“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” -- Margaret Mead

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Monday, June 27th-Day 3: Story of Self

Have you ever had the feeling you were called to something greater? Known that there’s a reason you are where you are, at that precise moment. The feeling that, “this is it.” The feeling Matt Damon described in The Adjustment Bureau when he said, “If we’re not meant to be together, then why do I feel like this?” 

Now, imagine that you were surrounded by acquaintances which were quickly becoming your friends – and the entire room had this feeling. In other words, we are all here for a reason. No matter how different we are, how different our lives have been up to this point, we all share certain values. We all have a story that has brought us to where we are.

Harvard Tour Group photo
Mi LLI familia. The shared experience connected our hearts forever.
So, what’s your story? Often, it comes from instances in our lives that have hurt us and angered us. But then they change us. There was a challenge, a choice and an outcome. This is called the story of self. You have millions of instances in your life that can be shared with a group that you want to move to action based on your shared values

OK, Here goes:

My father and I have always had a tumultuous relationship. I’m exactly like him – proud and stubborn, afraid to make mistakes and needing to be, well, needed. I’ve come to understand the old man a little, but it wasn’t always that way. If there was anything that ever stuck with me, however, besides knowing exactly how not to treat your overly sensitive daughter, were the words my dad told me about (1) love and (2) a promise to be accountable to him personally for completing my education. There was nothing more important to him. Nothing. He said, “prometame me que vas a coronar.”  What it means is to finish, go all the way and do right by me. Well, being the rebellious, snot-nosed replica of my father I was, I didn’t listen. I was going to do what I wanted to. So, I ran. I ran from my family and left my friends behind. I ended up flunking out of my first year at Colorado State University and would give up on education until a bad break up led me back home to Miami. I started working as a legal assistant and worked alongside a friend of mine who was doing the same thing I was – but he was going to college too. Then, I made a choice. I decided to do right by my dad, to be an example for my little brother (who’s not so little anymore), and to make my mother proud. I enrolled in Miami Dade College’s paralegal program as a nontraditional student – working full time in order to pay my own way through school. Now, I’m near graduation and only two semesters away from fulfilling a promise to my father I made when I was 16. In his own way, my dad was telling me that an education was the only way to have security in this life. That if he could go back and change things, he would do it too. He decided to be a father instead and gave that dream up – but I had a chance to do something better. Completing my education has opened so many doors of opportunity for me. I will be the first in my immediate family to graduate – one of only a handful in my extended family to do so. But I couldn’t have done it without perseverance, hard work and the support of family and friends I made along the way. After all my mistakes in my youth and the obstacles I’ve had to overcome to make graduation a reality there’s only one truth: if I can do it, so can you. We are all capable of making sacrifices to achieve something better. We are all blessed with a willing mind and the ability to persevere. Make a promise to yourself. Promise yourself that no matter what, you’re going to make it. You won’t let yourself down. Because you are more intelligent, beautiful, capable and worthy than you think you are.
If only I could have given this speech live. You would’ve noticed how I choked up as I wrote it, then had to take a break before I could finish. I can’t make this stuff up. What I can do is own it. Learn to own yours. No matter how dark, how hurtful, how big of a scar. You are the person you are today because of it.

Now, to end this post, here’s Harvey Milk’s 1978 speech, “You Cannot Live on Hope Alone,” given before he was assassinated. Leave me a comment if you can relate to it, if it upsets you, if it inspires you to action.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Sunday, June 26th-Day 2 (3 of 3): My Aztec Moment

We had a special guest that evening, David Carrasco, a humble and passionate man with a heart for the religious history that is intertwined with our cultura. He accurately described how important our religious roots are – you cannot pretend to understand Latinos without first understanding the deeply religious blood that pumps in our hearts.

Carrasco speaks
David Carrasco, religious historian, anthropologist and Mesoamericanist scholar, presents “Can the Latino Demography Lead to a New Democracy?” during our first dinner.
And he would know about our culture. The man has a Ph.D. in Religious History from the University of Chicago. He co-wrote an encyclopedia on Mesoamerican culture. He’s had widely viewed exhibitions -- only 800,000 people viewed his Aztec exhibition in the Denver Museum of History. Surprised smile

He’s been honored with the “Mexican Order of the Aztec Eagle” – only the highest honor possible from the Mexican government for a foreign national for contributions to understanding Mexican history and culture.

What I did not expect, however, was to walk away for a yearning for understanding my own roots. A realization, for the first time, of my ancestors will within me. And the picture that drove it home:
Listen to your ancestors
Listen: to your ancestors” by Gabriel S. Gaytan 
Carrasco helped me to be recognize that there is a long line of ancestral history behind each one of us, a will that lives in our hearts handed down from generation to generation. A common scar that has worn on the sweated brows of those who labored here before me. And the good news? We have an opportunity to be their voice.

David Carrasco
Vanessa Chalmers, Laura Barrera, yours truly, David Carrasco, Jessenia Guerra, Luis Sanchez, mentor Natalie Sanchez and Anabetsy Rivero.
Needless to say, I’ll be spending some time en mi patria, Colombia, and I’ve already spent countless hours updating my iTunes library. Smile

Sunday, June 26th-Day 2 (2 of 3): Learning to Step Back

Then, it got real. Our program manager and miracle worker, Dario Collado, welcomed us to “the big leagues.” We’re no longer in the minors. Boy, we didn’t know just how right he was. He was trying to tell us that we would never be the same – that we are, as of that moment, responsible for the future – destined for great change. (Geez, Dario, no pressure.)
If you thought the lessons stopped there, you’re kidding yourself. Loren Gary, associate director for leadership development and public affairs at the Center for Public Leadership, began reconceptualizing what we thought we knew about leadership. Gary spoke of the inner and outer journey of leadership:
  • Inner journey: self-awareness, learning how you work
  • Outer journey: listening (perhaps the GOP could take a lesson here), learning how to read a group, form a vision, communicate compellingly, mobilizing work and strategy

In short, focus on enjoying the process of becoming. Using life as a living, breathing experiment to personal development through goal setting. Or, in Warren Bennis’ words in On Becoming a Leader:
No leader sets out to be a leader. People set out to live their lives, expressing themselves fully. So the point is to become yourself, to use yourself completely – all your skills, gifts and energies – in order to make your vision manifest. You must withhold nothing. You must, in sum, become the person you started out to be, and enjoy the process of becoming.
Deep. I know. We also were taught a method for setting goals in order to “become” our best self. The point of the goal is to see where you were and where you are going, using goals that mattered to you. In other words:
What you can measure you can manage, what you can manage, you can change.
Well, in comes Marshall Ganz.
This man changed our lives. Read more about him here and here and here and here and here and here and especially this story.
If you (yes, you) take anything, anything at all, away from this blog post, it’s the lesson by Ganz on the true definition of leadership:
Leadership is accepting responsibility for enabling others to achieve shared purpose under conditions of uncertainty.
Let’s read that again. 
Leadership is accepting responsibility for enabling others to achieve shared purpose under conditions of uncertainty.
Much to my amusement (not “haha” amusement, of course, but “oohh” ), the first story Ganz shared on leadership organizing was that of Moses! Particularly relevant here is the exchange between Moses and his father-in-law Jethro in Exodus 18 where Jethro tells Moses, “the work is too heavy for you; you cannot handle it alone.” Sound familiar? Moses agrees and implements strategy by mobilizing other capable men to lead groups of thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens.
In other words, instead of having one person bearing the responsibility of carrying the organization, that leader enables others to distribute the work. The “one person does all” is a dependent model. There’s also the scenario where “everybody’s a leader” or independent. What Ganz was showing us, however, was that we’re interdependent, and must allow others to grow their capacity for leadership and avoid stepping in to “do it better.”
Yikes! One person does it all!
Let’s all be leaders!!!
Now that’s more like it. The “snowflake” represents interdependent leadership organizing.
For detailed explanations on Ganz’s organizing, see his module here and here.
My biggest lesson (or “takeaway”), is that I’m learning how to let go of enough control to allow others to lead, or stepping back. News flash: other people are just as capable and they bring to the table perspectives and ideas that you cannot. And, yes, they can even do it better than you. (I know, that’s a hard lesson for us Type-A’s).
The second takeaway was the teaching style: (1) explanation, (2) modeling, (3) practicing and (4) debriefing. Explain the subject, model the behavior, break out in groups to practice it and then come back and talk about what worked and what didn’t. Simple? Yes. Effective? Absolutely. What’s most important? Debriefing. Reflecting on what worked and what didn’t allows you to really put into action the most effective practices.
Right about now you’re thinking “enough already, more pictures.” See the next post.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Sunday, June 26th–Day 2 (1 of 3): Tour de Harvard

Either it was the excitement of the trip or the birds that wouldn’t shut up outside my window – regardless, I was up by 6:15 this morning – without an alarm. A little annoyed at not being able to go back to sleep, especially considering we went to bed so late last night, not to mention the lack of COFFEE (sorry, but I need my cafecito in the morning), I took advantage of my restlessness and decided to go for a jog. Yes, a jog. At 6:15 a.m. On a Sunday. I know!

Harvard Law Library. Beyond that -- the dorms of little sleep.
I thought I was the only crazy person who couldn’t sleep. Nope. As soon as I walked out the door, I ran into another coo-coo-for-cocoa-puffs up-at-dawn-on-a-Sunday crazy person like me, Janna, from University of California Merced. It was kind of a relief I wasn’t the only one, although secretly I wondered whether this would be a good thing (I typically fly solo at the gym).
Turns out, Janna is one of the most interesting Latinas ever! Hellllooo. She’s a mechanical engineer working as a research assistant for UC Berkeley on top of her 3 businesses, including a Mission Foods independent distributorship, a healthy Mexican cuisine restaurant supporting only local farmer’s products and a media magazine. AND she’s a self-made entrepreneur at 26 years old! She was well aware of what it took to get into UC Berkeley, her dream school, and was both grateful and humbled by the Harvard experience. Hats off to you, Janna! Something tells me I’ll hear about Janna in the future and I will be able to say, “I knew her.”
Fast forward to normal waking hours – 7:30 a.m. – and everyone is gearing up for the much anticipated tour of Harvard. Mind you, our week is packed and this was our calm before the storm. We're all looking and smelling good, chipper as can be, right? Not for loooonnng. One of our crew, Anabetsy, tripped and took a dive head first from the top of the stairs: serious face plant. Well, more like a leap that seemed in slow motion as she fell meanwhile everyone said "wth?" and "oh, ish." No visual of the event, but here's the closest representation found on flickr:

Don't worry. No major injury. Natalie, the oh so careful mentor, took care of her while the rest of us went on the tour. (We later learned they ran into a Barney-esque Lobster in Harvard Square who gives hugs.) Ok, so the moment you've been waiting for: less type-y, more look-ey:

A regular day for Summer students.

Where's the yellow brick road?
Memorial Hall - 305 Rise
Two of my favorites at the Weiner Memorial Library.

David Grasso, mentor (and tour guide!) shows us the ropes around Harvard.
Don’t expect me to recount the story behind each building, but the one I do remember is that of the “three lies” of the John Harvard statute and the golden shoe. There’s a reason it’s golden. People rub the shoe for luck -- but our luck was the mentors telling us not to. Think: yellow snow.
Jessica at Golden Shoe
Don't touch the golden shoe!!! Disappointed smile
On to the Center for Public Leadership we went. We had lunch with Farouk Shami, the millionaire entrepreneur/hairdresser for a talk on Leadership and Business. He talked about not giving up on your dreams and told the story of when his parents disowned him for pursuing his dreams as a hairdresser, and when his doctor told him to give up his line of work when his skin had an allergic reaction to hair dye. Through these stories, he advised us to never take no for an answer, question the  norm and have the guts to stand up for what you believe in. Considering his success (see Day 1), one would be wise to heed his words of wisdom!
Farouk - Ldrshp n Biz
Farouk came to America in 1965 with $71 in his pocket. He is the Founder and Chairman of Farouk Systems, Inc., a multinational corporation that manufactures the world renowned brands BioSilk and CHI.
But that was just the beginning.