Cut From Steel
Cut from Steel
How Entrepreneur and leader Louis Sandoval’s experiences paved the way for the man he is today
Trinidad L. Sandoval (photo credit- Anabel Villagomez)
By: Sofia I Sandoval
On a late September evening, my dad, Louis Sandoval, looks up from his iPad, and settles deeper into his leather chair. He pauses to collect his thoughts, looks at me, and begins explaining his experiences as a lifetime Chicagoan. He thinks back to when life was simple, and you could buy candy for 1 cent at the corner store. He thinks of the parks and alleys he used to play at, the swing of a bat, the sound of a ball hitting leather. My father grew up on the South East Side of Chicago in the South Chicago and Cottage Grove Heights neighborhoods.
During the late seventies and early 80’s my father attended middle and high school. He made memories on the South Side of Chicago that stick with him to this day. He learned in, played in, and saw the neighborhood as it changed from his childhood to the one that became the world of his youngest sister.
As the oldest of four siblings, my dad was somewhat of a pioneer for life as an American and in his family. With my grandparent’s families being migrant workers, they were the first to cross the border into a new life. My dad was influenced by his parents, just as I am by him. My dad learned hard work, perseverance, and resilience from his parents. His experiences, and values that he learned on the South Side of Chicago bring to light the value that individuality brings to society. Today, where people often sidestep your experiences, and label you by the color of your skin, it is important that we look at each person with a keen eye and recognize our experiences and values as judges of character.
For my dad, the lessons and experiences that he had as a kid carried into his present-day self. Growing up, my dad learned the values that stick with him to this day. The values instilled into him by his parents and family guided him through his teen years and beyond. The lessons learned as a Boy Scout have impacted his career choice and success, including the long nights in tents and time spent at Scout camp. The summers outside taught him science and gave him the curiosity and knowledge that pushed him to pursue a career in the field of medicine. From entire summers outside, to the kids he played ball with, each little thing brought him closer to his future self.
Summers outside were not always fun and games. My dad would play outside for hours on end, from when he got home from school, to when the lights in the park went out. Games like baseball and football were commonplace among his friends, and kids from across the neighborhood would come to play. Even kids from the “Bush” would come. At the time, the “Bush” was considered the “Ghetto” part of the neighborhood by some. “It was just working class”, says my dad. Dad’s two closest friends came from the “Bush”, and the consequences could be seen as they grew up.
In something as simple as staying out past when the lights went out, my dad’s values showed. Gangs and trouble that was present after dark swept up the kids that stayed, whereas my dad’s family first value kept him away from trouble.
As he explains, “We learned that hard work pays off, and that family comes first, then friends, then everything else.” My dad shows us the values, and work ethic that he was given. He also shows how this impacted his decisions in life.
The morals in this quote were demonstrated in his life when he chose to go home instead of playing ball in the park late at night. The impact that this one decision had on the kids that did stay late was tremendous. The gangs that swept up the kids swept them into a life of crime, that could not easily be reversed. After learning that one of the kids that he grew up with had gotten shot, and the other went to jail for life, it was evident to him how values were so important in his own life. My dad might not be here without the values instilled in him. I believe that I would not even be here. When faced with difficult decisions, he comes back to values, which help to guide his decision process. My dad reminds me that your work ethic and morals decide what type of life you live. That if you have a good work ethic, and you keep family the closest, you will be just fine in life.
Steel is what holds up buildings. It is the foundation and pillar for the majestic towering extravagancies that we see in our daily lives. Similarly, charisms, goals, and values all hold up the foundations of the
human mind and soul.
1980 was the start of many things. It was the start of a new decade, and the start of a downward spiraling industry. Filled with pride and community, the South East Side of Chicago boomed with life. A young Louis Sandoval navigated through elementary, middle, and high school during this time as well. A decade later when 1992 hit- After declining relations between unions and steel corporations, the Chicago steel mill industry closed for good and with it so did the community. More than 17,500 jobs were lost, and businesses started to close. Many businesses during the time relied on steel workers to support them. Without money in people’s pockets, businesses and families closed or moved out of the neighborhood in hopes of finding opportunity elsewhere.
Families like my grandfather Trinidad Sandoval’s, stayed in the city and felt the consequences. While putting 4 kids through the catholic school education system, grandpa would hustle to scrounge up enough money to pay for tuition and living expenses. It’s no wonder my dad learned resourcefulness after watching him sell Boy Scout popcorn and candy like it was nobodies’ business. My grandpa acted like a steel pillar to my dad, and it is because of him that I have the father that I know and love.
When he told my dad that, “even steel has to go through the hottest fire possible to become the hardest steel that it is,” I was convinced that this man who has helped me so many times in my life, learned all that he could from his own steel pillar- his father.
My dad who is resilient perseverant, and optimistic must have learned his greatest qualities from his father and the neighborhood around him. From the hustling to pay for tuition, to persevering through the loss of a job- the effect that my grandfather had on my dad was immense. On a similar level, the encounters of my dad’s daily life growing up on the South Side of Chicago impacted him as well. From the closure of the steel mill, to the hopeful restoration of a neighborhood, he learned from just observing.
My dad uses experiences such as these to motivate himself in the worst of situations. Things like discrimination and push back do not stop my dad. In fact, He perseveres through them instead. This specific quote allows me to see how he stays strong in the worst of situations. My dad, just like a gleaming building, is held up by steel.
My dad, who over the course of his life has faced much discrimination, has always persevered through it, and in some cases, it has made him stronger.
As a sophomore my dad decided he wanted to play baseball and tried out for the high school team. After learning that he did not make the cut, he went to ask the coach what he could do to improve and make the team. At a young age my dad was not afraid to ask how he could improve when he did not
perform to the best of his abilities. To his surprise, the coach explained how they did not need him on the team because they already had enough of “his kind” on the team. When he asked what he meant by “enough of his kind”, the coach took the conversation to a whole different level. He explained how they had enough “spics”, a derogatory term for Hispanics, on the team.
At the time my dad was devastated. Being called a "spic" was like a punch to the gut, it was a low blow, and my dad took it to heart. He explained how, “it hurt to get told you didn’t make the team because of who you are, because you can’t change that.” My dad shows the emotion and hurt that he felt when his coach told him that he did not make the team because of who he was. For my dad to not only rebound from this, but to also prove his coach wrong the next season, is truly inspiring. Despite the discrimination put on him, he pushed forward, and it put him in a place where he could even get a scholarship for what he accomplished after this defeat.
My dad’s perseverance that he learned from his family and neighborhood played a key role in this portion of his life. After beating the high school baseball coach’s team in a tournament, he finally understood what hard work and perseverance was. For my dad, the sting of loss pushed him forward to train and become better. It pushed him to achieve more and set his goals higher. My dad reminds me that every set back that we have can always be turned around to create something better. No matter whether your set back is in or out of your control, you can always rebound. You have a choice.
“It’s the first time you kind of see yourself as different, then somebody reminds you that you’re not like us.”
When I interviewed my dad, I realized the importance of perseverance, resilience, and work ethic in life. My dad, who has learned these values from family and experiences, is something truly admirable about him. He has even taught me based on these values, and I am profoundly grateful for that. After interviewing my dad, I learned how he is held up by his values, just like steel “When I look back at it, everything that I took part in shaped the person I am today.” As my dad explains, your experiences and values define you and make you whole and unique. Each one of us are different and have persevered through different worlds. The collaboration of all of us is what makes up society. The experiences we have all make us unique and make society greater.
This essay was written by our oldest daughter as part of a class project for school. I wish that my dad were alive today to read it , but I know somehow that he had a way of inspiring his granddaughter to do so. Not a day goes by that we don't miss him and on this day - the fifth anniversary of his transition, we think of how his efforts to better his family, his values all impacted us and continue to do so. Dad, we are forever in your debt. I hope that you are proud of us. We Miss You, Today and always. 12/20/20
~Lou Sandoval is an American Business Leader whose successful career transcends over 30 years of entrepreneurially Building businesses, brands, and high performing teams. Lou parlayed his Fortune 100 experience into business ownership and intrapreneurial Corporate leadership. As a servant leader, Lou believes in giving back to his community and has been involved in the Boy Scouts of America's leadership. He serves on a few non-profit and professional boards. Opinions expressed here are solely personal and not a representation of any of the organizations with which he may be affiliated.
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