The three most important words, apply them and succeed

Ovidilio “Ovi” Vasquez, a multi-talented motivational speaker asking students “who wants a hundred dollars?”  (Photo Clovis Unified School District)

Jess Gonzalez

March 28, 2024 – What are the three most important words in the world? A romantic might say they are “I love you.” A constitutionalist may say “We the people…”  Someone regretful may utter “I am sorry.” A friend could say “Go for it.”

It stands to reason the three most important words depend on who you are and the situation one faces. Ovidilio “Ovi” Vasquez, a multi-talented motivational speaker, told middle school students the three most important words are “I need help.”

Those words, he assured them, will help them to succeed in school and in life. It was one of many messages he delivered to a gathering of primarily Hispanic students during the 3rd Annual Officer Jesus Ceron Latino Student Success Middle School Conference last Friday, March 22, 2024, at Kastner Intermediate School in Fresno.

So, why is “I need help” so important for students to say? Well, if a student doesn’t know or doesn’t understand something, he or she should not stay silent. The need to ask for help.

After all, students have lots of people around them ready to help them succeed in their studies and in life. “All your teachers, resources officers, and administrators are there for one purpose—to help you—the student! Don’t be shy, if you don’t know something, ask! They will be glad to help you!”

You’re not alone at this point in your lives,” he told them. “But you will be when you turn 25 and you don’t have an education to help you be successful in life.”

Utilizing his own life experiences, Ovi told students each one of them has value in the world and, by applying themselves, one day they’ll be able to achieve their dreams in life. But they must dare to believe in themselves and dream big. “If you dare to be great, you’re going to shock the world when you accomplish it,” he predicted.

Meet the speaker

Born and raised on a farm in Guatemala, Ovi grew up poor in a home without electricity till he was 8. At 16 he arrived in our country, with his mother, not knowing English. Since he couldn’t communicate and was labeled a “truant” and an “at risk” student.

He almost dropped out of school. But he made up his mind he was not going to work in a warehouse all his life. That’s where his mother found him a job because he came this country to work—not to study. So, he went on his own, applied himself to his education, and studied.

Learning English as he went forward, he finished high school in three years and earned a B.A. in Management in just two. Later, he was accepted and studied at the Harvard Business School Online.

Ovi then set out to conquer the world. And he did. He has worked for such global corporations as Apple, Tesla, Salesforce, Uber, and General Motors. He has also written 6 books, including a #1 Bestseller on Amazon and a TEDx Speaker on Self Leadership.

The once impoverished student—who lived in a garage while in high school and rented-out part of it to pay the rent—is now well off, highly in demand, and a frequent guest on Univision TV Network programs.

Start by showing up

To start, he urged students to make responsible choices—wise choices.  “That means you must show up every day in school and do the work the teachers ask of you,” he instructed. “When you do positive things—positive things will begin to happen for you!”

“Life is not easy. In fact—it is very difficult,” he said. “But it will be much more difficult if you don’t have an education.” With that in mind, he told the students to build their own path to success depending on what they like—what they want to study in college and who they want to be. And they must interact with people—build bridges to success.

He mentioned that while his mother was often difficult, his grandmother challenged him by telling him “Atrevete a creer—y cuando lo hagas, hazlo bien–lo mejor que puedas.” Dare to believe, and when you make it—do it well! The best you can!

A picture is worth 1,000 words

As part of his talk, Ovi showed slides of himself and other people in his life. The slides of his  early life in Guatemala were a stark contrast from those of his life today as a successful adult.

Students who grow up in difficult environments can be affected by obstacles and repercussions. Expressing empathy, he alluded to a particular dark episode in his life that he will never forget. His mother’s temperament was so explosive and violent, she once stabbed his sister in a fit of anger. His confession elicited a strong gasp of shock from the students. “Some home situations are not perfect,” he said. “But you must have a different type of mentality—and you must be strong. Negatives in life can and must be overcome by developing your own personal power.”

He asked students what they want to do in lifeif any of them want to work at McDonald’s. He got little response. “Hey, I know you don’t want to finish school and then go flip burgers for a living,” he joked. “But, in a way, it’s good—it’s a start! Do you know there are McDonald’s employees who make hundreds of thousands of dollars a year? Yes, they’re the executives! But why can’t you be one of those executives? Work at it! Why can’t it be you?”

One of you is leaving here today with $100

In coming to an end of his continuous movement, animated, and high-energy talk, Ovi removed a crisp $100 bill from his wallet and waved it around in the air as he walked back and forth on stage. He wanted everyone’s undivided attention. He got it immediately. “One of you is leaving here today with this $100 bill—will it be you? It can be,” he yelled. “But you must want it.

He told them each one of them was like the $100 bill. As he folded the bill, he said—”At one time or another each of you has had someone make you feel small by saying negative things about you.”

Lifting the now small, folded bill in the air—“You felt this small!” Unfolding the bill, he dropped it on the stage floor and repeatedly stomped on it. “Just like this bill that got dirty by me stepping on it, you felt dirty with what you were told,” he described them. “Yes, the bill is dirty–but you still want it, right?”

Everyone yelled yes. “Learn this lesson,” he told them.  “You know that even a dirty $100 bill still has value, right? So don’t forget you also  have value no matter what anyone tells you. Know you have value in life—don’t let anyone tell you otherwise!”

He then asked “Who wants this $100 bill? Do you want it?” A sudden mob of students rushed the stage. One lucky student out jumped the others, grabbed the $100 bill from Ovi’s hand, and walked back smiling to his seat. He wanted it the most and—he got it!

The motivational middle school conference is named after deceased police officer Jesus Ceron, who worked for the Fresno Police Department and Clovis Unified. He started the event!