Search and Find
More eBook Details
Work Like An Immigrant - 9 Keys to Unlock Your Potential, Attain True Fulfillment, and Build Your Legacy Today
My Journey Begins
It’s the repetition of affirmations that leads to belief. And once that belief becomes a deep conviction, things begin to happen.
My father died in 1983 when I was only three months old. His life ended in a horrible car accident while commuting to work in heavy rain. The person driving the car my father was in made a poor decision and tried to pass another car on a two-lane highway. Unfortunately, a gas truck was traveling in the opposite direction and the two vehicles collided head-on, causing an explosion that instantly killed my father and five others.
My mother was in shock for years after that accident. She had lost the love of her life after only thirteen months of marriage, leaving her with an infant to raise on her own.
Two years before I was born, my father had planned to become a priest. Fortunately for me, my mother’s alluring beauty changed his mind! He was twenty-three years old and already had his own home and a car, which is a big deal in Brazil; many people live their entire lives there without owning either one. As the manager at the local bank, and juggling courses at two colleges, I honestly don’t know how he could have possibly thought he had the time to start a family. But he was driven! Not only was he highly intelligent and charismatic, he was a humble man seeking to improve the quality of life for the kids who lived on the streets of Brazil, often in hunger.
My father taught these kids how to play music. He even set up sports programs for them so that they wouldn’t become criminals and end up dying at young ages like so many other impoverished Brazilians. Because of his willingness to go above and beyond to help those in need, my father was loved by many. This was most evident at his funeral, where the cars of those offering their condolences packed a quarter mile of parking spaces. People had to gather around the perimeter of my grandfather’s home because they couldn’t all get inside. The world had lost a great man.
Growing up, I was told numerous times that I was like my father because I always loved to help and to spend time with the less fortunate kids. Though I wanted to be just like him, I also knew that I had some huge shoes to fill.
LIFE LESSON 1:
CHOOSE A ROLE MODEL
I never got to know my father, but I knew enough of him that he was my role model growing up. I never wanted to live the life he led, but I wanted to have a big, kind heart like his, to make a positive impact on the world like he did, and to earn the respect and admiration of others. Even though he was not present during my childhood to guide me, his presence was made known by all the stories my mother and others told me about him, and that served as a positive influence on my conduct and decisions.
Having a role model gives you a vision of the kind of person you want to be in each aspect of your life. You may have multiple role models—someone you admire in the business world, someone who parents better than anyone else you know, a community leader who has made a positive impact on the world, and so on. It’s important to have a clear vision not only of what you want out of life, but also of the type of person you want to be. Role models can help with that.
Soon after the death of my father, my mother got a job while finishing her last year of high school. My grandma and her sisters, all of whom also had jobs, took turns caring for me while my mother worked tirelessly to keep up with the bills and her schoolwork. After graduating high school, she decided to work instead of going on to college, because she didn’t have the time and money to attend college and raise me at the same time. She started selling food (empanadas, specialty breads, and sweets) to businesses and to strangers and friends, essentially feeding others to feed us and keep a roof over our heads. She did that until she met my stepfather in 1986, when I was three years old. They started dating and later moved in together.
My mother also began to sell clothing. She would travel for days on a bus to other states in Brazil to buy clothing at low prices, and then she would return home to sell it door to door to businesses and families. The clothing business didn’t go so well, however, so she focused diligently on selling food and specialty breads. She also catered certain holidays for families that didn’t want to cook, going to their homes to cook and serve the food. Unfortunately, that meant she had to sacrifice holidays with her own family.
My mother was relentless; she did whatever it took to keep us afloat because she didn’t want to depend on my stepfather for money. He had numerous kids with other women, so he had to help support them as well. He certainly had his hands full—I remember them arguing a lot about money, and he would be gone for days leaving my mother crying at home. I suspected he was a player and was still seeing some of the other women he had kids with.
One day, when I was about six years old, a woman showed up at our home with two small children. She seemed angry, and she told me to get my stepfather. I told her to go away, that he wasn’t there. I knew then that my suspicions about him were correct. I couldn’t understand, even as a child, why my mother would put up with that, but I guess she loved him. (Now that I’m older, I kind of understand why people in love do crazy things!) Even when she was dealing with the chaos and emotional pain it must have caused, she continued to work tenaciously to pay the bills and keep us all fed.
On the Sundays she wasn’t working, my mother contributed her time to a project my father had started. She and my grandma would help pick up kids in the streets who didn’t have families and bring them to shelters where children could stay if they didn’t have a home. They would also teach those kids how to cook and bake bread, sew clothing, and read, and they gave those kids a whole lot of love. My mother and grandma would make them laugh by telling them funny stories and doing whatever else they could to shift them away from violence and crime. In Brazil, that was a common pattern: kids without parents or other guardians often grew up to become violent criminals, because that was the only life they knew. My father, mother, grandmother, and others tried to show those kids that a better life was possible.
LIFE LESSON 2:
NOTHING WORTHWHILE COMES EASY
My mother taught me, mostly through the example she set, that nothing worthwhile in life comes easy. If you want something, you need to go after it; nobody will do it for you. I learned that whatever I achieve is directly proportional to the effort I exert. I learned how to save and count coins, because hard work and savings eventually enable you to buy the things you want.
I alsxo learned that you often must sacrifice what you want in order to support your loved ones who depend on you. She sacrificed birthdays and holidays with family and gave up time with my younger brother, who was born shortly after I turned six, to make sure we had the basic necessities of food, clothing, and shelter. She taught me that when you don’t have a choice, you do what is responsible first.
My mother is an incredibly strong woman, and I learned to be strong like her. Inspired by her example, I can work under stress and do whatever it takes—as long as it takes—so long as I do it with integrity. I can make tough sacrifices. I can read and learn anything I put my mind to. I can “outwork” my colleagues and competitors by inventing ways to work smarter instead of harder.
I didn’t have a father figure, but I had something even better—a mother who was both. She always told me to follow my dreams regardless of how big they happened to be and regardless of the circumstances.
Life or Death?
When I was six and half years old, I made the most important decision of my life. Seeing my mother struggle so desperately to make a better life for us while my stepfather abused her was unbearable. I can remember them arguing as if it happened only yesterday; in fact, I can practically still hear my mother sobbing behind closed doors. After stirring up an emotional tempest, my stepfather would storm out of the house. My mother would try to hide her tears, but I could read her body language. Watching my mother suffer hurt me more deeply than any physical pain I had ever endured, and feeling powerless to help her made it even worse. I considered ending my life because of it, and I even had a plan: I would stab myself in the stomach with a butcher knife.
When the day came, I was holding the knife to my stomach with tears streaming down my cheeks when I heard a whisper from God: “Someone out there has it even worse than you, son. Reverse the meaning and focus on helping others. Then, watch the magic happen.”
Ultimately, I chose life over death. Instead of ending it all, I decided to create a new beginning. I promised myself that I would never cry again, and that I would embrace our current struggle with such conviction that my mom and I would escape and forge a better life. Even at that young age, I realized I couldn’t always change the attitudes, behaviors, or actions of others or prevent bad things from happening, but I could love myself and others—and I was in control of how I reacted. In that pivotal moment, I decided to reverse my reality and transform the negative into positive.
Every day, I thank that kid of six years and six months for pausing to reflect. Whenever adversity...