How to achieve your goals – a story

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“Fearing change limits your ability to enjoy life (or be happy) in this ever changing life.” I wrote this in a journal entry on August 18th, 2005 (11 years ago!). I don’t usually write a journal entry unless I’m traveling, and luckily I wrote during a trip in 2005. I had just finished a 3-month trip in Latin America with Sara (my girlfriend at the time) and was on a flight from Sacramento to Ontario, CA to pack my life before moving to New York for my new job in consulting.

I was 24 and life was exciting. I had just taken a break from my PhD to go get some work experience in consulting, but during the 6-month break between finishing my Masters and the start of my new job, I had time to kill — so we went traveling!

I was going through some old boxes this past week and I found my travel journal – I flipped through it and this one entry surprised me – I don’t remember writing it yet the content of this entry shaped my life without me knowing it from 2005-now. I’m amazed at how much impact this one entry had in my life – it appears the impact was done subconsciously because I don’t remember ever looking back at it or writing it.

I will share this entry now in the hopes that it will be useful to you — and to provide an example of why writing down your goals is so important (bold comments are my 35-year-old self):


August 18th, 2005 (written in Spanish but translated below)

Incredible, all this change, so busy yet not so busy. I don’t really know what to write about, maybe about change. A few days ago I had written on my MSN chat status: “Fearing change limits your ability to enjoy life (or be happy) in this ever changing life.” Is so much change good for you? Maybe Ruben has some reason that change limits you to plant some roots …. but why are roots important? (funny – in the last 11 years Sara and I have lived in 16 different properties in 7 difference cities until we just recently bought a house — I wonder how long we’ll stay here???)


A week after I wrote this entry I flew to Maui with the family.

I think that instead of planting some roots, the ideal scenario is to think of family and have a united family… is that what planting roots mean? Roots of a family tree? Maybe …

I don’t like to think and reflect in life so much, I’ve been doing that a lot lately.

I feel bad having my family far, but, it’s an excuse for them to travel.

I think I’m reaching a point in my life of acceptance and happiness. I’m proud of what I’ve done until now. I was afraid of not having any new concrete goals — but now I finally have new goals! I realized that there is nothing wrong with not conforming. I’m a person with goals and that helps me have energy and take advantage of each day and moment to the max.

My new goals are:

  • travel the world for a year (check! done in 2011-2012)
  • Go to a top 10 MBA (did not happen but pursued a PhD)
  • Buy real estate (check, twice!)
  • Get real estate license (did not happen but now it’s a potential new goal)
  • Travel with ZS Associates, my new job (check! with it I went to Colombia, Argentina, and across the US)
  • Marry Sara (my favorite goal – check!)
A day before I wrote this entry - Continuing my Hard Rock collection in Sacramento

A day before I wrote this entry – Continuing my Hard Rock collection in Sacramento

I hope to do this in no more than 7 years from now. I think that once I have all of this done, I can think about having my own family. I’m starting to think like an adult, yuk! =) As long as the parties continue I’ll be OK (check! organized a 400+ party last night with success!)

How do I think to pursue an MBA?

  • Make sure to get good letters of rec
  • Read books/articles from Harvard professors and find a way to meet with them
  • Study for the GMAT
  • Get raises and bonuses at work

How do I plan to buy Real Estate?

  • Save $45k
  • Study the markets in Sacramento, Victorville,
  • Buy between $200-250k
  • Increase my credit score
  • Spend frugally (this took some work — NYC was not a place to save money, ask my coffee break group)

How do I plan to travel the world? (by the way, this is 6 years before I went on my trip!)

  • Save $10-15k (it ended up costing $30k for two people, so I was on budget!)
  • Get airline miles
  • plan my MBA around the trip
  • not going into debt

How do I plan to marry Sara? (at the time I was going to move to New York and Sara was moving to San Diego for medical school)

  • Put effort in the relationship to ensure it continues to have the spark and energy it has today
  • See each other as much as possible in the next two years (we flew SD-NYC (vice-versa) every two weeks for a year)
  • Transfer to Los Angeles in 2 years, no later than Sept 2007 (I ended up moving in Sept 2006)
  • Don’t be an idiot (No ser mula!)

Well, having goals is not that bad, it’s helped me go forward and feel like I’ve achieved my dreams. The important thing to have in mind is that not everything that I want is possible and that maybe one of the goals above won’t be achieved and I shouldn’t feel bad for that.

Wow — translating this and re-reading it really trips me out. I was writing down my future and most of it came true! Freaky! I recall in 2005 I had probably $5,000 to my name and I had like $8,000 in credit card debt and $10,000 in student loans … in other words, I had negative net worth. Why would I think I can get an MBA ($200k!), buy property, or even travel the world … in 7 years?!

The journal entry above taught me a few things:

  • Never doubt your ability to achieve your dreams … you just have to want it enough
  • Write down your goals, as stupid as they may sound
  • Write down how you plan to achieve your goals (although, one of my favorite quotes is “If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans” … luckily I’m agnostic)
  • Keep a journal, you’ll learn something from yourself in the future

I’ve always told Sara that I think I’m very lucky in life. Life has treated me well and I cannot complain. She sometimes disagrees and says that it’s not luck, it’s the effort and dedication I’ve put in. Maybe she’s right … and I should give credit when credit is due.

But luck does have some role in all of this, you just have to be ready when luck is knocking on your door.

I’d love to hear from you – how do you achieve your goals? Was this helpful? Leave a comment!

Finding your strengths and not your weaknesses

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I recently started looking for a job and having a diverse professional background left me with many possibilities. I could search for an engineering position, a management consultant, a partnership manager, a marketing manager, an operations manager, business development manager, etc. It was a bit overwhelming.

I couldn’t figure out what I wanted to do – I thought I would be happy with any position, but I realized that I would be the happiest with a position where my strengths are utilized and can achieve results for a company.

If you’re like me, you assume you already know what your strengths are.  You know what you’ve accomplished, why you accomplished it, and what skills you used to accomplish it. However, I was a bit surprised about what I found out after I took an assessment on my strengths.

I had reached out to a friend’s career coach to help me narrow down what I wanted to pursue, and to start she recommended I take an assessment on my strengths using Strengths Finder 2.0.

Strengths Finder is a Wall Street Journal bestseller written by Tom Rath. The book comes with an access code for the strength assessment. This 30-minute assessment is used to find the unique talents a person possesses. Upon completion of the quiz, a report is generated with your top five strengths along with a description of each.

My first thought was … how is this going to help me find a job?

My second thought was, why can’t I find out what my weaknesses are and make them better (I had already started learning to code Python).

I quickly realized why strengths are important. I admit that I am not a developer and I don’t want to be writing code 100% of the time. I like coding but not for a full-time gig. It makes sense to find the strengths where a person excels and acquire a job that needs those strengths. It sounds stupid just writing it but it took an assessment test to realize it.

As I say during one of my talks, it’s important to know what your mission is in order to know how to get there. If you don’t have a clear mission/goal, then nothing you do will be beneficial.

Hence, I took the 35 minute test to get an idea on what I should focus on. My results were Communication, Woo, Learner, Activator, and Maximizer. I originally thought I would be Analytical, Achiever, Developer, Strategic, and Positivity. I was way off …

After reading the twenty page report, they’re spot on! I’ve included a small description of each strength below so you get an idea of what your personal report will be.

Moving forward, I’ll utilize the strengths and personal report to narrow down what type of roles to look for.

I highly recommend you start exploring what your strengths are instead of focusing on your weaknesses.

Not only if you’re looking for a job, but this is useful for anyone that wants an opportunity to do what they do best.


People who are especially talented in the Communication theme generally find it easy to put their
thoughts into words. They are good conversationalists and presenters.


People who are especially talented in the Woo theme love the challenge of meeting new people and
winning them over. They derive satisfaction from breaking the ice and making a connection with
another person.


People who are especially talented in the Learner theme have a great desire to learn and want to
continuously improve. In particular, the process of learning, rather than the outcome, excites them.


People who are especially talented in the Activator theme can make things happen by turning
thoughts into action. They are often impatient.


People who are especially talented in the Maximizer theme focus on strengths as a way to stimulate
personal and group excellence. They seek to transform something strong into something superb.

Round the World Trip … One Year Later

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The world is a book, and those that do not travel read only a page — St. Agustin

It’s been a little over a year since my RTWT (Round The World Trip) ended and decided to reflect the learnings of a trip around the world.

A year ago I had just returned from one of the best experiences of my life: a 10-month trip around the world visiting 20 countries with my partner in crime, Sara. Upon our return, Sara re-started her residency at Stanford Hospital and I made my hobby ( an “official” business and decided to put my PhD on hold.

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The benefits of long term travel and what I hope to take home with me

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As the trip is coming to an end, I’ve started to become pensive and analyze what all this meant. What have I learned? How will this affect how I continue to live my life? Or was it just a collection of memories for years to come?

It all started with a dream. I saw a video called “Would You?” in 2004. It was an inspirational video done by a travel journalist to promote his blog,, where he wrote about his daily travels for 16 months straight. The video was a collection of photos he had taken around the world and every few seconds he would ask questions related to travel starting with “Would you …”. From that moment on, a round the world trip become part of my bucket list. I think it was because of the places he saw, or the message he was trying to convey: “Would you dare?”

We did.

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