My Latino culture never came before being American, growing up. Until I got to college and left my diverse town of Fayetteville, NC, or “Fayettenam,” as we call it, I was oblivious to culture. My culturally diverse friends would probably say I never mentioned culture or race. We were friends, and race didn’t matter to us. Some didn’t even realize I was Latino.
I am Latino, Puerto Rican and Panamanian. I speak, read, and write Spanish. I grew up speaking Spanglish, but English is the predominant language as I went to American schools, as most American citizens do. I spoke English at school and Spanish at home. It was easier because my mother barely knew English. I’m conservative with libertarian leanings.
I am a firm believer in the belief, “Where there’s a will, there’s a way.” Why? Because I’ve endured the challenges of military training, succeeded while working for a nonprofit organization, and as an entrepreneur, built teams of employees whom I viewed as my extended family. I push individuals to give me above and beyond 100%, teaching them and molding them into future thinkers, managers, and leaders.
My family and friends understand I don’t sugarcoat the truth. I’m not the friend who’ll agree to agree because we’re friends. I consider my friends as family, and I speak the unvarnished truth.
Ironically, I’m also a former, elected politician in my small community. As a politician, I learned most don’t care about or listen to the people they represent, but merely use their positions to push their beliefs. They view their constituents as too dimwitted, and some outright don’t care about their constituents, putting party and ideology first. I realized this firsthand and realized most are beholden and loyal to their donor base, not their constituents.
FROM A BOY TO A MAN – UNITED STATES NAVY
Despite being freshman class president enjoying the social life, the parties, and girls, I still wanted to travel and party more than going to college. Since I was paying my way through school, and my grades were probably similar to Barrack Hussein Obama’s, which is why he likely refuses to show them, I decided to experience the world. It was also my first adult decision.
So, I joined the military. I have no regrets and am proud of my choice to this day. I visited nearly every country in Central and South America and much of the Caribbean.
I learned discipline and responsibility but realized the military was not what I wanted as a career. Yet, I entered the armed forces as a boy who thought he understood everything and, nearly seven years later, left a man with an honorable discharge. Appreciating the opportunities America gave us with the world as my oyster, I returned to school, became a “Dean’s List” student, and earned my degree.
The United States Navy was my biggest influence. My experience taught me how to deal with various levels of management and how the United States differs from the rest of the world. As I learned responsibility, accountability, and the importance of working in a team environment, I developed an expertise in leadership.
STUDYING SMALL BIZ AND ENTREPRENEURSHIP
In my final years in the military, I fell in love with fantasy football but didn’t understand my career path yet. Little did I realize, the world of nonprofits and giving back would come first.
The Alzheimer’s Association
I learned the nuances of a small business from the San Diego Chapter Alzheimer’s Association. I managed events, fundraisers and moved the organization forward technologically. By managing the update of the association’s computer systems, I managed the building of a network, conversion of an old database to modern standards, and created, managed, and maintained an Internet site, thus vaulting our local chapter into the modern era. We had little to work with as a nonprofit to succeed, yet we had significant successes.
- We developed programs to raise funds that the national organization implemented.
- We used volunteers more effectively versus allowing them to be social outlets.
- We pushed our superiors to keep promises they made, but rarely kept.
- We built success despite a shoestring budget.
Our organization grew, but one day, I realized I could never enjoy some aspects of life Americans dream about, specifically, financial security. Holidays with the family when we wanted, not when we could afford them. Financial security in an emergency, being my own boss, and many other reasons.
No matter how satisfying it is, making pennies at a nonprofit would not cut it in pursuing what I wanted out of life. I would not be one of those that made it a career and enriched myself through dollars donated. Financial donations are meant to help the cause, not help purchase my next BMW.
Yes, that’s what many do in the nonprofit sector. Then they rationalize and justify it to themselves and those around them. The one belief I always discover is that they’re helping the poor and those who can’t help themselves. You know, the “savior complex,” thus they deserve it along with coming in late, going home early, padded expenses, etc.
So, for a while, I did both. It nearly killed me because I was a walking zombie working 18–22 hour workdays. That’s not an exaggeration. Eventually, I decided to damn the benefits and steady paycheck and not let fear rule me and be a full-time entrepreneur or small business owner. Whatever you want to call it, I was on my own with no safety net, and while scary, it was exhilarating too.