February 3rd, 2005: Alberto Gonzales becomes 80th (& first Hispanic)
Before he became the 80th attorney-general, Alberto Gonzales was a White House Counsel, an Associate Justice of the Texas Supreme Court and Secretary of State of Texas. He started his college education at the rigorous Air Force Academy where he made the Dean’s list every semester before transferring to Rice University. He received his juris doctorate from Harvard Law School and he made partner at Vinson & Elkins, the country’s top energy law firm.
But before all these things, Alberto Gonzales was the second of eight children born to a migrant worker cum construction laborer and a homemaker growing up in the town of Humble, a predominantly white oil town in Texas. His father left school in the second grade, his mother in the sixth. Three of his grandparents may have been illegal immigrants and his family lived in a two bedroom home that Gonzales’ father built with his brother. The tiny home lacked telephones and hot water but despite these humble circumstances Gonzales rose to the highest executive office to be held by a Hispanic in the United States.
In a very real sense, Alberto Gonzales embodies the classic up-by-your-bootstrap American Dream story. In excelling against a background of privation, Alberto Gonzales exemplifies the fruit of resilience.
Everyone suffers setbacks. For some these setbacks fade into the background of their unfolding lives. For the risk-takers in Renee & Don Martin’s Risk Takers: 16 Women and Men Share their Entrepreneurial Strategies for Success they propel them to success. Despite the promise of the subtitle, you don’t hear the voice of the actual risk takers. What you get is a summary of their lives as entrepreneurs set out in the classic situation, complication, resolution plot line.
The vignettes do not center on people overcoming great failures or obstacles but rather on their boldness and tenacity. Our readers will nonetheless be inspired by the story of Gary Heavin’s (Curves) early failures before the success of Curves, Linda Alvarado’s (of Alvarado Construction) work to surmount the low expectations and prejudice that hold back many Hispanic businesswomen, Paul Orfalea’s (Kinko’s) dyslexia and ADHD , David Steward’s (World Wide Technology Inc) resilience in overcoming the peculiar challenges of a black man founding an enterprise technology company in the 1970s, Florine Mark’s (Weight Watchers) battles with obesity and John Paul DeJoria’s (John Paul Mitchell Systems & Patrón Spirits Company) homelessness (albeit it with a Rolls Royce).
The Martin’s abstract six strategies from the experiences of these entrepreneurs:
- Find an under-served niche to serve (hit ‘em where others ain’t)
- Do not let adversity or failure defeat you
- Trust your gut & Just start
- Reinvent your company or yourself when necessary (in Silicon Valley, they’d call this pivoting)
- Be willing to buck conventional wisdom
- Exploit your competitor’s weaknesses and make them your strengths
The Risk Takers has also been subtitled The Risk Takers: 16 Top Entrepreneurs Share Their Strategies for Success