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What’s the Most Important Lesson You’ve Learned Along Your Journey?

Every twist in our story, challenge we face, and obstacle we overcome is an important part of our story. These difficulties make us stronger and wiser and prepare us for what’s ahead. As we grow and succeed we may imagine that soon the challenges will fade away, but in our conversations with business owners, artists, creatives, academics, and others we have learned that the most common experience is that challenges never go away – instead they get more complex as we grow and succeed. Our ability to to thrive therefore depends heavily on our ability to learn from our experiences and so we are asking some of the city’s best and brightest: What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned along your journey?

Mike Nguyen | World Champion Athlete | Fitness Expert | Entrepreneur & CEO of

The most important lesson I learned is to always believe you are capable of amazing things. We all have different talents, skills and passions; do everything it takes to pursue them and be the best at it. For me, I started out wanting to become a world champion athlete because I loved seeing what my body was capable of. Shortly after, I realized I loved seeing other people do amazing things with their body as well which was why I became a personal training and nutrition coach. Eventually, I expanded into owning my own health supplement brand and fitness education company in order to share my passion and help more people around the world achieve their goals. When you love something enough, you have follow it through and believe you can achieve more than you expect from yourself.

Emma Dyre | Senior at USD

The most important lesson I’ve learned in my journey so far is to do things that scare you. I made this my New Year’s resolution 3 years ago and it has changed the way I make decisions and live my life. I think fear holds people back from new experiences and exploring their true passions. This mentality has pushed me to travel the world, move to San Diego, experience bungee jumping, skydiving, and paragliding, and has inspired me to pursue a legal career. I promise if you adopt this mentality it will change your life in the best way possible.


Heather Heffernan | Private Plant Based Cook

The most important lesson I’ve learned in cooking and in life is that nothing is supposed to be a certain way. The sooner you realize that, the sooner you can begin to have fun with your individual adaptation to it.


Azantia Bernice Limón | Promotional Model & Dancer

Olivia Valdes – Pacific Evergreen Creative

This question had me tickled because my life in San Diego has been a grand journey. As I approach nine years living in this beautiful city, the most valuable lesson I have learned is that Faith and community are the catalyst of my accomplishments. My confidence comes from prayer. My ability to seek after my dreams and goals are through Faith. Faith is powerful and it drives me to keep moving forward.

Throughout the years I have been involved in many communities via church, dance, and work.

Sharing similar interests and lifestyles in a group setting has made this metropolitan city a true home for me.

Raised in a suburb small enough to be named a “”village”” with only 20,000 residents feeling secure in an overflowing city such as San Diego is vital. Over the years I have been encouraged, supported, and loved by many. For that I am truly grateful and tremendously blessed!


Steve Cummings & Gina Shiotani | Partner Acro Performers & Instructors

Photo credits: Bryan Anderson @bryanandersonphoto

Our path to become acro performers & instructors began through the gates of transformational practices such as yoga, acro yoga, dance, and other movement disciplines. We enjoy the physical components, the challenge, and the health consciousness it brought to our lives, but the forces that truly give us inspiration arrive through the human connections and community building integral to the world of acro. The people we learn from, the people we teach, the audiences for whom we’re honored to perform, and the friendships we’ve cultivated in this practice represent some of the richest memories, experiences, and life lessons that have shaped our vision for impactful living.


Dimana Zaharieva | art student

As a person in their early twenties, I have been learning many important lessons in the past few years. I feel like I have been overthinking this question a bit, trying to choose just one thing to talk about. A lot of what I have learned is already well known and can very well fit in a collection of cheesy proverbs. In my opinion, young people need to make certain mistakes for themselves before they can reach the “my parents were right all along” realization. Everyone goes through that cycle at some point in their lives and understands that there is a fine, yet important, line between knowing something and being able to fully comprehend it.

So, if I did have to choose one of these things (that everyone already knows are good for you), I would pick being physically active because its impact has been the most recent for me. People underestimate the importance of feeling good in your body, which has absolutely nothing to do with the way one looks, but rather knowing you can trust its strength and ability to propel you forward. Health benefits aside, physical activity can help you become better at whatever it is you do.


Dj Zareen | Queer Open Format Music Curator | Gossip Grill Resident DJ

Stay curious, humble, and open to where your creative passions take you!



Kitzya Ramirez | Content Creator, Blogger and Positive Parenting Advocate

The most important lesson that I have learned so far is learning how to overcome my fear and not allowing it to run my life.

I feel that fear is one of the biggest obstacles that can silence our voice and can keep us from taking that leap of faith to chase after our passions. Instead of internalizing that negativity we should use it to our advantage to measure how passionate we are about what we are working towards. Also, it’s okay to throw in the towel sometimes. Not everything that we’ve set up will work out, but there are still valuable lessons we can glean from these experiences that will move us closer towards our passion.

Being a part of a community is also key.  Surrounding yourself with like-minded people that are building you up and rooting for you will quickly erase any self doubt.

Bignastyye | Upcoming San Diego Rapper

Photo Credits: @d.j.reed

The most important lesson I’ve learned so far was to be patient and not rush things. Most things don’t ever come over night, it’s a process. Time and time again people don’t realize that your art or what you make can’t be rushed, the great wall of china wasn’t built in a day so take time with your art. With me being only 17 there’s a lot of more lessons I may come across down the road but till then that’s all I can really say.

Lina Benitez | Stylist and Makeup Artist

I learned so much from my wonderful journey abroad. Being amongst people of an entirely different culture, I learned to understand new beliefs and customs. These experiences molded me into a more appreciative person who values what they have.


Kevin Rehberg | Abundance Coach & Breathwork Facilitator

The most important lesson I’ve learned on my journey so far is: To go slow, be patient, and trust myself. Scattered energy will get you nowhere, while focused, intentional energy will take you everywhere.

Adam Rosati | Digital Illustrator & Graphic Designer

The biggest thing I’ve learned so far is to just keep your creativity personal. I have spent years developing my own style and honing the skills around that style so I am now at a place where I can convey my ideas in my own unique way.  Stick to your own creative process and the rest will follow.

Ken James

I learned not to compare my work to others. There’s so many talented photographers especially in San Diego that it’s easy to get discouraged when “sizing up the competition”. Instead I’m at my best when i show my uniqueness and focus on my path. It’s funny because when i meet the people I used to compare myself to, some of them will divulge that I inspire them,  so I guess it works both ways.


Tiffa Minsal | Illustrator | Designer & Adventurer

Learning how important time is, and where it is most needed. Preparing a healthy meal takes time; mastering your craft takes time; and emotional healing takes a tremendous amount of time. Don’t rush on the most important aspects of your life that need a little more time than you would like to give.

“”You must not be your own obstacle. You must not be owned by the environment you are in. You must own the environment, the phenomenal world around you. You must be able to freely move in and out of your mind.””
– Jeong Kwan

Kim Wellen | Founder of Mantra Mask

1.You can NOT do this alone, it truly takes a village.

2.Be clear on finances-stick to your budget. If you cant afford it, don’t do it. If a product isn’t selling find out why and switch gears- be nimble.

3.Leave your ego at the door. If you made a mistake just admit it. Customers want to know the truth.

4.DO NOT say yes to everyone, even if its hard!

5.Very important. Work/life balance!!! If you aren’t balanced your work and family will both suffer.


Jaina Christian | Aspiring Teacher | Amateur Photographer & Professional Wanderer

In all of the ups and downs life has presented me the most important lesson I have learned on this journey is to stay true to yourself and your intentions. Don’t focus any energy on comparing your journey to those around you because no matter the plan you had set out for yourself everything the universe has laid out for you is for a reason. The further I got from my darker thoughts on what I wasn’t, I found they no longer felt like home and I dreamt of who I could be and have been fighting for her ever since.


Qasim Anwar | Entrepreneur | Adventurer and Artist

The most important message I have learned from my journey so far is that to be open to possibilities and believe in the power of community. It’s how we relate with people and our connections that can help move a whole tribe forward. In the process of creation, whether it’s a business, a music video, or visual art, it always pivotal to have a community that supports you in your processes. Also, everyone should go adventure! Traveling opens your horizons and helps you look at new perspectives in a clearer fashion, this growth than comes out in the way you live your life.


John m Carter | C.E.O | Entrepreneur

I’ve learned that everyday is a blessing waiting to happen u just gotta keep the faith.


Lilly Gonzalez | Hair Stylist | Freelance Makeup Artist Owner of Glam on the run

The most important lesson I have learned in my journey is patience.  We all want to succeed and sometimes we don’t know where to start or how to start. All you need to do is just start!! Start one day at a time, start with something small related to your goals and trust the process. Be patient with yourself because as long as you are moving forward its a step closer towards your goals.


Sandra Gonzalez | Motivational Speaker | Warrior Coach | Retired Marine Officer

The most important lesson I’ve learned thus far is that you have to listen to what CALLS at you not what CLAWS at you. There are superpowers lying dormant within every person and it’s our responsibility to seek clarity so we can fulfill our purpose. This personal empowerment can be achieved through the development of confidence, courage, and clarity because it helps you lead with conviction.

After dealing with depression, and being able to lose 25 lbs. after the birth of my second child, I learned that I have control of my life circumstances and challenging situations.

Moreover, serving 20 years of honorable service as a US Marine, I learned that it wasn’t a warrior’s ability to be physically fit or intelligent that made them successful. It was their ability to develop mental toughness. The resiliency to NEVER give up even though the challenges were tough or scary.

The ability to trust and BELIEVE in myself coupled with mental toughness is what made all the difference.
Strengthening my character and bouncing back from difficulties helped me to evolve and establish more confidence and grit. These character skills were crucial as they enabled me to grow my business and overcome a challenging divorce that almost crushed me. I was married 15 years to my soul mate. A best friend who would one day betray me and leave unexpectedly.

The ability to trust my intuition and develop a warrior’s mindset helped me develop SOLUTIONS not STRESSORS to my problems. This is what I help ambitious women and men achieve who want more out of life. The ability to trust their gut intuition and develop a warrior’s mindset so they can stay committed. The ability to become a VICTOR not a victim of life’s circumstances.

There are only two types of people in this world. Worriers generate self doubt, procrastinate and produce more stressors. Warriors generate confidence, courage, and have clarity because they produce more solutions to their problems. Are you a WORRIER or a WARRIOR? The choice is yours, my recommendation is that you choose the latter.

Erik Herrera | Artist & Photographer

The most important lesson I’ve learned during my journey is simplicity. In 2014, I began utilizing 35mm film with a small automatic Nikon point & shoot camera to streamline my creative process. During this time, I had also started visiting Barrio Logan on my own to photograph everyday life found within the historic Chicano(Mexican-American) neighborhood. After becoming accustomed to not viewing my pictures immediately, I had become more present and deepened my appreciation for simpler moments. At times, this meant being content with not taking pictures.

Almost as soon as I began documenting Barrio Logan, I was also noticing unsettling events take place such as the gentrification process that unfortunately continues to price people out of the neighborhood. Being a first-generation Chicano, I took it upon myself to photograph these drastic changes still unfolding in my hometown of San Diego.

Eric Rias | Fitness and Healthy Lifestyle Coach

My experience in human. Through life, the more people I meet and connect with, I realized that we’re mostly alike. We want similar things. We’re all trying to be “ok”. Even in my worst times, I was simply doing what I thought I needed to be ok. When I view people through that lens, in that light, it becomes easier to find compassion and strive to simply understand. We all want to be understood.

Melissa Babaei | Creative Personality & Artist

The most important lesson I’ve learned in life would be overcoming my fear of taking risks. I use to be the type of person that loved a comfortable life that had routine and stability.  Due to this, whenever it would come time to take risks, I would get very anxious and uncomfortable as a result.  But I’ve been working on this issue for the last few years and I’m happy to say that I’ve improved my outlook on this personal concern.  By doing so, I’ve grown, matured and essentially learned a lot about myself.  One of the biggest life changing decisions I’ve made in the past year was moving to Los Angeles on my own.  This was a goal of mine for many years, but I truthfully never thought I would be brave enough to commit to it.  However, once I came to the realization that I didn’t have any “big” responsibilities holding me back such as a career that I loved, being married or being a parent; I finally made my decision to move.  I’m glad to say that this journey allowed me to understand that in order to grow and learn life lessons, you have to be willing to put yourself in uncomfortable situations, accept change and take risks.  If you don’t do so, you won’t flourish and succeed.


Mario Velasco | Actor & Videos Creator

The biggest lesson I’ve learned in my journey, is to always fight harder and harder for my goals and to never give up, regardless of the circumstances. There of course has been many days where I feel like I should just throw in the towel and call it quits, but there is always something inside of me that tells me that giving up is not the right choice. Another thing I have learned, is to always remain focused on myself as a person and as a professional, regardless of what others may think. Believing in myself is crucial.


Jin Yung Kim | Artist and Designer

One of the many important things I’ve learned, art wise, is to create art that makes me happy. Sometimes as artists, we get caught up in making art for other people that we forget to have fun with our own ideas and projects. I now do my best to squeeze in art projects that bring me the most joy and satisfaction. And in turn, bring joy and happiness to the people who view my work.

Jose Mejia | veteran and small business owner

My #1 life lesson so far is this: you can alter the trajectory of your entire life by just choosing to have one good day at a time. Don’t hide from stress, face it head on and empower yourself to overcome it. You’re building your legacy every day; so how do you want to be remembered?


Alyssa Welch | Momlife CEO  and Health and Lifestyle Influencer

The most important lesson I have learned in my journey so far is that it really is a never ending process of becoming. It’s a compilation of everything…the good and the hard; the beautiful and the devastating; the highest of highs and the very lowest of lows. It’s all of it. And it’s mine. It all encompasses the person I was, who I am now, and who I am going to be . Sometimes the biggest and the best plans you have are just that…plans! Life has a funny way of changing your “”plans””!

But guess what? It doesn’t really matter! Embrace it all! The biggest part is remembering to be intentional along the way. To laugh A LOT and learn to laugh at yourself! Give more! Live in gratitude. Take people along on the journey with you because your tribe is life, and life is about WHO you can help and not what you can get from them. Build them UP….watch them soar and help them live their best life! There is no better feeling than building the belief of others in themselves. Lastly, appreciate all the stops and pauses along the way because the twists and turns and even the crazy surprises…NONE of it is by accident. It’s all for you….take none of it for granted.


Sneaks – a home-grown brand bringing you original San Diego streetwear since 2018

The Script Embroidered Crewneck Sweater, modeled by Jon Schroeder, photographed by Sawsun Khodapanah

I would say it is to stay inspired, don’t be afraid to try something new, take the time to study and learn from people you admire, and never stop moving your feet in the race that you’re running, whatever it may be. There have been so many times in the young lifespan of my brand that I felt down, unsure, or stagnant. But every time I stick through, there is some reward on the back-end, whether it’s sales, recognition, connections, opportunities, or something else. If you stay at it and bring your authentic self to the table, I believe that sooner or later there will be a breakthrough.
@sandiegosneaks (all of our social media accounts)

Kaitlin Zuloaga | Certified  Personal Trainer

Most important lesson I’ve learned on my journey is that being REAL, being YOURSELF, is more admirable than being some watered down version of what you think everyone wants you to be.



Diamond Daughters custom & fine jewelry specialists

Starting your own business takes time. It is a journey of learning. There will be bumps on the road but you have to learn to overcome them. Anything is possible, you just have to believe in yourself & surround yourself with supporting friends and family.


Rachel Bolka | Website Developer | USMC Veteran

Photo credit: Rachel Bolka

The first thought, better yet lyric that comes to mind is Michael Franti’s song ‘Say Hey’, “”The more I see, the less I know…””

The journey is the lesson. It’s the experiences and exposures, the confusion and understanding, the challenges and struggles, it’s the setbacks and successes. The journey is exposing yourself to the unknown and the awareness gained. The lesson is understanding the higher the mountain, the more appreciated the views. There’s no set path to our destination, yet it’s the journey that gets us there.


Melinda Hudlin | Private Sports Coach (Track & Field) | Fitness Trainer, and Navy’s Public-Private Ventures Program Manager

Knowing my why, compete with myself, and consistency. These keep me focused on taking my passion and being able to share it with others.

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