Who I was
 

 

It all started in South America. I didn’t have a pleasant childhood. I was picked on and verbally/physically abused. My self-esteem was low.  My parents were critical and I rebelled against those around me. From an early age I developed an anger because I wasn’t happy with the life that I was living. I felt this anger followed me as I went through different stages in my life. All of the decisions I made in my life and even as a child, I couldn’t turn to my parents. I did them all on my own and not surprising, if you are child you can make mistakes when you have no guidance. I didn’t have a mentor although I tried once to look for one. In my house, almost every night, I went to the second floor and just sat in the room on the far end of the house which had an open door to see the clear sky. I never told my parents but I spent many nights alone looking at the sky thinking there has to be a better life. After watching American sitcoms, I fantasied what life would be with different parents, family, and friends. I was a dreamer even that young or call it - creating my own reality. So, one of them was to move to the US. Then an opportunity came where I was giving the choice to move to the US. I'm very grateful for the things that I was able to accomplish. I worked hard to get a good education. I went to a military boarding school and attended an Ivy League School. Professionally, I rose very quickly in my field to an executive level at a young age and even wrote a book. I worked in different countries doing social impact and international development work, went to two wars - Iraq and Afghanistan, became an executive in city government, and received many awards.

But all in all, on the inside, I was getting tired because I felt the insecurity and anger which was the caused to keep excelling and be better than everyone else. I felt like I was living a race to show off. Then I realized, to whom, really? I ran my life in an unconscious state that I looked inwards and said, it was a race against myself.

 
 
 

Downfall
 

 

It was 2015 when I finally gave up and I couldn't take it any longer. To top it off, I almost lost my life and never saw myself so beat up. I had no clue what I was going to do.  I spent hours just wandering and getting angrier because I kept making the same mistakes again and again - meeting the same type of people, same type of relationships, and same type of experiences.  I asked myself - why? It was on a Saturday afternoon when something happened when I was sitting on my couch. I had a glimpse of awakening. For the first time, I questioned, who is the thought, who is that inner voice, and who is that feeling? Is that really “I”? I was very confused as I felt someone else is doing it but not my real “I.” But who is this “I”? I was scared and super confused. I thought something was wrong with me mentally. During this time, I had no clue on meditation, enlightenment, and spirituality. I had no idea what was awakening.

So, I decided to shut myself off from the world and told myself - I'm not leaving my apartment until at least I have a clue on what is going on or call it "a higher calling" but someone is telling me something or that I must do something. Doing it how? Back then I didn't know. My apartment became my cave and took a dip into the unknown.

 
 
 

Rise
 

 

It has been a battle of the mind and body ever since I questioned for the first time in 2015, who is this Ego and Mind? From this moment forward, my life has shifted in a completely opposite direction in areas that I never thought I would venture on. I read books and articles on meditation, neuroscience, Buddhism, yoga, motivation, universal laws, and I even found interest in investment, startups, and innovation.  I took online classes and it was my desperation to seek for an answer. Something that was very unclear to me was, every time I ventured into spirituality materials, it felt already familiar to me, especially, understanding the ego. I enjoyed designing so each time I had an awareness experience, I drew how I separated the thought with what I was still trying to understand, who is this “Observer”?

The pivotal day came when I decided to leave everything behind in the U.S and took a risk to travel to Asia. I was curious about Lord Buddha and Yoga. I broke my old habit and this time, I traveled to the unknown with no itinerary - one-way ticket. All I knew was that I will land first in India and from there explore. I moved around from guesthouses to hotels, to hostels, to people’s houses, to Ashrams, to Hindu temples, to Buddhist Monasteries, to mountains in the Himalayas, from local airports to local train stations, to local bus stations, to a Zen retreat center, and to meeting enlightening beings.

It has been a lot of hard work from learning how to fast for more than 24 hours to the physical pain I put my body after all the hours of yoga and meditation, but also the suffering I began to observe when my mind poured all sorts of things and I just stood there watching everything. I said suffering because sometimes the mind brought anxiety attacks to sadness which were all old ways on how I reacted to life. 

After 3 years of hard work and perseverance, I’m seeing now the tremendous transformation on both the physical and the mind. My physicality has trimmed down probably because the amount of yoga practices I do. Every day I practice 8 hours of yoga. I also became an Isha Hatha Yoga Teacher. And the level of awareness continues to improve daily, as I continued to dismantle my old ways and create new beautiful seeds. It is true the good always triumphs the bad. I realized the bad was just the negative tendencies/karma I created unconsciously. Negative and positive tendencies, experiences, feelings, perceptions, and thoughts, never last and are all temporary.

My Sadhana (spiritual practice) is 24 hours, yoga is every second I breathe, every step I make, how I conduct myself, and always aware. It is the silence within that I’m witnessing and living every moment as “what it is.” And I'm still alive now living daily more pleasant, making every second count with full involvement and intensity while remaining calm, working hard, and grateful for the new opportunity that I was given.  

But I can tell you that it is possible that we can turn ourselves around. It is possible.

Turn inwards and you will find the answer.

 
 
Surfing the Unknown

Surfing the Unknown


I chose challenging paths to make an impact on people’s lives.

It is here where I pushed to go beyond my limitations and brought light to those in need.

 
 
South America

South America

 
 
 

@ The United States Marine Corps Officer Candidate School, post 9-11. The most elite branch in the US Military. I'm in the middle row at the end, third to last. This is our first week into training. It is here where I learned among the best how to be a leader and be extremely relentless. I fought hard during the training with severe stress fractures, a broken femur, and dislocated hip. Day in and day out, it was constant pain but I never gave up. I grind my way and gave it all. The instructors were up my ears all the time and screaming at me every day constantly even while I was eating but I just kept going. It was my perseverance that I showed that made me win the respect among my fellow Marines and the Instructors. Everyone from my platoon saw for the first time combat when we went to Iraq. We were told post 9-11 that we will be the first class of officers going inside Iraq and fight urban warfare - a dangerous terrain.

 

Albania, the City of Shkodër. I’m here at the city entrance. We turn around the city and scaled quickly the operations. I mentored the officials and community on design thinking and how to go lean. We brought the community together to refurbish the city entrance - you can see the buildings behind me. 85% of the funds came from the small businesses and local people. I went door to door and spoke with every single family. I had so many chais (Albanians love tea) and wedding proposals - I was single at that time. I became very fluent in Albanian dialect that even some locals thought I was from Albania. Because I spoke Albanian fluently my conversations when asking people for funds and explaining the reason why we are doing the project prolonged to a 1 or 2 hour home visit. Albanians love to sit, drink chai, and yes just talk about anything. This is the project where I became known for in Northern Albania and was the first foreigner to received an honorary citizen title. International and central government assistance was limited in this region because it was a dangerous region and pretty much everyone just gave up on Shkodër. Nobody had faith in the city officials and community. It never stopped me and when I was giving the option to go to Shkodër and see what I can do, I didn't hesitate. People told me that Shkodër only have 3 hours of electricity a day making it a hard living in the winter and there is nothing to do there. It I said to my director to put where nobody wants to go. To put me where there is fear the most. To put me where there is no hope. To put me where there are crime and corruption. It is there in the dangerous ground where there is fear, crime, lack of hope, poor infrastructure, and corruption where I can go inside and bring the lotus to rise in darkness. And this is what we did and we were recognized by the International Aid Community, Central Government, US Embassy, and USAID. The same people who once told me that Shkodër was not a place to be, now they were excited and looking forward to partner with the city again. If you truly believe you can make a change, then nothing is impossible. Do whatever it takes, whatever it takes, to make something happen. Your minimum viable project (product) might be "so-so" in the beginning, but the idea is to get something going. It doesn't matter if you make mistakes. I made plenty but along the way, I improvised and I just kept going. It is the entrepreneur mindset that I always carry which set me apart. The Universe will find a way to help you and shut up the noise from the naysayers. I always mentored my Albanian colleagues' that talk is nothing. Results is what counts. Leave the talkers do the talk. The outcome is what will determine whether Shkodër will received funding in the next cycle of central government assistance - well, it did.

 

Here with the Shkodër Regional Council Chairman in Northern Albania. He is introducing the first transparency project for the Northern Region of Albania, our first bulletin board. For the first time, local officials were opening their books to the public so citizens can be informed on government expenditures and who does what. The time when I worked in Albania, the country was still having challenges on transparency and accountability after years of communism. It wasn't an easy project because I had to convince the council and local municipality and we lacked funds! But also, along with the project, I trained city workers on how to run an operation and bring the creativity within when making weekly postings. It is here where I brought human-centered design to the process to see what can work and what didn't. I never told the council but the project was funded out of my Peace Corps stipend and personal funds. So here the Chairman is also introducing me to the media as the in-house advisor of the Regional Council and Municipality.

Within a matter of weeks after my arrival in Northern Albania I began to push projects in different parts of the city. I went to a lot of meetings and locals explained to me their issues such as lack of electricity, poor infrastructure, unemployment, crime, Kanun - Blood Feuds, and lack of private and international aid investment. I left the meetings with my head exploding on how can I assist them because I’m only a Peace Corps volunteer with no funds and only serving in an advisory role. I’m a strong believer that in the limitations and restrictions creativity will rise and it did for me. Somehow, I was able to pushed out projects and found the necessary funds. It was my people and negotiation skills that served me well. I was deeply concerned about the city and its decline. One issue that I cared deeply were the children and the condition the school they attended. I targeted the Elementary School Hazen Haydari (wooh I still remember the name!) and refurbished the school walls. You can't see the walls in the photo but we had volunteers and even the Mayor came to the school to paint the walls. People were very surprised to see the Mayor doing community work directly engaged with the people. Albanians were not used to see local officials doing work outside their offices! I learned the “Art of Relations” because if you become good at building not formal but informal relations, you can convinced someone to leave their comfortable zone. You have to strategized well your key stakeholders, who can do what for you, and what are your limitations and strengths. I learned from the military to scan my terrain well before moving forward and take over. We decorated the school walls with slogans of peace, love, unity, success, champion, and happiness. The children designed the paintings. Crime was high in Shkodër and it was important that at least the school can serve a refugee place where children can see and hear only positive statements away from the negative image they were exposed outside the school. This type of project was never done in the city so everyone was curious. They were more curious about why volunteering in a project? As a former communist country, volunteerism for Albanians never stood well. But still, I was able to convinced the locals to volunteer for the project and even contribute funds. So here we are at the inauguration of the wall with the Mayor, Peace Corps Country Director, local NGOs, Red Cross, and other members of the Education Department. We had good media coverage and it was the first of many to come to show other cities that Shkodër is rising as a community and leaving the past behind and primarily focusing on the present moment to do great things and bring back its greatness. Shkodër has a lot of historical richness and a beautiful castle. My goal was to bring the proudness again among the locals and make them rise as well. In the end, we did and Shkodër holds a place in my heart.

 

Baghdad, Iraq @ Saddam Hussein’s Victory Arch Parade Field. I'm here just recently landed for the first time in Iraq during the peak of the war. This was the green zone so it was safe to not wear a bulletproof vest. I stayed a few weeks in Baghdad before I rolled out to the famous and dangerous province of Al-Anbar. During this time most of the fighting was happening in Al-Anbar, in cities like Fallujah and Ramadi. I moved around a lot in Al-Anbar province because I managed 6 cities scaling large multi-million dollar reconstruction social impact community projects. I moved a lot inspecting the projects, going to meetings, holding ceremonies, and sometimes, I got stuck in the middle of nowhere because we got caught in a sand storm.

 
 

I wrote Iraq’s first democracy children’s book. I had an unpleasant childhood and when I landed in Iraq, I made a promise that I will not rest mobilizing activities for the children until my last day in Iraq. I kept this promise and it served as a reminder every day I woke up. This promise kept me going. I worked in the red zone known as the combat areas. Staying focus and self-motivation was key to my success in Iraq. Otherwise, the war environment can take a toll on you mentally and physically. For me, bringing joy to the children was my core. I always felt joyous around them. Behind each child there is a parent out there on the streets working not knowing whether they will fall victims of the war. I empathy with the children. I spent a good amount of time talking to them and as well with the teachers and some parents who came to my talks. The word got around town on the children’s book and my talks. I always told them to not lose hope in darkness and reminded them on the rich history of Iraq which many of them forgot because they were just caught up on the daily violence they witnessed as soon as they left the school. We played and they asked me questions about my childhood and how is America. They were curious about American children and the things they have. This made me sad because they are children and also wanted the same things, safety and a peaceful community to live in. A community where they can express freely. A community where they can walk around freely and just be their own making. Once you have a strong passion for what you do, this same energy will radiate to others and within this passion, you can impact many.

The best way to learn about your customers is to go out there and submerged yourself with them. This is what I did before I designed Iraq’s first Get Out The Vote Campaign. Here I’m engaging with local tribal leaders and other locals. We are talking about local politics and I’m carrying informational flyers on the upcoming elections. I became known in my base as the go-to-go person if you wanted to be out there having direct engagement with the locals. My US Army Colleagues provided me security in Southern Iraq. They always asked me when was my next round of empathy with the locals because they enjoyed learning the local customs and they can buy DVD movie sets (yeap, even in this time of the war, Iraqis found ways to make pirate DVD sets on American favorite shows and by the way of great quality!). Despite what you heard on the news about the dangers of the war, the reality on the ground was different. Many locals were super friendly to us and even invited us for chai (tea). You can’t see it here but I'm sweating a lot because the temperature was more than 140 degrees Fahrenheit. It was super hot and inside my t-shirt, I'm wearing my bulletproof vest, so you go figure. It was hot doing market walks but I care more about the rewards to get to know my customers and then design something amazing that will impact many. Well, it did, the voter turnout increased from 56% to 62%.

 

I didn’t know about meditation back when I worked in the war. But I always separated time to reflect on where I was at the moment and where I was going. Within this space, I found answers on what else I needed to do to keep going during the war. It was a tough environment where I work. I worked in combat areas, so I always heard shootings or people talking about night operations by the special forces. I heard explosions outside the base and even we had rockets coming to the base. You never knew when it was your time to go. When insurgents shot rockets to the base, they didn’t care where it hit as long as it hit the base they were content. Sometimes it hit living trailers or open spaces. I’m here just sitting on top of my tent on the border with Syria and just looking the open space. Only concertina wire protected the combat base where I lived. I always told my colleagues to give yourself a reflection space-time, otherwise, the mind will continue to be restless and it can negatively impact you.

 
 

During the war, we still found time to kick the ball around. Iraqis played very well and got really into the game. In my team, I had guys from different countries, Australia, Brits, French, Spain, US, South Africa, and the Philippines. One Brit guy said to me “Hey Mate, Iraqis guys play really well.”! Local Iraqis came with their Iraqi uniform proudly wearing the Iraq flag, and ready to lose - well, actually they beat us all the time!

 

After doing the empathy and iteration (IDEOs Human-Centered Design Methods) of the children’s book, I’m here finally doing the implementation with full momentum. It became a tour for me traveling to as many schools as I could to educate the children and along the way mobilized the parents to go out there and “Vote.” I never knew what work in America if it could work in Iraq. But it did. Whatever you do, ensure you learn your customer base and adapt your product to the local sensitivity. But most important, don’t take it personally if they criticized you. Take criticism well and just make adjustments. In the end, it is just part of the vision and reality you are creating. And those who criticized you will help you to make sure the reality you are creating goes just as you envision.

 
 
 

I’m glad back during the Iraqi War I wasn’t a vegetarian because I really would have had a hard time taking the invitations from the locals. Here a local Sheik invited me to his home for dinner. The food was much better than the base where we ate meals ready to eat (MRE’s - yikes!) most of the time - so if you are in the military you know what I’m referring. I ate with abundance (haha - I really put some weight!) and was always grateful for the local hospitality. But with the Sheiks, I learned a lot about negotiation and winning. We ate but I knew my visit was more of a business visit. I’m very grateful to have an Ivy-League Education but sometimes the better school is on the streets. The Sheiks were wised on negotiations, winning strategies, terms of a contract, and conflict mitigation. I always open myself to ignorance and it is here where I continue learning from others. Surround yourself with smart people and they can be anybody. This person doesn’t have to wear a professional suit. It can be just anyone on the street because they might know tricks that sparks wisdom. This is the reason why I established good relationships with the Sheiks and I spent a lot of time asking them questions on how they grew up, how they rose to their position, how they built supporters and a coalition, and how they perceive life especially in a time of war.

 
 
During the peak of the Iraq war, in the border with Syria. Here with my security detailed. I’m very grateful for these great group of guys who provided me security when I lived in Al-Anbar Province (the most dangerous province during the peak of the war). I moved a lot when I managed 6 cities so I kept these guys moving a lot. Sometimes, I had more people giving me security depending the location I visited. For instance, if I visited a place like Fallujah, I had close to 16 guys giving me security. We lived, work, and ate together. We became a family and we were all from different parts of the world which made it super fun to continue learning other cultures. And when we traveled on the road they enjoyed listening to my Latin Music. What I loved from these guys is that somehow they knew someone at each of the large dinning facilities in the military bases. So, this meant, each time we visited a base, we were able to load extra food and meat for Bar-B-Q!! (back then I wasn’t a vegetarian). Location, U.S. Marine Corps Combat Operations Base, Al Qaim, Iraq.

During the peak of the Iraq war, in the border with Syria. Here with my security detailed. I’m very grateful for these great group of guys who provided me security when I lived in Al-Anbar Province (the most dangerous province during the peak of the war). I moved a lot when I managed 6 cities so I kept these guys moving a lot. Sometimes, I had more people giving me security depending the location I visited. For instance, if I visited a place like Fallujah, I had close to 16 guys giving me security. We lived, work, and ate together. We became a family and we were all from different parts of the world which made it super fun to continue learning other cultures. And when we traveled on the road they enjoyed listening to my Latin Music. What I loved from these guys is that somehow they knew someone at each of the large dinning facilities in the military bases. So, this meant, each time we visited a base, we were able to load extra food and meat for Bar-B-Q!! (back then I wasn’t a vegetarian). Location, U.S. Marine Corps Combat Operations Base, Al Qaim, Iraq.

 

After months of Ideation and Development, finally rolled out Maiwand’s First Lean Vocational Training Center for the youth during the peak and rise of the Taliban in the Afghan War. A truly special project because the children in this picture had another choice to join the Taliban or give it a chance to learn a vocational skill while continuing going to school. I never slept and it was day in and day out talking, going to the community, reaching out to donors, looking for funds, negotiating contracts, hiring the right team, and other logistics I encountered while trying to create something out of nothing in the stronghold of the Taliban. It was challenging but when I finally saw the smiles of the children coming to the training center and telling me they are happy just learning a new skill and even bringing this skill to their relatives, it was just amazing. Once you have a one focus mind on something, go at it and be relentless. You will be surprised by how many want to come out and find the greatness within. These children are something to admire and I always told them, they have a Lion Heart! A Lion moves strategically and once they see a target they go at it with 100% intensity.

 
 
 
Afghanistan War, my bulletproof vest. Always grateful to the vest for giving me the protection. My US Military team always enjoyed my different patches and pins. My pins: New York Football Giants, Columbia University, New York Yankees, Nato, US and Afghan Flags, and Peruvian Senor De Los Milagros (or Christ of Miracles which is venerated in Lima, Peru). Before, I left the base, I always touched the Christ of Miracle's pin and prayed to the Christ of Miracles to keep me safe and if it was my time to go, then to protect me and to rest in peace that whatever I did if I died, I died trying to build something amazing for Afghans. Patches, Mr. T (from the A-Team, I Pity the Fool) and Bob the Builder (Can We Fix It). My pitch was always, Can we fix it, I will say, “Hell Yeah” even though I didn’t know how I was going to make something happen out of nothing! But I still came through. I erased the word “can’t” from my vocabulary. The only can't is for the limited mind not for the creator that is within us. Once you touch the creator, you can create many beautiful things for the good of humanity.

Afghanistan War, my bulletproof vest. Always grateful to the vest for giving me the protection. My US Military team always enjoyed my different patches and pins. My pins: New York Football Giants, Columbia University, New York Yankees, Nato, US and Afghan Flags, and Peruvian Senor De Los Milagros (or Christ of Miracles which is venerated in Lima, Peru). Before, I left the base, I always touched the Christ of Miracle's pin and prayed to the Christ of Miracles to keep me safe and if it was my time to go, then to protect me and to rest in peace that whatever I did if I died, I died trying to build something amazing for Afghans. Patches, Mr. T (from the A-Team, I Pity the Fool) and Bob the Builder (Can We Fix It). My pitch was always, Can we fix it, I will say, “Hell Yeah” even though I didn’t know how I was going to make something happen out of nothing! But I still came through. I erased the word “can’t” from my vocabulary. The only can't is for the limited mind not for the creator that is within us. Once you touch the creator, you can create many beautiful things for the good of humanity.

Wherever the District Governor went, there I was as his right-hand person, mentoring him on how to scale the Government Operations. No easy task. He challenged me when I first arrived by asking me questions on the government procedures and national development strategy. He was very surprised that I memorized Afghanistan's public administration procedures, development strategy goals, and constitution. When I was in training in Arlington, Virginia, every night, I studied the laws because contrary to Iraq where I learned on the ground the formal procedures, this time before going to Afghanistan I wanted to be ahead of the game and have at least all the formal procedures memorized so it can make the job easier and smoother. I was tired every day during training because I was studying all the time but the effort paid off. When I arrived in rural Afghanistan, I was able to quickly deconstruct the weaknesses in the operations both at the provincial and local level. I realigned the operations to make it efficient and lean. Going lean was the best way to get the most from the District Governor's vision for Maiwand. I came to Maiwand to turn around a district that was on the brink of collapse. There was no hope for Maiwand and aid assistance was almost non-existence. Maiwand is the birthplace of the Taliban and many NGOs didn’t want to come to Maiwand. Coalition countries were leaving Maiwand - almost everyone was leaving Maiwand when I was coming in! Maiwand was dangerous. It was a district run by fear and constant attacks by the Taliban. So I said to my local colleagues, no problem, it is here in darkness where we will “Rise” out of the pit hole. It is in darkness where you will see your ultimate potential. It is here in darkness where we will face all fears. It is here in darkness where creativity will rise and we will put Maiwand back on people’s “Eye Balls". Here we go again, I’m making another inspirational speech to the Afghan Locals and US Military Counterparts. After the meeting, I had no idea how I was going to do it and I had fumes coming out of my head! I said to myself, okay, what did I get myself into but I made another promise to myself that I will roll up my sleeves and will go at it as my life depends on Maiwand’s success, otherwise, I will not come back to the US. So, within months, the lotus rose in Maiwand and it became a success story. The naysayers who once told me that the District Governor should be removed now they were telling me how great of a job he is doing and we began to push aid assistance again which brought a pleasant feeling to the community. The community felt betrayed by the coalition forces and aid community for leaving Maiwand. But that all changed. This is a reason why I wrote a book about our success story. We were praised by the US Embassy and Washington Elite. The book was inducted at the European and US Military War Colleges. It is in darkness where you find your inner greatness. One you tap on it, nothing will stop you. You become untouchable and the rest will just fall into place. Fall in love with the process, be patient, that in time, success is just a centimeter away.

 

It is always an amazing feeling when you see someone receiving an award after putting the hard work. Here our first trainee is receiving a micro-grant award to open his small business. I got to know a lot of our trainees on a personal level. I felt very sad hearing their storytelling because a large segment of their life experience has been around violence. They wired themselves to see the world violently and with anger. But deep inside, they have hopes just like most of us when we struggle. A hope that something else can happen and life can bring you positive surprises. It was always my wish that life will positively reward the Afghans. The power fo shaking hands and meeting of two cultures is powerful. It was a sign of friendship and collaboration. For us it meant, there is at a least one guy who prefer to take a cleaner route and not join the Taliban. Many local Afghans join the Taliban to support their family and that is all. They never had anything against Americans. And actually, they were curious about American culture and the youngsters like hip-hop music!

 
 

Because the roads were too dangerous whenever I had to leave or come back to my District in Afghanistan, I traveled by air. Here I’m in a US Army Apache Helicopter taking me to Maiwand. Despite the danger, it was always a scenery to fly over in Afghanistan and some of the views were spectacular, even if you have a shotgun in front of you :0)

 

After days, hours, and long nights, the hard work paid off by stepping back and just watching Afghans leading projects and helping their own directly.

It is a team effort. We ideated, developed, and prototyped together. We failed along the way many times. But in the end, we turn around Maiwand. We always put our customer “the local community first.” We knew that time was critical for all of us and that sooner someone else will come in and replaced us. Our goal was to fix the bad and the ugly and bring the good to the surface. My team members: US Army, US Marine Corps, US Special Forces, US National Guard, US Department of State, and US Agency for International Development.

It is a team effort. We ideated, developed, and prototyped together. We failed along the way many times. But in the end, we turn around Maiwand. We always put our customer “the local community first.” We knew that time was critical for all of us and that sooner someone else will come in and replaced us. Our goal was to fix the bad and the ugly and bring the good to the surface. My team members: US Army, US Marine Corps, US Special Forces, US National Guard, US Department of State, and US Agency for International Development.

 
 

It was sad leaving Afghanistan after you put out your heart on. I left worried about what will happen to the community. We did our best to turn around the district but the Taliban was still there. I didn’t know what will happen with the people I dealt directly because they were probably on the Taliban’s target list after I left or what will happen to the children. I wanted to stay longer but I was also very tired. I worked straight two wars Iraq and Afghanistan and despite all the great things we did for the people, inside, I was getting burned out. I was getting mentally exhausted. I never left the country for too long to take a rest. I worked straight two wars and sometimes people asked me when I will take a break. I never really did. Once you have passion and operate with a high frequency, you don’t think about breaks. I got up excited every day either in Afghanistan or Iraq and looked forward on what I will venture on the day. I still had challenges along the way but when you are truly focused and care about what you are doing, the challenges are torn apart quickly. Your intense high energy cooperates with you and it helps you to push forward. So, the day I left my district when I was saying goodbye to my local friends, a bird just came to my hand and stood there for some time. A colleague said to me that it is a good sign and that good things are coming my way. Well, I’m not superstitious but indeed just before I left Afghanistan, I got accepted to Harvard University and then got a Commissioner job with New York City Government.

 
 
Today, I’m grateful for everything that I’ve been through. Life is truly a journey. It has taken me to different countries and I have met so many people from different ends - from Presidents to a small local businesswoman in El Salvador. Despite the inner challenges I faced, one thing that always remained constant in my profession was to put people “First.” Putting people first also served me as an inspiration. I also made inner promises when I helped others. Make a promise to yourself and you must stay firm with it. When I worked on the other side at a Headquarter level disbursing millions of dollars to countries in need, I always envisioned the people at the other end and how best I can assist them.  Even as a Commissioner in NYC government helping mothers get child support or addressing youth disparities for the City of Seattle, it has always been my deepest passion to assist others. It was this passion and my greatest care for others well-being that contributed for the love and compassion to sparked. In Nepal, I met a Buddhist Lama and after hearing the story of my downfall in 2015 he told me that my Bodhichita has risen which is a longing to achieve enlightenment for the benefit of all sentient beings.  Now, here I’m resting in Yoga day in and day out. Never, I would have predicted this inner changed inside of me. There are times when I still can’t believe this changed that came upon me. I turnaround operations in my profession but never thought I will do it to myself. It was a mystery in the beginning but now is just a reality that was meant to be.  And, so my journey continues having left the past and now living a meaningful life by doing great amazing things for humanity.  Is not over yet as there is more to do.  Pranam,  Zammai

Today, I’m grateful for everything that I’ve been through. Life is truly a journey. It has taken me to different countries and I have met so many people from different ends - from Presidents to a small local businesswoman in El Salvador. Despite the inner challenges I faced, one thing that always remained constant in my profession was to put people “First.” Putting people first also served me as an inspiration. I also made inner promises when I helped others. Make a promise to yourself and you must stay firm with it. When I worked on the other side at a Headquarter level disbursing millions of dollars to countries in need, I always envisioned the people at the other end and how best I can assist them.

Even as a Commissioner in NYC government helping mothers get child support or addressing youth disparities for the City of Seattle, it has always been my deepest passion to assist others. It was this passion and my greatest care for others well-being that contributed for the love and compassion to sparked. In Nepal, I met a Buddhist Lama and after hearing the story of my downfall in 2015 he told me that my Bodhichita has risen which is a longing to achieve enlightenment for the benefit of all sentient beings.

Now, here I’m resting in Yoga day in and day out. Never, I would have predicted this inner changed inside of me. There are times when I still can’t believe this changed that came upon me. I turnaround operations in my profession but never thought I will do it to myself. It was a mystery in the beginning but now is just a reality that was meant to be.

And, so my journey continues having left the past and now living a meaningful life by doing great amazing things for humanity.

Is not over yet as there is more to do.

Pranam,

Zammai