Lazaro Bernstein is a renaissance man. And yes, I know, in the Internet age, everyone with a social media account and a working set of fingers is technically a “renaissance person” of some sort. But, as his Twitter bio will remind you, this is a man who has risen through the ranks to become an accomplished international speaker, published author, and human potential development specialist. And he’s been at it for a hot minute, now.
Sitting across from me at a Miami Design District coffee shop table, the first thing that hits me is how much Lazaro looks like a motivational speaker. In a casual jacket, black T, and jeans, the man seems like he’s seconds away from fixing my entire life. And, I suppose, that’s the point.
A Difficult Start
“At 22, I left Buenos Aires, leaving two university degrees behind me,” he starts. It’s an origin story that features many of the hallmarks of successful entrepreneurs: a family who just wants the best for you, which is a safe, boring career. An honest attempt at a “legit” career (Lazaro tried to get into marketing at an early stage, before trading out for public relations. Neither career panned out). “I was going through the door of one university and out the other, out to the park to play football with my friends.”
So a young Lazaro set out for the United States of America. Arriving in New Jersey, he quickly began work as a soccer coach for 10-year-old children, before moving down to Miami with his brother, a few months later, where he would later work as a security guard, a valet parker, and a car washer. As Bernstein puts it, “I was illegal at the time because I’d stayed more than six months on my tourist visa. I had to work in order to stay.”
Thus started Lazaro Bernstein’s long road to his eventual career: working for the betterment of other people. But there were still more challenges on the road ahead.
“While I was out working in Miami, I remember my dad was pretty unhappy with my whole situation. He didn’t want to see me working like that, valet parking for people and such. He wanted to see me studying, back in Argentina. He insisted, over and over, again and again. But there was nothing he could do. I just wasn’t passionate about any of those careers, so there was no chance for any of it.”
“My dad never understood that. Everyone in our family studied. Everyone except for me. It just made sense that I had to study. I come from a family who are all professionals and I, in the US, was this illegal, with no education, valet parking cars. I was his nightmare.”
“Then it occurred to him to bring the antiques he had collected over to Miami in a container and try to get them in at an antique show. This was one of the largest shows of its kind in the world, at the time, so he wanted to get in there. He convinced me the idea had potential and we managed to get him signed up.”
“It did not work out. We sold two or three pieces, but it was pretty slow going, overall. It was just a perfect storm of problems. His furniture was battered. Participating in the show was expensive, as were the import costs from Argentina to Miami. It was a disaster, but a match was lit inside of him. Soon after that, it occurred to him to open a place in West Palm Beach, out on Antique Road, one of the most famous antique streets in the city. At one point in its history, this had been a great location for new and thriving businesses. The problem was, it had only been great at that time, and not really ever again.”
“This was my father’s problem when it came to business – he had big dreams, but ignorance of the business world. A good heart and good intentions, but ignorant. We rented a place and brought over the remaining antiques. The place was expensive, to say the least, and definitely not what we were not used to paying.”
The two started the business with absolutely no experience in sales or marketing, and quickly began to see that gap in their own knowledge. “He had the ideas and I paid attention to him because, when people came to our premises to see antiques, some actually bought a few things. It felt like he knew what he was talking about, at least a little, and I wanted to be respectful. Unfortunately, however, the business only lasted two months. We just couldn’t continue paying our rent, and I felt like it was my time to go. I bailed out on our contract, which lead to a whole mess of other problems.”
“The saddest part of all was that everything we were trying to sell ended up going into a consignment house to be sold over time. Moreover, we had to hand over a percentage to the person who helped us sell them all. I still have some of the furniture we couldn’t sell.”
“Overall, this was not the way I’d seen things going, but it was a great lesson, and I’m glad I lived through it. Well, maybe not happy but, at the same time, I see the positive aspects. The negative was that my dad lost all his money. But it taught me something, sad as that is to say: it taught me that you can’t buy the dream for someone else. I needed to follow my own dream.”
“Their dreams are their dreams. Yours is yours. It was like a slap from the universe, and it forced me to react.”
Getting Truly Started
Throughout Bernstein’s career and all the way until 2015, he conducted all of his business via computer. And that was 100% by design. “I was terrified of the idea that, one day, I might have to go up on stage to share my ideas with real people. It was comfortable just being my own person. I was comfortable behind my computer. I was doing well.”
But he knew public speaking was waiting for me, like it does for everyone in the circles he runs in. Eventually, he’d need to confront hs fear. “There were many opportunities to face my fear, but I always made some excuse or another,” he tells me, almost casually. “Then 2014 arrived, and the office of Dr. Elmundo Velasco invited me to their summit of prosperity for 2015. The event was only going to be in a year from when we spoke and, since there was so much time, I agreed. They said ‘Great!’, then told me I was going to be speaking to 2,000 people, and that it was actually an incredibly important event.”
“No problem,” I told myself. “I’m going to prepare, starting right now.”
The date was approaching and Bernstein began to worry. “I was so afraid,” he tells me. “Then, the date arrives and, two days before, I get the flu. How bad could one guy’s luck get? And it was so bad that I couldn’t even talk. I felt weak, and definitely not up for speaking to thousands of people.”
A day out from the event, Lazaro was still in pretty bad condition. “I was still struggling with the flu, somewhat, on the actual day, even. But this was the moment of truth. I arrived on the day basically out of obligation, like I was being led to the slaughter. There was nothing more to do. I was in too deep.”
Bernstein arrived at the packed event, which was going to start at 3PM. “I went to eat because I had a little time. Or so I thought. But I couldn’t even have that much, because they went to look for me at 11AM, saying I had to get on stage ‘right now’.”
“So, up I went. And the doctor was already up there, introducing me to 2,000 people.” And, right away, things started going wrong for Lazaro Bernstein.
“They connected my computer to the main projector, but it wasn’t compatible. It took 20 minutes to solve the problem. I couldn’t believe it. Then I finally got going. And you know what? It wasn’t half as bad as I thought it would be.”
At this point, Lazaro tells me about an old saying he likes: Fear knocked on the door, but faith opened it and saw that no one was there. “When you face danger like this, you often realize it never existed in the first place. It wasn’t all that big of a deal, and I wasted all of that energy being afraid. When you are called to dance, you have to dance.”
That was the day Lazaro Bernstein launched himself into “the face-to-face world”, and this kind of oratory quickly developed into a habit. “It’s safe to say, I haven’t stopped since that day. Since 2015, I have appeared at multiple workshops in eight different countries and across two continents. That’s somewhere in the region of 25 cities, overall. 2017 was a big one for me, where I was in eight countries and 18 cities, speaking to more than 20,000 people.”
“Every day, I wake up thinking about how I can impact more people. I make it my mission to do exactly that. And, if I can’t do that, I can’t live. It’s like air to me.”
So what kind of advice does a self-professed outreach addict have to give all of the confused entrepreneurs out there? With him, it’s simple: “Follow your own path. Listen to your inner voice, and respect that voice. Look at what happened to my dad. That was a strong lesson for me and should be for you, too. Follow your inner voice. Follow your intuition, and you will never be wrong. They will tell you that you are crazy. That it will never work.”
“If you know what’s right, that is what you should be doing, beyond anything else. Suppose there are two paths: one longer and one shorter. And you take the longest, but people say “No, but why would you do that? You’re taking the longest path!” Here’s the thing, though: your intuition tells you what to do, here, and it will not lie to you if it can be helped. You are here for something, and you have to respect that. As I’ve said, it will slowly kill you to fight against your true purpose. What really scares me is reaching the end of the road, looking back at my life, and finding things I know I should have done, and I didn’t do it. This literally gives me chills.”
Learn more about Lazaro Bernstein here