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From Lebanon to Puerto Rico

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Leading through adversity and the atrocities of war


This week's podcast  is all about adversity, and we explored two completely different types.  In my case, a lot of the adversity I experienced was self-induced. Our guest, on the other hand, had to overcome adversities that she had nothing to do with; these are the atrocities of war.

As you will learn, Professor Hoda Maalouf, is a walking, breathing example of leading through adversity with courage, resilience and the fortitude to never look back. 

Hers is an amazing and emotional story of leadership.

The show starts with my own story.  As you may know from my previous shows and blogs that growing up on the island of Puerto Rico, I had it pretty good. I was a good athlete, always with the “in” crowd and, what we call in the states, a rebel without a cause.

Growing up, I had a difficult relationship with my father.  He was from a different generation and endured a challenging childhood.  This made him strong, but very tough and stern.   While he did everything he could to provide us with the life he never had, I mostly perceived him as being a harsh and critical father.  It didn’t help that I was a competitive tennis player and he was my coach. So, we experienced lots of conflict that stemmed from hours of training and doing something I really didn’t want to do.

As I grew older, I started growing my hair, hanging with the wrong crowd and doing things that, as I look back now, I am embarrassed about.  

Al - quote


You can hear the rest of my story on the show.

Throughout my journey I have failed a number of times and made many mistakes, which have inspired me to produce and host Leading Beyond the Status Quo and pursue my passion to help anyone who wants to lead positive change in life.  

Through the magic of the social web, I have met amazing leaders from around the world.  As I was planning the show on leading through adversity, I knew that Professor Hoda Maalouf was the perfect guest because of her lifetime of achievement and leadership through circumstances that most of us could not begin to imagine.

Unlike many of us, who are brought up in times of peace and deal with simple situations, like deciding what sport to play in fall or what college we want to attend, Hoda had to lead through a completely different reality. Like having to decide which road to take and survive the unavoidable shelling. Or, whether she should go to class after a long night of bombing.

During the preparation for the show, Hoda shared a vivid story of a quiet night at their country home when heavy shelling woke them up violently, scouring the quiet area with hundreds of heavy bombs. Two years earlier, their home had been directly hit by a shell, destroying the bedroom she shared with her sister.  With a mind full of horrid memories, her sister jumped out of bed and started to scream, urging Hoda for them to run to their aunt’s house, about 100 meters away.

Seeing her sister’s desperation and evaluating the danger of going out into the night, Hoda became strangely calm and ordered her sister to stay inside the house. Hoda, remained peaceful and calm and explained that it was very unlikely that their bedroom would get hit again and that the showering of debris outside was less dangerous to them if they remained inside.

At that moment, Hoda was no longer the sweet 17-year-old teen everybody knew her to be; she was now a fearless leader, strong and in total control, able to lead through any situation.

Perhaps the most moving part of our conversation was when she articulated her parents' debate about Hoda taking a dangerous journey abroad to pursue her education in the UK.  Just the process of obtaining her visa was filled with life threatening conditions and her father was initially opposed to the idea.  Her mother then articulated some of the most difficult words for a parent to ever say; “let her go”.

Hoda - quote

While Hoda and I have a completely different life experience, we have both leveraged the following leadership traits to lead through adversity:

•    Remaining calm
•    Never looking back
•    Acting with courage
•    Never despairing
•    Surrounding ourselves with people we love

It’s your turn, I would love to know how you have lead through the adversity in your life!

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Al Gonzalez

Founding Partner - GIVE Leadership Institute, LLC