Alejandro Betancourt Lopez is a successful Venezuelan businessman, who is both a pioneer and a global entrepreneur. He has taken on key leadership roles in organizations around the world and has focused on a personal philosophy grounded in the precepts of self-improvement, self-mastery and innovation. He doesn’t like to give up.
Why Self-Improvement Is Important
Self-improvement is the process of improving one’s skills, knowledge and personal characteristics. Alejandro Betancourt Lopez is the son of a musician, but he is most frequently referenced as the great-grandson of Hermogenes López, former president of Venezuela, and that philosophy of self-improvement is a focus learned from his family history and values. Though little is known of his great-grandfather’s background, a few details have filtered down to us. Perhaps most remarkable is the story about the limited education of Hermógenes.
With little more than a grade-school education and a farm-worker resume, he rose through the social ranks as a soldier and military leader, innovator and revolutionary-activist, and then finally filled the role of a transitional president after the administration of General Antonio Guzmán Blanco when the former president went into voluntary exile. Betancourt Lopez’s great-grandfather paved the way for his own future innovation and entrepreneurial spirit by being responsible for bringing electricity to Valencia, Venezuela. He then inaugurated the railroad between Valencia and Puerto Cabello as well as initiated an underwater cable with Europe in 1888.
In the practice of personal development there are a series of steps that every individual must learn and then implement in one’s own life to be successful. In interviews with journalists, Betancourt Lopez has demonstrated how and why he’s taken on the precepts of self-improvement for his own life and sphere of influence. His philosophy has not come full-grown overnight; he’s gathered a group of like-minded and trusted individuals and developed strategies to empower both himself and those around him. Here are some key steps he has taken.
The first stage in any journey toward self-improvement is the decision to start out in a purposeful direction. It doesn’t have to be a firm resolution or life-long plan, but early on Betancourt Lopez showed signs that he was already interested in personal development. Born in 1980 into a wealthy and well-known family in Caracas, Venezuela, Betancourt Lopez was raised in the country’s capital and largest city. Although he never met his great-grandfather, the legacy of modernization took root in his family history and inspired his own desire to initiate future innovations.
With a double-major in economics and business administration from Boston’s Suffolk University, he was primed to take on the world, with specializations in the energy sector: exploration, production, trade oil and derivatives. In a sense, Betancourt Lopez started where his great-grandfather left off, but his scope of influence was immediately so much wider, ranging from the U.S., Europe, South America, the Middle East and even to Africa. He currently lives in London, England, but his efforts to facilitate innovation have offered opportunities for work in farming, real estate, finance and international trade.
Take Strategic Steps Forward
All of us start out taking baby steps, and similarly, Betancourt Lopez’s career has been a series of learning experiences. As he is fond of reiterating, no life is lived error-free. It is a series of missteps and mistakes; some of those mistakes just do not make the national news. It is a part of life that Betancourt Lopez appreciates, because he can learn and grow from those mistakes — they’re the kindling used to start the fire. It is often those growth opportunities and the obstacles that have arisen in his path that have made him into the man he is today. Hardships and struggles are never really sought after or pursued, but through the hard and difficult times, Betancourt Lopez is thankful for the many lessons he has learned and the progress he has made in moving forward, despite the trials and tribulations.
Be Surrounded by People You Trust
Self-improvement and personal self-development are never best accomplished in a vacuum, and Alejandro Betancourt Lopez knows that more than most. That is why he values mentorship and the fellowship of the core group of people he knows and trusts. He has learned, and continues to learn from his own mistakes, but he is also open to learning from others. It is the principle of understanding the process that has led to a given failure, but also what has made the biggest successes possible. The mentors and coaches in his life have taught him to appreciate open and honest communication, as well as personal input and advice: Listen to the stories. Ask lots of questions. It is the spirit of curiosity and intrigue that blossoms into a relationship of openness and sharing.
In order to be able to accept the influences of those around us, it is necessary to focus on the conversation that is being had right there and then. It is not an interrogation. Instead, it is a practice of listening and learning at the feet of a person who has already proven that he or she has a fountain of wisdom to share, if one will only listen.
Betancourt Lopez embraces technological innovation. It has always been part of what makes him tick. Perhaps that is a throwback to all that he has learned about his great-grandfather’s spirit of innovation, but he too has continued to push forward risky and strategically difficult plans in the various organizations that he has led and participated in with key sales, business development, social projects and energy-sector development.
Some risk is involved, but that is the nature of most business environments. Instead of fearing change and/or seeking to avoid it, Betancourt Lopez demonstrates a propensity to embrace the evolving environment around him and find ways to be in the right place at the right time to capitalize on the winds of change. Variation is inevitable in any business or personal relationship. What sets Betancourt Lopez apart is how he embraces it, while continuing down his journey toward self-improvement.
Accountability is Key
Not only does Betancourt Lopez understand the value of just setting out in one direction, being strategic about one’s progress, being around trusted mentors and embracing change, he also sees the importance of accepting personal responsibility and accountability for what goes well and what fails within the organizational structure. This is key to his philosophy of life and business success, but it is also a commitment to excellence that has time and again helped him to succeed. He sees himself as adaptive, and he strives to “be one step ahead,” but that additionally means that he values a collaborative team atmosphere.
The team succeeds or fails on the power of its ability to overcome the obstacles, working together. Just as he believes that he can achieve the best possible version of himself by self-improvement, he believes that his team can give the best of themselves through brainstorming and dedication in a creative and relaxed space. While he holds himself accountable, he also believes in sharing the vision, mulling it over, immersing oneself in the vision and then really making sure they have it right.
Betancourt Lopez has accomplished a great deal in his career and life, but one of the core principles of his belief system is the knowledge and appreciation of where he came from in life. His great-grandfather was a farmer and soldier. His father was a musician. While he has been fortunate with the opportunities that he has had in his life, he never takes his position or his successes for granted. He does appreciate what he has, and he is grateful. That thankful attitude is part of what has helped him develop the kind of dynamic that he has with his staff.
Betancourt Lopez does like to be one step ahead of everyone, but that is also because he is passionate about what he does. It is a drive, a vision and an intentional focus that he has been pursuing all his life. Because he has such a clear and focused vision of what he sees for his own plans the future, he does not get discouraged easily. He connects with those who share his vision, and he is accessible and approachable in that regard. He likes to share his vision with those people because they seem open and able to appreciate the opportunity that is just ahead. It is part of his growth leadership mentality. He always wants to think outside the box and push the boundaries, but he never wants to take anything for granted. Just because he sees an opportunity here and now doesn’t mean such occasions will abound forever.
Change is always right around the corner, but that does not mean it has to be scary or intimidating, particularly with the conscious effort to embrace it and repurpose it to work within the constraints or goals of self-realization and self-improvement.
Intention is Important
Moving forward in anything but an intentional and purposeful way is counterproductive and counterintuitive. There are moments in everyone’s life when it is unclear which is the best path to follow, and that’s OK. As humans, it is not necessary that we always have the answer to every situation, but part of the benefit of following a strategic journey forward with self-improvement is that it doesn’t matter if all the answers are obvious or if the path makes sense every step of the way.
For Betancourt Lopez, this would be part of an “informed risk.” He sets a goal and moves forward in the direction that aligns with his target goals. He is constant and resolute, but he also constantly follows up. He checks his perception, and he evaluates his progress toward his goal. If (or more like, when) that goal changes, it is not a lost opportunity or a wrong path. It is just a redirection or change in focus and a reinvigoration of that drive and vision.
Life is a Challenge
The self-improvement philosophy does not mean that life will immediately get easier. It’s more a matter of developing skills, techniques and a personal mindset that allow one to overcome the obstacles that appear in the path. One of the main points that Betancourt Lopez makes is: “Never stop trying. You fall down many times. The important thing is to keep getting up.” Very few ever really have an easy life free of challenges and disappointments. It sounds cliché, but it really is not a matter of what happens to you. As Betancourt Lopez is fond of saying, “Learn from your mistakes and become a better self.”
“Never stop trying. You fall down many times. The important thing is to keep getting up.”
There is No Overnight Success
No successful path to leadership and business innovation happens overnight. It is a process of learning, trial-and-error, developing skills and a progression of self-improvement. Betancourt Lopez learned that early on, and that is why he has seen each situation as an opportunity for growth and personal development. While it never happens overnight, he demonstrates his business savvy and acumen with the fact that he is still so young for the role in which he now holds. He has already led multiple companies, implemented innovative change and brought forward revolutionary ideas across a swath of interest areas.
Think Big, Act Big
Betancourt Lopez points to the big thinkers and doers when asked whom he looks up to and seeks to emulate. They are names like Jack Ma, Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos and Mark Zuckerberg. What all those examples have in common is that they started out in obscurity, but paved their way in the technological sphere by sheer ingenuity and force of will. They also got lucky.
With that concept of “Think Big, Act Big,” there still is no promise or certainty of success. Failure is a given (at least occasionally) even in the most successful business models. One of the most poignant stories about the successful Chinese business magnate, politician and investor Jack Ma (Ma Yun) is that he repeatedly applied for entrance into Harvard Business School, and he was rejected ten times. This is the man who was most recently estimated to have a net worth of $35.6 billion.
An ambitious and pioneering attitude can take an individual far, but there is also the reality that not every professional organization recognizes the value of a person’s contribution. The philosophy of self-improvement is built on the concept that an individual will continue on the journey toward a higher level of skills, knowledge and understanding. Efforts do not stop when the individual is beset and overcome by obstacles, rejection or utter failure. It is not supposed to be easy. If it was, you’d have to believe that everyone would do it. Sometimes — quite often — lack of success is the very thing that has needed to inspire a man like Betancourt Lopez to stride forward and seize the opportunities.
Betancourt Lopez says that the advice he would give to his younger self is, “Always surround yourself with good people and build teams that deliver high performance.” He focuses on people, but he also strives to connect with those whom he can trust, who are loyal, and who have shared values and work ethic.