Executive Insider

5 Life and Leadership Lessons I Learned Growing Up in Brazil

Alvaro Vaselli

From the way I lead my business to the way I raised my three sons, nothing has shaped me quite so much as the people and culture I come from. My formative years made me the person I am today, and that includes the way I lead my team as President and CEO of SKYDEX.

Despite my education and degrees, the foundational pieces of how I conduct myself in life—and at work—came from my home, and my family, in Brazil. The key values and behaviors that I learned during my upbringing are deeply ingrained in who I am today and how I approach life, both professionally and personally. Here are the top five lessons I learned about life and leadership from my childhood in Brazil that you may find helpful for your own journey.

  1. Be authentic.
    The best thing you can do to meet both business needs and team members’ needs is to be authentic. It’s so important to be truthful and vulnerable in a position of leadership to help your teams achieve the most in the pursuit of a meaningful and rewarding purpose. You are who you are, with strengths and weaknesses, good and bad. Embrace it all. Trying to project a different image never works out in the long run. Be yourself. It’ll make you a stronger leader.
  2. Never stop learning.
    Learning is a lifelong endeavor; you are never done. No matter how senior you are in your company, there’s always more to know. And the more you learn, the more clarity you uncover. Learn from your teams as much as possible: the best gift you can give someone is your undivided attention and true interest in what they have to say. Not only is it essential for a successful relationship, but you’ll learn from their unique point of view.
  3. Be selfless.
    My own way to approach life is selflessly. Give unreservedly and establish trust with those around you. Trust is the currency of long-term relationships, so do what you say you’re going to do, every single time. As you establish genuine, trusting relationships to help others, you’ll be helping yourself, too. Sooner or later, you will experience the evidence of that.
  4. Act with integrity.
    No matter what, do the right thing. Integrity is foundational in both business and life—especially when no one is watching. And, hand-in-hand with that, always tell the truth. Lies catch up with you by creating anxiety, stress, and unnecessary internal pressure. It’s always better to tell the truth, regardless of the circumstances.
  5. Seja útil.
    Seriously, be helpful! Have an attitude of helpfulness in everything you do. Help your family, your friends, colleagues, employers, employees, customers, investors, and even strangers. Give, give, give. You’ll always be glad that you did.
    Life is like a river. It has a natural flow, and if you try too hard to swim against it, it will exhaust you. There will be bumps, twists and turns—so don’t take yourself too seriously. You’ll enjoy life and feel greater success when you flow downstream.It took me a long time to internalize that success isn’t the destination, it’s the journey. It’s something that you feel along the way, in all the little moments. If you’re waiting to feel good about a future scenario in your mind, you’re missing out—it’s already happening all around you. So, take a pause, turn inward and consider everything you’re already grateful for.

Make time to pause and take stock of how far you’ve come, and give credit where it’s due. The most active ingredient in your leadership skills and success may not come from school. Your family, your beginnings, your home, and your true friends have more to do with where you are than you may think. Never miss an opportunity to express gratitude for those in your life.


Written by Alvaro Vaselli, President and CEO, SKYDEX.

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Alvaro Vaselli
Alvaro Vaselli is the President and CEO of SKYDEX Technologies, Inc., a global leader in advanced impact mitigation and energy absorption solutions. Vaselli started his career with Dow Chemical in Brazil. He then led the development of ARCO’s business in South America. After moving to the U.S. with ARCO/Lyondell, he was appointed SVP at Foamex/FXI and later the President of Personal Care at Tredegar Corporation and Founder and CEO of Nuvanna. Vaselli has spent his career working with advanced materials and consumer products.


Alvaro Vaselli is an opinion columnist for the CEOWORLD magazine. You can follow him on LinkedIn.