November 23, 2014

Make every day your Masterpiece

Written by derekherrera

After being honored this week with the John Wooden Global Leadership Award at UCLA the Wooden quote that continues to resonate with me is to ‘Make Every Day your Masterpiece.’ John Wooden was a phenomenal man, leader, and his humility was what most people remembered about him, in spite of the incredible success he achieved. He also mentioned that the joy of success lies in the journey, not the reward. This means a lot to me.

This month has been an incredible journey and started in Washington DC for the Marine Corps Marathon. This was the most fun I have had at a Marathon yet, and it was because of the incredible people associated with the race. I was lucky enough to speak to a room of about 100 supporters of the MARSOC Foundation and share a bit about my life with them the night before the race. The race went well and I continued to improve my time, setting a new personal best.

This month has also been a great month for the American Technion Society. I spoke to an audience and shared the stage with Boaz Golany, at the Museum of Tolerance in LA. We launched a new fundraising campaign that I hope to use to Pay it Forward. Our goal is to raise money to fund the purchase of exoskeleton technology for other individuals who, like myself, couldn’t afford to purchase the device. Maura and I were very pleased with how the video turned out (despite my complete lack of experience doing voiceovers).

I also was lucky enough to share my story with the San Diego ATS Chapter and many of the folks with OurCrowd. OurCrowd is a company that combines crowdfunding with accredited investors to allow individuals to invest in companies that are poised for growth.

I was the Guest of Honor at a Marine Corps Birthday Ball. It was a phenomenal time and I left truly inspired after speaking with the hundreds of junior enlisted Marines there that were motivated, excited to serve and still there to answer the nation’s call. I truly believe that the most important asset in the Marine Corps is our human capital. Such incredible energy and optimism combined with the right mindset and training go a long ways to creating a top performing organization.

I was lucky enough to attend the Paralyzed Veterans of America Research Foundation Board meeting where we reviewed and prioritized the funding of advanced research in many different areas seeking to improve the quality of life for individuals dealing with paralysis. This was a great time and it has been fun getting back into more technical engineering roles. I have always been incredibly passionate about medical technology and feel incredibly lucky to be involved in this regard. I have been working diligently on some new medical technology that I hope will one day improve the lives of individuals dealing with paralysis someday and I always leave events like this, and the Singularity University’s Exponential Medicine Conference, inspired to further develop my concepts into reality.

I had the pleasure of speaking on stage at the Stand up for Heroes annual gala hosted by the Bob Woodruff Foundation. The foundation identifies emerging non-profit organizations that benefit injured service members and supports them with fundraising. I got to spend a good bit of time with Bob and Lee Woodruff and they are truly a class act! Maura and I were so honored to meet them and know that there are people in the media who can personally relate to injured service members and are taking action to make positive changes.

The day after the Woodruff event, I caught up with the crew from HirePurpose. HirePurpose is doing incredible things to support transitioning veterans and employers looking to hire talented service members. They have generated great traction in this environment, and invited me to attend an event with Howard Schultz, the CEO of Starbucks, at the AOL headquarters in NYC. During the event Howard and his co-writer Rajiv Chandrasekaran began telling the story of Lance Corporal Jordan Haerter. Jordan was in the same unit I was when he was killed during our deployment to Ramadi, Iraq. Howard and Rajiv did an excellent job briefly summarizing the story of Jordan’s sacrifice and I was lucky enough to chat with them both after the event, where they signed a copy of the book For Love of Country. Howard is continuing to advocate for increased support of veterans integration programs at large corporations. I believe he will lead by example and am excited to see what Starbucks will do to help bring more veterans into the corporate world.

That same night I was invited to speak to the Veteran’s club at the NYU Stern School of Business. It was a small crowd and I was able to connect with the students on a very personal basis.   The day after this event I was invited to speak at the UCLA Anderson School of Management during a Leadership Lecture for the Executive MBA program and it was absolutely invigorating. I feel like I have gained so much personally from sharing my story with others and will continue to share it if it will continue to inspire others.

I also had the opportunity to attend the Clinton Foundation Dinner after the event at UCLA and met some young professionals in the LA region that are committed to making the world a better place. This event was the launch of the 20/30 initiative that seeks to enlist the support of professionals in their 20’s and 30’s to make a commitment to change the world by the year 2030. The one quote that still sticks with me from that night is that ‘the one thing that economists can’t put a trend line on is the passion and motivation of the younger generations to make this country and world a better place.’ Personally, I get tired of hearing the claims that the younger generations aren’t pulling their weight and hope to continue being surrounded by people who always pull more than their fair share.

On Friday I retired from the Military. After 8.5 years of active service it was bittersweet, but I feel confident knowing that my journey is just beginning. The ceremony and dinner exceeded every one of my expectations and I couldn’t dream of a better way to leave the Marine Corps. So many incredible people attended that truly had positive impact on my life that there is no way for me to thank them, other than continuing to try to live every day of my life in a way that will make them proud. Maura and I are so appreciative of everyone that was able to attend the event and make it a truly special occasion.

Thanks to Gretel Kovach from the Union Tribune San Diego and Kyung Lah from Anderson Cooper for helping to share my story and capturing the event.