If you haven’t made it to NextCon, you really should think about going next year. Every year Nextiva, a progressive cloud-communication company located in Phoenix, puts on one power packed show.This year they had great speakers like Guy Kawasaki, Steve Wozniak, and my personal favorite, Dr. Connie Mariano. Dr. Mariano is a local in Phoenix, AZ, and I have to say one of the most impressive speakers I have had the pleasure of listening to. Not only is her personal story inspirational, she also has a genuine and authentic presentation style. She is engaging and dynamic, but comes across as humble and genuinely interested in helping people discover what makes them truly happy in life. Her story is one of perseverance, authenticity, purpose, and passion.
She was the daughter of a navy steward from the Philippines. As she describes the picture of her life as a child growing up with none of the advantages we take for granted in the United States, she humorously critiques her picture as a “care package” picture. It is the kind of picture you think of as a late night infomercial where one is asked to send money to children in a third world country. The old black and white photo of her as a little girl paints the picture of humble beginnings that were the catalyst for leading Dr. Connie all the way to the United States White House. After graduating from high school as the valedictorian, she quickly climbed the ranks of the Navy. Ultimately, Dr. Connie served 9 years under the presidencies of George. H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton. She is the first person of Philippines decent to ever retire with a rank of Admiral from the US Navy.
Her story is not just about her professional accomplishments, although they are impressive on their own. Her story is just as much about finding your voice and being authentic. She speaks to you in a way that is remarkably human and you get the feeling that this is part of what makes her special. She has healed so many people, both ordinary and extraordinary and she treats them all with the same care. You get the feeling that Dr. Connie has found a few secrets to living a fulfilled and purpose driven life. It is not often you meet someone who you would consider to have it all. Sure, there are wealthy tech titans that come to conventions and provide the audience with their ideas of what it takes to be the best company, leader, or next tech giant. What they miss mostly is that while these things matter professionally in life, they are not all that life is about. Being fulfilled is many things, including professional achievement, but fulfillment also comes from being authentic and doing something that truly matters. The rare leaders that find that being a good person, authentic leader, who takes care not only of themselves but those around them, are the ones that in my opinion find true success. Dr. Connie shared her specific tips that included advice on various subjects such as, looking for signs, not burning bridges, and taking time to listen to peers and subordinates. While you have probably heard it all before, you don’t usually get to hear these recommendations from a person who has truly accomplished remarkable things, and it doesn’t sink in without the context. We often miss the meaning in the advice without the real-life experience that translates through personal stories.
It is not often in life that you meet people who are doing really good work, work that matters, work that is noble, work that is inspiring. When you do find a person like this, I encourage you to put your cell phone down, listen intently, and observe everything that you can about this person. This is the rare opportunity you get to learn from someone who blazed a trail. In the world we share with so many people, this is extremely rare. Everything has been done, most ceilings have been broken, but every once and awhile you find someone who is still a unique and offers us something that we haven’t heard or felt before. When you find a person like this, do as my grandfather told me, observe and take note, because frankly, “they don’t make them like they used too”.