Monday, November 18, 2013

Challenges and Reflections of Being a Leader's probably one of the biggest concepts and part of my own life that I am still trying to define and learn about...and now I find myself reflecting on challenges I've personally had to overcome to get where I am today.

Throughout my undergraduate career I've held a leadership position within the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers and can fortunately say that it has brought me an incredible amount of experience that I am utilizing today and hoping to pass on to others.

One the earliest challenges I had to deal with was learning to meet certain expectations as a leader and learning what it meant to be a leader. To be honest, had it not been for some of my amazing mentors and friends I would have been lost.

Now I often find myself having the same thoughts....What am I leaving behind?...What impression do I give or am I leaving?...Am I doing my very best?...What is it that defines a good leader?...

"If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader." - John Quincy Adams 

During those times as a leader and even now in my term as the Region 7 Student Representative I find myself reflecting on the challenges I've had to overcome, expectations I've had to meet, and analyzing what I've done so far and trying to figure out if I had made an impact...if I had made a difference or inspired anyone to go higher....

When I attended the National Institute of Leadership Advancement Conference this past summer in Colorado the most interesting thing happened to me.

It happened a little after we had leadership roundtable discussions where attendees of the conference could take the chance to get to know regional and national leaders such as myself and some of the challenges that we've had to face so far. One of the younger attendees approached me and told me how much some of my responses during the discussion motivated and inspired him to do better and to improve his chapter and own leadership style...

For me, this was the first time, ever, that I think anyone had told me that I had inspired them to do better and that they wanted to improve themselves because of something that I had said.

It was from that day onward that I made it a personal goal to try and do the same to others and to bring us together to strive towards a common goal.  

"A true leader has the confidence to stand alone, the courage to make tough decisions, and the compassion to listen to the needs of others. He does not set out to be a leader, but becomes one by the equality of his actions and the integrity of his intent." - Douglas MacArthur

If you read my earlier blogpost on failure, one of the biggest failures as a leader so far has been the failure to recognize some of the people closest to me for delivering work and results that others do not see and cannot comprehend.

Failure, is one of the most difficult challenges of being a leader...regardless of how amazing you are at the end of the day you're still human and you're going to make mistakes...

However, the thing that I have learned the hard way is that when you make mistakes as a leader of an organization, several people can be affected. For me, this is still a very difficult thing to deal with because I care a lot about the people I'm trying to lead and how my actions affect them.

It was when I was confronted about this mistake that I realized I had been so focused about trying to set out to be a leader that I had forgotten why I worked so hard to get the position I have help others, and to give them the recognition and rewards that they deserve.

I promised the individual who confronted me that day that I would work hard to make sure that I set things right, not just with him, but with several others who I know I hurt from my mistake. My only hope right now is that the individuals who I know I hurt realize that.

This also taught me another important lesson...and something that I recommend anyone who takes on leadership role pay attention to're not going to be able to please's a harsh and difficult reality to deal with but it's almost impossible.

Ask any President, any CEO, any leader in fact, there's always going to be a certain amount of people that will disagree or be displeased with you.

"I suppose leadership at one time meant muscles; but today it means getting along with people."
- Mahatma Gandhi 

Learning to get along with difficult and diverse people is a big key to success that I recommend you start learning now if you haven't done so already.

When I campaigned to be RSR, I had to make several calls to the new and current president's of chapters all across the southeast. The challenge I had to overcome at that time was explaining who I was, what I was doing, and why they should vote for me as well as get them on board for the ideas that I was proposing.

The real difficult part came when I had to explain all of this to chapter executive boards that had never even heard of the position I was running for or what it meant to be involved in the elections.

Now, I need to learn to be able to get along with and support roughly 25 different chapters across the southeast and getting everyone on the same page whenever we try to strive towards certain goals.

Again, not everyone is going to agree with you, and everyone is definitely not going to do things the way you want them to. I've seen what happens when people try to dictate and micro gets ugly and its counter-productive....

"A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way." - John C. Maxwell 

I can't begin to tell you how much I wish there was someone to help guide me and mentor me my freshmen year...

I could visually see myself falling behind the other freshmen during career expos because of the amount of success they had with interviewing and simply connecting with people...

It wasn't until my sophomore year that I met someone who helped prepare me for the conference and that I successfully earned a co-op. However, it was from that experience my freshmen year that I learned the impact that a simple resume critique, interview preparation, an introduction....a mentor can all have

Observe and learn from others, look at their best practices for handling certain situations, how they talk to people, what works what doesn't work, then apply that to your own set of skills and make it your own. 

It wasn't until I spent hours watching some of the most famous and best speeches in history that I become more comfortable with public speaking, even more so after I gave a few in front of my mentors who critiqued me and told me how to improve. 

"Leadership is the capacity to translate vision into reality." - Warren Bennis

I grew getting made fun of for my Hispanic Heritage and being underestimated cause of it. My dream back then was to become more successful and wealthy than anyone to be able to come back and show off and laugh in their faces.

However...after watching several people I care about go down the wrong path and watching the struggles and conditions they have to go through vision changed....

I didn't want to be better than anyone anymore, I didn't care about wealth, power, or status, the only thing that I had wanted was to be able to live in a world where we can actually get along....where the images that Hispanics and other minorities are not perceived as negative...

Everything I do is because I want to make this world a happier one for everyone, even if I'm standing alone working towards it I'll stick to my convictions till the very end, and just maybe...inspire someone to continue this goal and mission.

"Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other." - John F. Kennedy

I am still young, I have a lot left to learn and a lot of growing I still need to go through as a person and as a leader. 

However, if there is anything that I've learned from my experiences as a leader, its to never stop learning. Always keep an open-mind and observe others, you'll be able to learn from their mistakes and successes.

Additionally, whenever you find yourself thinking "I quit"   "I give up"  "I'm too burnt out"   take a break from everything you're doing, go somewhere for a little while and always remember why you're here? What are you working so hard for? What do I hope to accomplish? When you remember your dreams, passions, and goals and stick to them there's absolutely nothing that can stop you. 

NEVER....EVER let anyone tell you "you can't do it", not me, not your family, loved ones,'re the only one in control of your life and you're the one who decides where you want to end up. If you had told me when I was younger that I would be graduating from the #3 Civil Engineering School in the country with several leadership roles, work and research experience I would never have believed you. 

It was through the belief others had in me, the belief I had in myself, the dream I wanted to accomplish, and through so many amazing people that I am where I am today and couldn't be happier! 

Finally, the most important thing that I can say is, make sure that whatever it is that you're doing, that you're passionate about it and that it makes you happy, and more so remember to give back. When you're doing something that you're passionate about everyday of your will never have to work a day in your life. 

Sunday, November 10, 2013

The Joys and Pains of Dealing with Change can be amazing, it can be harsh, it can be beautiful, and it can be ugly....

A Graduation, a Wedding, getting a job, moving somewhere new, going through a bad break up, receiving terrible medical news, finding out you're going to be a mother or father...

Want to know the crazy part? Everything I listed just now has happened to someone I know in just this week alone...crazy right?

Change is something that affects everyone everyday whether we like it or not and how you handle it is what sets you apart from those that succeed.

“Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don't resist them; that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like.”
- Lao Tzu

I'll be honest with you change is not easy and sometimes it can be absolutely miserable... 

To give you a quick background story, I moved around a good bit when I was kid, I lived in 4 different states and had ZERO friends in each one for the first couple of months. 

For me change was something that was somewhat forced and something I had to adapt to unless I wanted to be miserable the rest of my life. It wasn't easy and in fact, my dad and I had arguments over how much we moved for YEARS I was so angry with him.  

I couldn't see if back then but all those times I had to adjust and adapt taught me how to  be patient and understanding of others. It helped me to learn about a wide variety of different cultures, particularly from the Middle East and East Asia since that's where all of our neighbors were from when I was growing up. It's that awareness and cultural competence that helped me connect and make all the friends I have today. 

Did I see it back then? Definitely not. However, through patience and an open mind I slowly began to learn more. 

However, I can't complain, I have a lot of friends who are international students...

Now that is something that still blows my mind about them every time I see them. Because the way I see it, at some point every one of them had to learn to adjust to a new language, a new group of people, a new culture, almost a new way of life essentially and then continue to be successful in school while doing so. 

I completely admire them for that. Putting myself in their shoes I don't know if I could ever have been able to pull something like that off growing up, they're all absolutely amazing and I hope that if they're reading this that they know that. 

They helped me gain a sense of relief when I moved for the last time to college...I wasn't alone anymore...I had people who in an odd way had similar and more difficult experiences then I did and we each had different cultural backgrounds that we brought together through good times and laughter. It's the most comforting feeling for anyone entering a new stage of their life.  

"We all have big changes in our lives that are more or less a second chance."

 - Harrison Ford 

I had discussions with several friends of mine this week who all had multiple offers from different companies for full-time employment. 

Now, at first, I'm like everyone else: "That's awesome! Congratulations" etc. 

However, what people don't hear too often is everything that comes with that job. For instance, in the case of my friends, it requires them to move to a new city, or to travel a LOT, which for some is perfectly fine, others...not so much. 

Unlike an internship which will only affect you for a few months, full-time employment is a decision that can be a permanent or at the bare minimum a long-term change that needs to have a lot of thought put into before a decision is made. It's terrifying and also really exciting at the same time...

Since I'm graduating in May I'm currently finding myself in that position as well. The one thing I would say is to do whatever you feel would make you happy. Even if the offers are seem equal, look at the small details, Google the city you're moving to and see what's there, see if the organizations you love have involvement in that city, the people, the culture, etc. If I had to move again, so be it, however, this time, I have a choice and I want to make sure that I am happy with it.  

“When we love, we always strive to become better than we are. When we strive to become better than we are, everything around us becomes better too.”
- Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist

Marriage, Love, and Relationships....

I once heard love is like giving someone the power to destroy you...but trusting them not to...

Going on facebook and seeing that people from when I was in high school getting married, becoming a parent, or hearing about heart break makes me realize how quickly life can change, and how I need to get accustomed to the idea that nothing lasts forever.

While reading a particular article this week on marriage I read this:

"You don't marry to make yourself happy, you marry to make someone else happy. More than that, your marriage isn't for yourself, you're marrying for a family. Not just for the in-laws and all of that nonsense, but for your future children. Who do you want to help you raise them? Who do you want to influence them? Marriage isn't for you. It's not about you. Marriage is about the person you married." 

 - Seth Adam Smith, Marriage Isn't For You

For those who are in relationships who are not thinking about marriage, here's my take on everything.

While I've been in a relationship for awhile, I'm no expert, I'm still learning about what it means to love, to be loved, and about sacrifice.

I will say this however, you change after being in a relationship for awhile, for better or for worse it happens. For those who have been through a serious relationship or two will understand this.

Being in a relationship will help you see your flaws and may make you want to change yourself, or it can create insecurities that you carry with you into every relationship you go into. It can help you realize what it is your truly want or can pose questions in your mind about what it is you're looking for. Either way, its an experience that changes you.

“When we least expect it, life sets us a challenge to test our courage and willingness to change; at such a moment, there is no point in pretending that nothing has happened or in saying that we are not yet ready. The challenge will not wait. Life does not look back. A week is more than enough time for us to decide whether or not to accept our destiny.” 
― Paulo CoelhoThe Devil and Miss Prym

We all have our own stories, our own sets of challenges ahead of us, challenges that may be life changing and can help us grow, I'm here to say you're not alone. 

I spent a good bit of my life thinking like that and try to take on everything alone and carry the world on my back. You get nowhere and fast. I dream of changing the world and leaving a positive legacy, but I can't do it alone, and I can't do it without first taking a good look at myself and asking if my lifestyle and character is something that people will admire and follow or turn away from. 

It's during times of change that we rely on everyone that counts in our lives, our families, our loved ones, the people who have mentored and coached you through several hurdles in your life so far. I know that despite my resentment towards him when I was younger, if it wasn't for my father I wouldn't have been able to adapt to change the way I can now. 

Before dealing with big changes, take time, self-reflect, and most importantly talk to people you trust and love, it's a lot easier to handle changes when you're with people you love who support you. 

“Be the change that you wish to see in the world.” ― Mahatma Gandhi 

For those starting a new chapter in your life, it doesn't mean that you have to leave everyone behind, we have enough technology and resources today to make it easy to stay in touch. I'm fortunate enough to say that I still have a few childhood friends and its the greatest thing in the world, without them handing the changes that occurred in my life would have been a different story.  

I truly do believe that any change or challenge can be conquered even if it's only with a small committed group of people. 

Take the changes and challenges in your life as an opportunity to grow and learn. Talk about your experiences and give back to those who could use the guidance, the positive changes you will see will make it worth while. 

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Trials, Failure, and Character

Failure...easily one of my greatest fears...failing to accomplish my goals, to serve others, to be happy, to make others happy, and much more...but more than anything the failure of not succeeding or making a positive impact....

For the longest time I was terrified of failure since one of the biggest things I don't want to happen is to have to come face-to-face with my family and loved ones and see a look of absolute disappointment in what I failed to do...what I failed to accomplish...

“There is only one thing that makes a dream impossible to achieve: the fear of failure.” 
― Paulo CoelhoThe Alchemist

I dream of changing the world and trying to leave a positive legacy, its a big dream and its something that I cannot accomplish on my own.

During the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers National Conference in Indianapolis I got a rejection notification from one of the top companies I wanted to work for, and who I had also recently interviewed with. On top of that, I failed to recognize a chapter I hold very dear to me along with several others for a simple concept that I didn't even think about solely because I was so focused on top performance, numbers, and statistics I had forgotten about so many other factors to take into consideration...

The rejection from the company for me was a huge blow since I had been following this company, networking my way around all their HR recruiters and having my resume critiqued and interview skills as polished as they can be for the past two years. Based on their feedback, I had done everything correctly, I interviewed well, my background was impressive and they had nothing negative to say. The only reason I wasn't selected was because compared to those who were selected they were the better candidates, they had a better fit.

I'll admit it, I was frustrated, however, after speaking with a man at the conference who I consider a mentor he told me that I could sit there in my hotel room depressed and let it ruin my conference. OR I could take time, get a grip on everything and analyze what happened and what I can do to make myself a better and make things right.

“I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work.” 
― Thomas A. Edison

If you don't believe me about learning to view your failures as learning experiences ask any CEO about a time they failed....they will go on about how they grew the most as a result of mistakes they have made.

During a leadership panel three corporate leaders were asked "We've all heard and read about your successes, what about a time when you failed?"  The look on all three of their faces looked like they had a bad war flashback. However, one of them even stated: "Which one? There's so many to chose from"

The greatest of the greatest have experienced failure, what sets them apart is how they get back up and what they learned from their failure.

When it comes to the people I am indebted to and the people who have invested in me, there's nothing I can do within my lifetime that can repay everything they've given me. This goes back to the SHPE Chapters that I failed to recognize properly and for those who have worked tirelessly to set new milestones for their members...

I'm not perfect, nor do I strive to be. I strive to bring people together, to create a sense of unity, and most importantly to use all my skills and strengths to inspire everyone to strive to reach a common goal. 

I still have a very long road ahead of me and a lot to learn...I apologize for anyone who had to suffer from my mistakes during my learning process and know that I am working to fix that as well as make things right in everything I do.

“You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. In fact, it may be necessary to encounter the defeats, so you can know who you are, what you can rise from, how you can still come out of it.” 
― Maya Angelou

We learn best from our mistakes, and I have made plenty of them...for those reading this and for those especially who work with me know that I will continue to learn and grow to exceed the expectations set of me as a leader and as a friend.

Monday, October 21, 2013

My Motivation

Given the effectiveness that I see blogs having lately and with the extra push from a friend of mine I thought it might be a good idea to start putting one together. 

With everything currently happening in my life right now I've been getting interesting comments and messages that can be similar to any of the following: 

"You look so tired" 

"You'll do great Clemente" 

"We love you mijo and we are proud of you"

"Do you ever sleep? Are you ok?" 

"Get some rest man, you need to take it easy" 

You get the idea, the list can go on. But more recently while I was helping a friend out, I was asked, "How do you do it?" When he asked me this I was trying to figure out what he was talking about since we were looking over his resume. He re-phrased his question to ask me how I balance my school work, SHPE Work, and staying active with my friends, family, etc. 

For those who know me they can confirm that I get anywhere between 4-6 hours of sleep a night regularly these days. Granted on weekends unless there's a home football game I'll be getting more, however, this isn't the first time I've been asked this or has it been the first time people have looked at me questioning why my mind or my body just hasn't completely shut down on me (that's also something I'm still wondering myself). 

A big part of everything I do today, I believe is for the sake of trying to be a better person and also as an act of penance for all the wrong I've done in the past. 

I'll be honest. I am very far from a saint and I've done a lot of things I'm not very proud of, however, after everything that I've been through, that my family has sacrificed for me, and the vision I have, I want to make sure that I leave a positive legacy before I leave this earth. It's this passion for trying to make a positive impact on the world and making my voice heard that keeps up at night. I chose engineering as my study focus because I was good at math and science and it was the most effective way for me to do some good in this world.

While passion, determination, and even dedication to a goal or a dream is great, it shouldn't be confused with how strong a person is. A lot of people will say, "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger" but I couldn't disagree more. Specifically because I heard this: 

"Finding things that make you happy shouldn't be so hard. I know you'll face pain, suffering, hard choices, but you can't let the weight of it choke the joy out of your life. No matter what, you have to find the things that love you. Run to them. There's an old saying, 'That what doesn't kill you, makes you stronger' I don't believe that. I think the things that try to kill you make you angry and sad. Strength comes from the good things - your family, your friends, the satisfaction of hard work. Those are the things that'll keep you whole. Those are the things to hold on to when you're broken."

Waking up every morning and knowing that I have a healthy family and great friends that support me, love me, and has sacrificed more than I know for me gives me an obligation to not only do my best but to make sure that I succeed so that one day I may be able to repay them...

I don't know if I have been successful so far, but I know one important thing:

Do what you love: An amazing thing happens when you get honest with yourself and start doing what you love, what makes you HAPPY. Your life literally slows down. You stop wishing for the weekend. You stop merely looking forward to special events. You begin to live in each moment and you start feeling like a human being. You just ride the wave that is life, with this feeling of contentment and joy. You move fluidly, steadily, calm and grateful. A veil is lifted, and a whole new perspective is born.

As an student at an engineering school I always question how happy people are based on how much I hear them talk about how they are looking forward to big events, parties, vacations, as opposed to trying to enjoy the present. While yes, studying can absolutely suck and be a complete drag if its something you don't like, but if it's something you're passionate about and that you love and makes you happy than I don't think there will be a day in your life that you will complain.

Live and enjoy your life and make sure you try to reach for your dreams, no matter how far off they may seem.

I will end it with a quote from one of my favorite authors Paulo Coelho:

"None of us knows what might happen even the next minute, yet still we go forward. Because we trust. Because we have Faith."