right of course but my “deception detector” kicked in and I replied “I’m not interested in a psychic reading, thank you.” She was quiet for a moment. “Come inside with me. You pulled up here for a reason – even if you don’t know it yet.” Putting out the cigarette on the ground with my shoe I pondered her offer. Why not, I’m on vacation and might as well live it up.
Her “office” was right out of a Harry Potter movie – complete with mystical trinkets and the hazy mist of a fortune teller. A younger woman, perhaps her assistant, greeted me warmly as I walked in. The Psychic shot her a glance and the assistant walked up a staircase to the second floor leaving us alone. I raised an eyebrow towards the psychic and she responded to my silent inquiry. “What is said between us is for our ears only. It is private.”
Before we began she leaned in close to me and asked, “Do you trust me?” Sensing my doubt she said, “What do you do for a living?” I told her – I work in IT, as a Systems Administrator. She asked, ”Do you think I would know how to do your job?“ Holding back a chuckle I shook my head no. She continued “Now, do you think you could do my job?” Although I was skeptical of this whole encounter something deep inside of me was screaming – trust her, believe in her. I shook my head in the negative again. She told me, “I do not know how to do your job and you do not know how to do my job. Yet here we are. This is called trust, Andrew.”
What happened next completely blew my mind. She asked me no questions. She took no objects from me – no ID – as some scam fortune tellers do. All she did was take my nervous hand into hers, close her eyes and began speaking. And what she told me would stay with me forever. She described me perfectly and knew everything that was happening in my life. And all her predictions were accurate – my love life, career and choices to come– everything unfolded exactly in the months that followed.
Since starting Yucaroo I’ve learned that no one can do everything on their own – we must rely on others for their expertise. Of course, there are times when their advice seems a bit “out there” and I start to question them. But then I think back to the Psychic on Sunset Blvd. And I remind myself that everyone has their own special talents. And we must believe in each other’s abilities to succeed. This fundamental element to any successful organization, or successful relationship as well – is called trust…
Social Media Day is an event where enthusiasts and experts convene to discuss insights on the industry. During the evening, which took place a few nights ago, I happened to be discussing the topic with a highly regarded expert in the field. I asked him his thoughts on the state of the technical community here in South Florida. He paused for a moment and took on a pensive expression. It was one of those moments when you knew a borderline epiphany was about to be uttered.
“You know, we are all surfers out in the water.” The small group surrounding him, including myself, braced for an intriguing explanation. He told us that we are all watching one another. Learning by observing each other’s movements and techniques. I shook my head in understanding and slowly glanced over the crowded room. Sure enough, I could identify many people who I’ve learned so much from other the past several months on so many different subjects.
When I first started attending such events I had little-to-no experience in a good amount of technical areas. But by closely watching and studying the experts in their field I began to learn and build a new skill set. Every question – no matter how novice it might have sounded –was met with a warm response and a helpful answer. This, in its truest form, is what a community is all about.
No one is omnipotent – no one can claim to be an all-knowing expert in their field. There will always be someone smarter than you, more experienced, more knowledgeable. It is only when we realize this fact, let down our ego and ask for help can we truly embrace and learn from each other.
Whatever industry you are a part of – remember that we are all just surfers gently gliding on the water. Learning and growing by carefully watching the movements and actions of others around us. So when that big wave in life arrives – we’ll be ready to take it on full force. And, perhaps, we will share our experiences with others so that they too will catch that big wave…
Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) is a free class that teaches the basics of disaster preparation and response. Topics include disaster organization, fire safety, search and rescue, medical operations and disaster psychology.
During one class we learned about the role of The Command Center – an outpost that hosts top emergency personnel. For CERT this is critical. But fortunately I had a napkin of destiny to write down how we can use this lesson for a business…
A CERT team follows the chain of command – from ground volunteers up to the top commander. When a disaster strikes a command center is built to host the top commanders – those that issue orders to team leaders who then issue orders to the ground-level volunteers. The instructor made it very clear that this command center must be physically away from the disaster. My eyebrows raised questioning this. Shouldn’t leadership be in the thick of things? I suddenly pictured a general rushing into battle with his soldiers. But the teacher’s explanation quickly shot down my image of bravery.
The top commanders need a “bird’s eye” view of what’s going on during an emergency. They need to see the “big picture” and cannot be distracted with small details that can be delegated to others. Command must receive and process information from “middle” team leaders and issue commands back to them, trusting they will be executed flawlessly. I immediately thought of an application to the corporate entity.
We can all remember that “crunch time” in the office. When an emergency happens – a fast approaching deadline, a last minute change to a proposal, a wide-scale technical problem. In such emergencies, sometimes a worried or frazzled executive manager will work alongside their employees in an attempt to help out. But, even in good faith, this could have dire consequences.
Thinking back to the CERT lesson, an executive must trust middle management and staff to properly handle the emergency. Of course an executive must keep an eye on the situation – but only from a distance. A “bird’s eye” view to see the “big picture”. Becoming too involved might actually jeopardize the work itself. If an executive becomes too distracted with ground-level details and make poor decisions that effect the entire emergency.
At one time I looked at executives who stood back from an emergency with a questioning eye, “Why aren’t you helping out?” But now I understand. Everyone has their place in an emergency situation and we must all follow a clear chain of command to get the job done right. And this includes executive management taking a step back and letting middle management and their team do the work that needs to be done on their own. Let go of the strings, trust your team and watch wonders happen!
Growing up, our family clipped coupons to save money when times were tough. It was a financial survival tactic my mother taught me and something I keep to this day. As food prices skyrocket using coupons is becoming more and more necessary to keep our grocery bills to a modest level.
The prices of fresh produce (fruits, vegetables) have especially risen. Recently, I found a rare $2.00 off coupon for produce at Publix – a local supermarket. Heading out to the grocery store, I was on the hunt for a good deal on produce. Tough to find. My typical veggies – zucchini, squash – weren’t on sale and expensive. So I figured I’d try something new and different – Yuca. After, all Yucaroo is named after this vegetable. I really should know how to cook and eat it!
When buying produce – beyond pricing – one must know how to pick the best ones out of the pile. Above the pile of the long, brown roots a small printed sign gave tips for picking the best ones. “Watch for cuts and bruises” it read. To my dismay all of them had cuts and bruises on them! I was lost.
Noticing my confusion, a gracious Publix employee approached and offered a helping hand. “Go for the small ones… ” he said “… the bigger ones tend to be dried out.” He showed me – breaking off a small piece at the end. “Look, see the milky liquid around the ends. That’s how you tell it’s fresh.”
We began talking and he shared stories growing up in the islands and explained how Yuca is a cheap, hearty vegetable that fills you up. I smiled as this was exactly the basis behind Yucaroo – to create simple, yet effective technologies to help people. With his help we picked the best Yuca roots. And after a few attempts we were able to weigh the Yuca just slightly over $2.00 (my budget for the day was the $2.00 coupon and some spare change in my pocket). Thanking him with a bright smile I headed for the cashier.
That night, after cooking up a delicious plate of boiled Yuca with garlic, I took out a napkin on the dining room table and reflected on the experience at the supermarket:
1. Be real
I could have used the coupon for another vegetable but I didn’t. Yucaroo is named after the vegetable Yuca for its effective method of relieving hunger and filling you up. It gets the job done. If I am to truly market a company called “Yucaroo” – you better believe I need to know how to pick out a good one and know how to cook it! If you’re going into business, make sure you know your craft perfectly.
2. We can’t do it alone
I had no idea how to properly pick out good Yuca. The employee at Publix, having cooked and eat Yuca all his life, was clearly the expert in his field. Hence I listened like a good student. No matter what we’re trying to accomplish in life – at some point we’re going to need help.
3. Always explore
I could have purchased my typical veggies – zucchini or squash. But I decided to try something new, something I’ve never cooked before. Always explore new things in life. Pushing our comfort zone a little bit everyday helps us learn and grow.
When you’re bootstrapping your own company and funds are tight you start thinking of creative ways to earn money. When a friend and professional chef asked me to work as her dishwasher for the night – I accepted. Though I had to think twice about the pay as I hadn’t worked for so little money since I was in high school. But there is no room for ego in the battle for financial survival.
I knew the restaurant well as I had been a customer for quite some time. The chef is extremely talented and her food is both creative and delicious – a product of her culinary mastery. But that night I was not her customer – rather her obedient worker.
From the moment I walked in the kitchen I was put right to work. A kid at least 15 years younger started showing me the ropes. Wash, soak, dry. Scrub a pot this way; a plate that way. Silverware is different, so are the plastic containers. And do it fast – because the dishes will not stop coming all night. I was in school all over again and I loved every minute of it.
As the peak of dinner-time hit the dishes were flying in so fast I was literally drowning – soaked from head to toe. Suddenly, in the middle of the barrage of flying frying pans…. FIRE! A grease fire hit and the owner quickly dished out orders putting everyone in safety. Later in the night I disagreed with one small order I was given. But I kept my mouth shut. My day job may be CEO of Yucaroo but for that night I was her employee and I obeyed my boss quietly.
When the night was finally over and the last dish washed I reflected on what I witnessed. Everybody in the kitchen – from the owner to the cooks to the bus boys was extremely amiable and ready to offer help in a flash. It was a true team atmosphere and I was thoroughly impressed with both the leadership and her well-trained staff. So I took out a soaked napkin and wrote down these lessons:
1. Respect the Kingdom
You might disagree with an order, but you’re not the boss. If and when you feel it’s appropriate to contradict a directive, do so in the time that’s right – never during a “crisis” mode or busy time.
2. Never Judge
Although my coworkers were kids (to me) I respected their experience. They had worked in the restaurant far longer than I have. CEO or not, I valued their advice and relied on their expertise.
3. Be Grateful
There are people in our world who work long hours on their feet doing back-breaking work for a modest wage. Let’s remember this fact the next time we visit our favorite neighborhood restaurant.
I’m a firm believer in always pushing yourself beyond what you think you are capable of. Don’t play it safe. Learn new skills. Explore new territory. Success in life often depends on your ability to learn new things in unfamiliar territory. Sort of like learning a new rule on your first day on the job.
Here’s a quirky little example of how I test myself on a regular basis. Every time I go over someone’s house for a gathering I’ll intentionally hide my sunglasses case in a remote, hidden location in the house. Like behind the couch or in a kitchen drawer or in the closet. Yes, it sounds weird, but hear me out…
Hopefully, if I have a good time, I’ll meet new people and engage in stimulating conversation forgetting all about the sunglasses case. But as the evening comes to an end and I head home I’ll have to remember where the case is. And that’s tough – especially if there’s too much beer or food involved
But you see that’s the test! Can I remember to take the case with me before I leave? Can I even remember where I put it? Honestly, many times I forget, and I have to apologize and schedule a pick-up the next day. Which causes wasted time for both parties involved.
Finally, after months of this tactic, I’ve been remembering to take the case with me. But the point is – always test yourself. Even in small ways. Keeps your mind ready and sharp for that “big” test one day.