L.E.A.D with Erisel Cruz

Can you name another woman, who had an impact on you as a leader?

The first inspiration in my life is always my mother. She’s had her own daycare/nanny service for over 30 years in Takoma Park and Silver Spring, Maryland. She’s taught and been a mother to so many children and adults that have entered her life, and by extension my own. She taught me love and compassion, how to stand up for myself, how to protect the people and things I love. She also taught me about the dangers of perfectionism, why being prepared is so important no matter what the situation or your resources. Even now, she’s taught me the strength of trust and finding love again. I will hype my mom up any day of the week, she’s a Queen and worthy of it.

What is your vision of a leader?

A leader is multifaceted and always evolving. Someone who knows the value of service and compassion, while also being disciplined and teaching lessons that need to be taught. A leader is a teacher, a mentor, a guide, and a resource to those around them. A leader isn’t someone with a title or special name tag, they’re the person who always tries to look for a solution even when the situation seems bleak and bounces back when they are knocked down. They improve themselves not just for their own benefit, but also to assist the people in their communities. They are the uplifters, the go-getters, the fixers of the world. Mainly, they are the ones who don’t just lead by example but show you how you can find your own path to leadership.

What are your current goals?

I like to do big goals and little goals when I make plans. My big goal I actually posted on my blog, I want to start a farm. I love feeding and providing for people, I love working with my hands, and this is a way that I can do both while also fulfilling a childhood wish of living in Puerto Rico. The little goals right now include improving my finances, credit score, and doing as much research as possible before I buy land and build a house. It’s an exciting new turn in my life, another risk that I have decided to take and this is a path that I know will bring a lot of adventure into my life.

What is one thing that you wish you’d done differently?

I wish I had pushed myself more to do the things that I loved to do instead of things I thought would make other people happy. I wish I had believed in myself and my abilities, especially in college. I was in many ways a “professional gay” on campus and always busy with helping others. However, I didn’t support my own desires enough; I poured myself into other people, refused to help myself mentally or emotionally which took a physical toll on my body as well. When it came to putting me first, I was the laziest and most unreliable individual. I should have loved myself more.

What is the biggest risk you’ve taken?

Working from home and being self-employed. I am working on building a reputation and finding organizations to work with as a social media and communications consultant, and it is daunting work! I have been working with a fantastic non-profit called Utah Dine Bikeyah, as well as acting as web administrator/manager for For Colored Girls Who Lead and The Lunchbox Publications. I have officially been working from home for over 6 months and while it has not always been easy, I am able to get my bills paid and work on improving myself professionally and financially. I was taught that the only success in life came from getting a steady office job that jammed you in a cubicle and bored you to death. While I was somewhat successful in terms of where I was employed, I was facing microaggressions and in some cases blatant racism. Working from home offered me that solution while still letting me do what I love to do.

How do you stay motivated?

I am a big fan of silver linings. Finding blessings and positivity wherever I can, because I fight with depression and anxiety, so my mind can be a pretty dark place when I am not careful. I make lists of the things I have already accomplished so I remind myself that I am not a failure. I have a Gratefulness journal which is just a pretty notebook where I write about everything I that makes me feel thankful/grateful. I don’t always write lists in this notebook, sometimes it’s a letter to someone for doing something kind whether I know them or not, sometimes it’s a simple note to the Creator for giving me another day of life. I love experiments and testing things out, whether it is a new recipe, form of exercise, a way of journaling, or gardening. I feel like it not only teaches you something new, but it also gives you a new perspective. And that is the ultimate motivator for me: perspective. Life is a grand adventure, being able to see things with new eyes and learn something different about myself or the world around me. It’s the greatest form of motivation and has probably saved my life on more than one occasion.

What is your measure of success?

In one word: improvement. I want to improve something with every action that I commit to. It can be as simple as making someone smile after they had a crappy day or more complicated like getting a project done for a fundraising campaign. If I make some sort of improvement, I have succeeded for that day, week, month, etc. Wakandan Princess, Shuri, said it best: “Just because something works doesn’t mean it can’t be improved.”

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