Growing up, most of my heroes in life, films, books, and TV were the rebels. I never liked the prescribed protagonist, most likely because she was nothing like me and I identified more with those on the periphery. As I got older and more self-aware, I realized none of my role models were Latinas. I grew up in a border town, but publicly, our successes were not celebrated.
Fast forward to now, I’ve built a respectable career but I haven’t yet realized my full potential and I still need Latino heroes. There’s a particular set of challenges we face, and as I tell my daughter, superpowers we can pull from. Last March, a good friend invited me to join her at a talk by media mogul Nely Galán. Unbeknownst to me, that afternoon set the stage for the rest of my year.
Increasingly, Latinas are in the limelight, but many unlike pop culture icons, Galán is on a mission of female empowerment in business and finance – areas in which multicultural females are grossly underrepresented. At her talk, she walked us through the finer points of her book, Self Made: Becoming Empowered, Self-Reliant, and Rich in Every Way.
Have I told you I have a toddler? I imagine it will be another eight years before I’m able to leisure-read a novel. That said, after roughly 10 months, I finished this book that single-me would devour in a weekend. It was an enjoyable read, chock-full of poignant anecdotes and inspiring and useful information.
Birds of a feather have to flock together
I launched Pura Vida Sometimes in June 2016, attended Galán’s lecture in March 2017, and in June 2017, I was chosen to be part of the Arizona Latino Bloggers group led by Kathy “Crafty Chica” Murillo and made possible in part by Galán’s Adelante Movement. Kathy imparted countless lessons on blogging, entrepreneurship, community, and owning your space as a Latinx leader. I was happily surprised as I finished reading Self Made last month when I came to a feature on Crafty Chica, my mentor. As a multicultural female, it is of utmost importance to build a network of people with a shared mission, support them, and grow together.
Self-made lessons from a dynamo
To recount my favorite parts of the book would give it all away. The whole time I was reading, I was chanting “heck, yeah” in my head, so here are a few lessons that resonated strongest with me:
There is no prince charming. “…become Prince Charming for yourself. You have everything you need inside you to accomplish this. You can push yourself. You can make yourself proud. You can forgive yourself for past mistakes, and you can have financial independence and your own dreams.” Don’t wait to be rescued.
Think like an immigrant. Even in the smallest ventures, be an entrepreneur. Be the owner of your own destiny and make a plan, poquito a poco, to get there. Galán talks about the “immigrant advantage:” the combination of optimism and grounded values tied to the practical imperative to earn a living and improve yourself. It’s a super-power inherent in our culture.
To be chosen, you have to choose yourself first. “You can’t sit around waiting for someone else to make success happen for you.” Have a goal, state your intention, and make a plan. As Latinos, sometimes we put our futures in God’s hands or pray to San Juditas, and that’s great, but we have the ability to make magic happen for ourselves.
Sometimes you have to pivot. Despite all the plans you may have, some things are out of our control, and some plans need to be tweaked. Be prepared to adapt.
Act “as if.” Channel the confidence of people you admire, who seem to have it together and are brave and empowered. As soon as I heard Galán say this, I put it to use – it works. Who do you admire? Put yourself in their shoes as you go into an interview, meeting, or event.
Having it all is possible. “You just can’t have it all at the same time. There is a time in your life to sacrifice. And there is a time to enjoy the fruits of your sacrifice. But cultivating your dream means exchanging short-term gratification for long-term goals and learning to do it with joy and purpose.” Galán says that, though we may have to sacrifice, we are setting an example for our children and building a legacy for them.
Is becoming self-made feasible?
One of the things I enjoyed most about this book was the practicality of the advice, and the reasonable suggestions to get started on your goals. She suggests starting small if only an hour per week. Reduce overhead and be conscious of where you’re spending your money, what you’re sacrificing, and why you’re doing it. “At this stage, while you’re doing whatever it is you need to do to make money, you should also be cultivating your mission whenever you can,” she says.
Galán suggests saving 20-50 percent of what you earn, and when you reach a certain threshold, you invest, up the ante on your plans, or invest in your business. This is great advice for young women, especially when it is possible to live in a small apartment and funnel your disposable income. For us old girls, it’s a good reminder, but we are often less liquid.
In any case, Galán gives us business ideas, opportunities, financial incentives, breadcrumbs, and plenty of motivation to build a business, invest in ourselves, and be the owners of our lives. She is the shero that many of us were looking for in our formative years. Now, we have the opportunity to be that women for those who will follow in our footsteps – our colleagues, our children, and maybe even our friends.
I really wish my husband would read Self Made (he won’t, but maybe he’ll read this post), I’d recommend it to all multicultural women, and to women, in general, I will be giving it to friends. And if others don’t read it, it’ll be our competitive advantage. In the meantime, check out the excellent Becoming Self Made website.
I hear the future is Latina. Watch out, Nely Galán is giving us wings.
Finally, Galán challenges us in the book to write a self-made poem, as she did for a college assignment. It’s never easy to write about yourself. At least not about the stuff that matters. I gave it a try. I realize it’s a little angry (and I’m generally not), but in this exercise, I learned that I am motivated by achieving things I was told I couldn’t.
I am self-made
I am the one whose homework you copied,
the one you threw gum at on the bus,
and laughed at when I stuttered.
I am the one with her ancestors’ face and rich legacy,
for whom school was easy but life hard,
making myself invisible for survival.
I am the one who didn’t care about your popularity,
who didn’t want your approval, and
I was destined for more.
You said I’d be nothing, but I knew you were wrong
so I filled my passport and my mind.
I developed the consciousness to forgive and
the will to prove you wrong.
I am the one with the insatiable thirst,
and the work ethic to make greatness happen.
Street savvy and book smart, a dreamer with a plan.
Try to bring me down or join me.
I will lift you as I rise –
a Phoenix: spirited, inspired, and boundless.
I am Genevieve H. Gutiérrez Gil and I am self-made.
Are you self-made? Have a poem of your own to share? Feeling inspired and can’t wait to read and/or gift the book? Drop me a comment below.