He is originally from Argentina but has been living in the United States for over 12 years now. His career took him to PR, then New York, Los Angeles, and currently located in Chicago.
He likes to define himself as someone who is comfortable being uncomfortable. He believes that our role in life is to give our best. And that should be defined by our own standard not others. He believes in constantly challenging himself to experiment, try new things because learning and personal growth happen when we cross the boundary of our comfort zone.
He has always been obsessed with human behavior and how to transform it. He started working in advertising as Strategic Planner and became an “expert” on consumer behavior. He studied Social Psychology to better understand team dynamics. Then he moved to leadership positions and run and turnaround five organizations.
He learned a lot about organizational and team transformation. He became an informal coach for many CEOs and also junior people. He loves to work with experienced people, but also with those that are getting started and are super optimistic and naïve.
He launched a digital marketing shop 15 years ago and then sold it to a large corporation. After moving to the US, he got very frustrated with his career and studied innovation and change management. He became an advisor for various startups. He went to the Stanford Design School twice to learn Design Thinking and to attend a Change Leadership 3-month program.
He kept challenging himself.He started doing change leadership workshops for individuals and teams. He saw the transformation people went through and that got him excited until he decided to quit his corporate job and launch his own firm last year.
The following experiments, among others, define his mindset and how he approaches life: running a creative workshop for patients in a Lunatic Asylum, living one day as a homeless person, being lost overnight in the Patagonia mountains without food or warm clothes, or having lived in various cities and countries.
High and low points in life.
His lowest point was that after working many years in marketing and advertising he realized he lost his drive. He was successful at what he was doing but he wasn’t happy, he didn’t feel fulfillment and he didn’t feel challenged.
His high point is when he made the decision to change his career and start his own business Liberationist, a behavior change firm to help people and teams ignite and accelerate a culture of change.
It took him a couple of years to prepare and then, at age 50, he quit his EVP job at the largest ad agency in Chicago. He has always followed his passion. It’s not the first time he took a big risk, but every time he did so in the past went well. It’s not easy to start a business from scratch. But every time he is working with a client and see the transformation they are bringing to their teams, that’s his new high.
Every new project is bringing so much fulfillment and satisfaction that he is always reaching a new high. We all feel afraid to follow our purpose. It has happened to him too. But if you cross that line, the results can be amazing. In his case, he feels full of energy and creativity as he has not felt in ages.
Lessons learned from the highs and lows in life.
He learned to be more grateful for the highs. He learned that he has always recovered from his lows. And that life is full of ups and down. We need to understand that nothing lasts forever. Being grateful during great times build resilience for when face hardship.
We have two enemies that are ego-driven. Pride is our enemy when we are doing great. Playing the victim is our enemy when things are not great.
The most powerful lesson is to trust oneself. And to keep your ego in a short leash. You are the same person when you are successful than when you are failing.
Why do people or organizations are hard to change?
First, lack of commitment. Most organizations say they want to change to please their Board, the press or employees. But their leaders are not committed to change or they are just reacting to what other organizations are doing. This is what he could change to please expectations.
Second, they don’t prepare their people and culture to be more open to change. Our brain is a muscle that needs to be trained. The same way you wouldn’t run a full marathon if you’ve never run in your entire life, you can’t expect to turn a risk-averse organization into an innovative one overnight just because the leaders say so. You need to prepare and coach your team to develop ‘change-fitness’ as Gustavo explains in his book “Stretch for Change”.
Third, we don’t have a human approach to change. According to McKinsey, 70% or corporate change initiatives fail because of people. Either employees resist change or managers do not support their teams to thrive in change-conditions. To help people change requires tapping into the mindset and emotions that are getting in the way. If someone is risk-averse in their personal life that will affect how they deal with change at work.
Effective change requires organizations to promote personal development and help their team overcome personal limitations.
Advice which changed life
“You are not good at that.” Every time, someone didn’t trust in his own potential it was like fuel for him. He likes to be challenged. And he challenges himself a lot. When someone rejects him, the tacit advice they are giving him is: “Don’t expect me to trust you if you don’t show me things first.”
He is totally convinced that we can all do much more than we think. And once we reach our new normal, we realize how much we’ve grown during that journey.
Maintaining work-life balance
Gustavo does not believe in maintaining work-life balance. He thinks pursuing work-life balance creates unnecessary walls between one and the other. He loves what he does for a living and love what he does when he is not working. Both feed off each other.
The focus of his work has always been human transformation. It is impossible to shut down his mind. Even if he is not working he is constantly observing how people behave and, especially, why they struggle to adapt or accept change.
He writes a lot. Most of the things he published are “work related.” But they don’t feel like work to him. He enjoyed it. It keeps him honest, it’s gratifying as a human being when people write him back because something he wrote helped them overcome internal limitations or personal obstacles.
The same way that he feels that he need to work, but his body or mind needs to rest, he takes a break. Sometimes he decides not to work on a Friday evening to clear his mind and then work a half day on a Saturday. He is not guilty of either.
Gustavo’s deep connection with his mood and energy is the secret of his productivity.
He divides his tasks into three categories: High/ Medium/ Low depending on a combination of passion and energy. His early morning and late afternoon are for High activities because that’s when his brain is at its peak.
His low is between 2-4 so that’s when he does Low task activities. Around 5 or 6 he usually does 40 min meditation or visualization and gets back to work. When he wakes up he does a 5 min meditation exercise and he “dreams his day.” He also does a short exercise (10-15) to connect with his mind and body before he gets the day started.
He loves Slack to collaborate with teams and clients.
He also loves his post-its as that’s how he takes notes and capture his ideas. He also builds his daily routines with post-its. He color code them and remove when he finish something or switch the order when he readjusts priorities. He is very visual so he needs to see his entire day.
He uses Evernote to keep track of articles and research.
He has stopped using many apps and tools because they created more distractions than real help. He was overwhelmed with notifications and having to keep everything updated. It’s a paradox of modern life: the tools that are supposed to make us more productive add more workload and busyness to our calendars.
Source of inspiration & motivation
He feels grateful for all the opportunities he had in his life. He has so much fun experimenting with his own life that he feels bad that people feel good about sticking to the same old. He is not saying that people need to radically change their lives, but he can’t accept that people don’t pursue their dreams for lack of courage, inspiration or real help. That drives his passion to do what he does.
He loves helping people reconnect to their dreams and make them realize that they should take the leap. He has built a method that has been very successful. He loves to put into practice and help more people.
His grandfather was one of his greatest influences. Especially when it comes to making decisions based on our true values. He declined a coupled of jobs throughout his career that would have made him extremely rich. He said no because the culture of those places was toxic and he had to operate under conditions that would go against his values. It’s a great reminder some roads might bring success in the short-term but unhappiness in the long run.
He seeks wisdom from books. Some of his favorites are Bernard Roth’s “The Achievement Habit” and the “I Ching” because it doesn’t give you solutions but helps you reflect on what’s going on and find the solution yourself.
Finally, he recommends reading “The Sanity You Are Born With” – A perspective on
Buddhist Psychology by Chogyam Trungpa
How to transform your lives?
It’s never too late. Follow your guts. Learn to challenge yourself one stretch at a time.
Look back at major changes in your life and how you overcame any challenge. You are still alive, so change didn’t kill you in the past, why will it kill you now? The worst regret is not what went wrong but what wanted to try and never did.