Creating space to be vulnerable with Julián Torres

Julián is all about opening up space for mistakes because he finds a lot of growth there; This is the continuation of this week’s two-part special with Julián Esteban Torres López. This incredible human being is here not only to give his advice towards podcasting but towards life. He reckons it is important to approach people with open arms and create a safe space for them. This way guests will feel comfortable enough to be very vulnerable. Julián gives us a gift in this episode. He talks so openly about mental health and where he is right now with the Nasiona movement.

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Creating space to be vulnerable with Julián Torres

About our Guest

 Julián Torres

Julián Esteban Torres López is a bilingual, Colombian-born culture architect with Afro-Euro-Indigenous roots. He is the creator and executive director of the social justice storytelling movement the Nasiona, where he hosts and produces The Nasiona Podcast and creates, publishes, and edits The Nasiona Magazine.

He’s a Pushcart Prize and Best Small Fictions nominee, a Trilogy Award in Short Fiction finalist, winner of the Rudy Dusek Philosophy of the Arts Essay Contest, author of two social justice books.

Throughout his career, Julián has engaged with audiences as an educator, storyteller, museum director, event host, topic expert, moderator, workshop leader, activist, journalist, and podcaster.

Smooth Podcast_Julian Torres Lopez P2: Audio automatically transcribed by Sonix

Smooth Podcast_Julian Torres Lopez P2: this mp3 audio file was automatically transcribed by Sonix with the best speech-to-text algorithms. This transcript may contain errors.

Smooth Podcast Intro:
All the technical busywork required to produce a podcast can be a struggle, establishing trust with clients and increasing sales for your company with your own podcast is something you can do well. We interview the top podcasters in the industry to provide hacks and insights to help you start and scale your podcast. Welcome to the Smooth Podcast!

Daniela Perea:
Hey, everyone! We are back with the Smooth Podcast! On this episode with activist Julián Esteban Torres López, Julián has engaged with audiences as an educator, storyteller, museum director, even as a host, topic expert, moderator, workshop leader, activist, journalist, podcaster, throughout his career, so you name it, Julián has done everything. Julián, welcome back to the show. We’re so glad to have you! Please, let’s just jump right into it, OK? I think that there are some like really big lessons to learn here. First, you’ve got to know what you want to say, if you want to have a voice, when you’re focusing on having a mission-based podcast out there, you’ve got to know what you want to say and open that space. Second, build relationships, do not think about results, just build relationships and results will happen. I love that one. I really love that one

Julián Torres:
And even for businesses, not just mission-driven because every business.

Daniela Perea:
Yeah.

Julián Torres:
Has a mission and as.

Daniela Perea:
Yeah.

Julián Torres:
A vision.

Daniela Perea:
That’s where I was going. I was going to how important it is to build a relationship and get to know who you’re talking to before establishing any relationship. Like in life, I don’t think it just applies to businesses or podcasts. I think it matters in life. Whoever you approach in life has something to tell you, to taught, to teach you, and something that might be valuable to you. I really think that’s, I don’t know, I think that’s a gem. I think that’s a gem on the, on the podcasting note, Julián, I wanted to ask, was there some time where you, like, really said, like, I made a mistake here and I know I made a mistake. And what’s that, the biggest mistake you made and the biggest lesson you learned from it in the process? Was there a time?

Julián Torres:
I feel like I make mistakes every day, right? But being open to making mistakes, I think is part of the disposition and mindset that you kind of have to do to succeed, right? If I’m constantly fearing of making the mistake, of staying in a comfort zone and then I can’t really achieve my mission, you know, whether it’s business or nonprofit-related or movement-related, it’s like, OK, well, you know, like people don’t like to lose. So then if they lose it, a new sport or a new game or whatever, for example, they’ll stop playing because I just don’t like the feeling of losing. And I’m of the mindset that the more I lose and the more I dissect why I lost and the more I learn from the people who were better than me, then I’m going to get better, right? Especially if it’s something I care about. If I’m investing my time, energy, money, my opportunities to do in a podcast, then I can’t be limited by those fears. I got to welcome them, right, so that’s one thing. It’s like I thank people when they beat me, you know what I mean? Because I just got better.

Daniela Perea:
Yeah.

Julián Torres:
They won’t speak to me about how they did it. I just got better. So thank you. You know, that kind of thing. It’s, but some of the difficulties for me are I think also part of my disposition, part of it’s obviously environmental and part of it is it’s just nature. But obviously, you can’t have nature without environment, so they’re interconnected. When, what I mean by limitations, the environmental limitations are like, well, again, those systems of oppression, you know, I didn’t inherit all this wealth that came from people who ended up taking lands and building multibillion-dollar businesses. So I don’t have startup funds, right? So I know how difficult it is to start something. And if you make a mistake, that might be the only chance you had to start a business, right, when people who have startup funds or family who can build them out be like, OK, well, yeah, you can fail five times on the business, and let’s try another idea. So I’m also strategic in that I don’t have a safety net to fall on. And I know the limitation of people who want to start something. Who like will, yeah Julián, I want to make mistakes, but I can’t fail completely. You got to be strategic about that. But you also can’t delude yourself thinking like, oh, I’m going to succeed in regardless of what, right, it’s like, well then, you got to know what the reality is on the ground and do your research to understand what the risks are of failing and how much are you able to risk in order to go in. So I always know very clearly what my risks are. And like worst-case scenario, am I prepared for that? And then I prepare for that. A part of it is, for me is, and I try to speak about this openly, and I always find it interesting how podcasts or how different people who interview me tend to edit it out, which I think says a lot about the culture. But I speak about my different mental health issues and my different diagnoses I’ve had, and my obsessive-compulsive personality disorder, my obsessive-compulsive disorder. All these things create a certain kind of disposition that it’s a part, it’s a part of me, it’s a certain personality. So how do I separate that from what I do? Right? It’s like, well, part of it is like I’m constantly, if you look at my bio, I am doing things all the time, right, I am constantly trying to perfect something, working towards something, that’s part of something that in a capitalist market, well, people love someone like that because you’re constantly producing your very detail-oriented, you go deep into things. So I try to kind of OK, I know that’s something that I can leverage, right? So that’s another lesson, is instead of looking at all these things as negatives, you know, because they affect certain relationships and they affect, you know, like I work too much, I don’t focus on all these different things or I’m always hoarding money like, obsessive-compulsive personality disorder is the only, and I say disorder in quotations, is the only disorder that one of the characteristics is money, is like I am so afraid of a catastrophe happening in the future that I want to be super prepared. So all that, like super preparedness and strategizing and planning things out is I’m so afraid of worst-case scenarios and I’m always thinking of worst-case scenarios.

Daniela Perea:
And really that, I think that helped you last year

Julián Torres:
Completely. I mean, I was super prepared, right, because a catastrophe hit, right? I’m like, oh!

Daniela Perea:
What’s the chances here.

Julián Torres:
Right. But I was like, I was ready. But also it creates certain barriers for certain things, like, OK, I’m hoarding all this money for a catastrophe, but I’m not going to spend any money on my business, you know what I mean? Like, because just in case I don’t have it, right? So some of those limitations for me are I spend so much of my time, of doing everything, you know, and I focus on so many little details and part of it is very, is grounded in control. Like, I want to be in control of my environment so I can predict a safe future. And part of that is like, OK, I need to control everything that’s going on. And that’s not always healthy for me and for, you know, people who I’m coordinating action with, like for a long time, I would not give interviews simply because I couldn’t control the final product.

Daniela Perea:
OK, yeah.

Julián Torres:
So I went, I went probably from 2009 until 2019, I said I’m not going to give any more interviews. And I just started kind of opening up, again, like I’ve given, like, for in the past month. So I’m just slowly starting to open that up again. But because I’ve been getting therapy and dealing with like, OK, what’s up with my control issues? You know, like, so I think a lot of it is, a lot of the limitations are internal, right, where am I and why am I like this? And then what are certain barriers that that creates? And then how do I actively go about managing that? And then what are some of the things that could actually be leveraged in manifesting whatever it is you’re trying to manifest with your movement, with your organization, with your relationships, with your business, whatever. So I go inward a lot, just like I go deep with the conversations on the podcast, I have to go look in the mirror, unpeel the layers and look at the ugly as well as the good, because what I’m doing with society and my cultural critiques, et cetera, I have to do that myself, too. I’ve also grown up in a culture that does not value me or others in certain ways. And how do I then actively become anti, how, my intent is not enough. What’s the impact of my intent? So one of those limitations is how are you standing in your own way, not just how society’s staying in your way? And then how do I, where do I identify power in order to really effectively move ahead with that? And then also like, OK, my limitation’s funding because I have not focused on funding. And that’s been one huge mistake. I say a limitation before about the personal, but that was one mistake that I was standing in my own way because I’m like I had had therapy for a long time and I was on meds, and then I went off it for ten years. And then I did, I ended up crashing, hitting a very big low last year before the pandemic hit. I got it. And I had all these responsibilities and all these things I was doing. So I needed to like, OK, well, one of the mistakes was overlooking my own health, mental health, emotional health, physical health. I can’t give back to the community if I’m not well enough to give to the community, regardless of how much I feel like I have to constantly give. So that was one big mistake, right? Because there were several times where I just wanted to like, you know what, forget this, I’m just going to stop and I’m done with the Nasiona, right? You know, I’m not getting really much money back. I’m not, I could, but I haven’t been focusing on that. What’s my return on investment? You know, I just got it, you know. So it’s like, OK, well, where’s that balance where I can give of myself and still be healthy and have the relationships with myself, with the other, with my community, with my life activity and so on, where it’s healthy and afloat. And I’m not just surviving, so I have to be very clear. So I don’t make that mistake again because I run myself to the ground and it just, kind of, deal with all those traumas that end up being barriers. And then, too, it’s like, OK, well, the other thing is like, OK, funding. I have not centered funding. And yes, we’re a mission-driven movement, we’re non-profit. But to do things effectively, you still got to figure out. You know, I’ve always been in the mindset that money is not the same as currency. I have not been focusing on currency, but I’ve been focusing on money, money in the sense of how can I achieve my goals? Sometimes currency helps, but sometimes building relationships helps, having access to different networks help, having, you know, all those things. So my money is how can I manifest the outcomes that I’m trying to manifest? And part of that is currency. And I focus on everything other than currency, when I think most other people focus on currency at the expense of all the other things, right? So my capacity to generate effective action has been limited because I’ve focused on, let’s say, three out of the four pillars where I can gain some power in order to manifest what, you know, my mission. So I need to focus on money. And if I’m not good at that, you know, a mistake was that like, oh yeah, I could do it but I’ll do it later, but I’ll do it later. And I’m constantly producing relationships, new content, and for me everything has to be perfect. So it’s like, OK, well, will apply for non-profit status, will apply for grants and fellowships. It’s like, oh, but we’re not good enough to where I want to be in order to do that. Before you know it, years go by and I still haven’t applied. But we’re doing more than most organizations are doing. It’s like we’re definitely good enough. So I had to get again, stand out of my own, move out of my own way, find someone who’s like, OK, you know what? I need help here. Where do I need help? Go find help and then they can take care of that, right? So that’s what I’m doing right now, which is something I wish I did before, is someone to deal with the development economic component of all these things. And then so I can spend my time and what I’m good at. So identify and it’s hard to, like, always be looking for negative things about yourself. But if you are responsible for a movement, for an organization, for people’s lives and livelihoods, then you got to also, like I keep saying, you got to put yourself in their shoes. And what are their concerns? Yeah, people will volunteer for a movement, but they’re only going to volunteer as so far as they can actually volunteer because they also have to pay bills. They have to put food on the table. They have to take care of their kids or their spouses and they’re limited. So I, I have to center that. And that’s something huge mistake that I’ve always known. But I know that because I’m such a control freak and I produce a lot that I’m like, I’m going to be all right. But I also don’t want to live out of savings or put too much stress on my family because I’m not making as much as we should, right? Not as we should, but as I could to help us prepare for that catastrophe or retirement, or whatever, you know what I mean? So those are the big things looking inwardly, figuring out what is, what are mistakes that you have done, you know, patterns of mistakes that could become continuing patterns in the future. Where do you need help? And then what do you need as to create a solid foundation for it to be successful? So you’re not surviving or only relying on people’s good nature kind of thing, right, because whether you pay them or not, yeah, you pay them, but it doesn’t mean they want to stay. So I focus on the reasons why they want to stay and be involved in something. But, you know, we also got to, you know, take care of all this concern. So those are the two biggest mistakes that I’m now trying to actively and intentionally rectify. I didn’t anticipate this to grow as quickly as it has, so.

Daniela Perea:
Yeah, kudos!

Julián Torres:
In the mistake. Which is a great problem to have.

Daniela Perea:
Yeah.

Julián Torres:
But, so I constantly have to check myself and be like, OK, take a step back. What do we need? Because I’m just in production mode. Months can go by and I haven’t, and I’m like, oh, wait, we got to focus on this now because of this threat that might pop up. So how do we go from this idea of, OK, we have certain promises we make to the community, OK, well, are we constantly putting out fires mode, right? Survival mode? How do we move from that to like OK, actually take care of our responsibilities, our promises that we’ve made to our community and our relationships, et cetera. And then how do we go from that, creating a foundation where we can go from putting out fires, survival, to OK, actually fulfill our promises, to then take advantage of opportunities and create and identify opportunities. And the way I work is I’m always looking for opportunities to create new things, to innovate, to architect something. But I need to have a solid foundation so you can ask yourself, what do I need for that solid foundation to always be fulfilling opportunities and taking care of responsibilities and then and only then not gamble, so then you can actually innovate and take and create new opportunities. Because that’s ultimately a gamble. Oh, well, it’s like, oh, well, we haven’t hit a catastrophe yet and we haven’t had a fire for a while, that’s just luck if I didn’t create a system and a foundation where that made it so it would never happen. Right. So those are things that I’m constantly thinking about as someone who is responsible for others.

Daniela Perea:
I love, I love how you, like, numbered all, all of these mistakes that are constant and that are very real. And I think that when you take the responsibility to put information out to the world, as having a podcast, having a podcast is a responsibility at the end of the day, whichever the content is.

Julián Torres:
Yeah.

Daniela Perea:
Look at yourself before and keep yourself in check. I wanted to ask you one last thing, is there a hack like, you know, this trick that you have under your sleeve, that you practice all the time and that you said like when you found it was like, oh, my God, this changed my life. What’s your number one hack?

Julián Torres:
I think people look at hacks too much technically, you know, like a technical skill. And I think those are all valuable, you know, like me learning how to create a website, how to do sound engineering, how to do, all these things are hacks, because I didn’t have those skills before. So I learned from people who do it well. I ask the right questions. I find the right mentors. I’m humble enough to recognize my own, my own limitations. And then I go find the hacks, right? But I think one of the biggest hacks is that mindset, that humility, because it’s that humility of your own limited knowledge, that is going to open you up to see the hacks and to and to listen to the hacks, to listen to people who have knowledge, to listen and learn. To listen and learn if, they’re hacks everywhere. But if you don’t have the right language or the right mindset to interpret something as a hack, then you’re never going to see a hack that’s right in front of you, meaning you’re not going to disclose a new world that could be an opportunity to help you achieve whatever it is you’re trying to achieve. So for me, I think one of the great things that’s helped me, my hack, is that it’s a mindset of learning, of humility, of listening, of learning and only acting afterwards, because only after I’ve listened and I’ve learned, do I then understand the concern that needs to be taken care of? And then I know what questions to ask for help with, because if I’m looking for a hack, I need to figure out what concern I’m trying to take care of. And sometimes the concerns, I can assume the community needs something, but if I don’t listen from them and learn from them, I’m never going to get the right hack to help them.

Daniela Perea:
Yeah, I get it.

Julián Torres:
So it’s, I think for me it’s that humility and the curiosity that then discloses opportunities and creates situations where you can actually identify where, where hacks are needed, and then how you can then go get those, the knowledge that ultimately becomes the hack.

Daniela Perea:
Keep learning.

Julián Torres:
Yeah.

Daniela Perea:
Yeah, I love that idea. Julián, before we go, where can our listeners find more about you, reach out to you, get a hold, maybe volunteer for the organization?

Julián Torres:
Yeah. So few places. So starting off with the Nasiona, so easy, TheNasiona.com. I think you can find it in the show notes so THE N A S I O N A.com, and you can find everything there. Same thing with social media, whether it’s Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, just look for The Nasiona, one word, to be able to find some of the stuff there. For me, you can find me at JETorresLopez.com, that’s my website. And you can find, you can find my social media, how to contact, learn more about the kind of work that I’ve done, how we can collaborate together. I’m always looking for projects to collaborate on, which is another mistake of mine is, is that I, I need to get better at saying no because I stretch out my capacity but mostly projects. So yeah. So it’s either The Nasiona and TheNasiona.com or JETorresLopez.Com and my handle’s are ultimately like J_E_TorresLopez on Twitter and Instagram.

Daniela Perea:
Well my people, you’re all going to find all this information in the show notes, just make sure to reach out if you’re interested in all that Julián is and his wonderful work, all that he’s doing for the communities to bring up the light on these important issues and help people that’s not always seen good, light and a voice and a space to share who they are and what they need. Julián, we really thank you for this time. We appreciate all the learnings that you’ve shared with us today.

Julián Torres:
Thank you. It’s been a pleasure and an honor. And I can’t wait to see what you all keep producing for our communities. Thank you!

Smooth Podcast Outro:
Thanks for tuning in to the Smooth Podcast. Be sure to visit us at SmoothPodcasting.com and follow us on social media for resources, show notes, and all you want to know about podcasting.

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Key Take-Aways 

  • As a podcaster, you need certainty about your point of view and your mission. 
  • Allowing oneself to make mistakes is opening up for growth.
  • You can turn negative things around and see where you can do better. 
  • There’s a difference between money and currency.
  • You need a specific growth mindset to see hacks everywhere.

Resources