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    Preparation, preparation, preparation!

    Monday November 11, 2019 and learning on the importance of preparation at O’Hare

    If the way my month started is an indication of the importance of preparation, then November will be an amazingly interesting month this year! I have an aggressive traveling agenda, including the huge responsibility of producing an event off-site Chicagoland, meet with editorial and publishing companies about book ideas, attend several fundraising galas and board meetings, start planning for 2020 and very important to me, stay connected with family and close friends as well as my ministry at church.  Without proper preparation, none of that (and other things not mentioned here) would happen.

    Representing a variety of companies through Zambrano Consulting Group has allowed me to understand the importance of PREPARING.  Some people only take preparation seriously upon certain topics.  An experienced traveler, would prepare according to destination, weather, business or pleasure, time of year, length of trip, etc. A Public Speaker would need to prepare well to capture his or her audience attention with a strong, concise, clear and interesting message when delivering a speech.  A Professor, would need to study the lessons and assignments he or she will be given to students and hopefully inspire them to make education a priority. When participating in a marathon, an athlete would go through a series of training and preparation expecting to win first place.  When taking an exam in any trade or industry, without preparation, you’d risk not passing the test.  When becoming pregnant, a new mom would learn about the changes in her body and prepare for the arrival of the little miracle in her life.  In reality, we need to prepare constantly and in all areas of our lives.  

    I could speak to any of those things just listed, but I’ll take my trip to NY as an example of the importance to preparing well.  It became obvious from the beginning of the proposal I received, that the challenges producing a local event in another city would be huge!  Being part of the producing team of The first Latinos 40 under 40 in NY entailed coordinating all the moving pieces from a distance and still guarantee to run a show within budget and in a timely manner.  Getting a centric venue for professionals during the week was important, securing sponsors, emcee, DJ, photographer, volunteers and traveling arrangements were the basic things to think about.

    Stuck at O’Hare all day before the event

    Even though I was brought onboard close to the date of the event, my expectancy was to help deliver a sold out event at 150 guaranteed attendees.  Just a few days before the event, they only had about 40 entries sold.  It’s no secret that most people procrastinate and we knew we’d get a rush of reservations at the end.  Still, the marketing efforts from everyone involved was extremely important.

    There was an interesting situation happening throughout the planning of this event.  From these items, the biggest one that worried the Publisher and PIC (person in charge) was how to get the 40 beautifully framed certificates of recognition from Chicago to NY.  I gave several ideas knowing he wanted to buy them from Walmart, a national franchise.  “Order the frames and have them mailed directly to the venue or hotel where the event will be held” I confidently said knowing it was the best option. 

    “There’s a charge for every day the hotel holds the packages” he said as if there was no way he would pay any additional costs that will take us out of budget.  “Have our local contacts buy them at the store, set them up and hold them for us “, I said as another good option. “No, some of the frames will most likely break and we need to ensure we prepare the certificates ourselves, set them in each frame and use UPS or FedEx to deliver, but it will be very costly.”  I think he was still impressed by the fact that he had to pay over $1,200 USD recently for one package to be sent from Chicago to another city and that was definitely out of budget.  “Let’s carry them ourselves as additional luggage” I said reluctantly and hoping he would say that he decided to send via UPS or FedEx. However, he didn’t.   

    I travel light so this was my least favorite choice, but guess what?  We ended up carrying 6 huge packages ourselves. After several inquiries and an actual visit to the airport the day before our flight to NY, it was confirmed this was definitely our best choice.  It was a bit inconvenient but it was free and apparently very important! Having benefits with AA and access to the Admirals Club became such an important part of this trip!  Early morning on the day of the trip, I received an email stating that our flight was canceled and we were booked into another flight late that evening.  Under normal circumstances, this would have been fine, however, we needed to get to NY as early as possible as the event was the next day and by then we already knew we had close to 200 people attending. This entailed additional preparation from adjusting our list of attendees to changes in the venue.  We were excited and nervous!  It’s so easy for me to manage my flights and any unexpected changes, but managing a canceled trip involving several people is challenging, especially when a snow storm in Chicago was not allowing flights to depart or arrive.  We were placed on many standby flights along other hundred people.  Our original flight was moved several times until finally leaving around 11pm.  We arrived in NY at 1:30 am and found ourselves getting to bed around 4am.  Talk about an adventurous trip!  Why am I highlighting all this?  I learned from my mentors that preparation is important and very helpful but there’s always a need to adjust to sudden changes.  I often mention my mom because, for the most time, remained positive when things got out of her control.  You may think my mom was perfect when you read my writings about her.  She wasn’t perfect when it came to planning or anything else.  It’s simply the level of respect I had for her and her character as a strong and positive role model in my life that makes me realize the impact she had in everything I do and my perspective on life.  If we were to measure who is less perfect, I’d probably win a medal.  Would you believe I actually forgot my passport just a few days ago and realized it at the airport on my way to Mexico City? Yes, me! The experienced traveler that I am! Let’s grow together!

    The TEAM’s effort made it an amazing successful event!
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    Let’s talk perseverance

    Let’s talk perseverance

    It was a crowd of over 5,000 and the 5th anniversary of the John Maxwell team. I was one of a few couple of hundred Latinos in the audience and was asked to speak in Spanish to an audience who didn’t understand Spanish!

    I needed to use my body language and project a strong point in my message. I chose to speak about PERSEVERANCE. Why? All human beings whom had any success in any area of their lives would identify with the word perseverance no matter what language they speak. The JMT is one of the most successful, positive, persistent, difference makers group of individuals I’ve known in my whole life and I know they identified with the message.

    In my case, some people think “perseverance” should be my middle name. It’s something I learned from my mom and I apply it in everything I do whether it’s in my professional life or personal, it follows me. When people I counsel or mentor share their difficult situations, what often comes out of my mouth is “press on”. I’ve done it all my life and it works! I would never ask anyone to do or try something I haven’t done myself first.

    I recently came across a quote from the 30th President of the US and it says “Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan “press on” has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.” – Calvin Coolidge

    In my professional career I have come across a lot of talented, geniuses and well educated people but Calvin is right, none of that is sufficient. Determination, persistence, a sense of urgency and an attitude of not giving up is necessary to accomplish goals

    The simplest definition I found is “perseverance is a continued effort to do or achieve something despite difficulties, failure, or opposition”.

    Who inspires you to press on? My mom has been my greatest inspiration in overcoming “a few” obstacles in life before standing on a stage and voicing out the results of perseverance. It hasn’t been easy to break the barrier of a different culture, a new language, being a Latina woman, growing up without a father figure in a dysfunctional family and being the shiest young girl you could have ever met, but I press on and encourage you to do the same.

    Let’s grow together and be a difference maker. At the end, that’s what helps us to live a life of significance!

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    The end of a decade

    “It’s the end of a decade!” she said as if it was a big deal. Well, IT IS A BIG DEAL!!! My friend and business partner, Gilda, was encouraging our group to reflect on what we want to accomplish professionally by the end of this year. As I did (reflect), it made me realize on the importance of the last 3 months of 2019. It is the end of a decade and although I’m not going to name every single accomplishment, I will say that it’s overwhelming to think of all the things that happened in the last 10 years. It’s especially hard to find the appropriate words to express the gratitude for what the last 10 years represent. I’ve met so many interesting and inspiring people, I’ve learned and experienced so much, I’ve invested in my personal growth and have grown as a person and as a professional, but most importantly, I’ve seen my mentees benefit from my growth.

    Best experience: I have several good ones in this area. I turned 50, both my children graduated from college and became independent. I became part of the John Maxwell Team. The top one has got to be that I became a grandmother!

    Am I on track to completing the goals I committed to? This year I chose the word “completion” to describe it and there are 2 things I committed to do to honor my mom: Created The ELISA Foundation and get it to become a 501(c)3 organization and write a book about her. I’m on track!!!

    Did I learn something new? For years I’ve been scared to learn how to swim and not only did I self-taught myself, I’m also teaching others how to do it!

    Did I influence anyone in a positive way? I’d like to think that I did. I’d love to gather testimonials of peopleI believe I’ve influenced in one way or another. One environment that helped me to influence those around me was my studio. I helped influenced Cari, an extremely talented dancer and dance teacher open her own business. She came to my studio to teach a Zumba class and soon after, I named her the Director of a kids dance program and from there she open her own studio! I’d like to think that I influenced Jennifer, Edith, Yana and Catalina grow spiritually. I know I influenced my son, Joshua, into getting involved in the choir and get involved in the dance fitness industry. I know I’ve influence a few to become entrepreneurial and follow their dreams!

    As I continue to reflect on this decade, I know there are many more things I could mentioned. I remember the beginning of 2010 being one of the most difficult years of my life personally, spiritually, physically and mentally. These are related somehow because I uncovered the truth about a lie that a person very close to me was living and it affected our relationship very much, the fact is that it was in the beginning of this decade that I realized I couldn’t put people on a pedestal. It was eye opening and it shook my faith during the process and drained me mentally but I know I became spiritually stronger. Phisically, I had a scare with one of my regular annual tests and a biopsy came back “abnormal”. You know this entailed tons of additional tests and prayers hoping for me to be completely out of danger. Mentally and without giving too many details, all of those circumstances affected my mental wellness. The beginning of this decade was also when I left Corporate America after a successful career and became an entrepreneur, socially responsible and well, yes, FREE!!!

    Today, I can assure you that I’m still going through my journey, and as a human being, I might still fail at many things and fall but getting up and understanding that life if too short and therefore, I need to continue to pursue happiness, no matter what and, OF COURSE, live a life of significance just like my mom did.

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    See the beauty around you!

    See the beauty around you!

    I never thought Don Hector was capable of singing the way he sang to me on that morning! It was one of my favorite songs: “La morenita” which means “little brunette” (lol). It had been a few months since we brought him (and Luz) to live with us and he seemed so comfortable, happy and at peace. It was as if he was ready to finish a good run in this life and rest. We got so close during this time and I loved it when I came into the room and he said “there’s mi morenita!” 🙂

    I remember the first time I met him (and Luz). It was 1985 and at a time when he used to drink and smoke. He paid me a big compliment by telling Wally “mi’jo esta es toda una mujer!” okay it was more like “mi’jo, esta es una mujerona!”) which means something like “she’s all woman!” I blushed and stayed close to Luz (okay, Wally!). He was never disrespectful but I always was intimidated by him probably because he would always compare my cooking to Luz’s delicious cooking and yes, I was always short on the comparison scale!

    I would have never imagined that I’d be the one taking care of him and getting as close as I was to him during his last few months of life.

    He became more and more conservative as years passed by, especially after becoming a man of faith and making a 180 complete turn around. He stopped drinking and smoking and was one of the most hard working and responsible persons I’ve ever met. He earned the respect of people because of his character.

    Don Hector had a special appreciation for my mom, who became his spiritual mother. My mom and Manu, her husband, visited him and Luz often and they discipled him in the word of God. He was certainly a changed man from the first time I met him. This is one of the reasons why he was so grateful to my mom and why I admired her so much and always will…she marked the life of many people in a positive way and I celebrate her legacy!

    Fast forward to 2014 and imagine this 83 year old men who always took care of others (especially his “viejita” as he used to call Luz), a man who always worked 2 jobs, took a month vacation every year and traveled one year to see his family in Mexico and the next year to see her family in Puerto Rico, a man who was strong and healthy… going from 180 lbs to 90 lbs in a matter of a short period of time and having Dementia make him become someone who couldn’t remember if he ate breakfast, if it was Sunday or if he knew who we were.

    We saw the decline of his mind immediately and wanted to make him as comfortable as possible. Even though Wally had researched a few senior homes, neither Luz or me like that idea. So, we built an additional bedroom in our home and brought them to live with us.

    We were so happy to have found Ana Lucia and be able to provide care for him 24/7. She was friendly, outspoken, talkative and hard working but needed to get 2 days off every week. So, Sunday and Monday became my permanent days to help. I had him on a firm scheduled and he would eat every 2 hours (including his protein shakes and supplements). When the Hospice visited for the initial assessment, she said “Norma, you’re prolonging his departure”. “there’s no need for protein shakes or supplements any more”. I could tell he was ready for some time and maybe I knew his departure would be very hard on Luz… and it was. Luz was in denial for a long time and I remember the moment she accepted it was time and let go. We asked her to give grace for the meal and with tear in her eyes she asked God to do his will with Don Hector. A couple of days later he passed away peacefully.

    When you watch the video (wait for it!) you’ll be able to see what I mean when he said “I see beauty”… he didn’t mean it as physical beauty but I imagine that as he looked around, he saw the beauty of his loving family taking care of him and the commitment we had to honor him.

    The lesson here is that no matter how hard life is for you that no matter what you’re going through, you can look around and see the beauty of a friend, the beauty of compassion, the beauty of family, of unity, of love, of God… look for things that make you happy and spark joy into your life!

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    Intersession or Intervention?

    Intersession or Intervention?

    The message I heard this Sunday was so meaningful to me. Maybe it’s because I’ve been interceding for several people throughout the last few years! Some of my prayers have been answered almost immediately and others have taken a long time, but the point of the message was to intercede for others, today! The more I meditated on this, the more it made me think about the difference between interceding for someone and intervening for someone. I’m a life-long learner and love to compare and challenge myself to improve in everything I do. So, of course I googled both words and found the following on the dictionary:

    Intersession: A prayer to God on behalf of another person

    Intervention: Interfering in some course of events

    The best example of an intercessor is my mom. She was gifted with a spirit of intercession that revealed the need before the need appeared! The amount of miracles caused by her prayers of intercession are way too many to list. I witnessed whole families get closer to God, women struggling with infertility getting pregnant with twins, couples restoring their marriage, the sick being healed, debts erased, and so many more miracles but most importantly, people realizing the need of God in their lives and the fact that no matter how good or bad we are, nothing can ever separate us from His love.

    As funny as it was watching “friends” and see their “interventions”, my mom took interventions very seriously. I can recall a time she was intervening for a couple in the family, who was arguing and on the verge of divorced, and someone, from the family of the wife, literally hit her with a rock during the intervention. This was the cause of my mom having to have her nose operated and the person arrested. The interesting thing is that my mom didn’t hold grudges against this person nor pressed charges and this couple is still together. Yes, my mom’s intervention changed the course of their marriage and their relationship with God.

    This is just one example of the type of person she was and why I’m so passionate to share about her. We all can learn from people like my mother. We all have a responsibility to make a difference in other people’s lives. Let’s do it together and be the reason others are impacted positively!

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    Are you ready to pass on the baton?

    When I read “pass on the baton”, the theme of my devotional this morning, it made me realized I AM passing on the baton!

    Being a “Humanitarian Entrepreneur” as my friend, Gilda, would say, doesn’t leave much time for anything! We’re always managing a business or helping someone so I had to be creative to stay connected to my sisters. I invited them (Okay, I challenged them!) to read the bible with me in one year. Some of us are more active writing our own thoughts every day than others, but we’re still connected, which was the ultimate goal!

    In today’s devo the suggestion was to find a “Paul” and a “Timothy”. A Paul to learn from and a Timothy to pass on the baton. It’s much more profound than this basic statement but you’ll get the point.

    This week we celebrated my daughter’s birthday and we spent it at home. The best memory of it was to watch her take her daughter, Elena, who just turned one, into the swimming pool. The very same swimming pool I took Sasha into (also for the first time) when she was Elena’s age.

    I remember being so scared that something would happen to my daughter and that I wouldn’t be able to save her. I didn’t know how to swim and I didn’t want my insecurities to stop my daughter from continuing to enjoy the visits to Nana and Abuelo and get into the swimming pool every opportunity she had. As scared as I was of swimming, I decided to take some lessons in case “I needed to save her in an emergency”. I learned to float -that’s about it…I was still scare! However, it gave me the confidence I needed in case of an emergency.

    As I was reading my devotional I realized I’m always learning and I’m always teaching. I did what I saw my mom doing for me so many times. I took courage and did something afraid. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve done something afraid in an effort to help, to improve, to find a solution. Even now, I stretch myself thin in an effort to help even though I’m afraid to fail and guess what? I do! I fail but I’ll continue to learn and I’ll continue to teach. We all do…we’re all passing on the baton. Do it afraid!

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    Who Do I Know That You Should Know?

    Who Do You Know That I Should Know?

    It certainly took me a long time to build a strong network of influencing men and women that I’m able to introduce to each other now and see magic happen! Some people might think it helps to be a high “I” based on the Maxwell DISC personality profile assessment. However, for those of you that know my story of growing up, a very shy and insecure person, it wasn’t until the more recent years in my life that I’ve been able create a huge network of amazing people. I’ll share 3 things I did:

    1. Make it about them. I used to ask “who do you know that I should know” when I was building my network, asking lots of questions, applying the law of curiosity and showing up to endless number of meetings and events. There was a point in my life that my network of influence grew to the point of asking “Who do I know that you should know” making the importance of connecting no longer about me but about them.
    2. Invest in Personal Development. Most of us tend to be attracted to people similar to ourselves, with same interests, missions in life and life perspectives, but this is not always the case. I always encourage people to invest in personal development because the more you grow and understand yourself, the more you can adjust to people’s personalities and understand them better, making a deep connection possible.
    3. Connect the right person to the right cause. We all can identify a “taker” from a “giver” and there are many people whom literally simply want to get a hold of your rolodex for the wrong reasons. I’ve had to work with some people “from a distance” because our interests and missions in life do not align. I’ve learned from my mentor, Pastor Steve Hage, that trusting God and loving people will keep me away from disappointments. So, even though I love people, I need to ensure their life values align with mine and those I’m making an introduction to, in order for it to become a significant relationship.

    It’s humbling to read messages such as, and I quote “Norma! Thank you for connecting me with awesome people. You shine, always! When I grow up, I want to be like you” or “Norma you truly are a master connector and influencer. I am so grateful for your friendship and sisterhood. Your light truly shines from the inside out.” or “Norma, there are no words to describe how awesome you are! You truly have a way to connecting people. I am so blessed to have you in my life. I love you”. These are from the ladies I introduced to each other this past weekend! I knew that would instantly connect! In my opinion good connections happen when people sense how much you care or as my mentor, John Maxwell would say: “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care”.

    People could sense how much my mom cared for them and this allowed her to be one of the best examples to me of what an amazing networker should be like, or better yet, a master connector!

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    Secret to raise perfect children

    I remember how my mom used to give me a “look” signaling to go to my room if she didn’t want me to be part of a conversation. I don’t remember her having to repeat herself twice when she asked me to do chores or help up with something. There was only one thing I wished my mom would not had asked me to do when I was a teenager, -why did I drag doing this one thing for her? I was only doing what every shy and insecure 13 year-old would do! I’d give anything not to walk by myself in the neighborhood to the corner store to get the groceries for the day. Why? So I could avoid encountering the boys in the neighborhood wanting to walk along, ask me out and pay compliments! I remember several of them asking my mom if I could go out with them. I was so shy and not interested in dating, at all! In fact, I thought I’d never get married. Well, I did! I fell hopelessly in love with my husband and we’ve been together over 32 years! I was only 21 years old when I started my own family. I wasn’t experienced or matured enough but I learned from my mom to use “loving discipline” and both my daughter and son turned out great! Notice I didn’t say perfect!

    Perfect children don’t exist, much less perfect parents! I’ve learned not to anticipate perfection from anyone because I’m far from being perfect myself. Perfection seems unreachable but we can still aim for it. In fact, I recently heard this phrase and I loved it “Aim for perfection, settle for excellence”

    I work closely with youth groups and children from different organizations and it breaks my heart to see the lack of motivation, drive and lost opportunities that kids are not taking advantage of. The statistics have rocketed recently on mental conditions in youth struggling from anxiety, depression, bulling and even high performing kids with straight A’s suffer from stress! We know there is no perfect formula to raise a child and the best way to raise your children is YOUR way! I’ll share these points to with you that I use while raising my children and teach my mentees now and I hope you find them helpful:

    1. Loving Discipline / Stick to the consequences if they don’t obey
    2. Give some freedom / Balance (with limits) is always important
    3. Words of Affirmation / Learn their “love language” there are 5
    4. Bonding time / Trips alone with them or “Meetings between friends”
    5. Expose them to successful people / find a mentor for them
    6. Encourage family debates / Allows them to practice freedom of speech, making choices and build their self confidence
    7. Be grateful to God for your kids/ This may the the most important because there will be moments you won’t be able to do anything other than pray for them with a grateful heart. Where there’s gratitude, there’s no room for resentments, hatred or arguments
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    Are you a curious person?


    I don’t think I’ve ever met a more multifaceted person as my mom was. She was born in a time (and a place) when young girls were expected to learn how to sew, knit, cook, clean and all the “womanly” chores you can think of. I myself remember helping her when I was very young and never questioned it… It was simply expected. I don’t know many 7 year old girls with big responsibilities at the time…unless they come from a “dysfunctional” home where mom (or dad) are single and everyone needs to help out, no matter how old or young they are…

    When my mom moved from her little town, where she was raised, to the city of Durango in Mexico, her life changed completely and had to hustle and become mom and dad for us. Not only did she have to continue to do all the things she needed to do as a mother, but she now had to provide for us as well. I remember a time she was hired at a grocery store for a while and this helped her sharpened her sales and customer service skills. There wasn’t anything she couldn’t do. She was my hero and role model. I learned to admire my mother for her tenacity and willingness to try anything to provide for us.

    When I first read about the Law of Curiosity from The 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth by my mentor John Maxwell, I almost thought to ask him if he was inspired by my mom when he wrote the book! She lived many of these wise principles and universal values that made her a better person and in turned impacted people positively.

    So, today I decided (out of curiosity) to find out if I’m talented enough to sew like my mom did. I visited my friend Selva Lopez, owner of a haute couture store in Chicago. She claims she will know in a matter of weeks how good I’ll be. So, I’ll make sure to keep you posted on my progress.
    I hope to create a clothing line to fund The Elisa Foundation and provide personal development and leadership resources to young girls unable to attend these type of trainings.

    The Law of Curiosity has helped me to uncover my purpose in life. I encourage you to apply it to your life as well and remember, live a life of significance.

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    Why do all communicate but only a few connect?

    My mom had a special way of connecting with people. She was born in 1940 and way before social media was the thing to do. I know she would have exceeded the number of “friends” or connections allowed on any of the social media platforms if she had had a chance to be part of them. I often wonder what she would say if she was still alive and knew I was using social media to share her her teachings…The conclusion is always “mija, just make sure someone is inspired by what you do”.

    My mom was an open book and never ashamed of her experiences whether they were good or bad, and believe me, she had some really bad experiences in her life. She was so young when she married my dad. Merely 16 years old. Up until then, her mom, my Abuelita Carmen, provided her with everything she needed and even had a nanny and a new dress to put on every Sunday. But when my grandma gave my mom’s hand in marriage, I’m sure she hoped for her to have a beautiful life with my handsome dad and live happily ever after.

    My mom’s first marriage was far from ending happily ever after, but I know she learned from every single experience to become the strong and persevering woman focused solely on the wellness of her 5 young children, Luis Antonio, Jose Luis, Marco Demetrio, Martha Leticia and me, Norma Patricia, born to her and my dad, Luis Ibarra.

    I’ll always be grateful for her second marriage and for giving me the joy to have a younger sister, Noelia, a younger brother, Jose Juan and her adoptive son, Jacobo. Before marrying Manuel, she had to raise me and my siblings practically on her own and had to make use of connections in her neighborhood. Don Doroteo would allow her to buy groceries on credit and pay when she collected the money from sewing, ironing and cooking. The account was often negative. However, I never saw my mom worried or sad about that.

    My mom was friendly and kind. Everyone knew her by name -or by a favor she probably did for them or a family member. She lived by the golden rule and treated others how she wanted to be treated. My house was always full of people (mostly strangers to me) I mean, she took care of all my cousins and looked for ways to use her many talents to help make ends meet. One of them was her cooking. She was able to make a banquet within minutes and feed a whole lot of people from a small container of beans and rice. Simple food was her specialty -probably because we didn’t have the luxury to eat fish or steaks often. I remember some mornings she’d make me “miguitas”, which are fried tortillas with scrambled eggs. She’d send me off to school thinking how blessed I was to have had a delicious breakfast!

    Something I learned from my mom that I apply to my life now and see the benefits of doing it every day is to have a friendly attitude, be kind by paying a compliment and expecting good things in life. I really hope to be able to connect with people like she did!