Mario Olivares’s goal through OjoOido is to demonstrate to Latino students and colleagues what can transpire when one sets and identifies a goal and makes a life-long commitment to focus, work, study and practice. He strives to expose the discipline required to do whatever it takes to meet that objective. His presence exemplifies professional and academic excellence in his chosen fields. His underlying goal is to motivate aspiring Latino youth and to communicate and expound on the infinite value of education, regardless of one’s field of study.
“My Lawrence Welk Show” Story: How I Turned Rejection into a Positive Motivating Factor
— Muhammad Ali
From earliest childhood, I had a special love and passion for music. My father played records for me ranging from all musical styles and genres. He loved boleros from Mexico, tangos from Argentina, gypsy jazz music from France, and classical music from the Masters. I was 10 years old when he taught me my first chords on the guitar. He played and loved his accordion and always thought that I would learn to play it. However, I preferred playing the guitar because I could follow and attempt to play the rock songs that I was listening to on the radio.
An Olivares family weekly tradition every Saturday evening was to sit around the living room and watch the Lawrence Welk Show. Dinner had to be completed and dishes washed by 6:45 pm. Showtime was 7 pm and once the program started, my eyes were “glued” to the TV set. We would enjoy watching the musical guests and my father would comment, give praise, and even critique what we just saw during the commercial breaks. Occasionally, the program would showcase amateur talent and sometimes these special guests would become regular cast members on the show. It was during these times that my father planted a thought in my mind that if I learned to play the guitar well, maybe I could tryout and audition for the show in a couple of years.
My father’s advice then, which still resonates with me today was “to do anything well, you work at it everyday!” I started my lifelong journey of daily practice. I enjoyed practicing so much and played for many hours everyday that my finger tips would actually bleed. I found a threshold that worked for me. Any practice time greater than 3 hours would significantly increase the likelihood of causing my fingers to bleed. If I limited the practice sessions to 3 hours or less, my fingers would be fine. Additionally, through trial and error, I determined that I could practice 4 to 5 hours a day if I split the rehearsal time in two (2.5 hour) increments. The stipulation was that school homework and studying was the main priority. Extracurricular activities, including sports and guitar practice, were very important to me, but had to be planned and scheduled only after all school work was completed. I didn’t realize it at the time, but this was the beginning of incorporating and subconsciously using organization, goal setting, time management and work ethic techniques that would later spill into all other areas of my life.
A couple of years later, as a 12 year old kid, I was playing the guitar very well. I was performing at elementary school events, local Rotary Club luncheons, the Colusa County Fair, and even appeared on a local Spanish speaking radio program in Yuba City, CA. During this time, my father revisited the idea that I should tryout for the Lawrence Welk Show. He took a Thursday off from work and we decided that we were going on television. I told some of my school buddies, and announced it to many more, that they would be able to see me on the show. I actually believed that it would be “showtime” for Mario Olivares and his guitar. Call it a dream, a vision, a belief, hope, or just blind faith. I was determined to succeed! After all, I had been practicing diligently for the past two years. So, one particular Thursday morning, my father and I, got up at 3:30 am and departed for Los Angeles. My hometown of Grimes, CA, is approximately 440 miles from Los Angeles. It was a grueling 10 hour drive traveling through the notorious, and potentially dangerous, Tule fog of the Central Valley.
We arrived at the Welk studio administrative office located on Wilshire Blvd at about 1 pm. It appeared to be one of the nicest and most beautiful buildings I had ever seen. The glass elevator was magnificent. We arrived on the twelfth floor and check-in with the “Welk” receptionist. We tell her that we are here for a possible audition. She asked me if I was a singer, I said, “I don’t sing but I play the guitar well.” She excused herself and told us to wait momentarily. She entered the adjoining room, and with the door open, she said to the talent coordinator: “a doting father and his son are out here, they don’t have an appointment and expect to audition for us, what do I tell them?” The talent coordinator came out to the reception area to talk to us. He said: “sorry you had to travel such a distance, but we no longer audition kids under the age of 14. It’s a new legal set of rules we have to comply with. However, we are taping the show today at 5 pm, and you are both welcome to see the taping.”
I remember a sad feeling and sense of disappointment wash over me like I had never experienced before. I felt rejected and like the “air” had been sucked out of me. I will never forget my father’s expression. He smiled at me, but I knew he felt that he had given me a false sense of hope. Actually, we were in shock that this happened because we expected a positive outcome. We walked out feeling great disappointment and sadness, but at the same time, experiencing a sense of resiliency and attitude that we would never give up! The ride home was long and I must have cried for most of it. However, my dad had a special ability to console me and by the time we returned to my home I was determined not to let this experience bring me down. I didn’t realize it at the time but this slightly negative and unpleasant experience would eventually motivate me and catapult me to the next level of dreaming, focus and an unwavering work ethic that I would eventually apply to all areas of my life.
This childhood experience taught me to DREAM BIG! To ask myself, “what if?” It’s important to feel your passion for any goal: see it in your mind and feel it in your heart.Think big, believe it, see it, talk about it, plan it and work it. I became more determined than ever to never quit or give-up. Most importantly, I learned that in life, we may fall down at times, but this is not the time to quit. This is actually the time to get up: pick yourself up, move or even stumble forward no matter how difficult the process might be, both emotionally and physically. With a positive attitude and pinpoint focus, most tasks and goals can be reached. What seemed to be an instantaneous rejection in that fancy office more than 40 years ago was actually a blessing in disguise. A positive motivating factor that I have used repeatedly in my quest for excellence.
Seven years ago, these principles and experiences were put to test. In fact, this has been another turning point in my life and career. I experienced a life threatening crisis that required the amputation of my right foot. I am a below the knee, right leg amputee. So now what? My life was over to the best of my knowledge. I realized that any future performances with my guitar would be limited. Maybe perform in a wheelchair? Maybe never perform again? All those many hours of hard work and practice had come to an end. I did a lot of soul searching during this period and literally after a few days, reached inside myself and determined that this experience was just a temporary inconvenience and minor set-back. My attitude was, watch me, I will be back stronger, more focused, more motivated and better than ever. Within 10 months after my surgery, I was back, stronger than ever. I recalled my Lawrence Welk experience years earlier and used/applied those lessons to solidify my positive mental attitude.
Today, I continue to work hard everyday. I never lost the passion I felt years ago that is necessary to reach a goal. I have recorded nine albums and appeared in hundreds of public and corporate venues. My original music can be heard in several television reality programs. I became the band leader for the “Boomer Show” with Brian Christie which aired nationally throughout the U.S. for over 5 years. In May, 2013, I received international acclaim and exposure for my music as a participant and performer at the XVI International World of Guitar Festival in Kaluga, Russia. We also presented a live mini concert which was aired throughout all of Russia.
The lessons learned here are relevant and transferable to any goal. Success in education does not happen by accident, nor is it bestowed upon you. It is a calculated plan of goals and dreams that should be identified, organized, and worked at. The plan demands the utilization of time management skills and prioritization techniques. I believe that we all benefit from a better future. The educational success of our younger generation is critical to having a promising future collectively. There are many ideas and principles that are described in my story. Even if only one idea is identified and applied in your educational process, education success is around the corner and waiting for you! — Mario Olivares