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  • VisionPassionFaith

Updated: Nov 1, 2019

With Zechariah Renteria

As you all know, I am doing this series on those who are authentic, heart based, and compassionate of others. With more and more industries being led by "robot" types of people – only interested in numbers and spreadsheets, I wanted to focus on those individuals in a variety of industries who are "real people." They have passion, work hard, and lead with their heart.

I chose Zechariah Renteria, since he is one of the few in the "business world" who encapsulates the qualities of a true leader in business and entrepreneurship. I was thrilled when he agreed to take the time out of his busy day to speak on the topics of entrepreneurship, business, leadership, and much more...

It is my hope that those reading this series, may learn something, gain another perspective, and/or not feel so alone in their life and entrepreneurial journey.

Me: So Zechariah, as you know, when we get chatting about entrepreneurship and building businesses; the challenges and the joys; we can chat all day. Obviously you have a lot of passion like I do about entrepreneurship in general. Are you from a family of entrepreneurs?

Zech: I was born in East LA and raised by a single mom. I graduated high school and dropped out of Junior College. I wanted to surf. When we moved from Chino Hills to Dana Hills/Laguna area, I noticed that many of my friends' parents had their own businesses. Some of my friends' dads would pull them out of class for surf trips, or a day on a sailboat during the week, and I thought that was so awesome. One of my friends, Vinnie who started Ezekiel was a pro-surfer, and his dad owned a limousine service business. Vinnie started Ezekiel in his early 20s, I went to work with Vinnie in his production department.... One day he asked me what I would love to be doing, and I told him I would love to be a clothing designer. I told him I wanted to try to go to fashion school, but my mom could not afford it at the time.

My take away: I love this part of the interview – so many facets: Orange County does indeed have a "culture" of entrepreneurship. I lived in OC for many years and moved there just for that reason. The entrepreneurship vibe is palpable, and many entrepreneurs are drawn to this region, as well as the creative energy that is in abundance there. In my opinion, OC was and still is one of the best places for entrepreneurs. When Vinnie asked Zech that powerful question, and took such an interest in Zech and his passions and future, I actually shed a tear. Very rare that anyone asks another human being what one would love to be doing. Our society in general, breeds indifference and "programs" others to be something they are really not born to be, Good for Vinnie, and good for Zech, who by the way – asked me at the end of the interview, a similar powerful question – "So Faith, what would you like to be doing with all your talents and great experiences?" Again, shed a tear. No one ever asked me that question. So it is quite evident that Zech is a special individual who genuinely cares about others. Vinnie obviously was an amazing mentor. We all should have more Zechs and Vinnies in our lives.

Me: Later you went on to work at Planet Earth. You and I talk a lot about heart and passion. Real life experience and the school of hard knocks is also part of a true entrepreneurial journey. You mentioned to me, how skate companies in general have a lot of "grace." I also think you yourself have a lot of "grace" in how you approach and interact with others, as well as align with your own journey. During your job interview for Planet Earth, you shared with me something very powerful, want to share?

Zech: Sure. As a skater, I looked up to Chris Miller as a kid. Planet Earth was interviewing designers from Volcom, Billabong, and myself. During my interview I stated clearly that "skaters have a lot of street smarts." And "while I may not have had as good design experience as the others, I am way more passionate about skate, and will put my heart and soul into it." Skate companies in general have a lot of grace and do not care as much about the dollars. Because I skated, I made it immensely clear, that I will "care more about the brand, because I skate and my work will be from the heart." Because of my heart and soul, I got the job.

My take away: Good for Chris that he recognized something unique and immensely special in Zech. True leaders understand that heart, soul, and passion go a long way. Obviously Chris is a true leader, and I understand why Zech looked up to him, on many levels. It is good to have some leaders that the younger generation can look up to, especially when it comes to entrepreneurship and business.

Me: Tell me a bit more about your journey during this time while working at Planet Earth. It is quite inspirational how you and your roommate started a non profit to help homeless teens.

Zech: While at Planet Earth, I launched a non-profit with my roommate. We called it "Nikao" – which means in Greek "overcome." It was all about helping people. We fed people in downtown San Diego who were homeless and it was super fulfilling to be a part of hope for kids. Our friend Jolene made homemade spaghetti and she put her heart into it. Every week we did this. My roommate Todd, he was a clothing designer too, and we wanted to raise awareness about teenage homelessness. There is a huge misconception about homelessness. We set up a 501C3 non profit. We used good fabrics. My wife is a designer as well, and she was a huge part of this too. We sold to stores like Fred Segal, etc. and our goal was to educate the consumer that whoever bought our line, money was used to help have places for kids to learn art, design, etc.. Todd had Shepard Fairey who started Obey, give the kids an art class.

My take away: How cool is this! Our country really does not address homelessness in the right manner. Many who are homeless have had some hard life experiences, and do not have a place to go. I could go on and on about homelessness and the misunderstanding of it all by most people. The fact that Zech and Todd (and Shepard) took their time, energy, and heart to help, speaks volumes in itself about the character of true leaders. One of the many reasons I wanted Zech for this interview series – true heart and true leadership.

Me: So after Planet Earth, what did you go on to do?

Zech: When I got married I left Planet Earth. I believe when you are not passionate, it is very hard. I only really loved it because of Chris Miller and when it became a public company, the "core" and emotional and personal element seemed to get lost to the numbers.

My take away: I have seen this repeatedly – when "venture" money comes into an entrepreneurial endeavor, the energy somehow "shifts" to profits, numbers, and spreadsheets; and true passion gets slowly dissipated. Very unfortunate.

Me: We chatted a bit about the success you helped to create at Alpinestars – another one of your great endeavors. You spoke about the importance of "controlling your own narrative." You said "if no voice, no narrative." Can you tell me more about this?

Zech: Sure, in business you need to create the voice to control the narrative. You don't need to keep up with trends. A business needs to leverage and position itself as credible. For us, Supreme was the voice. When we did our riding jacket with Supreme, using Alpinestars tech, it was a genuine success.

My take away: This is true wisdom! Creating the voice, to control the narrative.

Me: In talking about "street smarts" and the school of hard knocks, what are your thoughts on getting a trademark? Through my own experiences, my perceptions have changed about trademarks and trademark laws in general.

Zech: In my opinion, the only reason to get a trademark, is if you can't control your sales channels. Not a big fan of Amazon, but if you are wanting to sell on Amazon, then maybe get a trademark. If you are not wanting to sell on Amazon and if you are controlling your sales channels, and you are communicating clearly where to buy your brand, then you should not be that concerned with a trademark.

My take away: I am not a big fan of Amazon either, especially if you are trying to build a niche brand. I agree with Zech on all points. It seems that the only ones who truly benefit from trademark laws, are attorneys, and large corporations.

Me: I want to thank Zech for taking the time to chat. He is truly inspiring, as well as grounded in self awareness, common sense, as well as connection with his heart. I love chatting with authentic entrepreneurs, as they are the true leaders in our society. These are the ones who will move us forward in a positive way, if more and more can embrace and esteem the true heart centered and authentic leaders who are filled with wisdom.

If you want to learn more about what Zech is up to, check out: strandresorts.com and also beechbrand.com

(p.s. The title of this interview, was based on a conversation I had with Zech where I was referencing (and laughing) at a Jack Ma quote. Jack Ma is the founder of Alibaba, and I also mentioned this quote in another interview, as I think there are many layers to it: "Today is cruel. Tomorrow is crueler. And the day after tomorrow is beautiful." – Jack Ma. I love this quote, because I know all entrepreneurs can relate to this, if they have been through the school of hard knocks entrepreneurship. The next day Zech emailed me a "new"" updated" version of this quote: "Live for the day after tomorrow" – hence this interview title.)

  • VisionPassionFaith

Updated: Oct 31, 2019

With James Arthur Ray

Me: So, let me first start by saying "congrats on your engagement." Since I am all about love, it is important for us all to celebrate love. Finding a partner who we can go through life with, to make our journey more joyful, is one of the best gifts we can give ourselves and another. Entrepreneurs talk a lot about loving their businesses and what they do; I am glad you are also embracing love with a "significant other." This is one of the many reasons we are here. We are not meant to go through life alone – I believe in my heart.

James: Well, thank you. I have an amazing woman that I waited many years for. I was married once, and did not want to 'settle." One thing she has taught me, is another level of love. In the past I was "married" to my mission. It is one level to fall in love with one's mission and yet another level to fall in love with another human being so fully, when it is correct! This relationship is a real awakening and opening up of my heart. We have common values and complement one another. Aside from a joint future together, we have a joint purpose and mission. I can't fathom any relationship with someone not based upon common values and same heart direction and drive. We are best friends and thanks for the congrats; as I am extremely blessed!

My take away: So many entrepreneurs have deep love for their business, if they are indeed heart centered. Those who start businesses, not for the money, but from what emanates out of their heart, know that love vibration. Having that love vibration for another individual is one of the many reasons why we are here. In my opinion, we are not meant to be alone, and we all deserve to be loved for who we are on a deep level.

Me: You have a very "holistic" view of the entrepreneurial journey, and you use the word "harmony" a lot, instead of balance. I am always using the term "Energy ROI," and I use the word "synergy" a lot. For me, there is an ROI to our energy. When you are making business decisions, do you go through some sort of "harmonic" intention? You do not seem like the type of guy who is always staring at spreadsheets and numbers. How do you decide if something is a yes or a no for you, in terms of time and energy.

James: I am not a "spreadsheet" type of guy, but I do have people around me who pay attention to spreadsheets and numbers. It is necessary when running a business at a high level, that there is someone at the executive level who is paying attention to numbers and spreadsheets. Energy is indeed the great currency. We do live in a world obsessed with IQ. There are mounds and mounds of research about EQ and the new AQ – adaptability; which is even more predictive of success. There are many "intellectual " giants who are emotional children. They make decisions based upon fear, hurt, insecurity. True leaders are able to heal and integrate; and others just spew stuff out onto others. In terms of ROI, we should change the conversation from those who are obsessed with the "intellectual" and the "economics" of life, to a conversation based upon "Return on Impact." The positive impact one is making upon the lives of other people.

My take away: I think that energy and EQ are the real determinants of long term success and happiness. I love the points that James makes about AQ and "Return on Impact," as well. Both are powerful no doubt!

I agree with James that true leaders lead from within, and work at healing core pain and core issues; so they are free from suppressed emotions and wounds. It is a real process, so true leaders embrace the process of unfolding, healing, and growth.

Me: You are one of the most gifted speakers and one of the most authentic individuals in your industry presently. Of course, this is my opinion. This is my interview, so I can say this. What is your definition of authenticity and what do you think about authenticity as well as heart centeredness in leadership positions today – especially in the "business world" in general.

James: Well, thank you for that compliment. Research indeed tells us that the heart is immensely more magnetic than the brain. Our heart is the area where we are fully moved. True leadership is both an art and a science. Art is why we are here...art, beauty, sensitivity, feelings, colors, are why we live. A true entrepreneur and leader brings his/her own masterpiece to the world. Also, it is EQ and AQ which separates us from AI's. A true leader should not only be relying on intellectual intelligence. Thinking is not feeling, and leaders should not be disconnected from their feelings, and their heart.

My take away: It is my core belief that life is all about art, creativity, and expressing one's innate gifts and talents. What James says about the true leader – who can blend art with science, and connect to one's own feelings and heart – is spot on, in my opinion. There is a quote from Jack Ma, Founder of Alibaba, that I think sums up both "heart" and "wisdom": "Only fools use their mouth to speak. A smart man uses his brain, and a wise man uses his heart." – Jack Ma.

Me: Do you think most are not truly authentic because, as a society, most of us are "programmed" from an early age, to be something we really are not. Very few parents, teachers, leaders are able to encourage innate gifts and talents which usually are quite evident at an early age. So each year, they get farther and farther away from who they really are. It is a "societal problem," in my opinion, the creation of human robots – really no different than a real "robot" program.

James: Our school systems in general are terrible. Of course there are a few exceptions. Not much has changed since working in factories. Read, remember, and repeat. There is not much relevance to today's society on what we need to be teaching our kids. Colleges too, in general are teaching to cram and memorize. Many children are taught to "go where the money is." I say a lot, that everyone has a "unique genius." Howard Gardner says that there are one and/ or two areas, where an individual has genius ability. We are all gifted by our creator, but if we are not willing to work, and not encouraged to find it, than that is a real issue.

My take away: I agree that our schools systems in general need a total overhaul in what they teach. I think colleges, as well. The School of Hard Knocks can provide the best teaching, though there is a lot of time usually spent on recovery and rebounding from "mistakes" that may have been avoided if provided the proper guidance, teaching, and mentoring. Importantly, there are a few programs that are really impacting kids in a positive way. One amazing program, based in Las Vegas, Inspiring Children Foundation, is leading the way to inspire kids through mentoring, education, and entrepreneurship. They are equipping children with life skills, and all of their programs focus on instilling life principles. They address the needs of a child's development, while implementing into all of their programs a sensitivity to diversity, character, and attitude.

Me: Many people, seem extremely "stressed out" these days, You have said that "stress is not the enemy – the real enemy is lack of recovery." This statement is really deep, and no one talks about the art of resilience and the art of recovery. It is an art. My mind embraces anything creative, so for me, this is indeed a "specialized" art. And we need "art" teachers/leaders for this. What are your thoughts?

James: One of the true keys to recovery is forgiveness. Many forgive, in principle. True forgiveness is the antidote, and gratitude is the cure. First one must forgive oneself. Second, one must come to a place of stop beating up on self. We do the best we can with what we know. Third, we must forgive others. The gratitude is imperative as we come to understand and ask the question, am I a better human being for all of this?

My take away: I have seen many suffer greatly from the amount of stress and thus "effort" it takes to "recover" from major setbacks. Others can tend to make things worse, with feedback that is really not helpful nor productive, so I think what James shares is quite powerful. One must forgive self first. This is one of the steps most leave out. The second and third of course are just as vitally important. One of my favorite Brene Brown quotes: "When I see people stand fully in their truth, or when I see someone fall down, get back up, and say 'Damn. That really hurt, but this is important to me and I'm going in again' – my gut reaction is "What a badass."

Me: Expanding a bit further on the last question, since setbacks are part of the entrepreneurial journey, and both recovery and resilience are part of this as well, what do you think about all this "positivity" and "fairy tale land" others portray building a business is? I feel like, in many ways, all the "positivity movement" has done, has set many back to some degree, as this is not reality. The truth is, entrepreneurship is tough, and is filled with challenges and ups -n downs. You have quoted Elon Musk's quote in a past interview – "Being an entrepreneur is like eating glass and staring into the abyss of death." – And I refer a lot to Jack Ma's quote: "Today is cruel. Tomorrow is crueler. And the day after tomorrow is beautiful." What do to think about all the "positivity" and smiley face stuff and fluff?

James: Real positivity is accepting that what is happening is what is best for one's future development.

My take away: I have gone through the school of hark knocks and in my opinion, our society makes it harder for a well intentioned individual to come back and reinvent themselves. Most business leaders are not well versed in the "art" of the comeback, especially in the times we are living in. Entrepreneurs have setbacks, some of them tougher than others, and some experience one setback right after another like a tornado. Many of these setbacks often are out of the entrepreneur's control, so they get "blindsided" and end up in a place they never could have expected. James wisdom he shares in his statement – "real positivity is accepting that what is happening is what is best for one's future development" is extremely powerful. Deep truth in this. I also think it is important when going through "setbacks" to not pay attention to the feedback of others, unless they are offering wisdom and true support. Another one of my favorite Brene Brown quotes: "A lot of cheap seats in the arena are filled with people who never venture onto the floor. They just hurl mean-spirited criticisms and put-downs from a safe distance. The problem is, when we stop caring what people think and stop feeling hurt by cruelty, we lose our ability to connect. But when we're defined by what people think, we lose the courage to be vulnerable. Therefore, we need to be selective about the feedback we let into our lives. For me, if you're not in the arena getting your ass kicked, I'm not interested in your feedback."

Me: I really want to thank James for his time for this interview. I really appreciated him taking time out of his busy day to chat with me. We spoke a lot longer than I expected, and his kindness and graciousness really touched me. I hope those who read this interview, get something valuable out of this, for their own unique journey.

For more about James, check out: https://www.jamesray.com

  • VisionPassionFaith

With Mike Esterman

I have done many things in this lifetime. My first job was working in an ice cream parlor, and after that I worked in a movie theater. I was the popcorn gal, scooping up popcorn into small and large "buckets" on Friday and Saturday nights, while most of my friends were out having fun.

Later in life, I worked at ABC TV, WRKO Radio, and I went on to build an extremely popular kids' sunglass brand that was a favorite among eye care professionals nationwide, as well as parents and grandparents. I presently work with Resort and Hotel brands worldwide; some of which include, Four Seasons, Ritz Carltons, Marriotts, Hyatts, etc....and I also work with many Boutique Hotels, some of which many who are reading this, may or may not have ever heard of.

Through the years, it has been quite amazing to me, how people perceive their work, as well as others with whom they work with. With the rapid increase of social media, it has become a rarity, in my opinion, to meet people in any industry that really still have a passion for what they do; have an open heart with others; are authentic; and are able to be present for another human being. It is also just as rare to meet those in business who live in integrity and appreciate those they work with - whether clients, and/or coworkers.

I began thinking of people in a variety of industries that I know, who seem to be in this minority of "people people" - genuinely liking and caring for others. I came up with a list, and decided to do a series on "Business - Authentic and from the Heart." It is my hope that some or many who read this series, who are heart centered and have a passion for what they do (or many of those even who may have lost it and struggle to get it back) - know that there are people in many industries that are staying in their own lane; building their businesses and relationships with others; while remaining true to themselves; and working with integrity and courage.

My first interview is with Mike Esterman - CEO/Founder of Esterman.com. Two decades as a direct source in booking notables in TV, Music, and Film around the Globe.

Me: So Mike, during my journey of building my kids' sunglass brand, you were one of the nicest and most genuine people I met along the way, and you have always struck me as an extremely authentic and stand up type of guy. Where does this come from do you think? It is rare that I meet others in business who are authentically themselves, and are able to work hard, while having an open heart.

Mike: I think it goes back to my upbringing. It is something inborn. I was always like this. A real people person. At times, it can be too much heart, and less business. I like to be straight to the point, and no sugar coating.

My Take Away: I agree with Mike, in that I do not think anyone can "teach" another person how to be authentic and work hard. Those who lead with their heart, and genuinely care about others, are rare to find - but they do exist. Mike is an example of this. It is something within, and is like a compass point that everything else springs from. If one is lucky enough to know or work with someone like Mike, they are fortunate, especially in today's world.

It is very unfortunate that most people in business treat others as "numbers" and not people. More unfortunate is that many think business is about "smoke and mirrors" - it is definitely not! Mike is an example of what a genuine and authentic people person is. He is real.

Me: With your business journey, I would guess you are a lot like I am. Did you also go through the "school of hard knocks?"

Mike: Yes, definitely. I have been the person who learns as they go. I know every aspect of my business, and I strive to always cover myself in the beginning with all I am doing. I am an optimist, and remain positive each day; but I also understand the real world. At times, many do not want to hear reality.

My take away: Working with a lot of individuals and teams, I notice that those who have gone through the "school of hard knocks", are more genuine in their approach to business, as well as life. They are able to blend being positive with being realistic. This is something I have learned through the years. Those who sugar coat things, and make everything about rainbows and unicorns, are generally the ones who have not been to the hard knocks school. They are more about smoke and mirrors, than understanding that authenticity and "struggles" come with any business - does not matter the industry.

Me: How do you deal with negativity in people, when this occurs?

Mike: I can't go down to someone else's level. I can't be like that.

My take away: With lots of negativity in this world, and especially when it comes up in business (which it will!), I agree with Mike. Can't go down to someone else's level. It is an energy drain, and requires a lot of what I refer to as "Energy Effort Expenditure." I always say there is an ROI on Energy, and it is not always about numbers and spreadsheets.

Me: Have you been able to create a team or do you do most of your business on your own? Those who are like yourself, I find, have challenges building teams, and finding the right people who can fully add value, integrity, trust, cooperation, and synergy to the group.

Mike: It is hard to find those who will make a full team effort. Unfortunately, it is hard to have "win wins" these days within a business team.

My take away: People these days talk about "win win" in business. I agree with Mike, in that it is hard to create and maintain "win wins" within business, This is why many get spread very thin with a lot on their plate. Maybe on paper things can look like 'win wins" - but for those who lead with their heart, only they can feel whether something is truly a win. I have met and work with few individuals who really understand the concept of team work. When we do find these "team players," they are appreciated wholeheartedly!

Me: What do you do to keep from burning yourself out? Do you think sometimes business can be a "bottomless pit" - always things to do, and at times feeling not too appreciated by others?

Mike: I travel each week, so I am not in my office full time. Business should not be about "what have you done for me lately." For the most part, I keep it fresh.

My take away: For those who are "people people" - being in an office all the time can be horrid! Always good to travel, and be out with others. Also important, is to not get into a "rut" with day to day business. I have been in the slumps of business, and know it is not good. Constantly keeping things fresh is definitely a "requirement" and this takes consciousness, self awareness, as well as courage to know when to step away or pivot.

Me: How do you keep things fresh in your business? And have you ever wanted to leave what you are doing and do something else?

Mike: I love to see my ideas come to fruition. I love people, marketing, as well as travel. I have been looking into an opportunity in a golf course type venue - a type of destination place which has really never been done in the area. Nothing is solid yet, but it is something where I could use my skill sets and talents; and embrace another adventure in business.

My take away: It seems that people who genuinely like people, excel in their own creativity, ideas, and marketing. Along with their hard work, authenticity, and integrity, they are able to use their talents and gifts in other business arenas. I think Mike would be amazing in anything he puts his heart and mind to. Having been in the hospitality industry for over 15 years, I think a venue like the one he is thinking about would be a raving success, and a unique destination spot which would no doubt be a hit!

I appreciate tremendously the time Mike took out of his busy afternoon to do this interview. With his extremely busy schedule, he has always been able to be present, take some time, and be available for me through many years. People like Mike are extremely rare, and those in business can learn a lot from him. I have said for a long time, that business is truly about people, and Mike is an example of this truth.

To check out more about Mike, and his amazing business - visit: https://esterman.com//about-us/


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