Photographer Anita Jankovic/UnSplash

Recently, I listened to a YouTube video as I had a long drive. It was VladTV, hosted by DJ Vlad and reaching at the time of this article, 4.55M subscribers. He was interviewing Dan Peña, a high performance success coach for executives. How have I not come across this brazen personality before, who says he is credited with coaching the most millionaires and billionaires?

Perhaps because I am Latina, of Puertorican heritage and Mr. Peña is of Mexican heritage, I identified with his stories of tough love and allowing children to make their own way. Mr. Peña says some things that may cause one’s ears to cringe as he certainly is not delicate in his choice of words, however, he pointed to something that perked up my ears relating to the key difference between the wealthy and the not wealthy.

He identifies that difference as confidence. It is a confidence that does not shy away from failures. It is a steadfast confidence that daringly takes the gamble, even when it means letting go of all that you are sure of. Mr. Peña says that parents have between the ages of 0–6 to ingrain this level of confidence in their kids. Otherwise, it will be a battle of the mind when the child becomes an adult and wonders why this level of success eludes him/her.

My brain flooded with images of my childhood. I recalled events during which I expressed confidence, but what permeated those memories is that my confidence seemed to be linked to the protection of others. This sparked my curiosity. Mr. Peña mentioned the names of some of the wealthiest and that what they also had in common was running their businesses with an iron hand, at times, ruthless and unapologetic, in approach and delivery.

As I scrolled through my early years, I was someone who stood up for kids that were bullied causing my mom to have to transfer me out my elementary school as I became the target. Stubborn as heck, I stood proud for speaking up even though I felt very much alone. I also recalled watching my mom cry by the window in our New York City apartment in the projects and feeling it was my role to protect her and contribute to her happiness.

I wondered if what I saw as marked expressions of confidence were tainted by compassion. Ruthlessness is the absence of compassion. Did I have two opposing traits that would wrestle for my identity? I replayed the times I exhibited confidence as an adult. There it was again, memories connected to some form of advocacy driven by empathy for those who could not speak up. If you ask my inner circle, it’s in many ways, the definition of who I am.

Had this trait, a heart for others, kept me from reaching an insane level of financial success? Had it also caused me greater pains than I needed to take on? Mr. Peña might think so! I also think possibly. I’d have the intention of forging relationships with great business opportunities, but often ended up in discussions with these people, who on the outside were achieving, and on the inside, struggling. Was my path taking a different course?

I noticed what others would not pay attention to. I was drawn to helping people through their pain. I think it started with the impression in my brain when I paused at the corner of that wall to take in my mom’s tears, as she looked out of that window. I now recognize how deeply etched that visual is in my subconscious. I wonder if it is the motivation behind the work I do today, helping others build positive mental capital for more joyful living.

I find Mr. Peña intriguing, a mind I’d like to explore more. He is a combination of tough love and ruthless coaching. I am curious to know his softer side. Even through some of what he says causes me to reconsider, I am interested, still. What can I say, perhaps it is the Latino paternal side of his nature that I find myself connecting with. One could argue it is because I grew up not having it. The brain is fascinating in inspiring a void that developed early on, isn’t it?

As Mr. Peña is of Mexican decent, a culture my mom loved deeply, I will end with this. Years ago, I was in Zihuatanejo, Mexico. At the town center, I came across men and women talking spiritedly with one another as they sat on the floor. After we spoke for some time, I asked if they wanted to come to the US? They shook their heads as one said in Spanish, “Every day after work, our friends meet here. We talk, laugh, and watch the sunset. Not everybody wants to go there. Having time with loved ones is more important to us.”

After sharing goodbyes, I thought for a long time, “What do you want to matter most?”