This month in our Young Professional Profile, we sat down with Carlos Paz Jr. Carlos is the principal and co-founder of Bridge Strategies, an external relations firm that works at the cross section of public and private interests to bridge relationships in support of his vision for a multicultural, inclusive and globally connected society.
Let’s start with a simple question: What drives you?
Oh, wow [laughs] — Being able to create opportunities for other people. I know it sounds cliché, but to make the world a better place; that’s what drives me. Who I am and what I do is guided by the importance of human relationships, integrity and innovation.
There’s an on-going dialogue about the Millennial generation; that they have a sense of “entitlement” or are self-centered. What you just said is contrary to that notion.
Yes, I hear that also. My response is that our parents and older generations have participated and have “created us this way.”
We’ve been brought up in a world that has asked for dynamic people and we are products of that requirement. Throughout our lives we’ve been told to have “well-rounded goals and accomplishments.” Good grades aren’t enough; we need to “outshine” the next person, because everyone we are competing with has good grades and is “just like us.”
We’ve been told we have to “stand out.” We need to be the unicorn in the crowd. So, we have focused on ourselves and constantly compare ourselves to the other person.
How has that empowered you?
Ever since I was young, people told me to step outside of my comfort zone. I look for those moments often – when I feel uneasy in the pit of my stomach – I look for those opportunities. It’s at those uneasy times that I grow the most.
Finding people who push me is important. I had a mentor who would always say she wouldn’t ask me to do something, unless she knew I had the potential to do it. I’ve been blessed with good mentors and friends.
Is that one of the reasons why paying it forward, or giving back, is so important to you?
Yes! I am passionate about investing my time in the leadership development of young people. There is a lot of lip-service paid to the importance of leadership but few opportunities to actually practice leadership – to fail and to succeed and thereby learn. I am deeply involved in a leadership, hands-on role with several organizations.
Currently, I chair the Advisory Board of The LiveSmart Initiative, an organization that was founded by a seventh grader. It’s been an honor to mentor that young man, Samir Rahi.
In addition, for the past eight years, I have been the regional leadership director of the National Hispanic Institute. Our purpose is to ensure that the Hispanic population, which will soon become 1 in 5 Americans by 2050, has a sustainable talent pipeline of skilled, creative and socially developed leaders able to influence the direction of our communities and contribute towards the benefit of society as a whole.
Finally, in my role as the founder and co-curator of TEDxYouthHouston, I bring together a team of youth and adult volunteers to plan an annual one-day conference filled with brilliant speakers, thought-provoking video and mind-blowing conversation. Our aim is to create a unique gathering in our community that will unleash new ideas, inspire and inform.
These endeavors have provided real life leadership opportunities, along with creative outlets, for thousands of young people, and because of them, I was recently awarded Houston Grand Opera’s Ovation Award for my philanthropic and civic contributions to Houston.
Congratulations! Here’s another unique opportunity to give back. What advice would you like to share?
Don’t give up when times get difficult. People give up too quickly. I’ve been told I’ve been lucky. But I truly believe what the Roman philosopher, Seneca said, “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.”
You are either prepared, or you’re not. Be ready to change the world when the opportunity presents itself.
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About the Young Professional Profile
The Young Professional Profile is an effort to create a forum for those under 40 who are excelling in their respective fields across Texas. There is a depth and breadth to the Millennial generation as a group of adults that is marked by a commitment to higher principles in the work they do, the ability to professionally marry what were traditionally separate streams of expertise, and a voracious appetite for new skills.