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Héctor Colón, 5 Habits That Led Me from a Boxing Ring to a Boardroom (#205)

Héctor Colón is the President and CEO of Lutheran Social Services of Wisconsin and Upper Michigan (LSS), a speaker and author. Prior to that, he served as the Executive Director of Health and Human Services at Milwaukee County and as Vice President of the USA Boxing Board. Boxing is something that has shaped Héctor’s character, and from which he learned the Five Virtues for Life and Leadership. How does someone go from a boxing ring to a boardroom? That’s what you’ll find out today.

It was a summer day in 1982. Héctor Colón was 9 years of age, and all he wanted to do was just play baseball with some neighborhood kids. Instead, he ended up receiving racist insults and a punch in the face. Once he came home with a bloody nose, his father wanted to do something to help Héctor, and that’s when he brought him to the gym so that he could learn how to defend himself. His newly found coach, Israel “Shorty” Acosta, showed Héctor a couple few boxing combinations. Héctor was a natural and ended up becoming a seven-time National Champion, competing all over the world with the United States National Boxing Team.

Hector Colon shadow boxes in the ring at the United Community Center in 1990.  

He was also favored to go to the Barcelona 1992 Olympic Games, but he lost the defining match. He was devastated. In those moments, permeated by failure and hopelessness, Héctor realized that he had focused on the wrong things. He had kept thinking of the potential multi-million dollar contracts instead of working on his mind, body, and spirit. That’s when he bought his first bible and his life changed.

Five Virtues for Life and Leadership

With his newly found faith, Héctor’s mindset changed rapidly, and that helped him beat the same boxer that had robbed him of the Olympics dream, with the fight being broadcasted on cable TV. Thanks to that, Héctor Colon ended up on the inside cover of Sports Illustrated, on the front cover of USA Boxing Magazine, and the promoters were ready to have him fight for lots of money.

At the peak of his boxing career, Héctor decided to step away from the ring and devote his life to God. He’s now guiding one of the Midwest’s largest non-profits organizations while sharing his story with his speaking and book, in which you will find the five virtues Héctor has learned from his boxing career, his business career, and his strong connection with God:

  • Magnanimity: striving for greatness in everything you do.
  • Humility: choosing to place others first, accepting your own failings, and knowing when to ask for help.
  • Courage: facing your fears with confidence.
  • Perseverance: not giving up in spite of challenges, adversity, and loss.
  • Temperance: not acting impulsively and using self-control, moderation, and will power.

And now here’s Hector Colon.

Full transcript below

Video on 5 Habits That Led Héctor Colón from a Boxing Ring to a Boardroom

Watch Héctor Colón Introducing His Book “My Journey From Boxing Ring To Boardroom: 5 Virtues For Life And Leadership”

Visit HectorColonMKE.com to Learn More About Héctor

Get Héctor Colón’s Book

Connect with Héctor on LinkedIn

Visit LSSwis.org, Héctor Colòn’s Non-Profit

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Podcast with Héctor Colón. 5 Habits That Led Me from a Boxing Ring to a Boardroom.

How’d It Happen — Hector Colon, Guest

1

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Mike Malatesta: Okay 321 hey everybody welcome back to the how to happen podcast I am fulfilling my promise to you today by bringing hector Cologne on the show hector, thank you for joining us welcome.

2

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Hector Colon: Thank you very much Mike happy to be with you here today.

3

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Mike Malatesta: yeah, so this is going to be a good one, let me start by telling you a little bit about hector so hector is the President and CEO of Lutheran social services of Wisconsin and Upper Michigan.

4

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Mike Malatesta: Prior to that hector was the Executive Director of health and human services for milwaukee county so we’ve got a local person on the podcast today.

5

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Mike Malatesta: He is also a board member at USA boxing and the offer author of a wonderful book about his personal path called my journey from boxing ring to boardroom.

6

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Mike Malatesta: Five essential virtues for life and leadership, you can see the book behind me, and behind him as well, so we’ll be talking a lot about the book as well.

7

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Mike Malatesta: Finally, hector is a keynote speaker who describes himself as a servant CEO and you can learn all about him at tactical H E C T R C O l O and m K e.com.

8

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Mike Malatesta: Finally, he was named a 2021 notable minority leader and the 2019 nonprofit executive of the year by biz times media so that’s a that’s a very, very short distilled bio about this incredible man that we’re going to learn about today so hector.

9

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Mike Malatesta: here’s here’s how we get started here, I asked a question, it is how did happen for you.

10

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Hector Colon: yeah so I i’d say that.

11

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Hector Colon: A significant event in my life happen on one summer day in 1982 when I went to outside to play baseball with some of the neighborhood kids.

12

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Hector Colon: And one individual kid didn’t want me or people was the color of my skin in the neighborhood and called me some racial and ethnic slurs and hit me in the face.

13

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Hector Colon: And I came home with a bloody nose and my father said what happened get the bustle and I told him what happened, and he told me that he wanted to take me to the gym so that I can learn how to defend myself here I go to the gym.

14

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Hector Colon: intimidated, all these big guys sweating hitting the heavy bag and my coach Israel acosta who they called shorty.

15

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Hector Colon: who’s a giant in my life, a giant in this Community he puts me in front of the mirror and started showing me a few boxing combinations and he told my father your son is a natural he’s going to become a champion.

16

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Hector Colon: That really boosted my self esteem I ended up he ended up being right, I became a seven time national champion competing all over the world would United States national boxing team.

17

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Hector Colon: And in 1992 I was favored to go to the Olympics, but I lost to a guy named JESSICA casino who robbed me of my dreams and the biggest part story.

18

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Hector Colon: biggest part of this story is that you’re I was 19 I was already looking past the Olympic trials and at that Gold Medal was thinking about that multi million dollar contract.

19

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Hector Colon: And for the most important opportunity in my life I was not focused mind body and spirit and I lost, and I was devastated.

20

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Hector Colon: A few months later, I went to as I was searching I wasn’t hearing from the big time promoters about the million dollar contract, I was searching and I was hurting on December 27 1992 I bought my first Bible, and, on that day, I gave my life to Christ.

21

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Hector Colon: I ended up fighting the guy that robbed me of my dreams, six months after that, and this time I knock them out in the first round for the US championship that fight was at cable TV, I was on the inside cover of sports illustrated.

22

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Hector Colon: front cover of USA boxing magazine the promoters came back.

23

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Hector Colon: But I put it through a year of prayer and discernment and it was the hardest decision I ever made in my life.

24

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Hector Colon: Something that I worked so hard for was literally at the tip of my finger and I felt a strong calling away, but the beautiful part about my story.

25

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Hector Colon: And reflected in the book is what I learned in the sport of boxing that helped me in life and leadership that same dedication.

26

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Hector Colon: determination and discipline, it took me to be a champion Boxer is the same dedication determination and discipline that I apply into my life.

27

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Hector Colon: striving for excellence in everything that I do, whether it be as a husband as a father or as a CEO and I learned five essential virtues as well.

28

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Hector Colon: And they are mainly an empty, which is about striving for greatness humility and at its core it’s about serving others courage, which is about facing your fears perseverance, which is not about not giving up and temperance, which is about self control and restrain.

29

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Mike Malatesta: So.

30

00:05:38.580 –> 00:05:41.250

Mike Malatesta: Let me break some of that down if you don’t mind the.

31

00:05:42.540 –> 00:05:47.610

Mike Malatesta: This day that your your father took you to the gym I think you said you were eight years old, is that right.

32

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Hector Colon: years old.

33

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Mike Malatesta: Nine years old, and this trainer shorty.

34

00:05:53.760 –> 00:06:03.840

Mike Malatesta: You know, looked at you, and took you through a little workout or something and then said I think you’re told your dad I think your son’s a natural or something so hey.

35

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Mike Malatesta: Did that surprise you, but what did you feel like when, if you remember hector because you know when you get to go into a gym for the first time doing something new, you a lot of times you don’t feel very.

36

00:06:18.210 –> 00:06:26.970

Mike Malatesta: Good about it, you feel like you’re, especially if other people around you’re like oh look at that guy or look at that person, and do you remember what you felt about your experience, then.

37

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Hector Colon: yeah I remember a couple feelings one first feeling ashamed that I was my nose was bloodied by this kid in the neighborhood and I didn’t do anything back right so that natural reaction came to mind, but then I felt this.

38

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Hector Colon: You know this this this boost of my self esteem, because here’s a guy that saw some natural talent in me, you know I never through any punches like that, before and.

39

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Hector Colon: He just had this overwhelming belief in me that carried on throughout my my career and boxing with him, he had this amazing belief in me, no matter what weight, I was fighting or who I was fighting you know he knew that I had the ability to be the champion.

40

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Mike Malatesta: And seven time national champion, what does that mean for people who don’t know what that means is that seven years in a row or seven years of being a national champion, or what is it.

41

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Hector Colon: seven different weight classes yep so my last championship title that I won was at 147 as a welterweight and that was in 1993 site I won the championship title and various weight divisions over my time in boxing.

42

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Mike Malatesta: Okay, and so that was essentially from the time you were nine till you were 19.

43

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Hector Colon: or so that’s right.

44

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Mike Malatesta: And 2020 Okay, and you.

45

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Mike Malatesta: Well, I guess, before I asked that question i’m going to ask you about how school was for you, from the time you got into boxing until you were you know just almost an Olympian and almost a pro.

46

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Mike Malatesta: yeah as well, because you could have become pro even if even though you’ve lost that that Olympic trial about.

47

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Mike Malatesta: But I was school for you were you interested in it, where you kind of just all in on Boxing what were you feeling.

48

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Hector Colon: yeah so you know in grade school, I would say I was a I was Okay, and then, when I got to middle school, I became an honor roll student I was on the gifted and talented I worked really hard.

49

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Hector Colon: When I became us in high school I didn’t work as hard first you know I did okay my freshman year my sophomore year and whenever I wanted.

50

00:08:56.730 –> 00:09:04.440

Hector Colon: I would get a three points so sometimes you know, there was a little bit of competition or if I had a desire to get a three point.

51

00:09:05.040 –> 00:09:12.840

Hector Colon: I would get it, but I always didn’t have that deep desire my deep desire was to become the champion.

52

00:09:13.560 –> 00:09:22.860

Hector Colon: In boxing was to become a world champion and turn professional and and really focus on that, so my my my focus was on that training.

53

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Hector Colon: You know, reviewing tapes of some of the greatest eating well that was my focus then obviously later.

54

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Hector Colon: When I went to college, it was a whole different story I immerse myself in that same dedication determination took me to be a Boxer I applied that into my education and graduated with honors 3.83 for my master’s degree took things really seriously okay later on in life.

55

00:09:53.070 –> 00:09:55.290

Mike Malatesta: And when you were when you lost.

56

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Mike Malatesta: To Jesse the first time.

57

00:10:01.590 –> 00:10:07.320

Mike Malatesta: What was shorty and what was your dad or and what were your parents saying to you what were your friends saying to you.

58

00:10:10.680 –> 00:10:14.940

Hector Colon: yeah so it was a very difficult moment.

59

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Hector Colon: I received my coach was like don’t worry champ.

60

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Hector Colon: will do this, the next time, and he wanted me to fight it to wait for the next Olympics would have been which would have been for years later, and he even talked about maybe going to Puerto Rico and.

61

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Hector Colon: and applying there and seeing, if I can make the Olympic team for Puerto Rico so he was very optimistic.

62

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Hector Colon: You know my father was in Puerto Rico so my mother and father divorced, when I was 12 so I really didn’t have too much contact with him back then my mother, you know was supportive, you know I received and said hang in there.

63

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Hector Colon: My friends were as well by.

64

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Hector Colon: It was different I did get a lot of less attention, certainly from the media.

65

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Hector Colon: from some people that I wouldn’t call post friends, but we’re in my in my group, so it did that did cause some pain and just some discomfort you know, like it felt a little empty during that time.

66

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Hector Colon: Sure, and that’s why I was searching.

67

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Mike Malatesta: And you stayed in the gym training for at least another six months because you had this rematch with this fellow again, I think that was the timeframe, you said.

68

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yeah.

69

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Mike Malatesta: And during that six month period where had you begun searching already or were you still like 100% focused on you know, taking back what was robbed of view by.

70

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Mike Malatesta: By this by this young man.

71

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Hector Colon: I was searching and I was committing getting more and more involved with the church and in Bible studies and learning more about scripture.

72

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Hector Colon: But I also gave up everything else I gave up school I gave a work, so my focus was on getting closer to God and boxing and I did I When I entered the ring.

73

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Hector Colon: With just overseeing all this time I was focused mind body and spirit and there was nothing that he could do to take away that championship title that year.

74

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Hector Colon: And if I would have operated that way in the Olympic trials, it is likely, I would have been in the in the Olympics in 1992 but hindsight 2020 you know I think everything turned out the way it needed to be and i’m very happy with my life.

75

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Mike Malatesta: So you.

76

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Mike Malatesta: that’s interesting, thank you for sharing that because I was thinking to myself well you know.

77

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Mike Malatesta: If I were a 19 year old you know Olympian Olympic candidate and I.

78

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Mike Malatesta: You know, was devastated by a loss, could I stay, even if I was of course you’d be searching right because you watch this happened, but could I stay focused on you know coming back and fighting that same.

79

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Mike Malatesta: fighter again because it’s it’s it’s intimidating right you’ve lost you kind of come back and then, but I was also thinking about that you can use the term robbed and I, I think I.

80

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Mike Malatesta: think to myself or to Jesse really rob you.

81

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Mike Malatesta: Or did you.

82

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Mike Malatesta: You know rob yourself that first time by maybe not doing everything you could have shut off maybe.

83

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Mike Malatesta: To win.

84

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Hector Colon: yeah good good good thought, and I think it’s a combination of both I think in my case, truly, the outcome could have been differently if I would have been focused.

85

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Hector Colon: You know, buying body and spirit, for the most important opportunity of my life and there’s that little pinch, in the heart, even as I do, is, as I talked about this.

86

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Hector Colon: But it’s also a huge learning lesson that you got to be ready, you know when that big next opportunity comes up and and you have to be ready as a CEO every single day.

87

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Hector Colon: To be to bring forth your best.

88

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Hector Colon: Because the people you serve your colleagues, the organization is counting on it, so I take that really seriously nowadays, and I think that was a very important lesson I learned, as a result of that loss.

89

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Mike Malatesta: I like that the way you brought it to the CEO level, because at that level.

90

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Mike Malatesta: And you tell me if you agree with this or not, but every day you’re coming in and you really don’t know who your opponent, is going to be many days, because the opponent just comes out of nowhere.

91

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Hector Colon: could be oh that’s right.

92

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Mike Malatesta: could be someone on your team could be someone that you’re working for a client could be someone that’s serving you as a supplier or something it could be the media, it could be you never know you just never know right, so you can’t train for it okay well.

93

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Hector Colon: This is where the bobbing and weaving.

94

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Hector Colon: yeah rolling with the punches yeah come and play, but we don’t have those cups anymore, so those low blows do her.

95

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Hector Colon: But yeah.

96

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Hector Colon: Absolutely, you know it’s like.

97

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Hector Colon: You know when you’re a CEO different things come up, and you know one virtue, I think about is temperance where you’re in the sport of boxing you learn temperance and self control.

98

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Hector Colon: You have to have it, otherwise you won’t be successful and that’s a very important virtue as a CEO as well right.

99

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Mike Malatesta: And bite, and I want to get into each of those a little bit more, but since you brought it up right, then, and again i’m relating it to boxing the temperance in boxing is.

100

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Mike Malatesta: New tell me again because i’m boxing now, I think I told you that when we were talking, the first time and, and I am not going to the Olympics don’t say i’m.

101

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Mike Malatesta: not going to challenge your.

102

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Mike Malatesta: Your your pedigree.

103

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Mike Malatesta: But one of the things that i’m learning and it is that you know you get hit you have an immediate.

104

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Mike Malatesta: desire to hit back hard as hard as you can go after someone as hard as you can and the temperance part if i’m understanding it right is actually.

105

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Mike Malatesta: The part of the discipline that saying hey wait for your opportunity okay you got hit that’s going to happen if you respond right away as aggressively, as you can they’re probably waiting for that your opponent’s probably waiting for that would you give you gotta wait.

106

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Hector Colon: that’s absolutely dead right on so temperance in boxing is is that self control so when you get hit.

107

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Hector Colon: You can just retaliate and try to slug back you have to stay composed and strategize and think about how you’re going to try not to give hit the next time or.

108

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Hector Colon: Before the fight, you know there’s a lot of smash talking and you can allow that to get to your head you better try to be composed and.

109

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Hector Colon: and try to take care of business in the middle of the ring or if somebody hits you with a low blow and the referee doesn’t see it.

110

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Hector Colon: You shouldn’t retaliate with a low blow, because now, the referee might see it and you could get disqualified yeah so yeah that that that that temperance and self control is key to being a successful Boxer and champion.

111

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Mike Malatesta: So let’s dig a little deeper into your search.

112

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Mike Malatesta: You.

113

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Mike Malatesta: You mentioned that that your father your parents divorced when you’re 12 and your father moved back to Puerto Rico.

114

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Mike Malatesta: You were you know you, you had your coach you had this you had your boxing career, you were doing okay in school, you know you when you applied yourself, yes, when you didn’t.

115

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Mike Malatesta: What was the rest of what was that what else was going on in your life during that period leading up to this loss, and it could be a several year period that would have you thinking about these other things as you as you began your search.

116

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Hector Colon: yeah you know I when my father left at 12 years old, it was devastating so my father was a good father.

117

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Hector Colon: You know, he got me involved in boxing he was the coach for my baseball team we watch games together so he was a huge part of my life.

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Hector Colon: And I recall the the night one one summer night when he said we went in to his car and he said i’m leaving to Puerto Rico and I was just devastated I didn’t understand I didn’t hear for him for a couple years and hear from them rarely.

119

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Hector Colon: Over those years, while I was on that journey to the to the Olympics, so that was that was really hard.

120

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Hector Colon: part of my life to see my father gone, then the other part, was here here my mother.

121

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Hector Colon: As a seventh grade education working to it sometimes three jobs to support the family and never did I see my mother complain.

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Hector Colon: Now, once that I see her complaint i’m 12 years old, my sister 17 she has she’s addicted to drugs, the onset of mental illness.

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Hector Colon: Working three jobs and and I do, and not only is she doing all this, but she’s serving other homeless individuals and people with mental illness, and so I saw this huge sense of servant leadership, through my mom.

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Hector Colon: I felt abandoned by my father, I saw my sister addicted to drugs, I was confused and certainly I could have gone the wrong direction, like many of my like my sister.

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Hector Colon: Or, like many of my friends that I grew up with in the neighborhood and I thank God for the structure.

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Hector Colon: The dedication determination and discipline that boxing provided me to help me get where I am today and the other very important figure in my life was shorty.

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Hector Colon: That giant will pretty much was like a second father to me and really played a huge role in my life.

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Hector Colon: The other positive thing and experience, I had was just here amanda Nash US National boxing team i’m traveling all over the world, I remember getting that Adidas bag would choose and gear and T shirts and it was like heaven when you got that bag.

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Hector Colon: So the honor and prestige that that comes along with representing the United States of America, so I had a lot of good experiences, I had a lot of hurt and negative experiences, I had a lot of challenges, because of my negative surroundings, so all of that required resilience.

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Mike Malatesta: and

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Mike Malatesta: Let me two questions before I leave this part one, is this traveling around that you’re doing, did you feel.

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Mike Malatesta: Like a big shot when you got into these other gyms to fight people all over the country.

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Hector Colon: You know it felt.

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Hector Colon: It was very special Sir when you got that bag and you’re representing the United States of America with USA on the back the national anthem.

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Hector Colon: And we were the best, you know that was that was knowing that USA was the best so we were something to look up to.

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Hector Colon: So yeah there was a lot of prestige and honor of being part of that experience know the other beautiful experiences that I had with boxing.

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Hector Colon: In visiting other countries so here I am I was bullied by a Polish kid and I had my own biases when I went to Poland.

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Hector Colon: And I saw how great the Polish people were and I met the Polish President, and we had a great time you know I remember going to Russia.

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Hector Colon: When everybody was saying, during the Cold War times and all don’t go to Russia it’s terrible that people are terrible I remember interacting with the Russians, not understanding each other but laughing and playing cards and man, we had a great time together, and then I also saw.

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Hector Colon: You know, we were black we were white and we are brown but we didn’t care man, we support each other we’re all trying to be champions, so the experiences I had were just absolutely incredible and again helped shape, who I am today.

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Mike Malatesta: And this.

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Mike Malatesta: That had to be amazing to be going to all these foreign countries, while you were you know, a kid from milwaukee you know.

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Mike Malatesta: So you again again back to how Jesse robbed you have you ever gone back to this Polish kid who who hit you who maybe you could look at, as the person who gave you the gift of you know your boxing.

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Mike Malatesta: career.

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Hector Colon: You know, and I want to read an excerpt of my book, actually, but so I have not seen him polly since I was 15 years old.

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Mike Malatesta: Okay.

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Hector Colon: You know I beat him up a couple times after learn how to box, but the more important thing is, we became friends.

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Mike Malatesta: To the temperance my guy.

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Hector Colon: i’m sorry, please forgive me.

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Hector Colon: But you know, but we became friends, we ended up playing with each other.

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Hector Colon: You know, sports everything basketball baseball.

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Hector Colon: But I have not seen them, since I was probably 15 years old.

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Hector Colon: So, but let me read something in my book about Adam.

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Hector Colon: And it’s not his real name but it’s the it’s what we call them in my book, but.

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Hector Colon: This these are atoms words we don’t want to hear you speak UN we’re leave our neighborhood now Adams words played a significant role in my story.

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Hector Colon: Those words equity in my mind long after Adam shouted though I was inferior I was deeply disliked those words hurt me and they frighten me.

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Hector Colon: Would I have ever become a Boxer if Adam had not called me those names likely know without boxy What path might my life have taken.

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Hector Colon: would have gone in the wrong direction, like so many of my friends and those have similar backgrounds hearing those words at nine years old changed my life.

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Hector Colon: Because of Adam I learned how to be coached how to be resolute how to be a team player because of Adam I roles from the boxing ring to the boardroom Thank you Adam, so I would fake at my home I i’d.

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Hector Colon: be very fine with that would be nice to see you.

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Mike Malatesta: Nice nice i’ve got a guy in my life like that his name is don and.

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Mike Malatesta: I refer to him as a as.

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Mike Malatesta: Well, not as not not in a great way but, but he had a similar impact on me he he didn’t realize it at the time, you know, he was just trying to be a bully any any worked for a short period of time, but I never forgot.

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Mike Malatesta: What it felt like to be on that side of a bully.

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Mike Malatesta: Right and and if he hadn’t been a bully I don’t think I would have had nearly the career and success that I ended up having I probably would have just.

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Mike Malatesta: Continued working for him if he had been a you know, a decent person.

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Mike Malatesta: Though it’s amazing how sometimes these.

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Mike Malatesta: People come along who you wish wouldn’t but then later reflecting upon it think wow i’m really glad that Adam in your case or done in my case came along right.

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Hector Colon: yeah.

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Mike Malatesta: that’s when did you when did you meet your wife.

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Hector Colon: So actually well right after I lost an Olympic trials.

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Hector Colon: Okay, and one of the church that I ended up going to because I went there a while ago, and I saw these pretty girls, I said hey i’m going to go back there and see if I could find a pretty girl and actually the first person I saw was my wife.

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Hector Colon: She was in the choir singing and I demonstrated some interest through a friend and she wasn’t sure about me, but once she saw that you know, I was taking charge seriously and got to know me a little bit better than then we became friends.

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Mike Malatesta: Okay, and was She then did she then become part of this, I mean she obviously became part of the search.

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Mike Malatesta: that she found her, but this search that you talked about earlier, you know, after having lost this this bad in your and all and, ultimately, your decision to not to no longer box, even though you could have turned pro you could have been making money you could have who knows right mean.

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Mike Malatesta: could have been could have been a dream.

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Hector Colon: yeah you know I saw she certainly was a part of my walk with Christ, when I was searching um.

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Hector Colon: You know I I made that decision myself after thoughtful prayer and reflection, you know, and I consulted with with some people a good friend of mine Edwin LM on.

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Hector Colon: was very close with me and so i’d say that.

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Hector Colon: You know she wasn’t so involved in in my discernment process of me, giving up the sport, it was more so after that that we developed a good relationship and and.

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Hector Colon: But from then on, in terms of my walk with Christ, yes, you played a big role in that her family is just a great family and saw her brothers and sisters I develop a relationship with them so yeah.

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Mike Malatesta: And how long did it take you then to figure out, you know that you’re going to go back to school and you’re going to.

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Mike Malatesta: commit yourself to you know getting an education that you probably wouldn’t have gotten had you, you know turn pro or even waited to be in the Olympics again.

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Mike Malatesta: I mean you would have been you know 24 or something that time it’s tough to go back to school, sometimes when you’re that age.

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Hector Colon: You know I always envision maybe going back to school, I always thought education was important and I always knew that boxing was not a long term sport, so I wanted to get into business and those kinds of things I usually I had my head.

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Hector Colon: You know straight away when it came to you know goals and and looking at my future, but when I went back to school, so I knew I had to do something with my life and I knew I had to go back to school, but so I started off I took my entrance exam.

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Hector Colon: And I went to a technical college and is ice cream I scored embarrassingly low I had to take basic arithmetic and study courses and it was embarrassing and I told the counselor I said look.

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Hector Colon: This is crazy I need to take regular classes, I need to make up for lost time and I have a sense of urgency so you know what this is where you tested this what you have to do.

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Hector Colon: So I worked my way through that and worked very hard, as I said earlier, I graduated with honors I got a 3.83 for my master’s degree, and I was the only student in my class to publish My thesis in the American Journal of occupational therapy, so I worked really hard and.

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Hector Colon: i’m glad that that dedication determination and discipline that I learned in boxing I applied that into my education.

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Mike Malatesta: And why occupational therapy actor, why did you why did you.

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Hector Colon: yeah so first I wanted to get into physical therapy.

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Hector Colon: But that I went to a technical college to get a two year degree, but it was a huge waiting list so I learned, it will take for more than four years, so I said well.

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Hector Colon: If it’s going to take that long why don’t I just get my bachelor’s degree, and then I learned about occupational therapy, I had a.

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Hector Colon: Who my friend back then who’s now my brother in law suffered a bad car accident and suffered a stroke, and I saw him benefit from occupational therapy my sister.

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Hector Colon: Was experiences addicts who experienced addiction and severe persistent mental and also benefited from occupational therapy so, then I got interested in that it was good way to help people and and in a good way to earn a living.

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Mike Malatesta: And, before I move along, I just wanted to I guess go back to your parents and your sister how I mean we’re finding out how you how your life turned out how How are they doing.

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Hector Colon: Well, thank you, so my such such an important question so first my mother’s doing well she’s still that humble servant leader so i’ll take anybody I in our home and feed them love them take care of them just go stop by and so lets you come in that’s who she is my sister is doing great.

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Hector Colon: You know, ever since my daughter was born, which has been 18 years she’s been stable, you know going through recovery, I mean she’s had a couple situations over those 18 years.

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Hector Colon: But for the most part, doing well and my father, we have a great relationship in fact i’m going to be going out there and November.

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Hector Colon: So we had lot of heart to heart talks, and you know I love him he’s a good Father good man and we’ve developed a good relationship and have gone through healing over the years, so yeah i’m actually going out in November right before thanksgiving for a week.

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Mike Malatesta: Okay, great and he’s still in Puerto Rico.

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Mike Malatesta: Yes, okay alright so we’ve pretty much covered the boxing part let’s figure our way how we get to the boardroom from here so um so you graduate with a degree in occupational therapy, did you use it.

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Hector Colon: You know, when I graduated the job market was kind of saturated at the time, what my goal was, I wanted to work in a hospital system gain some experience and then have my own business and contract with hospital system, specifically for Spanish speaking patients.

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Hector Colon: Okay, but, but those jobs weren’t available so, then you know i’m good thing about occupational therapy is you can work in hospitals, you can work in clinics, you can work in mental health gerontology pediatrics so it’s pretty.

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Hector Colon: broad base in terms of the opportunities, so you know my I saw my sister benefit from occupational therapy so, then I did gravity to mental health, so I started off as a mental health clinician.

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Hector Colon: At Wisconsin correctional services, which is now called Wisconsin community services, but within three months, I became the assistant director of that Program.

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Hector Colon: And i’ve pretty much been in manage management and leadership, ever since then so essentially all of my career i’ve been in leadership roles.

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Mike Malatesta: and youth.

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Mike Malatesta: Before I get into your your.

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Mike Malatesta: You know the roles and government that you’ve that you’ve had the leadership roles and government, I guess, I want to ask you about servant leadership because you’ve mentioned it several times now and.

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Mike Malatesta: Especially when you were talking about your mom so I get what it means, I think you explained pretty well what it means, at least as you’re talking about your about your mom.

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Mike Malatesta: What about you what is what is that what a servant leadership mean and I, the reason i’m I want to explore is because it’s a term that gets tossed around a lot Jim Collins probably made it famous in his good to great book.

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Mike Malatesta: In and I, and I have my own sort of.

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Mike Malatesta: I don’t know.

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Mike Malatesta: struggle isn’t isn’t the right word with it, but I I have trouble understanding.

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Mike Malatesta: Sometimes, what it means when it’s applied when so many people apply it to themselves, you know what does it actually mean so and I guess it always comes down to something meaning something personal to the person so.

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Mike Malatesta: I guess that’s what i’m asking you hector what is servant leadership mean to you, and why is it important, as opposed to what other kind of leadership is there, you know.

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Hector Colon: yeah so great question, so I would attributed to the personal situations that i’ve had in my life started with my mother, where I where I saw her serve other people.

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Hector Colon: And by her serving other people it brought out the best in them, including myself, you know, then I saw my coaches that are like Austin.

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Hector Colon: who spent his nights with me sacrifices vacations for me took me into his own home where he loved me fed me and made sure.

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Hector Colon: I could be a champion in and out of the ring so that that that that service I received I do naturally gravitate towards servant leadership.

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Hector Colon: here’s how I explain it servant leadership is about doing what my mom and shorty did to me and it’s doing that to others so having a focus.

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Hector Colon: On on on my colleagues, you know, are they appreciated, are they empowered are they recognized, are they paid commensurate to the value that they provide, if I could stay super focused on them.

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Hector Colon: The way shorty was super focused on me, I can bring out the champion and down, I can bring out the best in them, and when they are happy and when they are thriving and.

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Hector Colon: Then that’s going to make me proud like it made shorty prone so its first that that intentional focus in service to others, as it relates to them in my role.

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Hector Colon: I believe in in my my approach is not a top down approach, I have a lot of experience, I have a lot of ideas, but I want to cook so the north de if you look at a job description to CEOs responsible for the vision.

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Hector Colon: The strategy, the direction but a servant leader approach is to try to co create eight that.

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Hector Colon: With your team, you know not give any directives, but how do you get the buy in get the ideas and the insights from others, so that you could move forward, not individually, but together.

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Hector Colon: Another big part of servant leadership is stretching beyond the walls of your organization and trying to have an even larger impact.

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Hector Colon: On on on the greater society so those in a simple way of of you know, to make sure that those around you that their health and well being are well.

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Hector Colon: Because that that affects you indirectly, whether you believe in it or not, so that’s My simple way.

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Hector Colon: of explaining it there’s more formal you know they talk about you know servant leaders have awareness and empathy and conceptualization and foresight.

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Hector Colon: Those are key principles of servant leadership that are think are important, but sometimes when we explain all that it just makes it more complicated.

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yeah.

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Mike Malatesta: And I feel like.

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Mike Malatesta: You tell me if you agree with this, I feel like in order to be a servant leader, if I understood you correctly, you have to be really clear on your own.

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Mike Malatesta: personal vision and purpose for the organization, because if you’re not clear on those your ability, you can get all I guess my thinking is that if you’re not clear on those two things, and maybe others.

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Mike Malatesta: You can get all wound up in serving others and an end up not serving yourself, which it seems like everybody needs you to serve yourself in order for.

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Mike Malatesta: You to serve them.

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Hector Colon: that’s a great point and something that we stress a lot and something that servant leaders have to be careful about because our desire to be like my mom and sometimes you got to be careful not to burn yourself out.

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Hector Colon: You have to take care of yourself your internal self needs to be well so that you’re able to effectively serve others, so it is something that we talked a lot about.

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Hector Colon: It to make sure that you’re taking care of yourself improve your health and well being because the better, you are emotionally physically spiritually the better you you’re able to have an impact on others.

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Mike Malatesta: And as you were moving up through your career How did the you know working in occupational therapy at as a therapist end up.

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Mike Malatesta: You know, getting you roles in in government, thank you worked for the city of milwaukee worked for the county of milwaukee worked for the state of Wisconsin and wheat, I believe.

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Mike Malatesta: You know, so you.

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Mike Malatesta: You transitioned at some point, because I didn’t hear you talk about the willing, you know desire to be in government.

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Mike Malatesta: You know, when you were going through your story so far so i’m curious what happened there.

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Hector Colon: yeah so i’d say that one thing my education gave me a good preparation analytical skills problem solving.

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Hector Colon: Just work ethic you’re working really hard to achieve the grades fed that I got and I applied that into other fields, so yeah I became a lobbyist for mayor Barrett.

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Hector Colon: I never lobbied before, in fact, one of the Alderman was upset with the Mayor and saying he told me this is one of the most important positions we haven’t city government.

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Hector Colon: And I don’t think you’re qualified and but I worked really hard and it wasn’t that hard for me.

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Hector Colon: Because you know just lobbying was about building relationships and being really passionate about the issues and and being able to typically.

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Hector Colon: The case in front of others and bringing people along so all of that was kind of natural to me and I had a lot of passions, so I ended up doing really well.

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Hector Colon: As a lobbyist the one really big thing I had was courage and that was facing your fears and in a sport of boxing there’s no greater courage.

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Hector Colon: Then entering into that ring that fear you feel is absolutely terrible and I don’t care if you’re Mike Tyson evander Holyfield or extra column.

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Hector Colon: You have fear, but then you have that dedication that determination and discipline and that self preparedness That gives you the confidence to enter into that ring, so I learned courage.

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Hector Colon: And I in boxing but I learned that applied into my life so here I am loving experience I had courage to step into that role, then I get a call from governor Doyle.

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Hector Colon: You know to be the director of economic development for weed up the second largest bank, but we have assets in the state of Wisconsin.

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Hector Colon: I don’t have a banking background I don’t have a finance background I don’t have an MBA and occupational therapist and yet i’m given this incredible opportunity, but the thing so that courage to step into that role, but then.

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Hector Colon: working really hard surrounding myself with with industry experts with top talent, I learned it’s all about your team, you know what do I know about.

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Hector Colon: Business finance I had to surround myself with team, but then I learned the industry, I network with CEOs banking executives, I took courses commercial real estate at uw and.

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Hector Colon: Other financial courses to really so I can understand the industry but but that courage, I learned in boxing gave me the courage to step into some of these roles that.

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Hector Colon: I was not qualified for and then that’s where that dedication determination discipline also learn a boxing helped me be successful in those roles.

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Mike Malatesta: And that, so this is amazing like this, people should be listening to this so.

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Mike Malatesta: hector starts out with a desire to be a professional Boxer or an Olympian at least.

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Mike Malatesta: doesn’t work out chooses to go a different path goes to occupational therapy for the reasons that he already explained, then he gets this opportunity to become a lobbyist knows doesn’t you know he’s got a skill set for it, but not in education for it now experience.

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Mike Malatesta: He says yes.

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Mike Malatesta: Then the governor calls and says, you know I need someone to help us lead, you know, the largest housing basically what we does is they have they helped finance all kinds of residential living right so.

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Mike Malatesta: I got that right yep okay Does he know anything about that does he have a formal education for it no but he says yes and then.

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Mike Malatesta: This is the next part of it, he gets he gets tapped by the county executive to become the hell, the leader of that I don’t know the exact name of it hackers to help.

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Hector Colon: director of health and human services.

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Mike Malatesta: Health and human services.

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Mike Malatesta: Now he does have some background in in medicine mental illness some other things, but no, no degree and running that kind of a thing, no experience running that kind of a thing.

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Mike Malatesta: But he gets asked, and once again says yes it’s almost like four different.

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Mike Malatesta: Five different careers from a guy who just.

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Mike Malatesta: You know, had the grit and determination and the does and and the willingness to accept the challenge.

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Hector Colon: Absolutely and i’m so grateful i’m so grateful mayor Barrett.

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Hector Colon: You know, Governor Doyle and county executive Chris ably I think of all those opportunities, the one I most.

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Hector Colon: treasure and was was just a great experience was director of health and human services, where I was there for six years and, while I was there overseeing a psychiatric hospital.

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Hector Colon: You know thousand staff 330 million dollar budget, you know it was really big and while I was there with my team.

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Hector Colon: We were able to turn multimillion dollar deficits and to multimillion dollar surpluses serving people better pain people more can measure it to the value they provide, it was an absolutely outstanding experience that helped propel me to the CEO analysis.

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Mike Malatesta: And that’s a story that I don’t think ever gets told not not even your particular story, but just that that story about government, nobody is telling the story about government or someone comes in and reverses a deficit to us or plus.

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Mike Malatesta: You know, pays people commiserate with their experience which government normally it’s like here’s what we pay you to come read on your coming for the lifetime, and you know employment sort of keel you’re not coming for the.

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Mike Malatesta: The other perks I guess.

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Mike Malatesta: You don’t hear that story, very often, you you you usually hear the story of you know.

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Mike Malatesta: Whether it’s.

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Mike Malatesta: You know in competence nepotism.

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Mike Malatesta: Just proliferation of what hasn’t worked all those things, how did you get into what was the environment, like that invited someone like you into it and then you know with the autonomy and the permission to make changes that’s something you don’t hear about that much.

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Hector Colon: yeah well, I want to say it was extremely extremely difficult but county executive Chris ably who’s not a politician who wanted to be who was in there for the right reasons gave us the ability to do this.

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Hector Colon: So that was an incredible part of this, but we had to work really hard so in my six years, I had to get confirmed by the county board three times.

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Hector Colon: The first time they were threatening not to confirm me because they wanted this other minority candidate.

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Hector Colon: A black woman to have the job over me and Chris he picked me over that person, so they said on a crusade, we put you in this negative position you’re not getting confirmed, I did my rounds, I did my convincing and I ended up getting confirmed like 11 to four volt.

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Hector Colon: Then the next time I can confirm after I was there for a year, I got unanimous my third time.

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Hector Colon: Was.

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Hector Colon: Like my fifth year into the role and major transformation has happens under my leadership we close a long term care institution that was robbing people of their dreams.

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Hector Colon: That we were being sued for because we were institutionalizing people with mental illness so by closing that long term care institution it impacted some unions, a lot of Union jobs.

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Hector Colon: And they didn’t like that the county board did not like that then county executive gives me a $50,000 raise.

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Hector Colon: Because of market because of results and because of retention, but at the same time, the county board there was legislation that was passed that took away all their benefits.

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Hector Colon: And also cut they’re paying half so they lump that together and they saw him and my boss county executive presumably did support that this is State legislation, but he was vocal about supporting that and so they would say this is our only way to give back to Chris he.

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Hector Colon: He doesn’t respect us.

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Hector Colon: Okay i’m sorry hector you’re a nice guy, but this is dirty this is politics, so I did my round well here’s what the beautiful thing about this so here I am.

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Hector Colon: Five years into the job extraordinary results with my team and i’m going to be out of a job soon.

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Hector Colon: The Hulk a lot of people from this Community Republicans and democrats and and white black and Brown and people from all across the state.

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Hector Colon: Even the nation we’re standing up with hector there was a whole effort called stand with hector calls were being made to the county supervisors, the journal Sentinel endorsement they wrote a major article about about my achievements.

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Hector Colon: I ended up getting confirmed a month later, I get approached by the Chair of MSs.

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Hector Colon: For the CEO role and I decided that it was the right time to have that conversation.

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Mike Malatesta: yeah I guess at that time you’d be like okay so i’ve been able to navigate my way through this.

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Mike Malatesta: It sounded like you approach, people who were against you or had some problem with you had on I go talk to them.

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Mike Malatesta: But you know they can still grind on you right it’s like no So there you go that’s lead you to the boardroom.

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Hector Colon: Yes, so here I am and LM s and i’m so grateful, so I am delighted the first non Lutheran man pastor nanda region to run our assessment 139 years midway through a six month process I almost withdrew my name.

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Hector Colon: Really, for fear of rejection and I would have been a coward but i’m so glad that I continued through the process, I had some positive.

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Hector Colon: vibes from the board chair and the HR consultant i’m glad I did, because this is where my my purpose and calling is.

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Hector Colon: llc SS as 800 employees $60 million budget Wisconsin and Upper Michigan we serve a child and crisis was nowhere to turn a family and turmoil that might be facing eviction.

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Hector Colon: You know, an elderly person or a person with a disability that needs just a little bit of help to live independently and successfully or a refugee.

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Hector Colon: that’s fleeing from warm persecution, right now, what we’re seeing in Afghanistan, this is an amazing organization serving over 20,000 individuals.

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Hector Colon: on an annual basis 92% of which indicate that we have improved their quality of life so grateful, the boxing through my rise to get here I Dallas s at the board.

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Mike Malatesta: But, like all of like like your experience at health and human services hector that.

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Mike Malatesta: allison MSs was you know I probably too strong, to call it broken, but it was headed wasn’t headed in the right direction when you got there.

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Hector Colon: yeah so before I got here LSA is bad two budgets and 10 years and during that period of time loss over $10 million.

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Hector Colon: So yeah my first three years here it’s been a $12.4 million turnaround meeting and exceeding budgets, every year, this year, oh polly add on another couple million.

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Hector Colon: And so it’s a it’s a major turn around and I would attribute that, first and foremost to the outstanding board that I have assembled since i’ve been here.

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Hector Colon: New leadership team, you know we’ve divested of $13 million worth of program since i’ve been here nonprofits don’t do that because we love people, we want to serve people it’s hard for us to say no.

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Hector Colon: But by doing that it allowed us to strategically grow essentially by that same amount so we’ve grown by 13 million, the Organization has never been stronger, certainly in the last 15 years than it is now again.

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Hector Colon: serving our staff are the people we serve with high quality outcomes, but also pain our staff can measure to the value that they provide.

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Hector Colon: You know before they weren’t getting raises, and we have four or three big contributions, and now we have that all of that and bonuses and so we’re paying our staff, a lot, a lot more our retention of them as much better than when I first started and and we’re just getting started.

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Mike Malatesta: Well, I love, how you brought a business mindset that’s what I call it, at least to this opportunity, because it is a business it’s a very large business a $60 million business right that’s a large business.

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Mike Malatesta: And yet, and so many businesses make this same mistake that you mentioned, with nonprofits you’ve got divisions, for example, that don’t perform.

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Mike Malatesta: And you want them to perform it’s hard to give up the non performance, especially if you made the decision to get into it in the first place, I know that’s something I struggled with during.

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Mike Malatesta: During my career, so far, and yet you’re not seeing that hanging on to that, while it is benefiting someone it’s not benefiting the whole organization, the way what, and in fact it’s impacting it negatively because.

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Mike Malatesta: you’re you know you’re funding losses which means you don’t have money to pay people you don’t have money to grow you don’t have money to.

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Mike Malatesta: You know, become better you can’t train you can’t do all of these things right yeah and I loved what you did in your book.

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Mike Malatesta: You you talk about the five basics and you basically went into your team, and you ask them a series of questions.

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Mike Malatesta: And then you listened, because you felt like and I don’t want to put words in your mouth, so if I am tell me, but it seemed like you felt like the answers are inside of this group.

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Mike Malatesta: We just haven’t been searching for the answers we just been working and doing whatever it is that we become conditioned to do is is that.

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Hector Colon: Is that right yeah yeah absolutely in it and it’s part of.

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Hector Colon: The servant leadership approach as well, so I didn’t want to come in with my vision by strategy by direction saying go don’t go do it.

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Hector Colon: So I did start off with five questions I said, what are the biggest challenges the organization is facing.

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Hector Colon: Why are we facing those challenges, what are some of our opportunities for growth, what do we need to do to leverage those opportunities, and if you were me what would you focus your attention on.

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Hector Colon: It is the answers and the insights to those questions that transform this organization, we just synthesize those outside answers and insights put it into a strategic plan and move forward.

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Mike Malatesta: I think that’s that second question.

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Mike Malatesta: Why are these challenges, or why are we experiencing these challenges I believe that’s a question that often.

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Mike Malatesta: gets missed what are our challenges simple.

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Mike Malatesta: they’ve got everybody knows what the challenges are, but why are these why have these, why are they are, why have that become challenges that’s a really, really insightful question hector.

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Hector Colon: Thank you yeah.

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Hector Colon: amazing yeah.

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Mike Malatesta: So let’s finish up with.

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Mike Malatesta: Just a brief run through through those five those other five.

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Mike Malatesta: Five yeah five yeah five virtues yeah megan and I don’t know why you chose the word Maggie minute because I have a harsh say.

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Mike Malatesta: And you don’t hear it very often, so it kind of does get your attention that way humility courage, perseverance and temperance And why is that, why are those things, what you’ve focused on and why are they important all of us.

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Hector Colon: yeah so magnanimity you know, Alexander hey Var said, this is the virtual personal excellence.

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Hector Colon: And then learn that virtue in boxing so in boxing I believe in order to have that personal excellence, you need daily habits daily rituals in daily routines some boxing I would wake up in the morning.

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Hector Colon: workout in the afternoon workout again in the evening, go to sleep early wake up early view tapes I was doing everything that a champion needed to do.

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Hector Colon: A Boxer needed to do in order to become a champion that implies into life and leadership and as a CEO.

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Hector Colon: What are your daily habits daily rituals and daily routines and I believe that mind body spirit approach is going to help bring out the best in you.

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Hector Colon: That it will allow you to be a magnanimous person and have an impact on those around you that is Honorable and remarkable.

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Hector Colon: humility at its core it’s about serving others again I saw shorty spend his nights weekends took me into his own home.

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Hector Colon: Serving me, and so I gravitate that to servant leadership and when you serve others, you can bring out the best in them.

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Hector Colon: Courage about facing your fears I talked a little bit about the no greater careers and entering into that ring, but how that dedication determination discipline.

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Hector Colon: gives you the confidence to get into that ring same thing with in life dedication determination and discipline that self preparedness is going to give you confidence to enter into roles that that might not feel that safe.

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Hector Colon: And then perseverance is about not giving up, so I lost my first fight and wanted to give up I lost my second fight wanting to give up inch and shorty was like champ.

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Hector Colon: don’t be a quitter don’t be a quitter you can become a champ let’s do this champ and look at that confidence from him and got to all the beautiful experiences I received from boxing as a result.

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Hector Colon: Of matt given up and then temperance talked about that self control and restraint, you know do that do react to a situation.

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Hector Colon: That can ruin your life in your career temperance is so important, so those are the virtues that I learned in boxing and I believe they’re essential to life and leadership.

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Mike Malatesta: And with temperance one final question, do you also sort of condition people’s thinking about that too don’t make it about the person.

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Mike Malatesta: Make it about the situation or make it about the issue or make it about where we’re trying to go, because sometimes when you make it about the person you automatically shut off any progress.

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Hector Colon: that’s a great point yep you know deal with it internally what it, what is the struggle you’re facing right then and there, and maybe it is a lack of temperance because somebody else upset you or you know, try to focus on yourself and that’s the best way to approach that version.

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Mike Malatesta: Nice well hector this has been a fantastic opportunity for me and for my listeners to get to know you get to know your journey.

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Mike Malatesta: your willingness to you know grit through things persevere your willingness to say yes, and your willingness and ability to get into something and make positive change.

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Mike Malatesta: that’s how you get ahead in this world, you know say yes, get in make positive change make friends right don’t make enemies make friends.

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Mike Malatesta: And like you said empower people empower people to to.

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Mike Malatesta: execute on the vision that you create for them as a leader and and and they do it right they do it and it’s amazing so yeah congratulations on your success, and this has been such a fun conversation I really do appreciate it.

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Hector Colon: Thank you very much it’s an honor to be with you appreciate it my.

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Mike Malatesta: Oh wait wait wait wait one second.

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Mike Malatesta: boy not cooperating with me on my view here.

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Mike Malatesta: And I can’t see anything hang on a second actor.

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Mike Malatesta: My zoom is getting really funky on me.

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Mike Malatesta: Okay we’re just gonna have to do it, the way it is so go ahead and 321, I just wanted to get your speaker view, if I can I can’t.

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Mike Malatesta: Just count it down and go.

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Hector Colon: My name is Todd Cologne on the presidency you’ll have Lutheran social services or Wisconsin and Upper Michigan and so proud to be on this podcast with Mike.

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Hector Colon: Is podcasts how did it happen he’s a great person friend and individually thought leader in this industry and i’m sure you’re going to enjoy this episode.

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Mike Malatesta: Is that good yeah that’s cool.

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Mike Malatesta: Alright man Thank you so much now let’s.

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Hector Colon: Follow let’s follow up soon when does this come out.

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Mike Malatesta: i’m not sure yet, but i’ll i’ll definitely let you know when it’s ready to come out.

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Mike Malatesta: Okay, and you’ll get you’ll get you’ll get an email with a bunch of stuff in it, when it comes out.

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Hector Colon: awesome Thank you so much enjoy the rest of your day and.

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Mike Malatesta: All right, all right take care.

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Hector Colon: Take care.

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Hector Colon: don’t forget to rate review on Amazon, if you like, the book.

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Mike Malatesta: Okay, I will do that.

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Mike Malatesta: Okay, see ya.

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