We have come a long way when it comes to embracing diversity in this country. And that is all thanks to the many individuals who have reclaimed their identities by using their voices to tell their stories, particularly their immigrant stories. Kicking off Hispanic Heritage Month, Elizabeth Bachman brings to the show Oscar Garcia, the founder of Aspira Consulting, Inc. In this episode, Oscar dares us to be different, embrace our identity, and be who we are against what society tells us. He talks about the power of embracing heritage through immigrant stories and honoring and valuing who we are. Building up on that, Oscar then shares how we can use our personal stories as a tool for gaining influence within an organization or industry. So join this conversation and learn to change the narrative about being who you are.
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Dare To Be Different With Oscar Garcia
Making The Most Of Your Immigrant Story
My guest is Oscar Garcia who is an expert on LinkedIn and also about how to be different and embrace your immigrant story. Whether you are an immigrant or whether you were born in the US or in the country where you live, but your parents were immigrants, there are good reasons for telling that story.
Before I get to the interview, I would like to invite you to see how your presentation skills are doing by taking our free four-minute assessment at SpeakForResultsQuiz.com. That’s where you can see how your presentation skills are strong, and where perhaps a little bit of support could get you the results you need and the recognition that you deserve.
Oscar Garcia’s official bio is the Founder and Chief Empowerment Officer of Aspira Consulting, which is a Silicon Valley training and consulting firm. He provides culturally relevant career and leadership programs. He’s an introvert turned international speaker. He has given over 500 seminars and trained over 20,000 professionals across five continents.
His training style is that of a practical trainer. He actively practices what he trains others to do. He’s a student of English as a second language, turned contributing author to Hispanic Stars Rising Volume II: The New Face of Power and his story, I Am A Minority highlights the importance of embracing the struggle, valuing our identity, and the power of vulnerability. As a Chief Empowerment Officer, he empowers you so that opportunities come to you. I think you’ll enjoy it. He’s one of my favorite people in the world. Let’s go on to the interview with Oscar Garcia.
Bienvenido. Welcome to the show.
Thank you, Elizabeth. I have lost track of how long it has been since we first met and we have known each other.
Since I started in the speaking business, you were one of my first friends. You are one of my go-to people, so I was so excited when I thought about how to kick off Hispanic Heritage Month. I said, “Oscar, of course.” I’m very happy about that. Before we get into the whole list of questions over here, let me ask you, who would be your dream interview? If you could interview someone who’s no longer with us, who would it be? What would you ask them, and who should be listening?
I have never been asked this question. That’s a great question. I might steal this question from you. It would be my grandmother on my mom’s side of the family. Why? Unfortunately, she was the only grandparent that I ever met. My grandfather on my mom’s side of the family passed away when my mother was thirteen.
My grandparents on my dad’s side of the family passed away. My grandpa, in the year I was born, and then my grandmother, when my dad was very young. It was only my maternal grandmother. I live with her in Mexico until the age of five. I remember her fondly. I have good memories, but the reason why is she lost my grandfather when my mother was thirteen and my grandmother was left with 12 or 13 kids. Kids from my grandfather’s first marriage and then the kids that they had together.
This was back when Mexico was very poor and in tough times. First of all, think about a single mom in the US or anywhere. That’s very challenging. With thirteen kids and very poor, I don’t know how my grandmother did it. There was no government assistance. There was no food or non-profit that she could go to. Somehow this woman managed to raise all these kids including my mother. We’ll get into it here, but I’m about cheering that resiliency for the underdog. I do believe in heaven. I will meet my grandmother in heaven and I will interview her there.
I wanted to ask you about Hispanic Heritage Month. I have all these friends who are talking about Latino leaders and, Latino ladies, and then the Latinx celebration. For those who get confused, can you explain the difference between Hispanic, Latino and Latinx? Is one of them more correct than the other?For us to value our identity and have confidence in who we are, it's important that we honor our past and our story. Click To Tweet
Even some of us Latinos and Hispanics are trying to figure that out too. When we think of Latinos or Hispanics, it is a group. It’s based on your ethnicity geographically and also your culture. I was born in the US, and my parents were from Mexico, so I’m Mexican-American. Over the years, in the US, there have been racism and discrimination against minority populations, and then it has been disenfranchised. There has been this fight for equality.
When we look at Hispanics or Latinos back during the Civil Rights Movement and Free Speech Movement in the 1960s and 1970s, particularly on the West Coast, the California Southwest, which is predominantly people of Mexican descent, started getting together and fighting for equality. During that time, it was Mexicans or Mexican-Americans, and then you get these young groups of activists. Young meaning maybe high school and college age. It’s what we would refer to now as maybe Gen Z and Millennials that are active out there in the movement. They are like, “We are going to claim our roots back to Aztlan, Mexico, the Aztecs, and so forth.” All of a sudden, they came up with the word Chicano.
In college, my major was Chicano Studies. During that time, the US government started also coming up, as they oftentimes do, with their own labels for different ethnic groups. The government came up with the name Hispanic. How do you think that fairs with these young activists? They are like, “We are not going to let no US government tell us who we are.” There was this conflict and there has been with the word Hispanic.
Between Hispanic and Latino.
Hispanics and mostly Mexican-Americans, because on the East Coast, we have Cuban, Puerto Ricans, and Dominicans that are also Latinos. We call them Latinos. Even in the Southwest West, you also have some Mexican-Americans that identify now more Americanized and so forth, and they embrace the name Hispanic.
I have friends from New Mexico who say, “We are Spanish. Our ancestors were colonizers.”
It is the history of this country. People of Hispanic or Latino origin, it’s a very complicated history. Depending on what country and what part of the world you’re from, you have your own history of being colonized and marginalized. Over many years, we have had this name change. You don’t hear Chicano references anymore. You hear more Latino or Latinos. Over the last few years, we are now hearing Latinx. Latinx coming more from the younger generation.
Latinx as opposed to Latino and Latina.
The Latinx is more gender neutral and more inclusive with LGBTQ+ and so forth. For me, personally, I know who I am. I said this before. I don’t give a rip what you call me. You can call me a booger picker. I have no prompt because I know who I am. What I tell people is at the end of the day, if you are confident in your own identity, I don’t give a rip what you call me because I know who Oscar Garcia is. That is my goal for everyone. It is for us to get to the point where we are confident in our identity and the value that we bring to this country, and everyone else can go take a flying leap with their labels.
I first learned Spanish because I was working in Puerto Rico with Opera de Puerto Rico. I was working on Spanish and I was fluent in Italian, so that helped. I learned Spanish the year that I worked in Argentina and I was stuck in the capital of Buenos Aires the state, not Buenos Aires the city. I thought I was going to Buenos Aires the city. It wasn’t the same. It was a much smaller place.
I learned Argentinian Spanish and they didn’t call it Espanol. They call it Castellano from the Castilians. There are all sorts of variations. Whatever it is, we are recording this to broadcast to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month, which I know is the government designation. What it’s about is the movement to get more Latino and Latina leaders who are seriously underrepresented, especially in the upper levels of business and companies. That’s what this month is about for me.
Every time I do a featured month, I am featuring experts who happened to fit in a category. When I did Pride Month when I started the show, it was experts who happen to be gay, so forth and so on. You are an expert in storytelling, speaking careers, and LinkedIn. You’ve spoken all over the world. Thanks to the US State Department that has hired you and sent you around the world. Why do you talk about embracing your immigrant story even if you are US-born but from immigrants?
In order for us to value our identity and have that confidence in who we are, it’s important that we honor our past, our story, where we come from, and the struggles of my parents and my grandparents. I shared at the beginning of this show a little bit about the story and the struggles of my grandmother.
It’s important that we honor that immigrant story. When I was a kid, and this happens to many immigrants when you come to this country, you are oftentimes belittled and laughed at. The customs, the food or the way you speak English. Kids used to make fun of me. Technically English is my second language. I learned how to speak in kindergarten so it was a lot easier for me.Getting good at storytelling is a very powerful skill to develop because it makes your talk more memorable. People remember stories. Click To Tweet
I remember kids in elementary school used to make fun of me because I couldn’t pronounce Marine World which is a theme park in the Bay Area. It’s still around and I couldn’t pronounce it correctly in English. The kids would be like. At home, we eat bean tacos. To this day, that is my go-to food. I’m happy with bean tacos. I didn’t eat peanut butter and jelly.
It’s important for us to honor our immigrant story so that we can honor our culture, our struggles, and strengthen our identity and build that confidence so that we can then move forward and be able to go after more opportunities and be able to help other people embrace their own identity. You don’t have to be Latino. I don’t give a rip what you are. I don’t care what color of the rainbow you are. If I can help you by valuing your identity and so forth, then I’m going to do that. That’s why it’s important for us to embrace our immigrant story.
We are both speakers and we both teach communication, embracing your story whatever it may be. Often there’s a thought of, “I have to blend in.” If you embrace your story and talk about why it’s relevant, whether you are a Syrian living in Berlin or you are from Somalia and you are living in Stockholm, it’s worldwide. There are so many different people and cultures anywhere than anybody who’s tuned in to this show. How can we have our story be a persuasion or influence tool? When I was teaching and speaking for sales mostly, we were talking about using your personal story as a sales tool. How can you use your personal story as a tool for gaining influence within an organization or within your industry?
Share your vulnerability. That goes counter to what the corporate world teaches us. The corporate world teaches us to suck it up. Men don’t cry. That’s even a cultural thing in Latino culture. Wearing your heart on your sleeve, “What are you talking about, Oscar? What if my feelings get hurt?” It’s probably going to happen, but here’s the thing. At the end of the day, it’s not business-to-consumer sales or business-to-business sales, it’s a human-to-human connection.
One of the fundamental ways that you and I can connect with each other or turn a stranger into a casual acquaintance, and then that casual acquaintance into a friend is by us being open and sharing some vulnerability about ourselves or some part of our story. I created my very first story that I shared on LinkedIn because you can write articles. The title of it is I Am A Minority. In that story, I share part of my journey of us coming to the US and my struggles and so forth. I also shared that story about my mother being undocumented when we returned to California.
Some people are like, “Why would you share that story on a professional platform like LinkedIn?” I would tell people because that’s my mother’s story. I can’t change it. I don’t want to change it. It’s part of what made me who I am today. I had some people that said negative things, but I had way more people that began to open up and say, “I’m undocumented or my parents were undocumented and this is what happened.” All of a sudden, by sharing our vulnerability in this part of the story, I began to realize that when I open up to you, Elizabeth and I share something that’s maybe a little embarrassing, I’m taking a chance.
Not always, but most of the time, you then open up and you share something vulnerable back yourself, and it’s like these stair steps. I went one step upstairs and shared something vulnerable. You share something and now we are at the same level, and then we keep going up. Before you know it, it’s like this pyramid. We are at the very top together, and our relationship is stronger now.
One of the things that I like about this is the thing that I learned in sharing my personal story. It has to be relevant to the audience. Rule number one, make it about the audience. Talk about something that they care about. When I was first learning the logistics of speaker training, they said, “Share the worst part of your time and how you get back. What’s your deepest worst point?” I used to talk about it and people didn’t understand because, for me, it was something within the opera business, and unless you were in the opera business, you didn’t understand.
Also because there were two parts to the turnaround story. What I learned was I could share the second half of that, which was where I learned to ask for money, how terrible I was to start out, and how I learned to embrace that and then got success. That was something that made it a better story. When someone is asking you, “I want to share my immigrant story,” how do you choose what to talk about?
It is important that we know who our audience is. For example, I had the opportunity to be the closing keynote speaker at a regional conference in the Midwest. The people in the audience were career administrators, meaning these are folks that work for a career services department at a college or university. There were also employers that recruit college students.
The parts of my immigrant story that I shared, for example, when I was eleven years old here in the US, every weekend, we would go to the slaughterhouses with my dad. We would slaughter a cow or a goat and sell fresh meat because my dad was a butcher in Mexico. I shared how I didn’t like doing that and I was embarrassed. Some of the skills that I learned like work ethic, delayed gratification, and those what we call now soft skills, I translated into a career narrative for these career services professionals or these employers.
It’s knowing your audience and then taking those bits and pieces of your story and applying it. It takes practice, but if you keep at it, you become like a chef. You have the ingredients. If someone comes up to you and says, “I want a sirloin steak with this and that,” you chop it up and here you go. That’s how you do it. Know your audience and share some vulnerability. With practice, you get better and better at being able to get bits and pieces of your story to share and make it impactful and relevant to your audience.
I would guess that for you when you are telling stories from your childhood, that’s just a part of your speech. The speech is much more about who you are and the information that you are giving.
The storytelling is just one piece of the overall message. One of the things that I have found, and I hear this from people like you and other folks, is getting good at storytelling is a very powerful skill to develop because it makes your talk more memorable. People remember stories more than the facts.Find a group that supports you, and you feel comfortable belonging to. There is power in numbers and comfort in being around a community. Click To Tweet
People remember stories more than facts. Even if they are absolute data scientists or engineers, you still grew up learning about the world from stories as a child. That’s how we learn information. Let me find this and share this. You had a great thing in the featured section of your LinkedIn where you talked about changing the narrative. Talk to us about what you mean here and what you mean by doing that.
This is what I mean by changing the narrative. On this image on the left is some common words that we often use here in the US. These are labels. It describes certain groups. For example, first-generation. First-generation in the US means someone who is the first in their family to go to college. Low income, you know what that means. ESL, English as a Second Language and so forth. There are some other words that I have on the left side. On the right side, I have what I’m referring to as the new narrative, the new word, and the new label.
Reframing the ideas.
Let’s take for example the label first-generation student, which I am. I’m the only one out of ten siblings that went and graduated from college. I’m also a first-generation professional. When we think of the label first-generation, in the US, it does not tend to have a positive connotation. It tends to have someone probably low-income. His parents maybe graduated from high school or maybe not. There are all these negative connotations that come with first-generation.
I started thinking because my natural personality was an introvert. As introverts, we are always talking to ourselves. I’m always talking and thinking to myself introspectively. One day I said, “I remember in the history books when Neil Armstrong, the first human to land on the moon, we call him a pioneer.” I said, “How come we don’t call him a first-generation moon lander?” Technically, he is a first-generation moon lander, but first generation doesn’t have a positive connotation taken. Instead, we call Neil Armstrong a pioneer. I said, “I’m a pioneer. I come from a low-income family but I have got some street smarts. I have a high EQ.”
English as a second language. When I went to Panama back in 2019, they asked me, “Do you need a Spanish translator?” I said, “No. Spanish is my first language.” Not only do I know how to speak Spanish, but I’m culturally aware of Spanish. It’s one thing to speak a language, it’s another thing to understand its culture. Just because I’m from California, it doesn’t mean that I necessarily understand English from the South or East Coast and stuff like that. I came up with changing a negative connotation label into something positive. When we view ourselves from a positive standpoint, it increases our self-confidence and belief in ourselves.
For the audience, instead of English as a second language, you call yourself multilingual.
Here’s the thing too that I realized. For me, this is a message more to the individual because I’m not going to change the government. I’m not going to change institutions here, nor am I interested in fighting that battle. It’s about me. That’s why at the beginning, when you asked me about Latino, Latinx, and Hispanic and I told you, “I know who I am.”
That’s the most important thing. To honor our ancestors and to know who we are now. What would you say to someone who is of Latino or Hispanic descent who is finding themselves dismissed, ignored, and not getting the recognition that they deserve? What suggestions do you have?
Find a group that you feel supports you and that you feel comfortable with or you belong. There is power in numbers. There’s comfort in being around a community. For those of us Latinos, the community is very important. I remember my parents saying that our family isn’t just our blood family. It’s our community as well. One, find a support group or a mentor with whom you can connect.
Number two, more than ever, we have the ability to use technology to get our message out there. Back in the day, if you wanted to get on the local TV station, you had to be a superstar and beg someone at the TV station to get you and interview you. Most often, it probably wasn’t going to happen. Now, flip on a YouTube channel and start creating content. The newspaper. When I used to work for the Chamber of Commerce, we would send out press releases to the local paper. They hardly ever picked it up. Now, we have the ability to create a blog. Also, radio interviews.
What should you do then to get out there?
Tell your story. Keep it simple. Quit complicating things. I’m a 53-year-old person here. I took a typewriter to college. If I have a podcast, YouTube channel, LinkedIn, and Instagram, what is your excuse for not being able to get your message out there? I’m not going to buy the fact that you are not techy.
Not being a technical person is no excuse anymore because we are all technically. It’s how we communicate. This has been such a delight. Getting out there on LinkedIn, I would say Oscar is one of my go-to people for advice about LinkedIn. He is a LinkedIn expert. It’s not what we talked about now, but he has a lot of information on LinkedIn. Check out his profile. My friend, muchas gracias. Thank you so much. I am so glad I finally got you on the show.
Thank you, Elizabeth.
If you enjoyed this conversation, please like and review us on Apple Podcasts. That’s the one that counts. Talk about us on LinkedIn because we are both very much on LinkedIn. I am delighted to have had Oscar Garcia as my guest. I will see you on the next one.
- Aspira Consulting
- Hispanic Stars Rising Volume II: The New Face of Power
- I Am A Minority
- Apple Podcasts – Speakers Who Get Results
About Oscar Garcia
Oscar Garcia is the Founder & Chief Empowerment Officer of Aspira Consulting, a Silicon Valley training and consulting firm providing culturally relevant career and leadership programs. He is an introvert turned international speaker. Oscar has given over 500 seminars and trained over 20,000 professionals across five continents. His training style is of a “practrainer” – he actively practices what he trains others to do. He is an ESL student turned contributing author to “Hispanic Stars Rising Volume II: The New Face of Power”, where his story, I AM A MINORITY, highlights the importance of embracing the struggle, valuing our identity, and the power of vulnerability. As Chief Empowerment Officer, Oscar empowers you, so opportunities come to you.