Author and Entrepreneur Tells Lehman Students to Dream Big
March 4, 2010
Entrepreneur and author Deborah Rosado Shaw recounts her own journey to success and tells Lehman students how they can realize their full potential.
37 Minutes 21 Seconds
"Inspiring Talks" features faculty, guest speakers, and experts discussing their own stories of adversity and success, as well as hopeful new developments, in a variety of fields.
This is Joann Ruiz, a sophomore at Lehman College.
Named one of the 100 most successful Latinas in the U.S. for three consecutive years, Deborah Rosado Shaw rose from humble beginnings in the Bronx to become the founder of her own multi-million dollar company. She is the author of Dream Big! A Roadmap for Facing Life's Challenges and has been featured on ABC, CNN, and the Oprah Winfrey Show.
In this podcast, Ms. Shaw talks about her path to success and how others can seize the power needed to realize their dreams.
DEBORAH ROSADO SHAW:
When we got to choose schools for this year from the Dream Big Foundation, Lehman was-- was on the list. And so I thank you for letting me be here. And I love coming back to the Bronx 'cause I get to get the right food from the right neighborhood. So-- and I know you guys were-- busy.
You have a lot of pressure. You're working through whatever it is that you're working through in your-- education. And I know you're working. And you have family issues. And-- but how are you going to have power in your life working and navigating through all those things, right, all the challenges that we get morning, noon and night?
How you gonna get from this place, where you are to where you really wanna be? And some of you have not been willing to even say where you really wanna be 'cause you're almost a little afraid that it's so huge, right? So I wanted to share with you a little bit of how I got from there to here.
And what I'm hoping is that you'll take some stuff and use it for yourselves. You have my permission to steal it, to change it, to do whatever it is that you need to do with it. And-- what I wanna do is give you something that you can use in your journey 'cause I know you came into this room with something. And there's some challenge that you're up to, all right.
Everybody here's got it all sorted out? Okay, good, 'cause me either. Okay, so-- and-- and one of the things that happens in a room like this is that the energy you give me, I take back to all the projects I'm working on. It is always a two way street.
So if that's okay with you, that's what I'm gonna do, share some of those experiences. Is that all right? Yeah, very good. Okay, so in order for that to work, I need you to leave the paper that you didn't hand in yesterday, the exam that's coming up, the job that you were late for or gonna be late for, the issue that you have with you family, whatever that may be, leave it outside of the room.
Can you do that? Right 'cause you-- you-- you're here. You might as well be completely present and get what there is to get. And, you know, you may listen. And you may get one thing. You may get two things. You may get something and go I don't like that. But I'm thinking of this. Or it might provoke me to see something else that really works for you.
Now-- before I leave you, I'm gonna stop and I'm gonna take some questions at the end. So whatever thing you gotta ask me about, feel free to ask me about anything and everything. And maybe some things I just won't answer you. And other things if I think it's the-- the right question I will. So save those for the end. And after we do a little Q and A, I'll come back and close up, okay?
So here's what I know and I know consistently over and over again no matter what that you were born perfect and powerful. We all come into this world perfect and powerful each and every one of us without exception. And I know some of you are thinking maybe I'm not just one-- one of those people, you know, the people that were born with the magic dust.
I used to look at those people. I used to go what do they have? I must have missed that line. You know, it was a little line where I got something really special to happen in my life. This way of thinking had me grabbed. You know, I couldn't even see what else was possible for me.
And what I discovered is that we actually bring life by every word we speak and every action that you take. Every word you speak, what you promise to yourself, what you promise to others, the dreams that you bother to say out loud, that is how you bring a different reality to life. And I have to tell you that the little girl that I used to be and I grew up not too far from here on 156th Street and Elton Avenue if anybody knows that neighborhood.
And-- I went to Taft High School, anybody knows Taft High School, 4,000 kids. Taft was a much different place way back then. It was really rough. We had police that stood in riot gears-- in riot gear, all dressed up with the things and the guns in the corners, in the hallways 'cause it was a tough place. And-- I went to high school when I was 12 'cause I skipped a grade and just was not a good idea.
So I'm in this big school with tough kids. You know, and I'm, you know, freckled, gordita, chubby, you know, with my glasses on, Miss Goody Two Shoes. It was not a safe place for me. But-- from that place to get to be the CEO of my own multi million dollar enterprise which I sold, an advisor to fortune 100 CEOs and private equity firms and all sorts of folks in business, PS, I never went to business school.
So I do not have an MBA. I have a best selling book. I was on Oprah. I'm the only self-help Latina author to have been on-- on Oprah so far. So good for her. And-- (APPLAUSE) thank you. I say that to you only because there's room. There's room for all the greatness that you have.
So if I was the first and that was recently, there's room for all sorts of things to take place that haven't yet happened in the world. So those are the opportunities that you have for you.
But I have to tell you that my early ambition was not about having power or money 'cause I thought money was-- if I had an extra $20 or there was an extra $20 in my house, that was a big deal. And I thought power was electricity. You know what I mean? If you paid your bill, you had power. If you didn't pay your bill, you didn't have power.
I didn't have enough heat and hot water. I-- never ate brand name foods. And mostly, I just wanted to feel safe. So going to school every day and the number on objective was to come home safely-- was-- not about, you know, how I'm gonna build a career and what am I gonna do next.
So how do you get from there to here? The first thing that you have to do and I got the privilege of working with some really extraordinary people, wonderful people in all sorts of fields of enterprise. And what I see consistently, so just not from me, is that these people claim their power.
Right, no one can give you power. It's something that you have to claim for yourself. You've got to decide to stand up and be counted and get heard. Don't say yes when you mean maybe. Anybody out there know what I'm talking about? Thank you.
Don't accept less than you deserve. Don't settle for less than you're really capable of. And I know sometimes we're having that conversation with ourselves where we're doing-- trying to do is convince ourselves that we shouldn't want all that we're going after, right. But only you can decide who you're gonna be in the matter of your own life.
It is completely up to you. I don't care what your circumstances are. And I've seen it over and over again. And I live it in my own life. And one of the things you need to do to claim your power is don't wait your turn. Your turn isn't coming, right?
So some of you are waiting for that gold embossed invitation in the mail that allows you to do A, B, C and D. It ain't coming, right. Your invitation was your birth. You're here on the planet, you have been invited to play the game.
And it's up to you then to decide what that invitation will bring to you. But you've gotta take it up for yourself. I gotta tell you that when I was-- attending-- Taft High School, I knew that my ticket out of not having enough heat and hot water, not being able to buy the things that I needed, watching my family really struggle was going to a great school somewhere, getting a great education.
And I went to my guidance counselor. I'm 15 now. I'm a junior, right. And-- I wanna apply to all these schools. And my guidance counselor said to me, "Look, Deb, you're kinda bright." And I wanted to be a lawyer and she said, "You're not gonna get to go to law school. But you might wanna be a legal secretary. And we can't send the applications to the schools that you've chosen 'cause you're never gonna get in."
So here I am at 15 at home, I have a mother who is-- she has epilepsy. She's mentally ill. She's been in and out of institutions. I have a brother who has a terminal illness. He-- he's had two-- he's not dead. He's still here. It's a miracle. But-- he's had two kidney transplants in his life. So it was a household that was so overwhelmed with just managing that that for me to go and try and get their help to process applications to college just was-- was not gonna happen.
So-- I clearly didn't know what to do. My guidance counselor said, "We're not gonna send the applications to the schools. We're not gonna send out your transcripts." I had to go to the board of education in New York City, tell them what my issue was which was that she wasn't gonna send out these applications. And then-- they actually forced the school to send out my transcripts and applications. And since the guidance counselor didn't write the recommendation, guess who wrote it, my principal did.
And I got into every single school that I applied to. So-- sometimes you have to-- there wasn't gonna be a turn that said, "Deb, it's your turn to go to the school that you wanna go to." And-- so I get into Wellesley in Massachusetts. And then I have a really big job 'cause I'm gonna be 16 going off to college.
And my Latino parents thought-- they probably would've let me go-- to move to m-- all the way to Massachusetts from New York if I was gonna get married or something, to go all the way to Massachusetts to go to college, no way. Now my father was a minister. And all the people in the congregation were praying for me 'cause I was troubled 'cause I wanted to move to Massachusetts. I had to convince my parents and this community that it was okay for me to have this dream and go to this place. And I don't what happened.
A miracle happened. And my parents actually let me-- go to Massachusetts. So I was 16 and I left home. And-- there started what was going to be a ten year college career. So I know some of you have come and gone, part time, full time, working, not working, been there done that.
You too? Yeah, I understand. You have to make a move, right. So how do I know if this young man here was powerful? I mean, look at him, he looks great. He's got a tie, a nice shirt, well groomed, he looks like-- you know, good looking, well poised. The only way that I'm gonna know that he is powerful in his life is by the action that he takes.
What does he do? Right, when you watch what people do, you get the sense about whether or not they're powerful in their lives. So you have to make a move, any move. And I know you're worried. You're praying for clarity hoping it's just the right thing.
The wrong move will lead to the right move. You have great people that will counsel you here from-- social workers that do counseling to career counseling here. You can get coaching. But you're gonna make mistakes. I-- I made so many mistakes.
I'm still making mistakes. It's how my life is charged that I get to make these mistakes and I charge from them. So-- but action is, like, you know, anybody here-- you don't have to raise your hand, everyone lose ten pounds or 20 pounds. Right well, you know, I used to wanna lose ten or 20 pounds. But I would eat bread and cake and wine and, you know, something about it.
So the action, right, it's-- it's in the action that your commitment comes to life. So I had to change my diet in order to make that work. And it's the same about anything else that you wanna do.
A long time ago-- I real-- I had nowhere to live. I was-- in an apartment-- Pasay, New Jersey. If anybody knows Passaic, New Jersey it's-- kinda a rough little town there. And-- I was struggling to pay $200 a month in rent splitting it with my girlfriend. We were going to college in the city, commuting back and forth 'cause I couldn't afford to live in the city. And this is how I could afford to do it.
And-- I-- lost my job. And I had to go and collect unemployment. I was working full time and going to school full time which meant that some days I didn't go to my classes, right. I tried to make up when I could make up.
So-- I-- am collecting unemployment. And in our building, the guy's not giving us heat and hot water. And I got this heat and hot water thing my whole life. So, I'm getting really pissed off. And it happened to be the attorney for the town that owned this building. So, you know, (FOREIGN LANGUAGE) my anger was rising.
And there were a lot of old people living in this building and mature senior citizens. And I decided to form a tenant's organization and go after this guy. And I'm sharing this with you 'cause from the bottom of nothing, I had no money. I had no support. I could not pay that rent. I was collecting unemployment.
But what I decided to do was take some action where I could take action. I knew I could talk to people and organize people. And we went after this guy. We went after him and he had to restore the heat and hot water and lots of people who really-- were living in very, very difficult circumstances. It switched around.
Now, do you wanna know what happened from this 'cause this is how I started my career. Right, so you would say you're unemployed. You're living in a not great place-- under really tough circumstances. You're not getting the services that you need. You're collecting unemployment. This is how you started your career.
I went and got a pro bono attorney from the state of New Jersey. And his wife was the vice president in a company that made accessories, tote bags and umbrella. And I needed a job. And she hired me. And that's how I started my career.
So I went in completely-- all the while I wanna go to law school. I don't know how I'm gonna do it. But that was my plan. And I was doing depositions for him. And he said, "You know, you're really bright but you're never gonna make any money here. You need to make money to pay for school. So why don't you go talk to my wife and see if she'll give you a job."
And I started a job in a career that I never planned for myself that somebody gave me an opportunity at because I took action when I thought there was nothing that I could do to advance my life. So I'm-- I'm sharing this with you so that you can look around your circumstances and see what is that action for you? What can you take? What can you do right now that will make a difference for you?
The one thing I've learned that-- is always present for me is stop fighting fear. You know, courage only exists in the presence of fear. So you have to be afraid to be courageous. It doesn't exist any other way.
And you-- and if you're doing anything that matters, you'll have plenty of moments of being afraid. I talked to somebody and somebody offered me a job recently. And-- I'll just tell you it's a million dollar plus job. Now, I've been an entrepreneur for a long time. The idea of a job like this in corporate America is a crazy idea to me-- just something I could never imagine for myself.
And I have to say, I was on the phone call with this guy. And I was really nervous, like, my knees were shaking. And I was on the phone. He couldn't see me. But just the idea that I was in a conversation for something that was so wild and out of my imagination-- made me really nervous. But when you experience fear, you actually start go get comfortable with it.
So one of the things that I do for myself regularly is make sure that I'm in a situation that scares me, you know, whether it's making that phone call that I don't wanna make or speaking to someone I don't wanna speak to or sending out a letter to somebody that I don't wanna send a letter to, whatever that is that makes me afraid.
And-- a little while ago, do-- anybody here know who Rita Moreno is, the actress, the dancer. She was in West Side Story. Yeah, she's one of the old time but great legends. And she was doing a cabaret in Manhattan. And-- I had the opportunity to join her. And she was 70ish. She looks like ten million bucks. She was-- she had on this beautiful white shirt, open all the way here. She was fit, strong and really energetic. And she comes and she sits next to me and she goes, "Deb, touch my hands."
And I'm touching her hands. And I go, "What's the matter?" She goes, "I'm so nervous." Okay, she's won a Tony, a Grammy, an Emmy, to complete excellence her whole life. And she was nervous doing this cabaret. And I asked her, I go, "What are you afraid of?" She goes, "The reviews tomorrow." So she, in her own life, put herself to do this thing that actually made her afraid.
But she was gonna move through it anyway 'cause it's what-- she knew it would advance the next part of her career in her 70s no less. So when I saw Rita Moreno could be nervous dancing and singing something that she's done, you know, for 30 some odd years to great excellence, I knew that I could do something else for myself.
For a lot of you, you have to think about this one a little bit. Don't kiss any frogs, for the ladies. The guys are smiling 'cause they know they might be the frog, right? (LAUGHTER) All right, so what I really mean is don't kiss any more frogs, right. So we're out there with somebody, doing something, hoping for a miracle. It's gonna turn.
Mostly it's not gonna turn. If-- it looks like a frog and smells like a frog, it probably is. And I suggest that you start listening to yourself, right, 'cause sometimes if you wanna travel really far, far like if your dream is something so way out there, that's as far as and as a deep as you have to reach into yourself and challenge yourself about who's in your life, what's in your life, who you hang out with, who you listen to, who you accept counsel from. And if you're stopped or stuck, there's probably something you need to quit.
I'm one of the people out there who will tell you should not persevere against all odds. Sometimes a dream is dead. And you gotta put that one away and put that one aside. Sometimes a relationship is done. Sometimes you are in the wrong major. And you need to switch tracks.
And you're just rubbing against it over and over again. And it's something that you need to deal with for yourself. It is where power comes from that you have that honest conversation with yourself. Get noticed. I saw some pretty-- very good looking, earlier today dressed up in the outfit that we bought from the Mandy Stores.
And the gentleman came in all dressed up. And there was one gentleman here earlier and I just somebody-- I don't know if he's in the room or somebody knows his name. And I saw him at another event that I was-- in New York City a few months ago. And I go this is a guy who's out to get noticed. And I knew who he was. What is his name?
Yes, right. And he's got-- I think he's doing-- graduate school in Chile. He's got a full scholarship to go to Chile. He is a graduate of Lehman. And-- I saw-- and I go-- he's up to something, you know, because he-- he's, like-- he's gonna make sure that you know who he is. But you can't live powerfully in obscurity. You can't hide out. People won't know where you are.
Even in corporations today, I go from company to company. And what I get told is, "We don't know who's out there. They don't show up. "They don't tell us how great they are. They don't tell us what skills they have. We don't know who they are." So you have to get noticed. And all sorts of unexplained and unanticipated things will come to you in your life. And I'll-- I'll share one example.
Do you guys wanna know how I sold Wal-Mart a million dollar order? My first order that was a million bucks with them. I-- nobody knew who I was. I was a mom, a single mom with three little kids. And I just started out my business. And I was in business chugging along, working lots of hours hoping to get somewhere.
And-- but I never got a chance to do the big stuff. The big stuff was really-- it was a very closed group of people who got to sell to Costco and Wal-Mart and so forth. And so I decided that I should write an article about how we needed more-- women senior executives in our industry and how we should do more business with minority owned firms. Well, I wrote that in a trade publication. I'd never written an article before. I didn't know the editor. I didn't know how it was gonna get published there. I didn't know anything. But I went to an event like this where there were lots of people.
And he happened to be there. And I handed him the article. And I said, "I, you know, would like to write for your magazine." Just crazy. Well, he calls me up and he invites me to his office. And I get the opportunity to have this article published as a guest columnist.
Now, if you-- I mean, really I could not write at that point. So-- I wrote this article and I got a lot of heat 'cause-- in-- at that time, it was crazy conversation to be pushing for more women in our industry or more people of color or more minorities to get access. But I did get a phone call from the CEOs office at Wal-Mart. And they wanted to know, "Who are you? What are you doing?"
And-- they invited me to come and speak-- at a Saturday morning event at Wal-Mart. And I got to know them. And they got to know me. And shortly over time, we wrote our first single million-dollar transaction which was just a test order for a few stores. And then we grew from there.
But never did I think that-- how was I gonna get to that door? It wasn't gonna be the traditional route. I had to get noticed in some other way. So in some area whether it's a professor that has a lot of connections and all sorts of opportunities that you don't know about 'cause you haven't bothered to really build a relationship with him or her that you need to reach out to or someone in career counseling or someone else in this university that can actually help you get to where you wanna go, but they don't know what you're up to.
They don't know what's in your heart. They don't know what you really dream about. So you gotta make-- make that clear. And part of that is being here today. So really I applaud you for being here. A lesson that-- I learned that I hope you'll take with you is make every cent count.
When I was going along the way, what mattered was that I worked for the right people. You know, I made $4.87 an hour. But what I learned was more important than what I was earning. So you have to make sure that you're in the right space and the right environment where you're gonna have a good boss that teaches you something you need to learn where you're gonna have an environment where, you know, what is happening around you is what you have access to.
So when I was in college and working my-- my way through college and I was working for this lady who was the wife of the VP, I used to watch the salesmen come in and out. And they made a lot of money. And they were doing all these things. And I wanted to sell. And-- I thought, geez, how am I gonna get an opportunity to sell here. And, you know, one day I created an opportunity for myself. But I had to show up in that space.
And what mattered was that the little bit of money that I was getting paid, it didn't matter. I was absorbing everything that was happening all around me. So the same dollar-- four-- five bucks I d-- whatever the-- the-- you're getting paid at a job today, if you're-- you can be in the same business. You could be like I was, a receptionist at an office filing papers. But the papers I was reading were really valuable.
And the people I got to talk to on the phone were important people who later helped me. So it didn't matter. I could've been a receptionist someplace else where none of that mattered. All right, so make every cent count for yourself. And when you're making every cent count for yourself, one of the things that you have to know is that you're gonna take on a lot of debt. And this is the only kind of debt that I actually advocate, right.
You're gonna owe things to people that you will never be able to pay back. It's like-- an IOU forever. Right, so part of my IOU to the people who helped me, my professors along the way, teachers who went to bat for me, teachers who helped me find money to stay in school, teachers who when I broke a rule at school and I was about to be thrown out-- I'll tell-- in this room-- I handed the same p-- paper to two professors.
I was gonna get thrown out of school, very bad idea. Today, you can't do that 'cause there's all this technology and all this stuff. And I went to these professors and I said, "Listen, I'm taking care of my sick brother. I'm working fulltime. Being at school is everything to me. I need some way to make this right." And somebody went to bat for me and let me stay in school, right.
How do I pay that back? I pay that back by being in this room with you today and hoping to share something that'll make a difference for you somewhere along the way. So you give it forward. Now when you're-- wanting to be powerful and strong and having a lot of success in your life, you never think that you should be needy.
And you have to be needy. Right, so it might seem like a contradiction, how are you needy and powerful, needy in that you've gotta be able to go to ask somebody for their help, for their expertise, for their rolodex, for their connections, for what they know that you don't know. And, you know, s-- you know that Verizon commercial where there's this big, giant crowd of people following the guy around? There's a whole group of people.
You don't think I got to Oprah by myself or that I got to build this multi million-dollar business by myself. They're all here. But I had to be able to ask them for the help that I needed, for the introductions that I needed. So I'm in the middle of writing a new book and working on some other projects. And I have had to call lots of people for help.
But Miss Independent, I'm gonna do everything by myself because we think when you do things by yourself, that's how you're powerful. That doesn't work. It just doesn't. So you have to build your configuration of power. Those people around you who are really there 300 percent for you including the ones that will tell you what you're not doing, that you're missing, that you need for yourself.
So I wrote a book entitled Dream Big. And one of the things I have to do for myself regularly and I invite you to do is to give yourself permission to dream big, permission. So I wrote the book. And I have to have a little sign on my desk that gives myself permission to dream big 'cause I've had a lot of successes. But I've bombed out a lot. I've been fired. I've-- lost money. I've hired the wrong people. I've trusted the wrong people.
Remember all that struggle to get into the college of my choice so I could finally convince my parents and I take off and I go to this great school? Remember all that? So I'm 16 and I'm at Wellesley, Massachusetts. It is a really elitist, prestigious women's college. And I go into my room. My roommate is there with her parents. And her parents liked when I walked into the room and I said-- "Oh, I didn't get to meet your parents.
"Am I gonna meet them?" And she said, "No." And I said, "Oh, why not?" She said, "Well, they want you out of my room." So here was this princess young lady who had been groomed her whole life to go to this fancy school with a girl from the Bronx. They probably thought I had a knife in my sock. I don't know what they thought. But they were terrified, these people. They had never seen anything like me before. And they wanted me out of the room.
One of the things I really learned while I was there was that, you know, I couldn't call home. There was no calling mommy and papi asking for their help. As it was there-- they would've said, "Come back home. We told you shouldn't be there. Come-- get on the next bus." You know, and in those days it was Greyhound to come back home.
And-- I couldn't do that. And I-- had a really tough year-- such a tough year that by the time I was 17-- they threw me out of Wellesley. I've been thrown out of great places. I'm-- proud of that. I lost my four-year scholarship which was a really big deal. And at 17 years old, I had to go home with my tail between my legs to my parents and all those people telling me, "We told you so." So I didn't know what.
This was everything I had dreamed of my whole life. And-- I went to-- my dean at Wellesley and I said, "You know, I'm not moving out of the room," 'cause I'm a Bronx girl. So I was a little tough. You know, I'm not moving. She moves. I'm not moving. And-- I had-- I go-- how am I gonna do this by myself.
So I went to-- Harvard has-- was the black law students association, BALSA. There was no Latino law association in those days. And I went to them and I said, "Can they make me move out of my room?" And they said, "No, they can't make you move out of your room. And we're gonna help you to make sure you don't have to move." I ended up being the only freshman on campus with her own dorm room which of course was party central which is why I got thrown out. But that's a whole different story. And I'm not gonna tell you that one here.
So but that was one of many public and private disappointments in my life. And what I discovered is that you'll never encounter a greater foe than yourself. See, the biggest obstacle that we face is sitting in your seat. It's right here in your skin. It's that conversation that goes, "Why do you want what you want? Who do you think you are?" And along the way, if you really wanna live out your potential, you have to think that there's a lot of suffering when you entertain fantasy, right?
So in my book Dream Big, I actually wrote about how suffering is optional. Like, you don't have to suffer through it. So my mother was crazy. I was the mother in the house with a younger sister and a younger brother. And if you come from a Latino household, you know, the daughters in the house do a lot of work. My brother was every five minutes in and out of the hospital.
I had all-- whatever circumstances-- later on in my life I had an alcoholic husband. I became a single parent with three sons trying to figure out how am I gonna do all these things all by myself. And I had to choose not to suffer because suffering is like an addiction.
You get used to the juice of, you know, this is what it's like. And (FOREIGN LANGUAGE) poor me, oh my God. And what you-- and you can have that. And you-- it's absolutely appropriate under many, many circumstances. But then you've got to choose to be done with it and decide what action are you gonna take for yourself.
But we live in a world full of fantasies. We have reality television that we know is not real, right? There's-- it's scripted, right. And then we see the magazine covers with the flawless women with the-- you know, they've been airbrushed. They have no zits. They have no circles. The hair's not out of place. That is not reality.
But as long as we entertain some fantasy about the work that it's gonna take, mostly the work with yourself to reach a goal that you really wanna have for yourself, you're gonna suffer through. And you won't get to the place that you can for yourself. Like, the idea of balance and I think the idea of balance is crazy. It's never worked for me. I don't know what that is. I don't know what they're talking about. There's no such thing as balance.
You know, sometimes the kids took a priority. And always-- I had a son that got really in trouble with drugs. And-- I had-- sent him to a program in Arizona. This is now a straight A kid who's-- got invited by 29 law schools to apply to law school. So he's on the right track and just a wonderful human being. And-- on the day that I had to go to Arizona to pick him up as the parent was the day that the Oprah Winfrey Show called. And I had to figure out what was more important in my life, my kid who was there for six weeks or the Oprah show that I had wanted to be on forever, was gonna be the key to lots of things for me.
So there are always these tough decisions that you make. Happily, they changed the time-- not 'cause I asked them just as-- it was what happened. And I was able to be with my son and come home and also-- do this-- be on the show.
But-- there are always these decisions that you make. Invariably, I get three important-- uber important appointments on the same day. My father recently had two strokes. And I had to go to Florida and be with him. I had to cancel a week of appointments. In the middle of that week, I had to go to Washington D.C. to a meeting that I had been working on for about nine months.
So I went to Florida to Orlando to be with my father, take care of him, flew to D.C. for the night, came back-- back down, left the airport, went to pick up my father to go to the next-- medical appointment. That's just life, what you choose. You know what's important to you. And you know what matters most.
But it's our sense of ourselves, right, that will give us the permission to dream big. And sometimes we're not gonna have that for ourselves. Sometimes you gotta borrow it from somebody else. Like, I met somebody here earlier today. And something's gonna come up in my life. And I'm gonna borrow their life and their experience. It's gonna give me permission to do something that I'm afraid to do.
So a couple of years ago, I-- was winning the Women of Enterprise Award. And that morning I was-- on CNN. And I was in Lady's Home Journal. And Avon did the makeup. And they gave us outfits. So we had all this-- a really fancy event at the Waldorf Astoria in New York City, you know, the Waldorf Astoria, fancy hotel.
And-- I knew in this audience of about 2,000 people there might be a publisher. And I wanted to write a book. And-- I thought I should say, you know, that I-- I wanna get published. But I thought, oh my God, Deborah, how could you possible say or want anything else? You're getting this award. My family was in the audience, business colleagues.
And I thought back to a story that my mother had told me about my grandmother who came to New York City-- on a boat in those days. And her first job in New York was scrubbing floors at the Waldorf Astoria. And I walked into the big, fancy room, the ballroom where we were getting these awards-- packed with people and television and all sorts of things. Joan Rivers was the keynote. And it was just crazy.
And-- I thought, well, if I can't say it for myself, I have to say it for her. She never had a manicure. She never was gonna get a moment to shine. She wasn't gonna get an award. She worked her whole life never really knowing me to be able to create an opportunity.
And if I couldn't dream big for myself, I was gonna dream big for her and do something that she could never imagine. So that day was the day that I said I wanted to write this book. And an editor came up from the audience. And-- I-- I got published by Simon Schuster, was the first Latina author to get published by a major publisher with a self-help book.
And-- so I'm inviting you to look around in your life for the people that are gonna give you the permission when you don't have it for yourself. Actually, on my wall, I actually have it in my car, on my wall in the office, on my wall on the bathroom. When I get up in the morning, I have a whole box of pictures of-- for me, it's women who have challenged in me and sometimes will shame me into doing the things that-- I really should be reaching for in my life. And then when I go to my office 'cause I forget from the bathroom to the office, I have a whole 'nother board of people.
And I look at them. And I go, oh, this is why I should make that phone call. This is why I should try doing this next thing. This is why I should take that risk. And they challenge me. They're looking at me like, are you kidding, you know, you have every opportunity in your life, every opportunity, the circumstances, so much easier than what we had. So look for the people in your life that can give you the permission to dream really, really big.
Visit us at www.lehman.edu. This is a production of the Lehman College Media Relations Office.
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