Alberto Esparza – Leadership is defined by the community

Alberto Esparza
Alberto Esparza discusses why you should not be "Afraid to Fail", how "It's Never Personal" and why you should "Embrace Negativity" hosted by Siebe Van Der Zee

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About Alberto Esparza

Alberto has served as the founder and president of Si Se Puede Foundation for 28 years. The mission of the Si Se Puede Foundation, it stands for “Yes, You Can” is to provide opportunities for underserved young people and to develop an interest and proficiency in STEM, science, technology, engineering, and math, Alberto quote, unquote retired last year.

To start his latest nonprofit, the I Rise Foundation dedicated to providing underserved and underrepresented students an opportunity to consider STEM as a career choice.

Episode Notes

Lesson 1: Don’t assume you know how to engage a community 5:12
Lesson 2: Don’t be afraid to fail 8:56
Lesson 3: Leadership is defined by the community 14:01
Lesson 4: Set goals 21:46
Lesson 5: Be willing to learn lessons from others 21:46
Lesson 6: Embrace negativity 22:58
Lesson 7: Seek out a higher power 26:46
Lesson 8: It’s never personal 29:36
Lesson 9: We live in a glass house 32:39
Lesson 10: Be careful what you ask for 35:38

Alberto Esparza – Leadership is defined by the community

[00:00:08] Siebe Van Der Zee: Hello, and welcome to our program. 10 lessons learned where we talk to business people, journalists, professors, ambassadors, leaders, and luminaries from all over the world. My name is Siebe Van Der Zee, and I’m your host. I’m originally from the Netherlands. Happily residing in the beautiful grand canyon state of Arizona in the United States.

[00:00:31] I’m also known as the Dutchman in the desert.

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[00:01:09] Our guest today is Alberto Esparza. Alberto has served as the founder and president of Si Se Puede Foundation for 28 years. The mission of the Si Se Puede Foundation, it stands for “Yes, You Can” is to provide opportunities for underserved young people and to develop an interest and proficiency in STEM, science, technology, engineering, and math, Alberto quote, unquote retired last year.

[00:01:37] To start his latest nonprofit, the I Rise Foundation dedicated to provide underserved and underrepresented students an opportunity to consider STEM as a career choice. Again, very valuable. You can learn more about Alberto Esparza on our website, 10 lessons learned.com. Buenas dias. Alberto, how are you? Thank you for joining us.

[00:02:02] Alberto Esparza: Good morning Siebe. It’s a pleasure to be on your platform. And I look forward to the dialogue. Thank you very much.

[00:02:08] Siebe Van Der Zee: Absolutely. I am so curious in, in the work that you have done and I see a beautiful picture behind you, of looks like young girls playing soccer. What is your, your interest and, and commitments to doing this?

[00:02:24] Helping young people in underserved communities for now 30 years, where is that coming from?

[00:02:31] Alberto Esparza: That’s basically coming from where I grew up. I grew up in a impoverished area, a lot of gang activity and gang violence, but had a beautiful grandmother who raised me very well, always taught me from right from wrong and wanted me to serve others because I saw how she served others.

[00:02:48] She was about like 95 years old before she passed. And I recall her going into the neighborhoods and making sure that, you know, the homeless had something to eat. And I saw that on a basis. And we went to church every day, seven days a week, we would walk two miles from her home to church on a regular basis.

[00:03:08] So she was my role model and she meant the world to me. So she taught me well.

[00:03:13] Siebe Van Der Zee: Wonderful, wonderful. The I Rise Foundation. Please explain the purpose and again, the work that the foundation is doing

[00:03:22] Alberto Esparza: okay. A couple of years ago I had prostate cancer. So I was very ill and that led to my decision to retire from Si Se Puede Foundation.

[00:03:31] When the doctor gave me the green light to go ahead and go back into the community, I really wasn’t gonna go back into the community. It was the community that was calling me up. They wanted me to go back and deliver soccer and deliver all the programs that I used to deliver. And it was a very easy decision because I was at home not doing anything crying lonely.

[00:03:51] And I said, you know what? I really gotta get back to the community because I needed the community. More than the community needed me. So I started I Rise, but I wanted to do something very unique. I wanted to focus on the native American students. And so in the past I work with, Skyline Gila River. Saint Peter Indian Mission School, The Boys & Girls Club in the Sacaton, which are. Predominantly native America and it was the best decision I made. So I’m currently delivering those programs, but I’m still in Chandler. I’m in Chandler because I have a wonderful school district, the Chandler unified school district, without them, I’m a nonprofit and search of the Chandler unified school district.

[00:04:30] So they have been really good to meet these past years. So, I want to continue to serve the Latino community, but also expand my services to the native American communities.

[00:04:40] Siebe Van Der Zee: Very powerful indeed. And helping young people by giving them opportunities and access to opportunities and doing it in a way that they enjoy.

[00:04:50] Right. Because again, if I think about, the activities that you organize. It’s fun. It’s enjoyable. And of course these young people, they benefit from it. That must, that must make you feel good doing that for 30 years and living that life,

[00:05:07] Alberto Esparza: you know, throughout the presentation, you’re gonna hear me discuss relationship building.

[00:05:12] Lesson 1:     Don’t assume you know how to engage a community

[00:05:12] Alberto Esparza: And one of the things that I did is the first lesson that we’re gonna talk about is relationship building. I never assumed what the community wanted. I always built in no matter what program stakeholders I built these committees to let the community explain to me what they wanted.

[00:05:30] So a lot of the programs that I have are really as a result of what the community needs, the soccer program is, really, really growing. I think this year we’re gonna have close to 600. Kids involved in our program. It runs from September, goes all the way through May. The beauty of this program is run by the parents and is run by our high school students.

[00:05:53] And we have no money, but when you go out there to those fields, everybody has a uniform. We got referees, our parents are background checked. It runs pretty smooth. A lot of people ask me, well, how do you do it? It’s pretty easy. It’s because I’m engaged in the community. The community has told me what programs they wanted and that’s the reason why I’ve been successful.

[00:06:16] Before that I used to assume what the community wanted. And that was a big mistake. So these programs are offered based on what the community needs are.

[00:06:25] Siebe Van Der Zee: Fascinating. And at the same time, I recognize that you have to already moved to lesson number one. Sure. Don’t assume you know how to engage the community.

[00:06:35] That is our lesson number one today. But I want to go one step back if you don’t mind. Sure. Because I know you talk about the work that you’re doing and that’s what we want to hear. And the wisdom that you have learned from that. But just, let’s say to start out, what kind of lesson would you like to teach yourself?

[00:06:57] If you would be 30 years old today? What have you learned that you would like to have learned a few years ago?

[00:07:05] Alberto Esparza: Well, when I first got into the nonprofit organizations, I didn’t really know what the nonprofit was. I didn’t know what, you know, a strategic planning was, I didn’t know, board development, I didn’t know even know how to write a grant.

[00:07:19] So I took the bull by the horns and started a nonprofit without really knowing. I was pretty good in the community. But I was pretty bad in terms of the business aspect of it. So if I could tell a young Alberto, the 30 years ago is to take some classes on nonprofit. I believe at the time they were offering that at Arizona state university, I looked into it, but I never followed up.

[00:07:43] So a lot of the experience I gained was because of failures. But if I can go back, I would sit down with. Young Alberto basically said, Hey, if you’re gonna start this nonprofit, it’s gonna be a difficult journey. My suggestion to you would take a couple classes, learn, everything that you can learn about, grant writing, which really killed me.

[00:08:04] I didn’t have a clue. My first grant was written in pencil. written in pencil, and I recall that I submitted it to the valley of the sun United way. And basically it was a difficult, the conversation between the valley of United way and myself. But it was a horrible grant. And I knew that I was not gonna get it, but I would sit down with Alberto and say, you know what, you’re gonna create this nonprofit.

[00:08:33] You have all the experience in the community, but my suggestion would be take a couple of classes, take a deep breath, ask a lot of questions, go visit other nonprofits. Other CEOs, know what you’re getting into. And that’s what I would tell Alberto Esparza.

[00:08:48] Siebe Van Der Zee: Know what you’re getting into. I like it. Good point.

[00:08:51] So we talked about lesson number one, don’t assume you know how to engage a community.

[00:08:56]

[00:08:56] Lesson 2:     Don’t be afraid to fail

[00:08:56] Siebe Van Der Zee: Lesson number two, don’t be afraid to fail.

[00:09:01] Alberto Esparza: Throughout my journey. I had failed big time and. it is re a direct result that I didn’t have any experience in the nonprofit world. Mm-hmm . I had an idea that I wanted to serve the community.

[00:09:13] Great idea. You have to understand that a lot of nonprofits are started by somebody in the community who really doesn’t have that business sense. But one of the things that I learned and a teacher when I was in the sixth grade, she taught me how to goal set. and she taught me how to set goals, minimum goals, medium and goals, and long term goals.

[00:09:38] And I remember that. So when I started the foundation, I started to set those type of goals. But my teacher reminded me that I was not gonna accomplish all the goals that I set. Nobody does. So it was important is going after them. And it wasn’t the material things that was important, but your journey in pursuit of your goals.

[00:09:58] And she said, because you’re goal setting, it’s gonna make you a better professional, but more importantly, A better human being goals. Keep you focused. It gives you a sense of purpose. And I truly believe I tell young people because they all want to start nonprofits. And I said, learn how to set goals.

[00:10:16] That’s gonna be very important. And that’s what I’ve done throughout my career was set the small goals that are gonna give me immediate success and then build upon that. And. I think I’ve become an expert in goal setting.

[00:10:30] Siebe Van Der Zee: Now when it comes to failure, yes don’t give up, keep going. But let’s face it.

[00:10:36] The reality of failure, can be very, very tough. Right. We can think of, of several situations, but it could be on the financial side. Yeah. Keep going, wait a minute. I don’t have any money. So, how do you teach easy question, hard answer, but how do you teach someone to overcome failure? How do you motivate them to say do it again, keep going?

[00:11:01] Alberto Esparza: Many of these nonprofits are started by somebody in the community that doesn’t have the business sense, but what separates them from others is their passion and their motivation. And. That helps you throughout your journey when I didn’t have any funding, you know, there was one period.

[00:11:19] And I’m gonna talk about that. I believe in the mid nineties, I was sleeping in a vacant office. I didn’t have a vehicle. I was walking from school district to school district to deliver my programs and I could have easily quit. As a matter of fact, I woke up that early morning wanting to quit and get away from nonprofit cuz I fell out alone.

[00:11:42] But what kept me going was, my motivation to serve the community. and my motivation to never give it up no matter how difficult it was. And, and I remind people, this is your journey. Nobody cares about your journey, but you, yeah. So you have to make a decision. If this, something that you want, then you gotta be able to overcome those obstacles and you gotta keep, keep at it.

[00:12:08] Eventually you’ll have success. And that’s been my philosophy.

[00:12:12] Siebe Van Der Zee: You, you mentioned the passion. It’s important perhaps as a mentor to have the passion to guide individuals and then the individuals, each individual by him or herself, they have to light that fire and say, yes, I can do that. They have to feel right.

[00:12:31] And you have to in a way, help them get to that point.

[00:12:34] Alberto Esparza: You know, one thing that I like to mention is that, years into the foundation and my struggle. I was adopted by a group of Social Venture Partners, Arizona. They’re a nonprofit organization in Arizona, and I think they’re nationally loan that adopts five nonprofits per year.

[00:12:54] And they reached out to me how they found me Siebe, I have no idea what they found me. And they met with me. They took me to dinner and they wanted me to come into the organization so that they can give me the tools to be successful. And I don’t want to forget them because they were very instrumental in my success.

[00:13:18] They gave me board training. They helped me with my grants. They were able to get me a CPA. So, I believe that occurred in 1998. Without them I would not have had the success. So, when you’re doing good. People will take notice I was doing good and people were noticing because I was getting a lot of calls for folks who wanted to come into the organization and see how I was doing this.

[00:13:44] Back in 1998, I really didn’t know if I wanted to continue to be a nonprofit, but when Social Venture Partners, Arizona brought me in and I’m asking everybody to look them up because they’ve been phenomenal to me. So they provided the expertise that I needed to go forward.

[00:14:00] Siebe Van Der Zee: Yeah,

[00:14:01] Lesson 3:     Leadership is defined by the community

[00:14:01] Siebe Van Der Zee: well, let’s go to lesson number three. Leadership is defined by the community and I’m kind of curious. You’re gonna explain it. No doubt. What do you mean with the community?

[00:14:12] Alberto Esparza: Well, I’m focusing on the Latino community because that’s all I’ve known throughout my career. The Latino community is very fickle. They’re very careful on whom they’re going to.

[00:14:23] Bessow the term leader. A lot of these folks come from Mexico or other Spanish speaking countries. And there’s a lot of, fraud within the political systems where they’re at. So they see leaders in a different light when they come to America. So, leadership is relationship building and I am an expert in relationship.

[00:14:50] And I’m a leader that have walked beside the community as opposed to have led from above I have supported the community when there’s been in social injustices. So I have marched alongside them for hundreds of miles. And I think the community, when they see that.

[00:15:10] They see how you respond to communities? A few years back, I had a call and this is gonna define where my leadership comes from. I had a call from a parent at 2:00 AM in the morning, and, you know, Siebe every time you get a call at 2:00 AM in the morning, you know, something has happened that is not good.

[00:15:30] Yeah. And on the other line was apparent crying profusely. She had told me that one of that, one of her sons was gunned down by a drive-by shooting. Hmm. I listened to her for about five minutes as she was in tears. And after she stopped crying, I told her, give me your address. I’ll be over there within a half hour to an hour.

[00:15:54] When I went. I told the parents that I would help them with the funeral expenses right away. I got the community engagement. I said, this, this was the only child. Of these two parents and the community really supported these efforts. We were able to do that. And not only that is that I was able to provide food because I know that they had a lot of people who were coming in from different countries to come in and to pay their respects.

[00:16:23] So that’s what it is when the community sees that you’re willing to go above and beyond. That’s when you got the community. I know other leaders that really don’t do that engagement. As a matter of fact, the NAACP about 15 years ago, when they had their annual dinner, they talked about returning to the community that they have left the community.

[00:16:45] I’ve never left the community. I teach English as a second language. I I’m in there in the soccer. I’m there in the dance programs. I was there for the scholars. I was there at wedding. Funerals. And that’s where your leadership comes up. How engaged are you? Relationship building. They’ll never forget that.

[00:17:05] And today I’m very lucky that I have. The community to support. I don’t have to distribute flyers for my program. They know where I am. They go on Facebook. These programs are great because I have an opportunity to meet parents and children in the morning and the afternoon after every game, after every program.

[00:17:25] And we talk about, you know, what issues they’re having and what problems that I can solve.

[00:17:30] Siebe Van Der Zee: I have a question. I have a question. When you deal with native American communities, of course, they’re different than Latino communities, building relationships with young people and their parents and their leaders.

[00:17:47] How would you describe that?

[00:17:49] Alberto Esparza: initially it wasn’t too positive. There’s a lot of history between the native American and the United States. One of the things that they haven’t forgotten is how they’ve been treated during the trail of tears. When president Jackson forced the native Americans to walk miles and miles and miles, hundreds of miles, a lot of the native Americans died during their journey.

[00:18:19] It’s very difficult, but I have been in the native American community for five years. They have seen me provide these services. I’m able to talk to them. We hosted underwater the competition in May, 2022. And we invited the native American communities. And I was so happy that a lot of parents came in.

[00:18:42] A lot of kids, they participated, I provided food. I listened to them. I talked to them, I shook their hands that’s relationship building. You gotta be able to do that. I see other CEOs who don’t do that.

[00:18:55] Siebe Van Der Zee: I appreciate you. You bring this up. because it’s, something that sometimes is can we say overlooked underestimated. Exactly. But is it is of extreme value to show the respect for native American cultures and in the work that you do, you experience that and, and I I’m glad you mentioned that. so thank you for that.

[00:19:16] I want to move on to lesson number four, you have already touched on some of that, lesson number four.

[00:19:22] Set goals. well, my question would be, how do you measure, do you measure goals? It’s one thing to set them, but at some point you say, did we meet the goals or not? Is that something that you include?

[00:19:35] Alberto Esparza: Yeah, it’s very basic. That’s not rocket science. I set goals. Maybe I’m going to develop a new program that the, that the community is asking for and I’m engaged throughout their process.

[00:19:49] From the beginning of the dialogue, to when the programs are delivered, until the end, I ask a lot of questions. I ask the community, are we meeting your needs? What can we do differently? And again, that goes back to relationship building and engagement. The community wants their leaders. To be engaged with them to not be afraid to talk to them.

[00:20:12] So I measure a success based on the number of students or the number of participants who are involved in our programs. And I measure the success because I do a pre and post test. Yeah. I wanna get an idea how they feel about this class and at the end, what they felt that we could do better or what they didn’t like.

[00:20:33] They liked that. And these committees that I have created. Give them them opportunity and they love it because, I really believe that, they like to tell me what they like. And, I take on that role. I never get offended by that. Because I know who I’m working with. And I know that’s imperative that I do that to develop these relationships.

[00:20:55] Siebe Van Der Zee: it creates a level of ownership, right? When they are asked to give their opinions and people are included, they feel they are part of it and they are part of it.

[00:21:06] Alberto Esparza: Yes. And I had to make a quick comment, cuz I know I speaking a lot, but Dr. King said. He said, if you build a community and you fail to include a certain segment of that community, those who feel excluded will unconsciously destroy everything that you built.

[00:21:25] And I remember that quote, and I tried to follow what Dr. King was doing during the sixties. He was great at it, getting the community engagement. He was out there. so. Getting them involved and making them become stakeholders is very important. So when we have strategic planning, we invite the community as well to give their input.

[00:21:43] Siebe Van Der Zee: Yeah, inclusive. I, I like it very much.

[00:21:46] Lesson 5:     Be willing to learn lessons from others

[00:21:46] Siebe Van Der Zee: Lesson number five, be willing to learn lessons from others. ha have you had a mentor in your life or did you really have to figure it out yourself?

[00:21:56] Alberto Esparza: One of the big mistakes that I made is that I thought I knew everything going into it. you know, I mean, that was a big mistake.

[00:22:03] I mean, I had graduated with a master’s degree in education. I had sat on one of the largest boards in the state of Arizona, maybe in the country at Chicanos Por La Causa and I oh sure. Would be able to emulate that. But I. I was always willing to learn. When I started to fail here and there, I began to open myself and make myself available to learn.

[00:22:27] I reached out to other CEOs again, Social Venture Partners of Arizona really helped me tremendously. They brought me in they taught me so much that I had gained a lot of knowledge and that basically helped me out and I was able to move forward.

[00:22:43] Siebe Van Der Zee: Sure. Sure. We’re talking today with Alberto Esparza, a very successful servant leader, providing educational opportunities for young people in underserved communities, sharing his 10 lessons learned.

[00:22:58] Lesson 6:     Embrace negativity

[00:22:58] Siebe Van Der Zee: We’re moving up. Lesson number six, you have been so positive in everything you said. And here you say, embrace negativity, embrace negativity. Curious what you mean with

[00:23:07] Alberto Esparza: that? Okay. Throughout my journey. I had a lot of naysayers. I never call ’em haters. Young people today would call ’em haters. I, that was a little bit too strong.

[00:23:17] So I had naysayers, I had a speech impediment going in and I stuttered profusely. I had to go get some classes. Because I realized that as a CEO, you need to be able to articulate your message. So I was able to do that, but a lot of people, they pointed at me and said that I was not gonna be successful. Even family members Siebe, they would tell me, I don’t think you’re gonna be able to do it.

[00:23:42] You don’t have the business background. You’re gonna fold. And what I tell young people today is embrace negativity. Use that as a source of motivation and inspiration. Someone’s opinion of you is not your reality. And that’s what I have maintained throughout my career. you know, it was very difficult at the beginning.

[00:24:02] But you just gotta keep going forward. If this is your passion, this is what you want to do throughout your career then you gotta be able to embrace it, let it go. Don’t think about it. Just use that as motivation and inspiration. This is what I teach to young people today is someone’s opinion of you is not your reality.

[00:24:23] Those people who point at you and say, you’re not gonna do this. They’re gonna be silence. Beginning today.

[00:24:29] Siebe Van Der Zee: You mentioned passion before and I can see that that is a, a key driving force in who you are dealing with adversity, helping people that are dealing with adversity. I’m curious, is there a role model and you mentioned, Dr. King, but I think also earlier you referred to your grandmother. And to have someone that perhaps reminds you from time to time, even though you have to do it, who would you perhaps, if I can ask you, who would you pick as, as that particular person?

[00:25:03] Alberto Esparza: Growing up? It was my grandma. she adopted me, she raised me from a infant.

[00:25:10] Until her passing. When I was, I believe, age 22, a very humble grandma, always doing things in the community. I would see her in the kitchen Siebe making a pot of beans, making burritos, making red chili and making sure that the homeless near where we live, she was out there providing food. And she used to do that on a tray. I mean, these homeless people were getting their food served on a tray, glass, making sure that she come back with dessert. She was very inspirational. So when I was 12 years old, I tried to raise money in my community. I did a carnival and we had a lot of games and I was raising money for the homeless.

[00:26:00] And we had quite a bit of kids come out there. And so I started to learn where I really learned was when I got into the community college. And I joined a club called MEChA and that’s where I learned social activism. They were very active during that time. And, , as a young lad, I, I mean, I read all, everything that you can possibly read about Dr Martin Luther King Jr. And I still know all his speeches today, so, but I think it started with my grandma. She was a great role model to me. We didn’t have a lot. But man, I loved her even. I, I mean, I think about her every time I see homeless and what she would do to help out the homeless and her community. So she was my role model for sure.

[00:26:44] Siebe Van Der Zee: Yeah. Important. And I appreciate you share that.

[00:26:46] Lesson 7:     Seek out a higher power

[00:26:46] Siebe Van Der Zee: Lesson number seven. Seek out a higher power. I think I know what you’re talking about, but please explain.

[00:26:53] Alberto Esparza: In the, in the late 1990s, I had exhausted all my savings. I was flat broke. I didn’t have a vehicle. I was picking up some bottles and cans just to kind of, buy lunch and a person in the community allowed me to use their office.

[00:27:11] They didn’t have any windows and it was vacant. And I recall sometime in November it was pretty, pretty cool cold, and I was sleeping on the floor. True story. And I woke up about three o’clock and, I wasn’t, I was ready to quit. I was angry at God. I didn’t wanna talk to God anymore. I didn’t wanna pray because I felt that he let me down that I was doing his will, but I didn’t see any intervention from his end.

[00:27:40] That night I had a dream because I was reading, a poetry about God and how God was always behind folks when they didn’t realize that he wasn’t there. And I had a dream that he, he told me. You were never alone. I was always there. So that got to me and but I was really angry. I mean, I was all alone from 1993 to 1998.

[00:28:06] I exhausted, I don’t know, close to a hundred thousand dollars that I would never get back. And. I felt that I was a failure at that time and, time goes so quick Siebe. And so, but then I realized that, you know, he was behind me throughout this period. And. I apologized to him and we had a chat and I told him that I was ready to go and continue to do his work, but that was one of the most difficult periods of my life is having no friends.

[00:28:37] There’s nobody to talk to when you’re law alone and you don’t have any money. And but I’m grateful that the community knew who I was and made sure that I had some burittos or this and that. And when you have no car, you’re pretty much stuck where you’re at. And, I never shared that with anybody.

[00:28:53] This is the first time that I’m sharing this on your podcast.

[00:28:56] Siebe Van Der Zee: Wow. Well, I, I think it’s, it’s inspirational for many people, people that are going through rough times and there are, as we both know many people all over the world that deal with that. But I’m also thinking again of younger people that go through tough stages also in their minds, they’re dealing with adversity or sometimes opportunities and, how to find the guidance, wherever that comes from.

[00:29:24] And it could be a family member. It could be someone’s religion, but we all need that kind of assistance. And that’s what you’re talking about. Seek out a higher power,

[00:29:36] Lesson 8:     It’s never personal

[00:29:36] Siebe Van Der Zee: Lesson number eight. It’s never personal. And my comment would be really?

[00:29:45] Alberto Esparza: That’s a good question. As I got older, I learned that it’s not personal. When I was younger, everything was personal. I took it to heart. I was always angry, but then it comes to the time where you grow up. And you said, if you take things personal, you’re never gonna get things done. You’re Harbor, these ill feelings against folks.

[00:30:04] I made a commitment that I was gonna insulate myself from everybody, who was negative or criticized others. And I told, I tell people today is. Be careful what you say, what you do, how you speak and what you write because social media today will catch up to you. Absolutely. I made that a promise that I was just going to not worry about that.

[00:30:32] And. Try my best, not to be critical because if I’m critical for others, they’re gonna come back and find my faults. And I never wanted that to happen.

[00:30:41] Siebe Van Der Zee: Now. I’m with you when you say don’t take it personal. That’s very important. On the other hand, Are you also advising someone not to, consider it personal?

[00:30:55] I’m thinking of someone that, you know, for example, in traffic gets upset with me for what I did in traffic , and we both know, they can be quite expressive. Don’t you take it personal? No, I keep driving at the same time. Maybe it was meant personal.

[00:31:13] Alberto Esparza: no, that’s a good comment because I don’t even take in personal, in those situations because I never know what the other person.

[00:31:22] Has in his vehicle, I’m always in, in today’s world. In today’s news, you see a lot of bad things that can happen when you’re take it. Oh yeah. When you get off your car and you confront someone, I let things go and just move forward. But again, you’re talking about a more. Older person I’m more mature. There’s been through the, the ringer at an early age, and I decided that I was not gonna be consumed by that, that I was just gonna move forward.

[00:31:52] But I’ve been in some tough situations where I decided, well, I’m just gonna leave this situation and move on and I’ll think about it. It’s really easy because I’m more mature and I’ve been through a lot earlier and I don’t want to continue to Harbor on that anymore.

[00:32:08] Siebe Van Der Zee: It’s a great point. And that’s exactly what we want to share with people.

[00:32:11] Not that we expect that a lot of people that are aggressive, our currently listening to our conversation, but. It is a good reminder that we shouldn’t take things personal, and, you know, take some, some space. And some time, sometimes before responding to whatever it may be, including social media or politics, anywhere in the world.

[00:32:33] Right. It’s quite negative. And we have to find a way to, create a balance and live with it.

[00:32:39] Lesson 9:     We live in a glass house

[00:32:39] Siebe Van Der Zee: But. It goes into lesson number, nine Alberto. Lersson number nine. We live in a glass house. Where do you take that conversation? What is that all about?

[00:32:49] Alberto Esparza: Well, that goes back to social media.

[00:32:51] That goes back to negative thinking that goes back to, to criticizing others. Because, you know, if you believe you have no faults, people are quick to find faults and they’ll post that no matter where, but I tell these young people, especially these young people who are on the social media and they say what they wanna say.

[00:33:10] And they don’t realize that that’s gonna come back to, to haunt them. I deal with a lot of young engineers and I tell them is that you better best believe that your potential employers are looking at whatever you post. And I tell them constantly whatever you post, no matter what your email address be very careful, cuz I’ve seen some email addresses that are very risque. And these are potential engineers. So I have to sit down and say, you know what? You live in a glass house and people are always looking in there and they’re always trying to find fault and that, and that is gonna cost you whether or not a career or that is gonna cost you something, your family.

[00:33:48] And so I think that we have to learn that is that we do live in a glass house and being a community leader. You know, I’m always mindful of that. I’m always mindful or where I go, who I talk to. and again, I never post anything negative to hurt others, even if I don’t agree. I do call people up. We can agree to disagree, but I like talking to people and people who know me, know exactly what I mean is that I would always call ’em up.

[00:34:18] But just be careful what you do. It’s gonna be not.

[00:34:22] Siebe Van Der Zee: It cannot be emphasized enough, I think because, obviously with digital media, they learn about. They’re users very quickly. We all know this when we go to certain platforms with social media. And, I think I, I agree with you, posting negative things that follows you, you know, for as long as it’s out there.

[00:34:46] And, it’s not necessarily helpful. of course, in some cases, people live off the attention, for commercial reasons, so-called influencers who are, you know, every day selling products and making tons of money, they need to be visible. So it it’s, something that we have to be aware of and the negative impact. And, and I see that as a, business recruiter, attracting talent. There is so much information out there from many people. And, we just have to be aware every day that that is the case.

[00:35:20] And, it is a glass house. It is a glass house.

[00:35:23] Alberto Esparza: And it also goes to dress. And I tell these young ladies, I said, you gotta be very careful what you post. That’s gonna stay there for a long time. And if you’re trying to get a professional job risk assured these employers are looking at all your social media.

[00:35:36] Siebe Van Der Zee: Very important.

[00:35:38] Lesson 10:    Be careful what you ask for

[00:35:38] Siebe Van Der Zee: Lesson number 10, lesson, number 10, Alberto, here we are be careful what you ask for.

[00:35:46] Alberto Esparza: And that goes back to my early days when I was first starting the foundation. You know, I assume that these grants were gonna be rolling down like a mighty stream. I thought that it was gonna happen that every grant that I applied for there was gonna be funding. And that cost me. My personal situation, my financial situation you know, I was always broke and that goes back to the other lessons as to, you know, learn from others. Mm-hmm, talk to others. So I tell people, be careful what you ask for cuz that might just come around.

[00:36:25] But that goes to other things too, not necessarily nonprofit, but because. I’m in the nonprofit business. I usually focus on that and it was a difficult journey. I think I shared why it was a difficult journey, a lot, a lot earlier, but I can’t stress enough is that, you know, you gotta be careful what you asked for.

[00:36:44] And like I said, in my case, I wanted to start a nonprofit without really having that. Educational background of what a nonprofit was, but, you know, learn, learn from my mistakes. One day, I hope to write a book and it’s gonna be all my failures and the obstacles that I overcome, and it’s gonna be a teaching tool.

[00:37:02] I do talk to a lot of people and I do tell ’em where you’re gonna start a no nonprofit learn from my faults and I share. Tons of faults all the mistakes that I made

[00:37:10] Siebe Van Der Zee: well, you’re, you’re very humble and I, I appreciate that. Of course I do. At the same time, you have been very successful.

[00:37:18] Yeah. And, and right. And so I, I hear the obstacles that you had to deal with. Throughout your life, the lessons that you have learned and, shared with our audience, and at the same time, I think it’s fair to say you should be very proud of what you have done and the community should be very thankful for the work that you have done consistently your whole life and dealing with the obstacles at the same time.

[00:37:45] It just makes it more, more relevant.

[00:37:47] I do wanna ask you. Another question though, before we close the program, are there any lessons or maybe I should say, is there a lesson in life in your career that you have unlearned that you decided that is not good? I gotta do it differently.

[00:38:07] Alberto Esparza: As I gotten older and more mature, I would say if I can talk to a younger Alberto at age 29, I would share my experience at late fifties.

[00:38:17] I would say not be so concerned of where I will be in the, in the future, but rather where I am today, I gave 40 years of my life to the community and I have served the community well. I walked hundreds of miles alongside the community and protests of injustices everywhere. I provided quality services to the community.

[00:38:40] I spent close to $100,000 of earnings to keep the organization afloat in the beginning. And I even survived prostate cancer. However, I never complained because I was, I always believed I was an instrument of the Lord as I have grown older. I now want to think. Of me and the now and be happy for whatever years I have left.

[00:39:04] I am sure that the community will understand the community will always be in my heart as I am, as I am the community. I am nothing without the community, but I think that’s what I would share with the younger Alberto is, not be so consumed about the future. Take care of yourself. Now you overcame prostate cancer.

[00:39:27] You overcame a lot of difficulties and you’ve been a big success. Never forget that everywhere you’ve gone, you’ve succeeded. And that’s what I would tell a young Alberto.

[00:39:40] Siebe Van Der Zee: I like it. I like it a lot. Thank you so much. Thank you for joining us today, muchas, muchas gracias and thank you for sharing your wisdoms with our global audience.

[00:39:51] I wanna make a few closing comments. You have been listening to the international program 10 lessons learned this episode is produced by Robert Hossary. And as always, we are supported by the Professional Development Forum. Our guest today is Alberto Esparza, a very successful servant leader, providing educational opportunities for young people in underserved communities, sharing his 10 lessons learned.

[00:40:17] And to our audience, don’t forget to leave as a review or a comment. You can also email us at podcast@10lessonslearned.com that is podcast at number 10, 1 0 lessons learned.com. I hope you will subscribe so that you don’t miss any future episodes. And remember, this is a podcast that makes the world wiser and wiser lesson by lesson.

[00:40:44] Muchas Garcias Hasta la Vista. Thank you. And stay safe.

 This episode is produced by Robert Hossary. Sponsored as always by Professional Development Forum, which office insights, community or discussions, podcasts, parties, anything you want here, but they’re unique and it’s all free online. You can find the www.professionaldevelopmentforum.org you’ve heard from us we’d like to hear from you. Email us it’s podcast@10lessonslearned.com. Remember, this is the podcast the only podcast. That’s makes the world wiser lesson by lesson.

 
Alberto Esparza

Alberto Esparza – Leadership is defined by the community

Alberto Esparza discusses why you should not be "Afraid to Fail", how "It's Never Personal" and why you should "Embrace Negativity" hosted by Siebe Van Der Zee

About Alberto Esparza

Alberto has served as the founder and president of Si Se Puede Foundation for 28 years. The mission of the Si Se Puede Foundation, it stands for “Yes, You Can” is to provide opportunities for underserved young people and to develop an interest and proficiency in STEM, science, technology, engineering, and math, Alberto quote, unquote retired last year.

To start his latest nonprofit, the I Rise Foundation dedicated to providing underserved and underrepresented students an opportunity to consider STEM as a career choice.

Episode Notes

Lesson 1: Don’t assume you know how to engage a community 5:12
Lesson 2: Don’t be afraid to fail 8:56
Lesson 3: Leadership is defined by the community 14:01
Lesson 4: Set goals 21:46
Lesson 5: Be willing to learn lessons from others 21:46
Lesson 6: Embrace negativity 22:58
Lesson 7: Seek out a higher power 26:46
Lesson 8: It’s never personal 29:36
Lesson 9: We live in a glass house 32:39
Lesson 10: Be careful what you ask for 35:38

Alberto Esparza – Leadership is defined by the community

[00:00:08] Siebe Van Der Zee: Hello, and welcome to our program. 10 lessons learned where we talk to business people, journalists, professors, ambassadors, leaders, and luminaries from all over the world. My name is Siebe Van Der Zee, and I’m your host. I’m originally from the Netherlands. Happily residing in the beautiful grand canyon state of Arizona in the United States.

[00:00:31] I’m also known as the Dutchman in the desert.

[00:00:35] Affiliate Mention

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[00:01:00] That is audible trial.com. One zero lessons learned all lowercase to get your free 30 day trial.

[00:01:09] Our guest today is Alberto Esparza. Alberto has served as the founder and president of Si Se Puede Foundation for 28 years. The mission of the Si Se Puede Foundation, it stands for “Yes, You Can” is to provide opportunities for underserved young people and to develop an interest and proficiency in STEM, science, technology, engineering, and math, Alberto quote, unquote retired last year.

[00:01:37] To start his latest nonprofit, the I Rise Foundation dedicated to provide underserved and underrepresented students an opportunity to consider STEM as a career choice. Again, very valuable. You can learn more about Alberto Esparza on our website, 10 lessons learned.com. Buenas dias. Alberto, how are you? Thank you for joining us.

[00:02:02] Alberto Esparza: Good morning Siebe. It’s a pleasure to be on your platform. And I look forward to the dialogue. Thank you very much.

[00:02:08] Siebe Van Der Zee: Absolutely. I am so curious in, in the work that you have done and I see a beautiful picture behind you, of looks like young girls playing soccer. What is your, your interest and, and commitments to doing this?

[00:02:24] Helping young people in underserved communities for now 30 years, where is that coming from?

[00:02:31] Alberto Esparza: That’s basically coming from where I grew up. I grew up in a impoverished area, a lot of gang activity and gang violence, but had a beautiful grandmother who raised me very well, always taught me from right from wrong and wanted me to serve others because I saw how she served others.

[00:02:48] She was about like 95 years old before she passed. And I recall her going into the neighborhoods and making sure that, you know, the homeless had something to eat. And I saw that on a basis. And we went to church every day, seven days a week, we would walk two miles from her home to church on a regular basis.

[00:03:08] So she was my role model and she meant the world to me. So she taught me well.

[00:03:13] Siebe Van Der Zee: Wonderful, wonderful. The I Rise Foundation. Please explain the purpose and again, the work that the foundation is doing

[00:03:22] Alberto Esparza: okay. A couple of years ago I had prostate cancer. So I was very ill and that led to my decision to retire from Si Se Puede Foundation.

[00:03:31] When the doctor gave me the green light to go ahead and go back into the community, I really wasn’t gonna go back into the community. It was the community that was calling me up. They wanted me to go back and deliver soccer and deliver all the programs that I used to deliver. And it was a very easy decision because I was at home not doing anything crying lonely.

[00:03:51] And I said, you know what? I really gotta get back to the community because I needed the community. More than the community needed me. So I started I Rise, but I wanted to do something very unique. I wanted to focus on the native American students. And so in the past I work with, Skyline Gila River. Saint Peter Indian Mission School, The Boys & Girls Club in the Sacaton, which are. Predominantly native America and it was the best decision I made. So I’m currently delivering those programs, but I’m still in Chandler. I’m in Chandler because I have a wonderful school district, the Chandler unified school district, without them, I’m a nonprofit and search of the Chandler unified school district.

[00:04:30] So they have been really good to meet these past years. So, I want to continue to serve the Latino community, but also expand my services to the native American communities.

[00:04:40] Siebe Van Der Zee: Very powerful indeed. And helping young people by giving them opportunities and access to opportunities and doing it in a way that they enjoy.

[00:04:50] Right. Because again, if I think about, the activities that you organize. It’s fun. It’s enjoyable. And of course these young people, they benefit from it. That must, that must make you feel good doing that for 30 years and living that life,

[00:05:07] Alberto Esparza: you know, throughout the presentation, you’re gonna hear me discuss relationship building.

[00:05:12] Lesson 1:     Don’t assume you know how to engage a community

[00:05:12] Alberto Esparza: And one of the things that I did is the first lesson that we’re gonna talk about is relationship building. I never assumed what the community wanted. I always built in no matter what program stakeholders I built these committees to let the community explain to me what they wanted.

[00:05:30] So a lot of the programs that I have are really as a result of what the community needs, the soccer program is, really, really growing. I think this year we’re gonna have close to 600. Kids involved in our program. It runs from September, goes all the way through May. The beauty of this program is run by the parents and is run by our high school students.

[00:05:53] And we have no money, but when you go out there to those fields, everybody has a uniform. We got referees, our parents are background checked. It runs pretty smooth. A lot of people ask me, well, how do you do it? It’s pretty easy. It’s because I’m engaged in the community. The community has told me what programs they wanted and that’s the reason why I’ve been successful.

[00:06:16] Before that I used to assume what the community wanted. And that was a big mistake. So these programs are offered based on what the community needs are.

[00:06:25] Siebe Van Der Zee: Fascinating. And at the same time, I recognize that you have to already moved to lesson number one. Sure. Don’t assume you know how to engage the community.

[00:06:35] That is our lesson number one today. But I want to go one step back if you don’t mind. Sure. Because I know you talk about the work that you’re doing and that’s what we want to hear. And the wisdom that you have learned from that. But just, let’s say to start out, what kind of lesson would you like to teach yourself?

[00:06:57] If you would be 30 years old today? What have you learned that you would like to have learned a few years ago?

[00:07:05] Alberto Esparza: Well, when I first got into the nonprofit organizations, I didn’t really know what the nonprofit was. I didn’t know what, you know, a strategic planning was, I didn’t know, board development, I didn’t know even know how to write a grant.

[00:07:19] So I took the bull by the horns and started a nonprofit without really knowing. I was pretty good in the community. But I was pretty bad in terms of the business aspect of it. So if I could tell a young Alberto, the 30 years ago is to take some classes on nonprofit. I believe at the time they were offering that at Arizona state university, I looked into it, but I never followed up.

[00:07:43] So a lot of the experience I gained was because of failures. But if I can go back, I would sit down with. Young Alberto basically said, Hey, if you’re gonna start this nonprofit, it’s gonna be a difficult journey. My suggestion to you would take a couple classes, learn, everything that you can learn about, grant writing, which really killed me.

[00:08:04] I didn’t have a clue. My first grant was written in pencil. written in pencil, and I recall that I submitted it to the valley of the sun United way. And basically it was a difficult, the conversation between the valley of United way and myself. But it was a horrible grant. And I knew that I was not gonna get it, but I would sit down with Alberto and say, you know what, you’re gonna create this nonprofit.

[00:08:33] You have all the experience in the community, but my suggestion would be take a couple of classes, take a deep breath, ask a lot of questions, go visit other nonprofits. Other CEOs, know what you’re getting into. And that’s what I would tell Alberto Esparza.

[00:08:48] Siebe Van Der Zee: Know what you’re getting into. I like it. Good point.

[00:08:51] So we talked about lesson number one, don’t assume you know how to engage a community.

[00:08:56]

[00:08:56] Lesson 2:     Don’t be afraid to fail

[00:08:56] Siebe Van Der Zee: Lesson number two, don’t be afraid to fail.

[00:09:01] Alberto Esparza: Throughout my journey. I had failed big time and. it is re a direct result that I didn’t have any experience in the nonprofit world. Mm-hmm . I had an idea that I wanted to serve the community.

[00:09:13] Great idea. You have to understand that a lot of nonprofits are started by somebody in the community who really doesn’t have that business sense. But one of the things that I learned and a teacher when I was in the sixth grade, she taught me how to goal set. and she taught me how to set goals, minimum goals, medium and goals, and long term goals.

[00:09:38] And I remember that. So when I started the foundation, I started to set those type of goals. But my teacher reminded me that I was not gonna accomplish all the goals that I set. Nobody does. So it was important is going after them. And it wasn’t the material things that was important, but your journey in pursuit of your goals.

[00:09:58] And she said, because you’re goal setting, it’s gonna make you a better professional, but more importantly, A better human being goals. Keep you focused. It gives you a sense of purpose. And I truly believe I tell young people because they all want to start nonprofits. And I said, learn how to set goals.

[00:10:16] That’s gonna be very important. And that’s what I’ve done throughout my career was set the small goals that are gonna give me immediate success and then build upon that. And. I think I’ve become an expert in goal setting.

[00:10:30] Siebe Van Der Zee: Now when it comes to failure, yes don’t give up, keep going. But let’s face it.

[00:10:36] The reality of failure, can be very, very tough. Right. We can think of, of several situations, but it could be on the financial side. Yeah. Keep going, wait a minute. I don’t have any money. So, how do you teach easy question, hard answer, but how do you teach someone to overcome failure? How do you motivate them to say do it again, keep going?

[00:11:01] Alberto Esparza: Many of these nonprofits are started by somebody in the community that doesn’t have the business sense, but what separates them from others is their passion and their motivation. And. That helps you throughout your journey when I didn’t have any funding, you know, there was one period.

[00:11:19] And I’m gonna talk about that. I believe in the mid nineties, I was sleeping in a vacant office. I didn’t have a vehicle. I was walking from school district to school district to deliver my programs and I could have easily quit. As a matter of fact, I woke up that early morning wanting to quit and get away from nonprofit cuz I fell out alone.

[00:11:42] But what kept me going was, my motivation to serve the community. and my motivation to never give it up no matter how difficult it was. And, and I remind people, this is your journey. Nobody cares about your journey, but you, yeah. So you have to make a decision. If this, something that you want, then you gotta be able to overcome those obstacles and you gotta keep, keep at it.

[00:12:08] Eventually you’ll have success. And that’s been my philosophy.

[00:12:12] Siebe Van Der Zee: You, you mentioned the passion. It’s important perhaps as a mentor to have the passion to guide individuals and then the individuals, each individual by him or herself, they have to light that fire and say, yes, I can do that. They have to feel right.

[00:12:31] And you have to in a way, help them get to that point.

[00:12:34] Alberto Esparza: You know, one thing that I like to mention is that, years into the foundation and my struggle. I was adopted by a group of Social Venture Partners, Arizona. They’re a nonprofit organization in Arizona, and I think they’re nationally loan that adopts five nonprofits per year.

[00:12:54] And they reached out to me how they found me Siebe, I have no idea what they found me. And they met with me. They took me to dinner and they wanted me to come into the organization so that they can give me the tools to be successful. And I don’t want to forget them because they were very instrumental in my success.

[00:13:18] They gave me board training. They helped me with my grants. They were able to get me a CPA. So, I believe that occurred in 1998. Without them I would not have had the success. So, when you’re doing good. People will take notice I was doing good and people were noticing because I was getting a lot of calls for folks who wanted to come into the organization and see how I was doing this.

[00:13:44] Back in 1998, I really didn’t know if I wanted to continue to be a nonprofit, but when Social Venture Partners, Arizona brought me in and I’m asking everybody to look them up because they’ve been phenomenal to me. So they provided the expertise that I needed to go forward.

[00:14:00] Siebe Van Der Zee: Yeah,

[00:14:01] Lesson 3:     Leadership is defined by the community

[00:14:01] Siebe Van Der Zee: well, let’s go to lesson number three. Leadership is defined by the community and I’m kind of curious. You’re gonna explain it. No doubt. What do you mean with the community?

[00:14:12] Alberto Esparza: Well, I’m focusing on the Latino community because that’s all I’ve known throughout my career. The Latino community is very fickle. They’re very careful on whom they’re going to.

[00:14:23] Bessow the term leader. A lot of these folks come from Mexico or other Spanish speaking countries. And there’s a lot of, fraud within the political systems where they’re at. So they see leaders in a different light when they come to America. So, leadership is relationship building and I am an expert in relationship.

[00:14:50] And I’m a leader that have walked beside the community as opposed to have led from above I have supported the community when there’s been in social injustices. So I have marched alongside them for hundreds of miles. And I think the community, when they see that.

[00:15:10] They see how you respond to communities? A few years back, I had a call and this is gonna define where my leadership comes from. I had a call from a parent at 2:00 AM in the morning, and, you know, Siebe every time you get a call at 2:00 AM in the morning, you know, something has happened that is not good.

[00:15:30] Yeah. And on the other line was apparent crying profusely. She had told me that one of that, one of her sons was gunned down by a drive-by shooting. Hmm. I listened to her for about five minutes as she was in tears. And after she stopped crying, I told her, give me your address. I’ll be over there within a half hour to an hour.

[00:15:54] When I went. I told the parents that I would help them with the funeral expenses right away. I got the community engagement. I said, this, this was the only child. Of these two parents and the community really supported these efforts. We were able to do that. And not only that is that I was able to provide food because I know that they had a lot of people who were coming in from different countries to come in and to pay their respects.

[00:16:23] So that’s what it is when the community sees that you’re willing to go above and beyond. That’s when you got the community. I know other leaders that really don’t do that engagement. As a matter of fact, the NAACP about 15 years ago, when they had their annual dinner, they talked about returning to the community that they have left the community.

[00:16:45] I’ve never left the community. I teach English as a second language. I I’m in there in the soccer. I’m there in the dance programs. I was there for the scholars. I was there at wedding. Funerals. And that’s where your leadership comes up. How engaged are you? Relationship building. They’ll never forget that.

[00:17:05] And today I’m very lucky that I have. The community to support. I don’t have to distribute flyers for my program. They know where I am. They go on Facebook. These programs are great because I have an opportunity to meet parents and children in the morning and the afternoon after every game, after every program.

[00:17:25] And we talk about, you know, what issues they’re having and what problems that I can solve.

[00:17:30] Siebe Van Der Zee: I have a question. I have a question. When you deal with native American communities, of course, they’re different than Latino communities, building relationships with young people and their parents and their leaders.

[00:17:47] How would you describe that?

[00:17:49] Alberto Esparza: initially it wasn’t too positive. There’s a lot of history between the native American and the United States. One of the things that they haven’t forgotten is how they’ve been treated during the trail of tears. When president Jackson forced the native Americans to walk miles and miles and miles, hundreds of miles, a lot of the native Americans died during their journey.

[00:18:19] It’s very difficult, but I have been in the native American community for five years. They have seen me provide these services. I’m able to talk to them. We hosted underwater the competition in May, 2022. And we invited the native American communities. And I was so happy that a lot of parents came in.

[00:18:42] A lot of kids, they participated, I provided food. I listened to them. I talked to them, I shook their hands that’s relationship building. You gotta be able to do that. I see other CEOs who don’t do that.

[00:18:55] Siebe Van Der Zee: I appreciate you. You bring this up. because it’s, something that sometimes is can we say overlooked underestimated. Exactly. But is it is of extreme value to show the respect for native American cultures and in the work that you do, you experience that and, and I I’m glad you mentioned that. so thank you for that.

[00:19:16] I want to move on to lesson number four, you have already touched on some of that, lesson number four.

[00:19:22] Set goals. well, my question would be, how do you measure, do you measure goals? It’s one thing to set them, but at some point you say, did we meet the goals or not? Is that something that you include?

[00:19:35] Alberto Esparza: Yeah, it’s very basic. That’s not rocket science. I set goals. Maybe I’m going to develop a new program that the, that the community is asking for and I’m engaged throughout their process.

[00:19:49] From the beginning of the dialogue, to when the programs are delivered, until the end, I ask a lot of questions. I ask the community, are we meeting your needs? What can we do differently? And again, that goes back to relationship building and engagement. The community wants their leaders. To be engaged with them to not be afraid to talk to them.

[00:20:12] So I measure a success based on the number of students or the number of participants who are involved in our programs. And I measure the success because I do a pre and post test. Yeah. I wanna get an idea how they feel about this class and at the end, what they felt that we could do better or what they didn’t like.

[00:20:33] They liked that. And these committees that I have created. Give them them opportunity and they love it because, I really believe that, they like to tell me what they like. And, I take on that role. I never get offended by that. Because I know who I’m working with. And I know that’s imperative that I do that to develop these relationships.

[00:20:55] Siebe Van Der Zee: it creates a level of ownership, right? When they are asked to give their opinions and people are included, they feel they are part of it and they are part of it.

[00:21:06] Alberto Esparza: Yes. And I had to make a quick comment, cuz I know I speaking a lot, but Dr. King said. He said, if you build a community and you fail to include a certain segment of that community, those who feel excluded will unconsciously destroy everything that you built.

[00:21:25] And I remember that quote, and I tried to follow what Dr. King was doing during the sixties. He was great at it, getting the community engagement. He was out there. so. Getting them involved and making them become stakeholders is very important. So when we have strategic planning, we invite the community as well to give their input.

[00:21:43] Siebe Van Der Zee: Yeah, inclusive. I, I like it very much.

[00:21:46] Lesson 5:     Be willing to learn lessons from others

[00:21:46] Siebe Van Der Zee: Lesson number five, be willing to learn lessons from others. ha have you had a mentor in your life or did you really have to figure it out yourself?

[00:21:56] Alberto Esparza: One of the big mistakes that I made is that I thought I knew everything going into it. you know, I mean, that was a big mistake.

[00:22:03] I mean, I had graduated with a master’s degree in education. I had sat on one of the largest boards in the state of Arizona, maybe in the country at Chicanos Por La Causa and I oh sure. Would be able to emulate that. But I. I was always willing to learn. When I started to fail here and there, I began to open myself and make myself available to learn.

[00:22:27] I reached out to other CEOs again, Social Venture Partners of Arizona really helped me tremendously. They brought me in they taught me so much that I had gained a lot of knowledge and that basically helped me out and I was able to move forward.

[00:22:43] Siebe Van Der Zee: Sure. Sure. We’re talking today with Alberto Esparza, a very successful servant leader, providing educational opportunities for young people in underserved communities, sharing his 10 lessons learned.

[00:22:58] Lesson 6:     Embrace negativity

[00:22:58] Siebe Van Der Zee: We’re moving up. Lesson number six, you have been so positive in everything you said. And here you say, embrace negativity, embrace negativity. Curious what you mean with

[00:23:07] Alberto Esparza: that? Okay. Throughout my journey. I had a lot of naysayers. I never call ’em haters. Young people today would call ’em haters. I, that was a little bit too strong.

[00:23:17] So I had naysayers, I had a speech impediment going in and I stuttered profusely. I had to go get some classes. Because I realized that as a CEO, you need to be able to articulate your message. So I was able to do that, but a lot of people, they pointed at me and said that I was not gonna be successful. Even family members Siebe, they would tell me, I don’t think you’re gonna be able to do it.

[00:23:42] You don’t have the business background. You’re gonna fold. And what I tell young people today is embrace negativity. Use that as a source of motivation and inspiration. Someone’s opinion of you is not your reality. And that’s what I have maintained throughout my career. you know, it was very difficult at the beginning.

[00:24:02] But you just gotta keep going forward. If this is your passion, this is what you want to do throughout your career then you gotta be able to embrace it, let it go. Don’t think about it. Just use that as motivation and inspiration. This is what I teach to young people today is someone’s opinion of you is not your reality.

[00:24:23] Those people who point at you and say, you’re not gonna do this. They’re gonna be silence. Beginning today.

[00:24:29] Siebe Van Der Zee: You mentioned passion before and I can see that that is a, a key driving force in who you are dealing with adversity, helping people that are dealing with adversity. I’m curious, is there a role model and you mentioned, Dr. King, but I think also earlier you referred to your grandmother. And to have someone that perhaps reminds you from time to time, even though you have to do it, who would you perhaps, if I can ask you, who would you pick as, as that particular person?

[00:25:03] Alberto Esparza: Growing up? It was my grandma. she adopted me, she raised me from a infant.

[00:25:10] Until her passing. When I was, I believe, age 22, a very humble grandma, always doing things in the community. I would see her in the kitchen Siebe making a pot of beans, making burritos, making red chili and making sure that the homeless near where we live, she was out there providing food. And she used to do that on a tray. I mean, these homeless people were getting their food served on a tray, glass, making sure that she come back with dessert. She was very inspirational. So when I was 12 years old, I tried to raise money in my community. I did a carnival and we had a lot of games and I was raising money for the homeless.

[00:26:00] And we had quite a bit of kids come out there. And so I started to learn where I really learned was when I got into the community college. And I joined a club called MEChA and that’s where I learned social activism. They were very active during that time. And, , as a young lad, I, I mean, I read all, everything that you can possibly read about Dr Martin Luther King Jr. And I still know all his speeches today, so, but I think it started with my grandma. She was a great role model to me. We didn’t have a lot. But man, I loved her even. I, I mean, I think about her every time I see homeless and what she would do to help out the homeless and her community. So she was my role model for sure.

[00:26:44] Siebe Van Der Zee: Yeah. Important. And I appreciate you share that.

[00:26:46] Lesson 7:     Seek out a higher power

[00:26:46] Siebe Van Der Zee: Lesson number seven. Seek out a higher power. I think I know what you’re talking about, but please explain.

[00:26:53] Alberto Esparza: In the, in the late 1990s, I had exhausted all my savings. I was flat broke. I didn’t have a vehicle. I was picking up some bottles and cans just to kind of, buy lunch and a person in the community allowed me to use their office.

[00:27:11] They didn’t have any windows and it was vacant. And I recall sometime in November it was pretty, pretty cool cold, and I was sleeping on the floor. True story. And I woke up about three o’clock and, I wasn’t, I was ready to quit. I was angry at God. I didn’t wanna talk to God anymore. I didn’t wanna pray because I felt that he let me down that I was doing his will, but I didn’t see any intervention from his end.

[00:27:40] That night I had a dream because I was reading, a poetry about God and how God was always behind folks when they didn’t realize that he wasn’t there. And I had a dream that he, he told me. You were never alone. I was always there. So that got to me and but I was really angry. I mean, I was all alone from 1993 to 1998.

[00:28:06] I exhausted, I don’t know, close to a hundred thousand dollars that I would never get back. And. I felt that I was a failure at that time and, time goes so quick Siebe. And so, but then I realized that, you know, he was behind me throughout this period. And. I apologized to him and we had a chat and I told him that I was ready to go and continue to do his work, but that was one of the most difficult periods of my life is having no friends.

[00:28:37] There’s nobody to talk to when you’re law alone and you don’t have any money. And but I’m grateful that the community knew who I was and made sure that I had some burittos or this and that. And when you have no car, you’re pretty much stuck where you’re at. And, I never shared that with anybody.

[00:28:53] This is the first time that I’m sharing this on your podcast.

[00:28:56] Siebe Van Der Zee: Wow. Well, I, I think it’s, it’s inspirational for many people, people that are going through rough times and there are, as we both know many people all over the world that deal with that. But I’m also thinking again of younger people that go through tough stages also in their minds, they’re dealing with adversity or sometimes opportunities and, how to find the guidance, wherever that comes from.

[00:29:24] And it could be a family member. It could be someone’s religion, but we all need that kind of assistance. And that’s what you’re talking about. Seek out a higher power,

[00:29:36] Lesson 8:     It’s never personal

[00:29:36] Siebe Van Der Zee: Lesson number eight. It’s never personal. And my comment would be really?

[00:29:45] Alberto Esparza: That’s a good question. As I got older, I learned that it’s not personal. When I was younger, everything was personal. I took it to heart. I was always angry, but then it comes to the time where you grow up. And you said, if you take things personal, you’re never gonna get things done. You’re Harbor, these ill feelings against folks.

[00:30:04] I made a commitment that I was gonna insulate myself from everybody, who was negative or criticized others. And I told, I tell people today is. Be careful what you say, what you do, how you speak and what you write because social media today will catch up to you. Absolutely. I made that a promise that I was just going to not worry about that.

[00:30:32] And. Try my best, not to be critical because if I’m critical for others, they’re gonna come back and find my faults. And I never wanted that to happen.

[00:30:41] Siebe Van Der Zee: Now. I’m with you when you say don’t take it personal. That’s very important. On the other hand, Are you also advising someone not to, consider it personal?

[00:30:55] I’m thinking of someone that, you know, for example, in traffic gets upset with me for what I did in traffic , and we both know, they can be quite expressive. Don’t you take it personal? No, I keep driving at the same time. Maybe it was meant personal.

[00:31:13] Alberto Esparza: no, that’s a good comment because I don’t even take in personal, in those situations because I never know what the other person.

[00:31:22] Has in his vehicle, I’m always in, in today’s world. In today’s news, you see a lot of bad things that can happen when you’re take it. Oh yeah. When you get off your car and you confront someone, I let things go and just move forward. But again, you’re talking about a more. Older person I’m more mature. There’s been through the, the ringer at an early age, and I decided that I was not gonna be consumed by that, that I was just gonna move forward.

[00:31:52] But I’ve been in some tough situations where I decided, well, I’m just gonna leave this situation and move on and I’ll think about it. It’s really easy because I’m more mature and I’ve been through a lot earlier and I don’t want to continue to Harbor on that anymore.

[00:32:08] Siebe Van Der Zee: It’s a great point. And that’s exactly what we want to share with people.

[00:32:11] Not that we expect that a lot of people that are aggressive, our currently listening to our conversation, but. It is a good reminder that we shouldn’t take things personal, and, you know, take some, some space. And some time, sometimes before responding to whatever it may be, including social media or politics, anywhere in the world.

[00:32:33] Right. It’s quite negative. And we have to find a way to, create a balance and live with it.

[00:32:39] Lesson 9:     We live in a glass house

[00:32:39] Siebe Van Der Zee: But. It goes into lesson number, nine Alberto. Lersson number nine. We live in a glass house. Where do you take that conversation? What is that all about?

[00:32:49] Alberto Esparza: Well, that goes back to social media.

[00:32:51] That goes back to negative thinking that goes back to, to criticizing others. Because, you know, if you believe you have no faults, people are quick to find faults and they’ll post that no matter where, but I tell these young people, especially these young people who are on the social media and they say what they wanna say.

[00:33:10] And they don’t realize that that’s gonna come back to, to haunt them. I deal with a lot of young engineers and I tell them is that you better best believe that your potential employers are looking at whatever you post. And I tell them constantly whatever you post, no matter what your email address be very careful, cuz I’ve seen some email addresses that are very risque. And these are potential engineers. So I have to sit down and say, you know what? You live in a glass house and people are always looking in there and they’re always trying to find fault and that, and that is gonna cost you whether or not a career or that is gonna cost you something, your family.

[00:33:48] And so I think that we have to learn that is that we do live in a glass house and being a community leader. You know, I’m always mindful of that. I’m always mindful or where I go, who I talk to. and again, I never post anything negative to hurt others, even if I don’t agree. I do call people up. We can agree to disagree, but I like talking to people and people who know me, know exactly what I mean is that I would always call ’em up.

[00:34:18] But just be careful what you do. It’s gonna be not.

[00:34:22] Siebe Van Der Zee: It cannot be emphasized enough, I think because, obviously with digital media, they learn about. They’re users very quickly. We all know this when we go to certain platforms with social media. And, I think I, I agree with you, posting negative things that follows you, you know, for as long as it’s out there.

[00:34:46] And, it’s not necessarily helpful. of course, in some cases, people live off the attention, for commercial reasons, so-called influencers who are, you know, every day selling products and making tons of money, they need to be visible. So it it’s, something that we have to be aware of and the negative impact. And, and I see that as a, business recruiter, attracting talent. There is so much information out there from many people. And, we just have to be aware every day that that is the case.

[00:35:20] And, it is a glass house. It is a glass house.

[00:35:23] Alberto Esparza: And it also goes to dress. And I tell these young ladies, I said, you gotta be very careful what you post. That’s gonna stay there for a long time. And if you’re trying to get a professional job risk assured these employers are looking at all your social media.

[00:35:36] Siebe Van Der Zee: Very important.

[00:35:38] Lesson 10:    Be careful what you ask for

[00:35:38] Siebe Van Der Zee: Lesson number 10, lesson, number 10, Alberto, here we are be careful what you ask for.

[00:35:46] Alberto Esparza: And that goes back to my early days when I was first starting the foundation. You know, I assume that these grants were gonna be rolling down like a mighty stream. I thought that it was gonna happen that every grant that I applied for there was gonna be funding. And that cost me. My personal situation, my financial situation you know, I was always broke and that goes back to the other lessons as to, you know, learn from others. Mm-hmm, talk to others. So I tell people, be careful what you ask for cuz that might just come around.

[00:36:25] But that goes to other things too, not necessarily nonprofit, but because. I’m in the nonprofit business. I usually focus on that and it was a difficult journey. I think I shared why it was a difficult journey, a lot, a lot earlier, but I can’t stress enough is that, you know, you gotta be careful what you asked for.

[00:36:44] And like I said, in my case, I wanted to start a nonprofit without really having that. Educational background of what a nonprofit was, but, you know, learn, learn from my mistakes. One day, I hope to write a book and it’s gonna be all my failures and the obstacles that I overcome, and it’s gonna be a teaching tool.

[00:37:02] I do talk to a lot of people and I do tell ’em where you’re gonna start a no nonprofit learn from my faults and I share. Tons of faults all the mistakes that I made

[00:37:10] Siebe Van Der Zee: well, you’re, you’re very humble and I, I appreciate that. Of course I do. At the same time, you have been very successful.

[00:37:18] Yeah. And, and right. And so I, I hear the obstacles that you had to deal with. Throughout your life, the lessons that you have learned and, shared with our audience, and at the same time, I think it’s fair to say you should be very proud of what you have done and the community should be very thankful for the work that you have done consistently your whole life and dealing with the obstacles at the same time.

[00:37:45] It just makes it more, more relevant.

[00:37:47] I do wanna ask you. Another question though, before we close the program, are there any lessons or maybe I should say, is there a lesson in life in your career that you have unlearned that you decided that is not good? I gotta do it differently.

[00:38:07] Alberto Esparza: As I gotten older and more mature, I would say if I can talk to a younger Alberto at age 29, I would share my experience at late fifties.

[00:38:17] I would say not be so concerned of where I will be in the, in the future, but rather where I am today, I gave 40 years of my life to the community and I have served the community well. I walked hundreds of miles alongside the community and protests of injustices everywhere. I provided quality services to the community.

[00:38:40] I spent close to $100,000 of earnings to keep the organization afloat in the beginning. And I even survived prostate cancer. However, I never complained because I was, I always believed I was an instrument of the Lord as I have grown older. I now want to think. Of me and the now and be happy for whatever years I have left.

[00:39:04] I am sure that the community will understand the community will always be in my heart as I am, as I am the community. I am nothing without the community, but I think that’s what I would share with the younger Alberto is, not be so consumed about the future. Take care of yourself. Now you overcame prostate cancer.

[00:39:27] You overcame a lot of difficulties and you’ve been a big success. Never forget that everywhere you’ve gone, you’ve succeeded. And that’s what I would tell a young Alberto.

[00:39:40] Siebe Van Der Zee: I like it. I like it a lot. Thank you so much. Thank you for joining us today, muchas, muchas gracias and thank you for sharing your wisdoms with our global audience.

[00:39:51] I wanna make a few closing comments. You have been listening to the international program 10 lessons learned this episode is produced by Robert Hossary. And as always, we are supported by the Professional Development Forum. Our guest today is Alberto Esparza, a very successful servant leader, providing educational opportunities for young people in underserved communities, sharing his 10 lessons learned.

[00:40:17] And to our audience, don’t forget to leave as a review or a comment. You can also email us at podcast@10lessonslearned.com that is podcast at number 10, 1 0 lessons learned.com. I hope you will subscribe so that you don’t miss any future episodes. And remember, this is a podcast that makes the world wiser and wiser lesson by lesson.

[00:40:44] Muchas Garcias Hasta la Vista. Thank you. And stay safe.

 This episode is produced by Robert Hossary. Sponsored as always by Professional Development Forum, which office insights, community or discussions, podcasts, parties, anything you want here, but they’re unique and it’s all free online. You can find the www.professionaldevelopmentforum.org you’ve heard from us we’d like to hear from you. Email us it’s podcast@10lessonslearned.com. Remember, this is the podcast the only podcast. That’s makes the world wiser lesson by lesson.

 

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