Tag Archives: Life Lessons

You Can’t Score If You Don’t Shoot

Taking my dad's advice in 1980
Taking my dad’s advice in 1980

The best advice I ever got came from my dad when I was about 12 years old.  We were shooting baskets on our driveway at 48 Viewmont Avenue in east San Jose.  He was teaching me how to make bank shots off the homemade plywood backboard he had hung over the one-car garage door.  My dad grew up during the Depression and was a WWII veteran, so he was practical, no-nonsense, and to the point.  After barking a few pointers about shooting a basketball, he said, “don’t forget that you can’t score if you don’t shoot.”

I’m pretty sure that my high school basketball teammates weren’t too happy with me when I took that advice literally because I know that I missed way more shots than I made.  But my dad’s lesson was clear; success would come by taking calculated risks every now and then, hard work, and perseverance.   I’ve had lots of failures and picked up a few successes along the way in my journey through life, and my dad’s advice on the driveway that day has guided me through the toughest of times.

First of all, I know how to lose a political campaign.  I ran for school board in 1996, 1998, and 2008, and I was a candidate for city council in 2000.  Even though I demonstrated a true passion for public office, I lost all four races.  Undeterred, I got an opportunity to serve when the East Side high school board appointed me in 2006 and 2009.  During my time on the school board, we saved after school sports from the budget ax and passed a historic policy that ensures every student has a chance to go to college.

In 2005, Comcast invited me to its exclusive Comcast Executive Leadership Forum, a year-long executive training program.  I arrived at the company’s Philadelphia headquarters on a cold and snowy January morning wearing my best dark suit and a new overcoat.  Passing a mirror, I suddenly froze, and the fears and doubts of an east side boy in way over his head consumed me.  I debated on whether I should just go back home, but decided to stay.  A little less than two years later, I was promoted to vice president of government affairs for northern and central California.

During the summer of 2010, I faced the biggest challenge of my life.  I had a massive heart attack, and subsequent complications in my lungs left me in a coma for a month and in the hospital for over 100 days.  When I awoke from the coma, I couldn’t talk, walk, or move any of my limbs.  After intensive therapy and a few of years of a disciplined exercise program to strengthen my heart and lungs, I thought about my dad as I crossed the finish line of the annual East Side Save Our Sports 5K walk with my wife Sandra and daughters Marisa and Erica.

You can’t score if you don’t shoot!

Through many defeats and a few victories, I’ve learned that my dad had it right.  Taking a chance, working your behind off, and keeping at it is the path to achievement.  The past several years, I’ve had the great privilege to work with emerging community leaders through the Latino Leadership Alliance Leadership Academy.   We discuss a variety of concepts and strategies needed for leadership.  The conversations usually come to the conclusion that effective leadership results from some version of my dad’s advice.

We live in an age of non-stop media and talking heads with no leadership experience preaching quick fixes to complex problems.  President Theodore Roosevelt famously said that these self-proclaimed leaders “neither know victory nor defeat” because they stay on the sidelines.  To be sure, leadership concepts can be learned in seminars and conferences, but the practice of true leadership can only be achieved by getting into the fray.  When advising aspiring leaders, I tell them that there is no substitute for taking a leadership role when the opportunity presents itself, especially if it’s risky, challenging, and seemingly without success in sight.

So, if you want to serve on the PTA, be a scout leader, run for Congress, or apply for that promotion at work, go ahead and go for it.  Just know that you’ll have to step out of your comfort zone, work extra hard, and hang on for a long and bumpy ride.  It’ll be worth it.  And, never, ever forget that you can’t score if you don’t shoot.

Welcome to ESEReport.com!

West wall of the Mexican Heritage Plaza in East San Jose
West wall of the Mexican Heritage Plaza in East San Jose

Dear Readers,

Welcome to the ESE Report, a weekly blog that touches on leadership, education, and public affairs from a unique perspective.  It’s a view from the “other side of the tracks.”

I was born and raised in East San Jose, the predominately Latino section of the Santa Clara Valley that has been historically mislabeled “the bad side of town” by those whom have spent little or no time there.  Despite this negative stereotype, the East Side I’m from is a no-nonsense working-class neighborhood with no frills, a place where my late parents taught me and my siblings to work hard, get an education, play by the rules, and respect ourselves and others.

As a boy, I had a happy and carefree childhood.  As a young man, I flunked out of college, wandered aimlessly through life for several years, and ultimately returned to college to graduate on the dean’s list.  As a man, I have lived the American Dream: I married a wonderful woman, we have two daughters, and I built a career on work that inspires me.

Professionally, I’ve had the rare opportunity to roam the sidelines as a high school basketball coach, walk the halls of Congress as a corporate executive, strike the gavel as a school board president, and experience the machinations of local government as a political chief of staff.

In over 25 years of working in politics, business, education, and community service, I’ve seen self-interest and self-preservation bring out the worst in people, and I’ve seen the enduring human spirit of serving others bring out the best in people.

When I was 46 years old, I had a massive heart attack and suffered from Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS), a rare lung disorder that few people survive.  With strong faith, a loving family, supportive friends, and a great medical team, I live to tell the story today.

It’s these experiences slow-cooked together that have molded the way I see the world: practical and hard-nosed, yet hopeful and idealistic.  Like Frank Capra’s fictional hero George Bailey from the 1947 Christmas Classic “It’s a Wonderful Life,” I’m a sucker for happy endings.   Through it all, my heart and soul, and my core values are still from the East Side.

The inspiration for the name of this blog came from Navarra Williams, a former corporate executive who became a mentor and friend.  Early in my corporate career, Navarra, who himself grew up in the tough neighborhoods of Washington, D.C., gave me the nickname “East Side Eddie,” a moniker I proudly carry with me to this day.

Every city, town, and hamlet in America has an “east side,” and every east side has a voice.  It’s the voice of hard-working people who toil so their children can have a better life.  It’s the voice that’s rarely heard.  It’s the voice that deserves to be understood.  The ESE Report hopes to do just that by being insightful, provocative, amusing, and, at times, inspiring.

Please feel free to browse the Leadership, Education, and Public Affairs buttons on the blog.  I hope you find the topics interesting.  You can follow the ESE Report by clicking the “Follow” link on the bottom, right-hand corner of this page.

I look forward to hearing from you!

Eddie García
San José, California
September 23, 2013