BEGIN WITHIN!!! Once an icky feeling, thought, belief, or action has popped up, beginning within is the BEST place to start. Having time and space for introspection is KEY!! I have a number of old programs I untangle on a daily basis; submerging myself in my dark cave allows me to reflect and feel safe. REFLECTION is BIG but what next? What does one do with the thoughts, resolutions, feelings after?
As a part of our series about “Emotional Intelligence, I had the pleasure of interviewing Annette Estrada.
Annette is the founder of the up-and-coming Mini Manifesters and has published her book Mini Manifesters, A Pocketbook To Energize The Young Leaders Of The Now, visit Mini Manifesters at www.minimanifesters.com and her podcast https://anchor.fm/annette408.
Annette Estrada has taught elementary, middle, and high school students in formal and informal settings for over 17 years; she continues to teach as a credentialed classroom teacher in the South Bay Area of California. During her 17 years serving youth, Annette remains passionate about youth development and about her own personal and spiritual growth.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive into the main focus of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?
I am a first-generation Filipina American. My life started in a small migrant working town, Orange Cove, located close to Fresno, California. The town was filled with many Mexican families in addition to a sprinkling of Japanese, Filipino, and White families. Many people of color worked the fields by picking fruits and vegetables and lived simple farm lives, where some families traded or bought livestock from neighbors for food. My family raised chickens and used their chickens for trade or sport (cock fighting).
I grew up in an emotionally unstable home; many of my young moments were spent alone where my imagination left me content enough to feel some semblance of safety and company. In the latter part of my elementary school years, my parents separated, and my mother relocated us to San Jose, California. It was a tough beginning, where my family of six lived within meager means. My parents finally divorced when I was in 3rd grade, and I continued to live with my mother, brother, and grandmother, in different multi-family homes where my father was rarely present. Life in elementary school was also a big blur; I was fortunate to have good friends along the way, but my unstable home life affected my young well-being immensely.
What or who inspired you to pursue your career? We’d love to hear the story.
I was naturally drawn to teaching as a child. Teaching runs in my family; my father was a tennis instructor, and my grandmother was a teacher in both Philippines and the United States. My amazing Godmother, Adelina, who has recently passed, during my young upbringing, stands out to be the ideal matriarch in my family’s circle; she had a playful spirit with all the kids. She knew what foods to make for all to enjoy especially the sweets! I remember her yummy strawberry Jello mixed with Cool Whip and pineapple chunks, making a pink mosaic of sweetness in a Pyrex! This is just one example of how well she embraced young hearts in our family! The reason she inspired me the most is because of the way she would make me feel after we spent time with her; she was always welcoming, warm, and cheerful. She always knew how to make the little ones feel loved and never ignored; even when I was tired or down, she had the ability to brighten our spirits; she’d give us a warm hug and kiss and would share laughs with us all.
None of us can achieve success without some help along the way. Was there a particular person who you feel gave you the most help or encouragement to be who you are today? Can you share a story about that?
A group of special people that encouraged me often were Mr. Bouch, Ms. Ridley, Mr. Henry, Ms. Edlin, and Mr. Johnson; each of these high school teachers were always an encouraging force. Each of them at different times throughout the day were inspiring and believed in me. They all had smiles and encouragement to share. They all never favored students and expected the best from all of their students. The amazing attribute about them all is their ability to see the beauty in us all which enabled the good relationships they forged with so many students.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting mistake that occurred to you in the course of your career? What lesson or take away did you learn from that?
I remember on the first day of school of my first year as a credentialed teacher, my class was on its last leg of the day; my first graders were starting to pack up to go home and I believe throughout the day my tummy had some sort of discomfort, had to be first day jitters, right as we began student release, I remember opening the door and quickly grabbing the trash can, next to the door, so I could discreetly throw up! I wasn’t loud about it and quickly had to compose myself to begin the release of my students! Some of my students caught me in the act but luckily, as usual, kids are always so understanding and supportive. That was the first and last time I ever threw up in front of any of my students.
The road to success is hard and requires tremendous dedication. This question is obviously a big one, but what advice would you give to a young person who aspires to follow in your footsteps and emulate your success?
I will always push on self-care, self-care = self-love. Pop culture is not too keen on teaching self-love so practicing self-love is key. There will be points in the journey where disappointment, lack of energy and creativity, or even burn-out will occur. Throughout the whole journey, the only true advocate for the self is…. The SELF! No one can take care of yourself but yourself. Granted there are times when others do a pretty good job supporting us, but we first have to locate exactly where support is required. Self-care, self-love, self-awareness is KEY!!! If you put yourself first out of self-love, you’re better able to take care of everything else around. Begin Within…. That is KEY!
Is there a particular book, film, or podcast that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
A book and movie that impacted my life greatly was Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Both movie and book reminded me of the importance of being a good-hearted person; it doesn’t matter how much you don’t have, being a good person makes you the richest. It takes huge amounts of awareness to do what’s right and not fall into unhealthy self-serving habits.
Can you share your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Why does that resonate with you so much?
“If you can’t handle me at my worst, then you sure as hell don’t deserve me at my best.” Marilyn Monroe, I dig this quote because I can’t stand people who choose to be around but, in some way, say or do things that aren’t nurturing or positive, and in fact they’re plain hurtful. They’ll justify their actions or words, but something doesn’t sit well inside and throughout time, at random times, zingers are thrown at you. That’s when you have to ask yourself is this person feeding my soul?
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?
Can you imagine a world where mass amounts of young leaders are practicing their advocacy, problem solving, critical thinking, collaboration skills, and much more?!
A project I’m currently in the midst of piloting is The Mini Manifesters’ Discovery Program, I’m facilitating students through problem-solving processes to create solutions to problems meaningful to them. Anytime young leaders assert themselves through productive action, the community will not complain! They will actually appreciate that our young leaders are actually applying themselves and creating solutions to real issues!
OK, thank you for all of that. Let’s now shift to the core focus of our interview. Can you briefly tell our readers a bit about why you are an authority about Emotional Intelligence?
Currently, at LUCHA Elementary, I teach a 4/5 combination class; school-wide, we teach SEL, social emotional learning, which builds our students’ tool belt around emotional intelligence. I have taught SEL based lessons since 2002, that’s several years after emotional intelligence was coined (in 1990). You can be book smart, but having emotional intelligence enhances every output and expression that touches the world around and yourself.
For the benefit of our readers, can you help to define what Emotional Intelligence is?
Simply put, emotional intelligence is being in-tune with your own emotions and the emotions of others and using that information to dictate next steps.
How is Emotional Intelligence different from what we normally refer to as intelligence?
Emotional intelligence is about being in-tune with our own and other’s emotions while intelligence is based on the acquisition and application of knowledge and skills.
Can you help explain a few reasons why Emotional Intelligence is such an important characteristic? Can you share a story or give some examples?
Emotional intelligence thoroughly compliments intellect to an amazing degree. Emotional intelligence is to life as essential accessories are to a hot outfit! To live a full life would mean to access the totality of knowledge that exists within: Intellect and emotional intelligence. With this, emotional intelligence best informs humans of the best way to interact with any problem or another human. As a teacher, I’m mostly aware of the amount of energy I generate depending on who I am interfacing with. If I’m in front of my students, there is a certain amount of energy I have to express to keep the pace going. If I have to interact with an upset parent, I monitor how much emotion and drawback I have to display to ensure a solution is quickly created to sustain balance in the environment and relationship. However, when dealing with my personal relationships, it is clear I have an immense amount to learn! I have noticed if I am triggered, I can easily respond in a poisonous way. I am currently cycling out old ways of living through pain with close relationships; had my emotional intelligence been lower, I most likely would not have the awareness to see how much internal work is required at the moment. Granted, it is difficult to cycle old behaviors and beliefs out, but AWARENESS is key to begin anew.
Would you feel comfortable sharing a story or anecdote about how Emotional Intelligence has helped you in your life? We would love to hear about it.
My life partner and I have the privilege of exercising the resiliency of our emotional intelligence. Triggers happen, and we hit a crossroads where we either fall into an unhealthy cycle or tap into our emotional intelligence to creep out of the shadows. We have had successes in addition to failures with internal re-wiring. Our benchmark for success is measuring for “BETTER”. Is our relationship getting better? Am I a better version of me? Are we supporting each other to be better versions of ourselves? Is our family getting better? With blending a family in addition to encountering our own triggers, experimenting until the healthiest way emerges is our goal. It is a constant and unbearable journey at times, but neither of us had the best template for how to emotionally maneuver through intimate relationships, in the past, we did what we had to do to survive. Every day, we are constantly processing, making mistakes and successes, learning, and growing. If we did not have a good grasp on our emotional intelligence, it would be easier to slip into old ways and beliefs and compromise growth, possibly for the rest of our life. Every day, we have a choice to grow and be better versions of ourselves, or just settle.
Can you share some specific examples of how Emotional Intelligence can help a person become more successful in the business world?
Emotional intelligence helps everywhere we go! In the work setting, emotional intelligence helps create bridges to seal deals! When pitching ideas to potential partners it takes emotional intelligence to gauge the room and determine the best words and energy to display while pitching to convey the desired vision!
Can you share a few examples of how Emotional Intelligence can help people have better relationships?
Emotional intelligence can help people adjust behaviors and beliefs that are unhealthy; emotional intelligence also helps people determine if a relationship has the ability to grow for the better or not.
Can you share a few examples of how Emotional Intelligence can help people have more optimal mental health?
When one is in touch with their emotional intelligence there are less chances for triggers impacting an individual long-term. While the effect of a trigger is impactful, individuals with a high level of emotional intelligence are resilient enough to experience the trigger and figure out ways to climb out and away from the impacts of their trigger. For those frequently strong-armed by a trigger and can’t see a way out, the impact could be long-term until one sees a way out and away from behaviors and beliefs that no longer serves them.
Ok. Wonderful. Here is the main question of our interview. Can you recommend five things that anyone can do to develop a greater degree of Emotional Intelligence? Please share a story or example for each.
Keep in mind, untangling icky feelings, thoughts, beliefs, actions, and ENERGY is NOT EASY, but it’s worth a shot to a more peaceful life. I have to practice this OFTEN!!! Repeat the process until you feel peace overtake you.
1)BEGIN WITHIN!!! Once an icky feeling, thought, belief, or action has popped up, beginning within is the BEST place to start. Having time and space for introspection is KEY!! I have a number of old programs I untangle on a daily basis; submerging myself in my dark cave allows me to reflect and feel safe. REFLECTION is BIG but what next? What does one do with the thoughts, resolutions, feelings after?
2)RELEASE If there’s anger present, RELEASE! Guilt? RELEASE! Suspicions? RELEASE! Victimization? RELEASE!
3)NEUTRALIZE You can release and NEUTRALIZE through journal writing, exercising, gabbing with a friend, spending time in nature, etc.; you can use anything that naturally heals and neutralizes YOU. Once you have released the energy, do something with it!
4)DIRECT the unhealthy feels and vibes: DIRECT unwanted vibes! Need to talk to a particular person to right a wrong? Have a talk!! Create something! Basically, handle the situation in the healthiest way possible rather than allowing the matter fester. This is a time to decide if the unhealthy stuff belongs or doesn’t belong. The drawback here is it’s easy to sit too long with the “bad vibes”, so directing the unhealthy stuff as soon as possible is KEY!
5)DECIDE and REPEAT: Once you’ve decided if the unhealthy stuff stays or goes, decide if your emotions need more exercising and REPEAT the process if necessary! Your emotional health is not the easiest to manage at times, but it is worth it!
Do you think our educational system can do a better job at cultivating Emotional Intelligence? What specific recommendations would you make for schools to help students cultivate Emotional Intelligence?
From a credentialed classroom teacher point of view, YES, WE CAN! At my school, LUCHA Elementary, we have a strong community culture, making it easy to teach our SEL material (social emotional learning). However not every campus is like mine, nationwide, we can do a better job! Teaching social emotional skills is AN “EVERYBODY” job. The issue is bigger than we think! If we look at any type of school/student data, we will notice that the disparities between our affluent and non-affluent youth still exist, in addition, regardless of socioeconomic status, race, class, etc. Regardless, EVERYONE is in need of social emotional exercising leading to a higher degree of emotional intelligence! My one recommendation: Our whole society requires a HUGE FACE LIFT! As a whole, we have to reevaluate what we value and question if we have enough POSITIVE INFLUENCERS in addition to question what isn’t promoting and nurturing emotional intelligence, especially for our YOUTH.
Ok, we are nearly done. You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
Our youth are typically seen as leaders of the future, but if you look around, our youth are stepping up to the plate NOW. The number of injustices plaguing our world is unmanageable, and our youth see it; they want to be a part of the solution!! My up-and-coming organization, Mini ManifestersTM, a social justice movement can help with bringing about different change! Imagine harnessing the youthful energy and power of our young leaders and all the people they influence. Imagine adults nurturing an environment for young ones conducive to creation and social change! This is the exact movement I am working to bring to light! With the bombardment of technology, our young ones are being sucked of their creativity! This movement is progressing, and it will help make a difference in our unjust world! A movement like this naturally helps exercise emotional intelligence! Introspection, collaboration, empathy, passion, motivation, and so much more are all a result of what Mini Manifesters does!
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we both tag them 🙂
I would love to meet with Ellen Degeneres and or Malala. It has been a dream to collaborate with either of these women because of the struggles they have endured. Regardless of these struggles, they are thriving and have stories to share about how they crossed over from the world’s illusory limits! They continue to thrive by elevating the energy and by spreading truth and joy to the world around them.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
Friend Request: https://www.facebook.com/annette.estrada.1111
Mini ManifesterTM website: www.minimanifesters.com
Thank you for these really excellent insights, and we greatly appreciate the time you spent with this. We wish you continued success.