Influencer Anthony Guillermo

Interview March 2023

Anthony Guillermo, could you share with us some information about your family life?
I was born in Curaçao. I have 5 other siblings, two biological and three adopted. One sister passed away. My father was also very supportive and my mother, my aunts, and their spouses had a teachers background. I was raised in an environment where everybody used to read books. I was surrounded by books. We were stimulated to read and inform ourselves. That is the kind of environment I grew up in. My parents were from the 1930 generation and they always supported us in the decisions we took, as long as it created opportunities. For that, I am very grateful. My ancestors from my mother’s side are linked to Pedro Luis Brion and from my father’s side, from a slave named “Niconor”.  

I was married, got divorced, and now am happily living will my wife again, but officially we are not married. We have three children, one son, and two daughters.

The youngest daughter left for the USA when she was barely 14 years old, scouted as a talent, she left for the USA on a student scholarship to play softball at High School in West Palm Beach Florida. She was a catcher on the school team. During her sports career, she has won all sorts of prizes and via her sports, she could finance her High School, College, and University degrees at this moment she is an assistant professor at Kayser University, basically working as a coach for the softball team of the University.

Her older sister was not into sports but she loved grapes. This love for grapes was created by me, as I use to buy grapes at the end of every month after I got my paycheck and brought a lot of grapes home, so they were brought up with grapes. Her younger sister inspired her to go to the USA after she messaged on how cheap grapes were USD 2,- in the USA, compared to here in Curaçao. Once she arrived in the USA, it became apparent that she also had a talent for sports. Positive peer pressure in the USA got her involved in sports, playing second base in softball, playing tennis, and also winning prizes.

My youngest child my son had a different career. He dropped out of school when he was 18 years old, even though his mother was a schoolteacher. Here we learned that “When you are a caregiver, you are capable to help, except yourself”. But after he left and went to Holland in 2010, he started to study, stopped but got hired by a family-owned business and this created stability in his life. He has matured a lot compared to when he was 18 years old. He is the father of our first grandchild and the second one is underway we are proud of him and proud of all our children.

My bond with my children is very strong.  When I chat or talk with all three of them, also my son, I use very loving language. I believe especially towards my son that this is necessary to express my love as a father to him and of course my daughters. They deserve to hear what I feel about them.

Could you share something about any other aspect of your educational background and your experiences?
I have two different backgrounds, one as a police officer and one as a social worker. After my High School degree, HAVO, I went to the UNA in Curaçao, as I didn’t qualify for a scholarship from the government as my father was a Shell Employee, so it was considered that he was able to pay for my advance studies himself. I had one aunt specifically that use to share with us her ample travel experiences. When she was young she was one of the first ones to leave for Holland to study on a scholarship (the end of the 1950-ties) from the government and she became a teacher. She used to travel a lot, as in those days civil servants would have 6 months’ leave at times. Her travel adventures fascinated me and as I like history and loved her travels adventures, I decided for myself when I was 14 years old or so, that I would do the same as her and needed to go and study in Holland. As I was studying at the UNA in 1982, I overheard somebody sharing a story that caught my attention. He was saying that if you would study to become a Police Inspector, they would pay for your studies in Holland. One day at the airport I met a school friend of mine Gerold Daantje telling me that he was leaving to go and study at Apeldoorn Holland to become a Police Inspector. He qualified because he has a HAVO degree.

How did you end up in Holland after all?
Not long afterward I heard of the possibility to go to Holland to study to become a Police Inspector, I asked both my parents for permission to apply to become a police officer, and they agreed. In 1983 I started my studies to become a police officer, after being selected as the sole person outof a group of over 150 youngsters, graduated as the best of the class of 1983 and started working as a police officer. But after 4 years I requested leave without pay (buiten bezwaar) and left for Holland. Once I arrived in Holland I enrolled in a study to become a social worker, and this was special as it required you to have work experience and you had to work three days a week and attend classes two days a week for feedback purposes. If you didn’t have any experience in HRM, in the first year you only needed to attend classes two days a week, on full scholarship.

So I subscribed and during the introduction in the class, I was asked why I decided to start with this study. I was blunt and told the class that I had three days off and only had to attend two days of classes while I would have a full scholarship. The teacher Karel Varosiueux was flabbergasted and asked me why I was thinking like that.

I answered because I am a police officer and I am from Westpunt Banda Abou and that was my truth and the truth for me is very important. Then the teacher said the following and this has defined me for the rest of my life. He said as of today August 1988 I want you to ask yourself: “Why are you doing the things that you are doing and doing the things the way you are doing them”, and this every single day of your life. This was a defining moment in my life, as it gave me an assignment that I had worked on for the rest of my life and it taught me self–reflection that has been critical in my change and transformation. This is how I discovered that the Antillean didn’t exist, you have people coming from different islands, yes. I discovered things about myself and this taught me to strip situations from every emotion, before taking a decision. Now almost 40 years later I can link things that I have discovered by myself, by unpeeling my onion, with the literature that I have read. All the “managing, guiding, desired effect, control”, are becoming clear to me. I have discovered the essence of whom I am. I took an impulsive decision when I decided to study to become a social worker. I only had a very short-term time frame, I looked at. The questions Karel asked me to ask myself were very defining.

We know you are to be very active in kayaking. Where did this drive come from? And what are your plans for the near future with this hobby?
I got interested in kayakings after I met Ryan de Jongh. I grew up in Westpunt Banda Abou and I grew up being a water rat. I swam during my childhood years so much that I got saturated and I wasn’t into swimming anymore. 

I had an interview with Ryan de Jongh after one of his heroic long distance kayak projects. I used to write a sports column in Extra. He mentioned the idea of rowing the transatlantic from Amsterdam down to Curaçao. This triggered and I went home thinking about how would I set this venture up. I temporarily lost track of Ryan until I met him again in a meeting at GMN and he talked about this idea that he would do with a director of an Off-shore company that was also a long-distance athlete, but he was running out of time to do it. I offered Ryan a partnership to set up a business plan to financially make this possible. So that he concentrates on his training exclusively. Then I change my plans I wanted to go along with him for two reasons. Rowing for over 30 days would make it possible for me to deal with my internal demons and drown them in the deep blue sea. I proposed to Ryan to make a change in his plan. Lets row form Amsterdam to Curaçao. By doing this we would be able to recreate the golden triangle of Amsterdam Africa and Curaçao and emphasize another aspect of the slave trade, apart from the atrocities that were committed, namely that we as descendants of slaves are survivors. As only the strong survived.

We were ready to go but the Covid pandemic stopped this as in the meantime, the route we planned to use had to deal with pirates, and sharks, and the sponsors willing to sponsor were hit because of the economic downturn and back-off. We postponed the venture but decided that we would compete in the Talisker Whisky Race instead which takes place every end of November, and the beginning of December. The participants row from the Canarian islands to Antigua. This is the route that the explorers use to follow. They would sail to the South passed the European Coast, get some supplies in the Canarian islands, and sail on the current of the Atlantic Ocean till they reached Antigua.

As a retired civil servant we now know you to also be very involved in Curaçao2030 initiated by Miguel Goede, what made you connect and why are you so driven to be involved?
In the Bible, God told Lot to leave Sodom and Gomorrah as he was going to destroy them. Lot asked God not to do this and God asked Lot to come back with at least one person that properly behaves himself and God would spare these towns. As far off as we might seem in Curaçao, we need to turn back our faces because there is at least one, which makes it interesting enough to turn back and go back home. That is this initiative Curaçao2030. And it is worth it, we have potential.

What is your BIG WHY or driving motivation to be who you are right now and do what you are doing now?
My Big Why is to serve. We have a lot of leaders that hold important positions who are suffering in the position they hold and they don’t have a clue and/or aren’t even aware of the kind of position they are in.

We need to give this process direction. The common goal, of doing things in the interest of all, has been pushed back to the background. What I want is, to contribute and help to create awareness. Technocrats and technical solutions are doomed to fail. We need more soft skills to be successful. I have been there in my former position at the Ministry of GMN. We need to equip people with change management skills. 

I have a very analytical mind and I am good at writing things down. My mission is to help micro-level students to write their thesis; I want to help organizations become aware of certain details that they fail to see and on the macro-level I want to write things on paper to facilitate necessary changes.

What are the challenges that you are dealing with? And how are you dealing with these different challenges you confront?
My biggest challenge is knowing when to quit. I don’t know how to quit. I have my mission, I am a pioneer and initiate change. Like Daniel Boon in the old cowboy movies but I start something but I don’t see the end.

I lose my life because I lose the opportunity to live. I want to be more aware when this occurs. Good would have been enough. I am so excited when I finally find someone I can spar with as a sparring partner, that I tend to misuse the opportunity and feel guilty about doing this. That feeling to let go. That is my challenge.

What are your plans for the coming years, let us say 5 years from now?
Travel to the USA, Europe, and Curaçao, and spend more time with my children and grandchildren. Visit all those places my aunt use to tell us about.

Do you use your inner voice to evaluate when dilemmas show up? How does that work for you?
If I have a technical dilemma I would strip my emotions of it and decide. For moral and ethical dilemmas I tend to run away from them, but in the end, I follow my heart. The heart tells me what is the right thing to do.

How are you trying also to keep up with your knowledge and skill levels?
I watched a lot of documentaries. I look up to discussing with my soulmates and like-minded people.

When I help students I go all the way and I have met a lot of (international) students over the years and by keeping up with the required literature I can help the students. As I discuss the subject matters with them, I helped them to think abstractly and in an integral matter. On the other hand, I challenge myself to apply empathy and try to look at things from their perspective. 

They catch it immediately, at times the tempo can be frustratingly slow. So basically by helping students and those in a leadership positions, by sparring with them. 

What are your strengths?

  • Analytical
  • I am very good at stripping emotions out of my analyses
  • I have a good pen
  • Persistent.

Like when we are kayaking for 19 hours, I feel like I am on a different planet. Kayaking from Curaçao to Aruba is 19 hours. Piscadera to Klein Curaçao is 9 hours to Klein Curaçao and 8 hours back. Piscadera to Kralendijk is 19 hours to go and 15 hours back. A deeper balance between peace of mind and the energy that pops up from my subconscious mind.

Do you have other hobbies or interests that you are also passionate about?
I am a great storyteller, I love kayaking, traveling, and sports.

If you as Anthony Guillermo would meet a stranger on the bus (let’s say in Berlin or Bogota Columbia) and they would ask you to introduce yourself, what would you answer?

How would you describe Anthony Guillermo in one word or one sentence?
He will stay the course until the end. Once involved I will be the last man standing. I used to tell my parents that it was their fault that I feel so committed to certain causes at times. You taught me to feel a sense of responsibility, with great success.

At times I get pissed out and leave and on my way to the door reconsider and continue to help. I have it and I require it from the students that I help, I want them to be excellent students.

Who are the persons that have inspired you the most in your career?
You Ivan, when I was working in TaskForce Health in 2013 and 2014. I just started to work at GMN and you were representing the Ministry of Finance. I was just starting to learn what the health sector was all about. I was observing how with passion you analyzed different issues we were dealing with and still were able to keep to discussion business-like. We used to prepare to meet you, Ivan, not as an enemy btw, but your professionalism and the way you analyzed a discussion.

Another person was someone who was my mentor when I was a trainee in Holland called Aries den Ruiter. He taught me to always be the secretary in whatever group I participated in, the secretary who decides on what the agenda would be and guides the process. It is the most powerful person. 

On a personal level, it was my late father and my aunt. On his deathbed, I learned the most important lesson as I watched how many people came to visit him and also at his funeral. And a lot passed by and came to me and were telling my stories of my father and how he has helped them. He was so peaceful and at peace. I decided to be like him and love people just like he did.

That is why I share so much love with other people.

What is a trait that is still a work in progress?
My wife always tells me to be more patient, not everybody is as fas as you are. Be patient so that they can also grow and evolve and get the needed insights to understand where you are heading for. I know that but it is tough to accept that those in certain positions are the slowest to understand.

What was a defining moment in your life?
The passing away of my father and the day Karel Varossiuex told me to ask myself every day why am I doing what I am doing the way that I’m doing them. Also, Gaby Da Costa Gomez taught us that one can do the wrong thing in a very good way.

What would you want your Loved Ones, family, friends, and others to say about you let’s say 20 years from now?
40 years from now, as I plan to live long, they would say “He is a human being that cares for human beings”.

What makes you stay optimistic about the future of Curaçao as we are in the middle of a worldwide pandemic, recession, and the middle of growing environmental challenges because of the global warming consequences?
I am still a romantic guy. In Hollywood, the good guy wins. We will go through a lot of challenges but in the end, the good will prevail. If I come to die and I wouldn’t end up in heaven I would very disappointed.

Is there anything else that you would like to add?
In the land of the blind, he who has one eye is the King. I would love to see the one with one eye in a democracy that convinces the blind.

One of the 250 Influencers

Anthony Guillermo is a passionate, curious, energetic, persistent, sharing, life-loving human being, loving father and husband, storyteller, former police officer, former social worker, and former policy advisor. His persistence has made him someone who loves to pick up challenges aimed at enabling changes in other people, especially students, organizations, especially the leadership of organizations, and society at large. Using his strengths, like his analytical mind, his ability to unpeel emotions from his analyses, his writing abilities, and his persistence have made him able to take on big challenges and stick with them until the end. This made him fall in love with kayaking which he has taken up in the past few years and which is teaching him so much more of himself. His self-reflective mind has been his guiding compass since a teacher suggested at the beginning of his studies in Holland, to ask and answer the following questions every single day from that moment on: “Why are you doing the things that you are doing and doing the things the way you are doing them”. Anthony has been doing this since then. Of late he has met some like-minded people involved in Curaçao2030 which has inspired him and all those in his circle of influence. Because of this all, his enthusiasm to take on more even though he is officially retired, because of his active involvement in Curaçao2030, and his persistence to stay the course once he has committed himself, we consider Anthony Guillermo a role model and one of the 250 Influencers of Curaçao, representing the Educational sector. Look at the list of the Influencers we have interviewed or reported on, up to now. 

The goal of the core group of Share2Uplift for 2023

The goal of the Share2Uplift movement is to: “Identify 250 leaders from all walks of life to connect, align and create impactful changes in all walks of life, which includes intergenerational collaboration by the end of 2023.” We will use interviewing Influencers, meet-and-greet events, “train-the-trainers”-programs on “Emotional Mastery” and “Intentionality “as national intervention strategies, to reach this goal on top of our goal to scale up the possibilities to connect, align and create impact via a virtual platform. We believe that by collaborating with Miguel Goede on the virtual Vision 2030 platform, we will accelerate the possibilities to connect the diaspora and others elsewhere in the world and on the island willing to constructively create impactful changes in Curaçao, to join.

As Share2Uplift, we are fully trying to align with this thinking of Center for Curriculum Redesign to promote this agenda in our educational systems and workplace. So, in that sense, we fully support any initiative to make our educational system 21st-century proof.

Share2Uplift aligners are those that:
– Create an inspiring vision of the future;
– Motivate and inspire people to engage with that vision;
– Manage the delivery of the vision;
– Coach and build a team, so that it is more effective at achieving the vision. These criteria are now being polished.

We also consider these 5 values the most important ones for Share2Uplift aligners. They are:

• Peace from within;
• Compassion;
• Respectfulness;
• Integrity;
• Responsibility.

As we will progress towards this goal, we will update you on the progress.

Personal coaching tips

This week we will share some short videos on “Kayaking and Training Tips”. We will upload one of these videos every day on our page.

Awesome Locals: Curaçao – Ryan de Jongh (eco hero, kayaker and guide)

Nomads of the Sea – A Sea Kayak Film to cheer you up!

Which exercise is best for your heart health? – YouTube

The Most Effective Endurance Training Method – The Science Explained – YouTube

Longevity Exercises – Based On Latest Science Studies – YouTube

How to Improve Physical Performance with Endurance Training – YouTube

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