Héctor Colón: From Boxing Ring to Board Room | Leadership Breakfast 09.27.23

Héctor Colón, President and CEO of Lutheran Social Services of Wisconsin and Upper Michigan, spoke at Maranatha’s first leadership breakfast of the semester on Wednesday, September 27th. Maranatha faculty, staff, students, and the surrounding Watertown community came together to hear Colón speak. He shared his story and presented five practical and essential steps that anyone can take to attain true success.

Colón began by sharing his story. When he was young, he was bullied for his race. One day his father noticed that he had been in a fight. When Colón told him what happened, his father took him to a neighborhood boxing ring. A coach there told Colón’s father, “He’s a natural. He’s going to become a champion.” That same coach, Shorty, became Colón’s mentor and teacher.

When he was 12 years old his parents divorced. His father left, and he felt alone. Many of the people in his neighborhood turned to drugs or to gangs. Colón admits that he could have easily fallen into that lifestyle, but he said, “Boxing gave me so much hope.” He later became a seven-time national boxing champion, and, in 1992, when he was nineteen years old, he was favored to go to the Olympics. After losing a big fight, however, he lost his chance. But God used this time in Colón’s life to draw him closer. On December 7, 1992, he bought his first Bible, and it changed his life forever.

Later the opportunity arose to go to the Olympics a second time, but it didn’t feel like God’s will. So, he prayed about it, and believed God was drawing him in a different direction. Although his boxing career ended, he explained, “My time in boxing did not go to waste. Now I feel a strong calling to share how boxing changed my life from a bullied young boy to one of the most successful CEOs in the Midwest.” Today, he leads Lutheran Social Services of Wisconsin and Upper Michigan. In his role as CEO, he implements five values into his life that he believes lead to true success.

Colón then presented those five essential values which he calls CHTMP (pronounced champ).

1. Courage—Courage is essential for the success of any business. In business, one must have the courage to succeed. Colón attributed much of his own success to his team having the courage to take risks. Over the years they have doubled their investible funds from 12 million to 30 million, today the company is at 70 million. He told the audience to ask themselves, “What is the dedication and discipline you need right now to act with more courage?”

2. Humility—Colón described humility as not thinking less of yourself but more of others. Through his coach, Shorty, Colón was able to see humility and servant leadership lived out in someone else’s life. He argued that “the value of humility is that it allows others to shine.” He further argued that “companies that have a servant leader as their CEO perform better than those that don’t.” Humility ultimately brings fulfillment.

3. Temperance—Temperance is about self-control and restraint, and Colón presented some ways that people can develop these traits. First, meditate. Spend time with the Lord and talk to Him. Second, have a balanced diet. An unbalanced diet can increase anxiety. Third, exercise. Fourth, get 7-9 hours of sleep. Fifth, reflect and wait to react. He explained, “You might react differently once you’ve had time to pray and reflect.” Finally, forgive yourself. He told the audience, “I want to encourage you to forgive yourself because that will help you move forward.”

4. Magnanimity—The virtue of being great in mind and heart. He explained that this virtue will bring out the best in you. Daily habits, rituals, and routines aid in developing magnanimity. Colón asked, “Are your daily habits bringing out the champion in you, so you can be a champion for family, friends, spouses, employer, and community?” Discipline is the first step. He said, “Let’s make a difference that is honorable and remarkable for those around us.”

5. Perseverance—Everyone must be willing to fail. Colón told the audience, “Failure leads to success and learning…. If we never fail ever in our life, we’re taking it too easy we’re being too cautious, and we’ll never reach our full potential.” He explained that there were times he wanted to give up, then his coach would say “You could become a champ.” He shared that, “the belief he had in me gave me the courage to continue on. Encourage one another not to fear failure.”

Colón closed the breakfast by sharing his own story of how he refused to fear failure. He struggled to find a job when he first graduated. At first, he did not believe that Lutheran Social Services of Wisconsin and Upper Michigan would accept his application. But he chose not to fear failure. “If I would have said no or given up, I wouldn’t have had this amazing opportunity to lead this company.” Some of the most successful people failed at first, but they persevered and became successful in the end.

Colón asked the audience, “What are three things you learned from failure? Help them to help you learn, grow, and become more resilient.”

A Q&A was held after the breakfast.

Learn more about Héctor Colón and the CHTMP Institute here.

Learn more about his book here.