My whole life I’ve been told practice makes perfect. Whether it’s in the tennis court or in math class, the more you practice something, the better you become at it. In the last few years I’ve found out that practicing and doing is not the same thing. Harry Callahan once said, _”experience is the best teacher”_ and without a doubt it is. You can sit five hours taking a business class or 10 hours in a tennis practice but until you go out to the real world and start doing business with other people or play a real tennis tournament you wont _really_ LEARN. When experiencing things we all make mistakes and making mistakes, in the broad scheme of things, is good as long as we learn from them. Through the different experiences I’ve had through tennis, my musical adventures and my business deals, I’ve learned from my errors, picked myself up from the ground, and ultimately grown as a human being.
On August 10, 2000 I stepped on to the tennis court for my first tennis lessons. I had previously tried to play the sport but this day I was determined to start a journey in which I could master it. After my first real tennis year, I improved at an incredible pace, and went a summer to the world-renowned Nick Bolletierri Tennis Academy in Bradenton, Florida. At merely 11 years old, I found myself without my family and in an unknown place, but that didn’t stop me from doing what I most loved, playing tennis. After that summer I fell in love with that sport and went the next two summers to Saddlebrook Tennis Academy in Tampa Bay Florida, where I polished my skills and started to play a few serious tournaments. The first tournaments that I played made me realize that no matter how much I had practiced in the tennis court, this was not practice, and at the beginning, my lack of tournament experience, hindered my ability to perform at my utmost level. In the few tournaments that I played in Florida and the dozens of tournaments I have played here, I have learned that practicing something and doing it were two different things. The more I made mistakes and the more I was about to win a game, but then lost, were part of an experience which through time made me a better player.
Everyone likes music, and everyone enjoys it, but there are some of us that absorb music and make it part of our everyday life. I have always been a huge music fan and in 2003 I decided to buy a guitar. Unlike my friends who “heard” music, I listened to it and analyzed it, taking it seriously and making it part of my life. After playing guitar for several months alone in my room I formed a band with a few friends of mine, who at the time, shared the same musical taste as me. We had a lot of trouble at the beginning adjusting, because despite the fact that we each knew had to play our instrument, playing all together was clearly not the same.
After a few months of cleaning up the sound of our band, we decided to go ahead and play in front of a crowd so we signed up for the Annual School Talent Show. We were so proud and confident of ourselves that we announced it to all of our friends and made a big deal about. On May 22, 2004, a day before my fourteenth birthday, we stepped onto the stage, in front of our whole school, and started to play “Seven Nations Army” by the White Stripes, the only song we practiced for the past two months. Amid the performance we were all looking at each other realizing that everything was sounding filthy and disorganized.
As we were playing we saw the faces of our friends in the crowd, who tried disguising the fact that we had played terribly. After that talent show, and several other terrible self-humiliating performances, we decided that we had enough embarrassment and we had to improve as a band. After several months of intense practicing, and the previous shameful experiences we had gone through, we started to become better and better. A year and a half after the dreadful talent show performance we found ourselves playing in front of hundreds of people, and getting paid to do what we loved the most. Months later I stepped onto another musical journey but this time in the Motion Picture field. I started to make a movie with a couple of friends that ended up receiving massive national attention.
The movie started out as a project just for us to enjoy but as the Musical Director and Executive Producer, I knew we had something good in our hands and decided to make the most out of it. Eight months later it was viewed across all the movie theaters in the capital and all the Movie Rentals in the country. The day after it was released in the movie theaters, we did over 4 newspaper interviews, over 5 live television interviews and we were reading on all major newspapers the headline “Dominican Boys Make National Movie.” After the success of the movie and my very acclaimed role as Musical Director, we received a contract from one of the biggest businessman in the Dominican Republic, to direct and produce his next upcoming movie. As of know we have just started to film that movie, but if it weren’t for all the times I humiliated myself on stage, or all the times I had to continue playing in front of people who were tired of listening and just wished for us to stop, If it weren’t for all those experiences, I wouldn’t be where I am know.
Being the independent person that I am, I do not like to ask for a lot of favors or gifts. Since I was a child, my father has taught me many vital lessons and one of them is that nothing is free and money is hard to get but easy to spend. After not being able to have many of the toys that I craved as a child, I was left with this notion in my head that I had to produce money since I was young in order to have what I want and not having to ask for it. At 15 I took action and talked to one of my best friends and current business partner about the possibilities of making t-shirts and selling it among my friends. After a few months we hired a man, who has made t-shirts for a living for over a decade, and paid him to make about one-hundred t-shirts and sold them all in a period of a month. We made a good profit and decided to take our business further. After months asking for a valuable meeting in Plaza Lama, the biggest department store in the Dominican Republic, I finally received it and after almost two hours of heavy persuasion my partner and I finally landed a contract of over 1200 t-shirts to sell in their main store.
We immediately went to talk to our t-shirt manufacturer and after being to negotiate with him the prices, in order to receive a reasonable amount of profit, we got to an agreement. He was not as responsible as he seemed and took more time than promised, but we were fine since the t-shirts sold perfectly in Plaza Lama and we were just in time to receive a new contract. As we were sitting in Plaza Lama in a meeting with the manager of the clothing department, we received news that our manufacturer was manufacturing more of our t-shirts and selling them to another department store without permission making himself a fortune and not giving us our equal pay. After a profound exchange of words with our manufacturer, we decided to part ways and take control of our own future by manufacturing our own shirts, due to the fact that we had received a new contract for over 3,200 t-shirts to sell at all their national stores.
Being inspired by an “outsourcing” lesson in my economics class I talked to my partner about the possibilities of producing the shirts outside of the capital, where labor and production was cheaper, in order to increase profits. We did just that and in 6 weeks we produced all the t-shirts at half the price than before. We had to work harder since we were the ones organizing and transporting them. After a lot of hard work and effort, those t-shirts were all sold, we were paid and we realized that our companies’ profit had increased over 600% from the past set of t-shirts. Now we find ourselves selling over 3000 t-shirts a month, earning a solid amount of money, and starting to build a webpage to offer our t-shirts to anyone interested in the Caribbean. Learning from our mistakes in the past, and learning not to put too much trust on anyone, made us grow as business man and most importantly learn that money, unlike many people of my age do not know, is very hard to earn and very easy to spend.
The experiences I have been through in life, have taught me lessons more valuable than any other teacher has been able to teach me in a classroom. When you go out and experience things and make mistakes, you learn from your errors, overcome those depressing moments and ultimately become a better human being.