3 Lessons Dad Taught Me


My Dad is 90 years old. A crusty, proud, and feisty Cuban gentleman. He is all that and more. Mom died a couple of years ago, and Dad has never been the same. I think he actually thought he and Mom would live together forever, or at least until the day they would go to bed one night and both die in their sleep.

His kidneys recently failed, and we finally had to put him in a nursing care center. His long term memory is good, and he can still process most concepts and ideas, but I am starting to see the deterioration. However, he is doing remarkably well and is actually quite happy.

These days, I think about all the things he taught me, all the things he would say when I was younger. The things I never listened to when I was too busy thinking that I had all the answers. How is it that Dad got so smart in between the time I was 16 to the time I turned 30? It’s a miracle!

As we in life march towards the inevitable we all must face with our parents, I wanted to share three things that stand out from my Dad’s constant urging and teachings throughout the years.

  1.  If you are going to be dumb, you’ve got to be tough
    Dad was always telling us that it was a heck of a lot easier to go through life having thought through things and having taken the time to get some education on whatever it was you were going to engage in. But if you couldn’t or wouldn’t get educated, well, toughen up, because it was going to be a rough ride. Deal with it.
  2. Don’t ever lie. Ever. Face the music, tell the truth, stand up and face what you have done head on
    I made a huge tragic mistake while in my 50s, when I had been flying high at the top of my game. But I stood up, told the truth, and though it cost me dearly to this day, I have never regretted it. I slept better from the day I admitted my mistake, and paid my dues.

  3. Have compassion for people and don’t judge people who have made an honest mistake
    I remember sneaking in to the house late one night when I was 17, while he and Mom were out. I had been drinking (a lot). My Grandmother told Dad when he got home that I was inebriated. I was lying in bed, the room doing a great impression of a run away merry go round. Dad opened the door and asked me what was going on. I looked up at him, one foot firmly planted on the floor in an effort to stop the room from breaking away from the rest of the house. I told him I had been drinking, a lot, and I felt like I was going to die. Dad closed the door. I could hear my Grandmother asking him if he was going to punish me. To which Dad said that we must have compassion on me because I was suffering and had already been punished enough.

Dad is one smart guy, even though he never made it past 6th grade. I only hope I am half as smart when it comes to sharing the wisdom of the world with my children.

I bet you have many Dad and Mom stories just like this!

Posted in Leadership | Leave a comment

3 Lessons Learned from a Random Act of Kindness

It was Saturday morning, about 10 AM. I had just run several errands, and had stopped at a little hole in the wall cafeteria in Hialeah, near the nursing home where my Dad lives. These are restaurants with an open window to the sidewalk, where you can purchase all kinds of things, but primarily cafe (coffee), made in various and sundry ways, while still standing on the sidewalk.

I was on my way to see my Dad, and had promised when I saw him the day before, that I would bring him some cafe con leche and tostadas (cuban coffee with milk, lots of sugar, and Cuban bread with butter). His all time favorite.

I was catching a flight later that evening, and as usual, was trying to cram a week’s worth of stuff into this day, after having spent 2 weeks working out of my Miami office.

I struck up a conversation with a gentleman who was having cafe cubano (expresso) himself, while my Dad’s coffee and toast were being made. While we were talking, I took out my debit card, and was absentmindedly tapping it on the counter. As we talked, the waitress put the styrofoam cup of cafe con leche on the counter, looked at my tapping card in hand, and said, “we can’t take your card, your purchase is not enough”. I asked her how much the purchase had to be, and she said $10, and that the cafe and toast were only $1.75. I had no cash, so I looked at the menu board above her head, and began to order enough to make up the rest of the $10. You see, I had NO cash, and I was not leaving without my Dad’s all time favorite. You do not show up to see a 90 year old in a nursing home without his cafe con leche and tostadas.

All of a sudden, the guy I was talking to says, “you are not going to buy all that stuff you don’t need. Here”, and he whips out 2 bucks and puts them on the counter. I was flabbergasted, and at the same time felt a wave of gratitude wash over me. I thanked him profusely, shook his hand, and walked to my car in wonder and amazement.

Here are the lessons that I learned that Saturday morning:

1) Kindness is everywhere. Look for it. When you need it most, it will find you.

2) People are by nature, good and kind hearted. Yes there is ugliness in this world, no denying that. But there is an immense amount of kindness and goodness too. Let’s not forget that.

3) Just like that guy did not hesitate one second to show me kindness, we should not hesitate when the opportunity presents itself.

My Dad really enjoyed that cafe con leche and tostadas, and I don’t think I have ever enjoyed watching him enjoy, any more than I did that Saturday morning.

Are you paying it forward?

Posted in Leadership | Tagged , | 1 Comment

I’m Having a Bad Day!


The alarm goes off, and I realize I set it for 7 AM instead of 6 AM. I cut myself shaving. I jump in the shower and after I’m wet, realize there is no shampoo. I stub my toe in the dark, looking for my shoes. Traffic is EASILY, 3 times as bad as it usually is. 5 people cut me off on the way to work, versus the normal 3. Slowpokes are out in force, cruising down the avenue. Burger King is out of French Toast Sticks. There is a brown out at work as I am booting up. And finally, to take the cake, I fish my glasses out of my backpack, and the frame is broken. You get the picture. A really BAD day.

So here’s what I do:

1) Take a deep breath and count to ten while exhaling (this really does help folks!)

2) Peruse my To Do list, grab the three easiest tasks, and knock them out immediately. This helps to focus me on doing something useful, and gets me a sense of accomplishment right away. It steers me away from the bad stuff that I have already experienced and into a Can Do, Good Day mood.

3) I grab the grungiest task from my list and dive right into it. Even if I can’t finish it, I make some significant progress, and I feel good about that.

Poof! Bad Day is gone. It works for me. What kinds of things do you do when you are experiencing a bad day, besides throwing the covers over your head and going back to sleep?

Posted in Leadership | Leave a comment

Change – The A.W.A.R.E. Process

Enrique Fiallo:

While reflecting back, I thought this post of mine for several years ago might be useful to some of you.

Originally posted on The Way - Purposeful and Deliberate Leadership a blog by henry fiallo:

I have always wondered why it was so hard for me to change. When I say change, I am talking about changing stuff about me. For example, exchanging bad habits for good ones (or better ones), changing aspects of myself that needed changing (like intolerance, impatience, pride, arrogance), or changing an intellectual or skill area (like learning a new skill or closing an intellectual gap). How does one change? I think I change when I become A.W.A.R.E. What does that mean?

A = Acknowledgment. I see that something needs to change and I acknowledge it. I recognize it and own it as mine.

W = Willingness. I decide that I am willing to change that which I recognize as needing change.

A = Ability. I recognize that what needs to change is based on an old way of looking at something (a paradigm) or of doing something (a habit) and I acquire…

View original 157 more words

Posted in Leadership | Leave a comment

The Daunting Task of My First LinkedIn Publish


When I got the message from Linked In that I was invited to publish content, I quickly and eagerly clicked on the Get Started link, and then…

I hate to admit that the appearance of a blank page was quite a shock. What was I going to write about? Who would read it? Who would care? Why would anyone be interested in what I had to say? What made me think I could and should really do this?

So for the next several months, I kept coming back to the blank page, and kept having all of these negative thoughts. I allowed the fear of failure to absolutely paralyze me.

Then one day (today actually!) I came back to that blank page, and a few thoughts entered my head (maybe it was the quiet Friday afternoon in my home office).

Who cares about all of those negative things? What gives me the right to decide for others what they will read, what they will value and what they would be interested in? I don’t have that right. Its not up to me to make that judgment. My right, is to write! My obligation, to myself, is to think about the world, think about things, contemplate the reality of what is going on around and within me, and then, when you stop and think about it, offer a perspective that is really unique.

It’s MY perspective. It’s a perspective that has value, because of my skills, my experiences, and because of all of the collective qualities and characteristics that I bring to the table. Only I bring that collective to the table. Someone else would bring their collective, which includes their skills, experiences and qualities, which would make them unique, but not at all like me.

So I quit “thinking” (and internally whining) about all the reasons why I shouldn’t and what would happen if I did. And I just started typing, in this particular case, about this very topic.

My conclusion, even as I write these words, is that it is not as hard as I thought it would be (after all, I’ve written before, just not to such a potentially large audience), and also that it is much more enjoyable than I thought it would be. Why? Because I am writing for the sheer joy of writing, and only to please myself. That fact, in and of itself removed all of the self-imposed pressure.

So, a few words of advice (yes, this is the self help part of today’s program) for those of you that are paralyzed and inhibiting yourself from doing something that deep down inside you really WANT to do.

1) Stop over-thinking it. Boil it down to the simplest of ideas and concepts, and just start. Cold water does not get any warmer as you stand in it knee deep. Dive in.

2) Don’t prejudge how it will be received and then have that paralyze you as well. It will be received however it will be received.Do your best and let it happen. You miss 100% of the shots you DON’T take.

3) Please yourself. Be happy with the output, the outcome, with the result. Produce it to the highest standard you can conceive of, for yourself. You are the best judge of you.

4) If it turns out it isn’t as well received as you may have desired, so be it. Learn from it, and remember that as with any other thing you have mastered in life, you get better as you go along. Early mistakes, can actually make you MUCH better down the line. Practice may not make you perfect, but it improves you a whole bunch.

That’s it. It’s as simple as that.

The Daunting Task of My First Linked In Publish is over! Thanks for reading. Tell me what you think? Was it obvious all along? Was this at all helpful?

Posted in Empowerment, Inspiration, Leadership, Personal Development | Tagged | Leave a comment

5 Steps to Finding Your Voice

‘I’ve got no voice. I don’t know how to write like me,’ ~ Johnny Depp in The Rum Diary


For me, finding my voice, and learning how to write like “me”, was key to being able to blog, and to get important points across to an audience. Writing like “me”, means to be able to tell a story, to share your thoughts and ideas just as if you are having a face to face conversation with someone. All the while, you are keeping the “person” you are communicating with engaged and interested and connected to you.

So how do you find your voice? How do you write like you? Here are five ways I have found that continue to work for me.

1) Pay attention to the way you converse with people. This is your natural voice. Although you won’t exactly write the way you speak, the closer you can get to a natural conversation in your writing, the more natural it will come across to others.

2) Take your time, and focus your writing in themes and sub-themes. Then try and complete the main ideas in the themes, or sub-themes, in one sitting, if possible. For example, if your theme is your last vacation, then your sub-themes are the specific things you did during your vacation. So pretend you are sitting across from your friend at Starbucks, and in one sitting, tell your friend one of the things you did during your vacation. This helps you flow the story and keep it exciting and interesting.

3) Take frequent steps back, to look at your work, much like you would do if you were painting a wall (or a portrait!), or waxing your car, to make sure you haven’t missed any spots, and to ensure that the work accurately reflects things the way you want them to be. I use WordPress, and it has a Preview feature, so periodically, as I am going along, I preview what I have written. This helps me make sure it still sounds like “me”, that it flows, and represents the way I want my story to come across, and doesn’t sound like some other person has stepped into and taken over my writing.

4) Keep the fancy words and phrases out. Be careful with your sentences and paragraphs. Don’t let them run on, keep then relevant, short, and to the point. Write in a natural speaking tone and your listener (reader) will stick around and continue to pay attention.

5) Write about things you are passionate or feel strongly about. Stay away from “lukewarm” topics and only choose things you would feel comfortable AND excited talking to someone about.

Finding your true voice is one of the most important things you can do to engage people you want to write to. Once you find your voice, you will find yourself naturally writing like you and you will have an engaged audience!

I’d be really interested in knowing if these 5 ideas helped you to find your natural writing voice. Please let me know!

Posted in Leadership | Leave a comment

What My Custom-Made Blue Suit Heard and Saw

I had a suit custom made about 13 years ago. “Bespoke” is the way the British say it. Business Blue. “IBM” blue.  I had 2 others made at the same time, beige and gray. But BLUE was THE suit. 2 pairs of pants to go with it. Suspender buttons sewn in. The jacket had a label on the inside left pocket, that read, “Expressly Made for Henry P. Fiallo”. It fit like a glove. It should have, after 3 fittings. The tailor picked out 3 ties to go with it, 2 blue, 1 red. I was all set. I had BLUE!

Detail of a suit and a tie

Blue – The Classic Suit

I had BLUE made because I had been appointed to take a subsidiary of a parent company public. I would be leading the company, calling on major customers, taking the company story on a 2 week IPO road show, pitching the company to financial analysts, hedge funds and investment bankers, and then, taking it public on the New York Stock Exchange. I did all that, and more.  I named the company, picked the stock symbol and logo, hired staff, and made a multitude of organizational, financial, product and marketing decisions. It was a whirlwind time in my life.

As it turns out, BLUE was with me (actually, on me) during four pivotal events in my life. I’d like to tell you about those four life changing events.

  1. BLUE was there on August 6, 2001 when I rang the opening bell on the first day of trading for our new company. What a day! BLUE and I were at the center of attention. I shook a lot of hands, took a lot of back slaps, performed (played the congas!)  outside the NYSE on stage with Felix Cavalieri and the New Rascals, and was interviewed by the likes of CNN and Bloomberg. I had arrived at the top of the business world, the pinnacle of a 25 year business career, a truly defining moment. And BLUE had been with me every step of the way.
  2. BLUE was there when I crashed and burned. Since going public, the company (my company) began to run into difficulties. Arguably, I performed inadequately as a CEO, and in fact, broke Federal laws in a futile effort to “make the numbers”. On September 15, 2004, after several gut wrenching weeks filled with SEC and Justice Department lawyers, and FBI agents, BLUE was on me when I plead guilty to conspiracy to commit wire and securities fraud.
  3. On November 22, 2007, BLUE was there when Chief U.S. District Federal Judge Stephen J. McAuliffe sentenced me to serve 48 months in a Federal Prison. BLUE caught my wife’s tears as she sat next to me in the court room. We had the worst Thanksgiving holiday I can ever remember. I hung Blue up in the closet, since obviously, I was not going to need him for quite a while.  On January 4, 2008, at 2 PM, I voluntarily surrendered myself at the Federal Correctional Facility in Miami, Florida.
  4. Finally, I took BLUE out of the closet, and wore him on stage January 11, 2013, several years after leaving Federal prison, as I addressed 600 employees of an internationally recognized music technology company at their world-wide sales conference.

Blue heard me tell my story to that audience. A story of a meteoric rise from humble beginnings, to a devastating crash for someone who was raised and taught to know better than to take short cuts, and to play with the definition of right and wrong. I told that audience about the 10 mistakes leaders should avoid at all costs (read it here on Michael Hyatt‘s blog). I told the story of a lack of humility, and a failure to hold myself accountable. For the first time, while wearing Blue, I told a story of untruth, lack of integrity, irresponsibility, arrogance, and avoidance. And I shared with them the hard-learned lessons that I came to acquire after I had my freedom taken from me. That fourth time wearing Blue, was cathartic for me, and by far, the most rewarding speech I have ever given.

Blue is close to retirement age. He is somewhat shiny and well worn in many places. Will I replace him? Sure. Everyone needs a good blue suit. But when I do, rest assured that NEW Blue will not have to watch me experience the self-inflicted pain and agony that my last blue suit experienced. And as far as OLD Blue is concerned, he  will keep hanging in my closet, a constant reminder of what I did, and in the end, how I persevered.

What have been your proudest, most rewarding moments? And by contrast, what have you experienced that has left you devastated and broken? How did you recover, and in the end, how did you persevere? I’d love to know!

Posted in Change, Empowerment, Inspiration, Leadership, Personal Development | Tagged , , , , , | 12 Comments