Disrupt the Ordinary: Take-Aways

In early April, I attended the Simmons Leadership Conference in Boston, MA, featuring the most amazing women on this planet. These women did not settle for ordinary, instead reached beyond their own imagination. Truly a gift to see this in action.

A common trait I noticed in each of the women who spoke on stage that day was that when they reached the mountaintop – after soaking up the glory for a moment – they pursued the next vista, the next summit. When you are in the mindset of continuous growth, it’s easier to stay in flow with the wickedly fast changes in our  universe.

Nely Galán

The Opening Keynote delivered by Nely Galán, the former President of Entertainment for Telemundo, said she never let fear and failure stop her progress.

“Do it anyway…failure happens way more than success.”

Cynicism is her power play. To be chosen, you have to choose yourself first.  It was validating to hear that she uses a form of affirmations to declare who she wants to be in the world, as if she already was that person.  I have a similar routine that I do with two friends every morning: we text one another our daily affirmations to lift our spirits and declare our already-present greatness. I’ve done goal-writing, but to write goals starting with the end of your life and work backwards? Now that, Nely, changes everything.

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Edie Weiner

Edie Weiner, President and CEO of The Future Hunters, gave a mind-blowing talk about dignity and purpose. One surprising revelation is that in our future, honesty will be the highest valued trait. We are at the dawn of a new era, Civilization Alpha, creating life from non-life. 4-D printers will allow us to print things that can change form if you add another element, like water. This technology will change the future in airline security –  we will never know what is getting past TSA and aboard a plane.

Edie’s concern is that we are moving farther and farther away from focusing on sustaining technologies. Only 11 percent of technology is focused on agriculture. Not to side track, but it’s ironic that as I was writing this, CBS Sunday Morning had a segment on innovative farming tools, about gathering data on yield and fertility for predictive analysis. Edie’s book, FutureThink is my next read.

Michelle Robinson Obama

And of course, there was Michelle, who carried us through the Closing Keynote. Moderator, Helen Drinan asked Michelle thought-provoking questions that took us back to the Obama Administration, and up to what she is doing today. When asked about the current political climate, her diplomacy was humbling:

The arc of history is long. Going backwards is part of growth…
…we are here because we need to be here

Regarding the outcome of the 2016 election: What’s going on inside of us that we are not embracing a woman as our president? When questioned about whether or not she or Oprah, would consider running for president, she remarked that she didn’t have the passion for politics. We should be seeking out women for their eagerness to serve for the People, versus on intelligence alone. It would have to be someone who could sort through all the multitude of ideas from advisors, and make the best decision that would be for the greater good.

Being First Lady, she was privileged to experience the world, which she saw from the back door. She didn’t get to see as much, and intends to revisit. Also, many of these places were typically cleared out, no signs of people, except who they came to see.

Mr. and Mrs. Obama are currently working on the Obama Presidential Center, in Chicago, with one of its charters to find the next generation of leaders. The former First Lady left us with these closing words:

“Be brave enough to own your own voices. Be okay with imperfections.
Be more tolerant. We are more alike than different.”

I could write for days about the other speakers, such as Gretchen Carlson, and Roopa Unnikrishnan, but I won’t. Instead, I will carry this motivating and extraordinary experience with me for years to come.

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Women of Impact Highlights

I wanted to share some highlights from the Women of Impact event that I attended on March 7, 2018, the day before International Women’s Day.

How often do we say or do something that makes someone feel not included?  Maybe more often than we care to admit. Bias happens, even with body language. I have bias when I’m walking down the street, alone, in a big city.  I might cross the street if I see a man approaching in a dark hoodie, for example.  Yes, I am just being precautious, many of you might say. Perhaps I could make intention that every engagement is going to be meaningful. Opening my heart more, even to strangers (of course with care), is going to make my world a happier place.

“In diversity, there is beauty and strength.”
– Maya Angelou

My head was spinning from the high dose of empowerment that I received at the WOI event. Impactful messages were coming at me from all sides: “Look in the ordinary and find extraordinary…”, “Work together for lasting change…”, “Be the change that you want to see.” One of the most powerful statements came from Rebecca Jacoby, our former CIO: “All success is built on self-awareness. Know yourself.”

I was completely enamored by the two young entrepreneurial women who shared their stories about how they are solving the world’s problems. Mary Elizabeth McCulloch, founder of ProjectVive, and Elizabeth Nyeko, co-founder of Mandulis Energy. The common thread was that they each were driven to help others over helping themselves. Mary Elizabeth’s company makes a speech generation device using bioengineering. She shared that while her sortie sisters were eager to start out in the workforce with their newly stamped degrees, all she could think about was giving a voice to people with disabilities. Elizabeth’s company is centered around agricultural engineering in Uganda, turning waste from rural farmers’ crops into electricity and cooking fuel. Elizabeth had been in medical school when the realization came that she could not be a doctor when there was no electricity in her village.

The afternoon session was entitled “Unconscious Bias,” facilitated by Rory Goldberg and Y-Vonne Hutchinsen. I had no idea there were so many layers to the meaning of bias: intersectionality (overlapping identities), prove-it-again, tight-rope (too feminine; too masculine); maternal wall; performance attribution; leniency, and like-me. I came away with a new appreciation for adopting more sensitivity with both verbal and non-verbal communication.

Empowered Women Change Lives

This is Rosalba. I was moved by her story of trust and triumph. Her story begins like many poverty-stricken people in Guatemala, a story, for many, that stays in an endless loop. Crowded wretched shacks shifting on the hillside, unsafe drinking water, lack of sanitation, and rampant uncertainty.

Then one day, the Women Empowered (WE) initiative formed a group in Rosalba’s village, and that changed her fate. Yet, Rosalba would have her own fears to conquer. First, she would have to garner up Herculean courage and strength to begin to trust others, in order to create a path to turn her obstacles into opportunities.

While most of you reading this are not living in such ghastly conditions, I would bet that at one time or another, you encountered barriers associated with advancing to the next level of your career, or higher education, not landing that job because of your gender or the color of your skin, or something else. Maybe you needed a little boost to get you motivated – a mentor. It’s that first step of asking for help that makes all the difference.

This week at my company, three very high-ranking women in the tech industry came to speak about their own hurtles across their careers – two from Cisco, and a third from Bank of the West.  Each shared their own story of triumph.

The outcome of one of the stories was a mentoring initiative, the Multiplier Effect that one of the women, Yvette, a Cisco SVP, birthed in the hopes of addressing the many women who were leaving the tech industry.  Yvette attributes her own career success to her many mentors, and to the people who believed in her. This gift of guidance she wants to share as a way to work the inclusion angle, not just for women, but any person of diversity.

It’s women like Yvette and the two other women who shared the afternoon with us  (Rebecca, Cisco SVP; and Linda, Bank of the West, SVP) who empower us to live to a higher potential, and women like Rosalba, who give us courage. Each of these women took their predicament and flipped it to seek a better outcome.

2017 Holiday Gathering at Red Bird

A BIG THANKS to our good friends (and family) who came to lend their helping hands. Orlando Rigueira, Donna DeLorenzo Rigueira, and Nora came an hour before folks started rolling in, to help with setup. Even earlier, Morda Scott came to finish decorations and furniture rearrangement for open flow.   

Our house on Red Bird was brimming with 55 or so guests, and a few kids. Some of the visitors penned entries in our memory book, in which we asked them to look back at their year and complete the sentence: “I am grateful for…..” With each passing year, our circle gets bigger. How did we get so lucky? 

Enjoy the pictures: https://photos.app.goo.gl/zKdvWI3rk2C2kSH42

Like No Time Has Passed Between Them


Earlier this month, I had the great honor and pleasure to attended Glenn’s 50th Hickman High School class reunion in Columbia, Missouri. It was such a gift to see harmony, right before my eyes, between Blacks and Whites, in spite of a past dotted with uncertainty.  A class full with people from all walks of life: doctors, lawyers, dentists, a senator, business owners, CEOs, and others who just made the best of life, raising kids, some still living locally, and some retired. 

In the era following Brown vs. Board of Education (1954), students in Columbia, a small mid-Missouri town, braced for integration. Over the years, I have listened intently to lucid experiences shared by Glenn, whom at this point in history, was a young Black kid, with two brothers – ten and twelve years older than he. To hear the stories from his perspective shed a softer light on what could have been a more oppressive time, for some.

The three-day reunion kicked off day-one at Shakespeare’s Pizza; continued day-two at Hickman, where they planted a tree, toured the school and had a light lunch; and later a tailgate party at Cosmo Park, and concluding day-three at a ballroom in The Hampton Inn. I guess I was a teeny bit jealous because my High School class has had only one reunion, and that was in 1990, at my tenth. Hickman’s Class of 1967 have a reunion every five years. 

At Cosmo Park, organizers set up a big screen to watch a their legendary 1966 football game where Hickman ended Jeff City’s 71-game winning streak. Football was and still is really big in this town, also the home of the University of Missouri Mizzou Tigers.  

With a new tree planted, the tour of Hickman High began, and it was impressive for this first-time-visitor. The entry hall was lined with plaques and trophy cases, honoring alumnae. The late Major James E. Logan, Glenn’s oldest brother,  was named on one of the plaques honoring Vietnam veterans who died in the conflict.  During the library tour, I was astonished to learn that Hickman faculty promote their students to be more socially conscious of the history that is unfolding around them. The Class of ’67, in particular, was well-positioned to make an impact on how well race relations would be in the coming years. A time when you saw a person for their worth and warmth, and not the color of their skin.

At the evening gala, we eulogized deceased classmates, all 65 of them, by streaming each of their Senior class pictures on an overhead. At our table, all wept for the loss of such precious lives that touched many hearts.  Many died too young.  Some died in battle. Others since the last reunion. To call out a few of the recent deaths, Gary Warren, a cousin of Glenn’s, who died three years ago. And Eddie Gross, who shocked everyone by attending the 45th, the only reunion he had ever attended –  he passed away a few months later.

As the reunion came to a close, classmates warmly embraced one another, with only the highest hopes of seeing their smiling faces again in five years. With tomorrows not promised, we pray for peace and cherish these memories in our hearts.



Building a Future for a Deserving Family


Habitat for Humanity had been on my radar a long time.  I dreamt about helping to build one of those houses for years. The first two tries, I had work-related conflicts. This year, I just scheduled it – cleared my calendar, and took control. After the third try, I finally got a chance to participate in a build. The home would become the future “habitat” of the Hernandez family, a single mother with two boys.

Growing up in a family of handy-persons, there was always a lot of construction going on in our house.  This was different. With every swing of the hammer, every slap of the staple gun, every shot of the nail gun, we were creating a future for people we’ve never met. Inside these walls would be a family making memories. This Hernandez family’s future was literally being shaped by our very hands. This was significant and meaningful. I soaked up every moment, by moment. I was completely in my element.

I had a choice between siding and roofing. I chose siding. On my team were four workers (apprentices), and one team leader – three women, and two men.  Our leader, Kevin, was probably in his late 20s, Larry was in his 60s, Kelley in her 70s, and Nancy in her 30s. I was paired mostly with Kelley, from Mill Valley, California, who said she’d built at least 8 of these homes all around the world. Nancy came from New Jersey, and is a Controller for a beef jerky company.

I know my limits, and holding up a sheet of fiber-cement siding until someone could get it nailed in is one.  I know where I could add the most value, and that is probably during cleanup. While everyone was wrapping up in the last hour, I chose to sweep up the mounds and mounds of wood chips and sawdust inside the house.

Most of the 15 or so workers came via Global Village.  This was their week-long vacation, dedicated to accomplish a major feat, to meet some new people, and see new places. Half of the money they paid went to Habitat. Their costs included food and board for the week, a shuttle to take them to and from the site, and sightseeing.

My hope is to return in November, when the final touches are being added, trim, hardware, paint, and – yes – cleanup.

For your viewing pleasure, the Flikr album of the site, but I’m not in it.

Stay tuned!


A Surprise Encounter

Circa 2009.

This was taken at the Benihana restaurant in the SF Peninsula on one of my trips to the West Coast. I was dining with my brother Eugene, his wife Mare, and my niece and nephew (Mario and Sherina. Near the end of the meal, we learned that the couple who shared our table was ex-NFL player Joe Montana’s father and his companion.  They were the nicest people. They actually sat on the other side of my nephew Mario, and was helping him to use his chopsticks.