We all have heroes, people we look up to and inspire us to be the best we can be. Heroes come in many ages, shapes, and sizes. Many of our heroes are everyday folks like you and me.
Our heroes are different for each and every one of us. The definition of a hero is a person who is admired or idealized for courage, outstanding achievements, or noble qualities.
My Dad, Alfredo (Fred) Herrera, is my hero. He was a first-generation American who was born in La Union NM, growing up on a farm. He was a self-made man who with a 6th-grade education and limited means raised himself to become a highly successful businessman, politician and most importantly a monumental person, husband, father, and grandfather.
He was a man’s man and one of the great men of World War II who had a great love for our country. Being a Mexican American in our hometown during his early years was not exactly easy when it came to be a business owner and leader in our racially divided community. He had to be the best of the best to make progress and change his life and that of his family for generations.
I have been blessed to grow up to look a lot like him and have many of his mannerisms and characteristics that have helped me in getting to my magnificent life. He imparted many life lessons on my brother and I but here are his Top 10 Life Lessons I would like to share with you:
- Work Harder than Everyone Else
- Always be Uncomfortable
- The World Doesn’t Revolve Around You
- Play the Game; Win the Championship
- You are Plan B
- Forget the Losses as Fast as You Can
- Reputation is Your Greatest Currency
- Relationships, Relationships, Relationships
- You are Burning Daylight
- Love the One You Brought to the Dance
He was brilliant in raising my brother and I, starting with a foundation of discipline but giving my brother and I more and more rope to go off on our own as we grew up. He knew we were going to make mistakes and trust me, we did, but he knew in order for us to be strong men we had to deal with our mistakes and failures along the way. By having us work and take responsibility in the adult world from an early age, we had the tools needed to move on when the time came for us to leave home. He taught us to be leaders and not followers and you can see that in my role as an entrepreneur and CEO and my brother as a Fire Chief with NASA.
My Dad loved nice cars and I have picked up the same trait. He loved Lincoln Continentals but couldn’t afford a brand new one. My dream was to buy him a new luxury car of his own but he passed before I could make this happen. But I have implemented a tradition that may seem a little strange; the first ride in every new sports car I buy is reserved for me and my Dad. He may not be there physically but I can always fill his presence and his big hand on my shoulder as I push my car to its limits on its inaugural drive.
In the book the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, there is a chapter that it talks about imagining what you would want people to say at your funeral if you live your life like you want. Well, I can tell you, my Dad never read that book but lived his life in a manner that his funeral could have been used as the prototype by 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. When he passed, the local front page newspaper headline read Deming Mourns Herrera, the flags in the state were lowered, the church was filled to overcapacity, story after story from people I never knew my Dad had helped in some shape or fashion were shared with us, many of his past employees who had moved away came back including the senior New Mexico State Policeman who led the mile-long funeral caravan. His spotless legacy stands to this day and its an honor to be his son. As painful as his loss and the funeral was; I remember telling my Mom we could have been at the funeral all alone yet the outpouring of support and love was so healing for me.
I tell people that the 3 toughest presentations I have ever given in my life were with my Dad present. The first was the first presentation I ever made; I was a 6th grader and he was the President of the Noon Lions Club and I had to thank them for a donation to our Boys Scouts group, the second was thanking the American Legion for selecting me for Boys State where he was a member of the Board and lastly, was at his funeral that required myself and my brother to muster all of the self control and strength he had built in us since we were kids to speak about the man we loved so dearly.
My Dad lived his life like he wanted and it ended like he wanted; quickly.
He was a true hero as he did not set out to be recognized, nor do he seek adoration for his actions.
It was a life well lived from beginning to end and have thought what would have my Dad have had as his quote for life: Well, I believe he lived his life like the Nike slogan: Just Do It!
I close with: I love you Dad, I miss you and look forward to meeting again on the other side…