As a club owner, I have entertained thousands of people, among them many celebrities like Prince Felipe, JFK Junior, dignitaries and ambassadors among others. Although they were my customers I always kept a distance while others crowded around them. I always believed they are no different than any of us and they need their space to enjoy their evening.
There is a fine line between success and arrogance. Entrepreneurs who struggle and finally become successful tend to loose their grounding. They start feeling and acting like a Big Shot. I went through a similar transition when I opened my first cigar and martini bar, Ozio. The media coverage was phenomenal and in a short time frame Ozio became the hottest place in DC and that went to my head, I was only 26 and so much attention!
If success is mismanaged it is accompanied with arrogance and a disdain to the people who were part of your rise to success. One starts to feel like a Big Shot while looking down on others. If success is handled correctly, one embraces a larger group that will help you to move to the next level and always an appreciation for those that brought you to your current position!
Well my rise to being a Big Shot didn’t last long with Nesrin in my life. One day she told me, “All of this is going to your head and this is not the Mauricio I know. Either you get your feet back on the ground or I am out of here! I did not sign up for this!” Well that was a rude awakening but a necessary one. I had to reflect on where I was going and to reroute my focus on what I really wanted to accomplish and this was just the beginning.
I started to better understand how easy it is for people to go into the Big Shot stage by watching how some of my best employees handled growth. I would select an employee that I believed had the ability and potential for growth and would groom him/her personally. The majority became arrogant and acted like they were indispensable for our company. Unfortunately that arrogance streamlined downwards in the company and was not productive so that was the end of their careers in my company.
I would like to share a story of a dear friend of mine, George Khouri. I met him 10 years ago and believed in his talent as a rapper, writer and performer. We supported him throughout the years and my most important advise to him was to keep it real!
The following is George’s description of his transition...
“I remember being in elementary school and my teacher telling me to sit in an isolated chair in the corner of the classroom. Not because I was being bad, but because I was too far ahead of the class in math. She said that there was nothing else to teach me and that I should give the other students a chance to learn and raise their hands to answer the questions.
Exactly one year later, I recall waking up in the middle of the street, not knowing where I was or what happened to me. “You were in a car accident,” said a paramedic with an Australian accent. I was still in a state of confusion, nauseated by the scent of hot metal and burning rubber. I was only 11 years old at the time. I was sitting in the front passenger’s seat of the vehicle and wasn’t wearing my seat belt. I had been ejected 15 feet head first from the window, landing onto the main road. The paramedics said I was unconscious for over an hour.
Miraculously, 24 hours and 9 staples in my head later, I was released from the hospital. Most would assume that the most difficult part of the accident was over-false. For several years to follow, I was haunted by the most excruciating migraines and dizzy spells that one could imagine. I lost my ability to focus in school. For the first time in my young academic life, I didn’t receive straight A’s on my report card. Out of all things, I was struggling in math! My learning ability was clearly impacted. None of the medicine helped. I still feel a sense of disorientation till this very day.
There was also a big change in my behavior. Maybe it was a reaction to the pain. Maybe it was a result of the challenges that I was facing at the time. Whatever the cause, I started to get into all kinds of trouble. This type of behavior extended into my adulthood. I was too loud and flashy. Maybe this was my own way of distracting my mind from all the things that I felt were wrong with me.
One day I attended, my role model, Mauricio Fraga-Rosenfeld’s 40th Birthday party in Washington, DC. I walked into his private party at his lounge and he immediately pulled me to the side. I was excited because I thought that the “big fish” at the party wanted to hang out with me-wrong. Mauricio put his palm out and told me to take off my large gold necklace. He also made me take my diamond earring out. “You don’t need this stuff,” is all he said to me.
He was right- I didn’t need that stuff. I recently experienced a life- changing event. I moved from Washington, DC to California to pursue a career as a television/radio personality. When I arrived to California it was very humbling. I didn’t have my family, friends, and business contacts-nothing. Most importantly, I didn’t have the “stuff”-the only thing that I WOULDN’T miss. I would like to define “stuff” as all the negative distractions that we have in our life. We tend to use things to make us feel important and help our attitude to grow.
It was a fresh start for me, and for the first time in my life, I began to enjoy the benefits of simply being myself. I faced my weaknesses, embraced them, and made the conscious decision to move forward from everything that harmed me along the way. My mother always told me that I survived the car accident for a reason. Over 15 years later, with only 4 months in Hollywood, I am finally starting to see this reason. I hope that one day Mauricio’s son will get to attend my 40th birthday to celebrate all of my achievements, and that I won’t have to tell him to take off his jewelry.”
Being a Big Shot on your path of success is a small part of a larger picture. One has to have an eagle view of their goal and their growth. If feeding your ego is the goal then that is also the end of your path. If achieving and growing is your purpose then Big Shot is a short lived euphoria that you outgrow!
I approached a kid who participated in many triathlons to give me advice for my first ever triathlon. His name is Martin, a 22 year old that has been competing for years and standing on the podium repeatedly.
A few years ago, while training, Martin fractured his vertebrae, which put him in bed rest for 3 months. He attended school while having a monitor on the ceiling of his room with a live connection to his class. Slowly he learned to walk again then started swimming. Pure will power, “brain power”! He became stronger, got back in shape and started to compete again. What a great guy to get advise from!
During our prep meetings he mentioned that he did not have a sponsor for the race and asked me if I would be willing to sponsor him. I liked the idea at first and throughout our conversations and comparing our times in different categories, we decided to team up.
A couple of days later, I regretted the decision of not going solo! I trained hard and I was ready! Not for the medal, but to prove to myself I could finish! However, it was too late! I already changed the registration, bought the tickets, and made a commitment to Martin that he will go to Galapagos as my teammate.
Martin did a great job on the swimming part and then bad luck struck! He had 2 flat tires on the bike portion of the race, which forced us to withdraw. I was so ready for the race that I decided to still run just for my personal experience. I ran my hardest and broke my personal best time! Although I felt great and very strong, I was still mad at myself. I had come all the way to Galapagos just for this, so I decided to stay and run the 21K on the next day.
What is done is done… while I was waiting for the race I kept reflecting on my decision and I kept regretting it. All of a sudden it hit me, what are you doing? Regretting failure is not what you preach! I opened one of my books, to get some inspiration and decided to read, The Greatest Salesman Of The World, from my “good friend” Og Mandino. I had read this book about 50 times. When I opened the book this paragraph came across “can sand flow upward in the hour glass? Will the sun rise where it sets and set where it rises? Can I relive the errors of yesterday and right them? Can I call back yesterday’s wounds and make them whole? Can I become younger than yesterday? Can I take back the evil that was spoken, the blows that were struck, the pain that was caused? NO. Yesterday is buried forever and will think of it no more.” Again, my good friend gave me great advice!
We all make mistakes and sometimes make decisions in a hurry and end up regretting. The important thing is to acknowledge it and try not to do it again, and move forward.
The majority of people live regretting their failures….
To my surprise I ended up getting the gold in the 21K and came in 8th in the overall categories. My son Gabriel said with a smirk, “you are the fastest among the oldest people.”
I came to Galapagos to do my best, run hard and earned a medal. I realized that I was just as good or as “bad” as the rest of the competitors. Most importantly I met great people that are focused and dedicated.
At the end, it was just a race and the worse thing that could have happened was to be disqualified. Not a big deal. This year I will train harder and next year will be competing against Mr. Martin!
"Yesterday is buried forever and will think of it no more." Og Mandino
While writing this blog, Nesrin mentioned to me that October was “National Bullying Prevention Month.” I searched for the meaning of the word bully “a person that uses superior strength or influence to intimidate (someone), typically to force him or her to do what one wants.” Someone that takes advantage of you... period!
I have a clear memory of the few times that I was bullied and I did not react. One very memorable incident took place when I was in kindergarten. I vividly recall when an older kid stole my lunch sandwich. I did not do anything at the time and it always bothered me that I did not react. A Few years later, the same kid, while we were playing fútbol, came and took the ball from us… this time I was not going to let him get away with it. I ran after him, threw myself on him and wrapped my arms around his legs… he stumbled and fell on his casted arm… he got up crying and asked me, “why would you do that?” I replied, because you took the ball from us! Finally it felt good to redeem myself and all my friends were very proud of me! The most important result is that this bully will think twice before attacking some other kids.
Sometimes it is hard to stand up and confront the abuser, but in my case the results were worth it. My confidence skyrocketed and I never allowed anyone else to treat me like a pushover.
At home, we constantly teach our kids that they have a voice and they have to make people hear them no matter what age or gender they are. Daniela, my oldest daughter had just switched schools. She is very cute (in my eyes), and sure about herself. She transitioned quickly and made friends easily. Some of the girls were not happy with her arrival and resorted to bullying Daniela.
We noticed, that her initial happiness and excitement started to deteriorate. Finally we understood from her that she was being bullied. This was unacceptable! I told Daniela the most defining moment in her life was now! She needed to confront the leader and put her in her place. It had to happen immediately, as soon as she arrived to school the next day. As a family we pumped her up the night before and in the morning Daniela was psychologically ready! Go Daniela, Go!
In the afternoon, when I picked her up from school, the first thing I asked, “What happened?” Daniela responded, “Nothing... every time I tried to approach her, she would run away.” (Normally a bully, can not accept confrontation)
I pulled over, gave the phone to Daniela and said you have to deal with it today. You call the girl now and tell her exactly how you feel about her attitude. Daniela called and told the mother what was going on then she spoke directly to the girl. The girl was surprised and tried to pretend she did not know what she was talking about and started crying. That was the end of the bullying… The impact on Daniela was 180 degrees! She became confident, and an outspoken beautiful girl.
Last week in Quito, we took our to kids to see LMFAO in concert. The kids were excited and had to show up early to get good seats. By 9 pm, the pre show began… 2 local DJs put on a great show and we enjoyed it and now we were ready for LMFAO. At that moment, everything began going down hill, a parade of bad acts kept coming one after another for about 2 hours. “Where is LMFAO?”.... At that point I got up looking for the event promoters, I was not able to find any of them to express my disappointment and demand an explanation. Just before midnight, Sky Blu from LMFAO came out to perform. That’s when we realized it was only Sky Blu and he was there to promote his new group. It lasted for about 45 minutes and we only had a small taste of the LMFAO songs. We arrived home late, frustrated and the kids exhausted. All for a switch and bait concert.
What surprised me the most was to find out how passive the audience was despite their disatisfaction. No one was willing to complain and they just accepted the situation. That truly shocked me! Is it Cultural or just simply trained to follow? Clearly the promoters took advantage of 5000 people and no one spoke! My kids, wife and friends were the only ones booing the performers.
Submissiveness or passiveness, if you will, is sometimes a cultural phenomenon that is taught at home and/or school. People become passive to events that unfold in their adulthood due to how they were raised and what part of the world. I do not want to sound like I am discriminating against different cultures but I present this as an explanation of some forms of passivity. For example I am married to Nesrin, who is from the Middle East. Her father has always fought for her to be strong and not allow things to happen to her but to make things happen. He always told her the cards were stacked up against women and he did not want her to be one that just accepted the situation. This was against what their culture represented and he was criticized for his beliefs. Despite of everything, he truly believed in standing up for your rights no matter what gender you are. You can see the results in his daughter, my wife, who is strong and independent.
Both, Nesrin and I want to make sure that we reinforce this strength of character and “believe in yourself” philosophy to our kids! We encourage our children to fight for themselves even if it is with a teacher or an adult. You are the only one that can protect your self worth! No one can disrespect you or minimize your self worth!
Kids tend to believe that it’s normal to be bullied and that it's something you have to go through as part of being a kid. For us it's definitely not normal and having to go through it can be devastating for the self-esteem. All 3 of our kids have been in similar bullying situations like Daniela. We constantly push them to stand up for themselves at school. We always tell them, at your age the worst thing that can happen is to have a bruised eye… at this age they are able to risk it all and it will have an immense impact on their personality. This is the time to mold their strength!
At the concert, I realized that the majority were willing to accept the status quo and believe there is nothing in their power that they can do!
Leaving the show, I told my friends that I was not willing to accept this insult of a show and was going to make sure that I confront the promoters. They looked at me and laughed… what are you going to do about it? Well, I did find the promoters name, cell and email. I wrote him an email of exactly how we felt and demanded a full refund. No results yet, but will keep after them!
Often, I strive to stop abuse! Sometimes I fail and sometimes I succeed! Most importantly, it sets an example for my kids!
The first time you confront a bully is always the hardest! But if you keep putting it off you will regret it forever! You need to stand up to anybody taking advantage and affecting your life… and feel that you are the “super person” you were meant to be!
Who I am today as a person is largely due to my failures!