“Trust is the most important leadership lesson I’ve learned.” -Hernan Barangan
Hernan and I first met when I was volunteering with Teen Cancer America at UCLA Mattel Children’s hospital in Los Angeles. Hernan immediately struck me with his incredible creative talent as a filmmaker and his commitment to direct his first film. Hernan’s mission, supported by Teen Cancer America, was to go out to 50 states to find 50 teens to film 50 stories of teens with cancer so that the united voice of young people across the U.S. could be heard. And, he did. The resulting short documentary, “Road Rebellion,” follows Barangan as he aims to change the face of U.S. healthcare for teenagers and young adults with cancer, creating a lasting legacy for the young people of the future.
Hernan says that one of his biggest goals was to reach those who have no experience with cancer whatsoever and give them a better understanding of what it’s like to have cancer — then everybody is a little more prepared for the moment when someone they know actually is diagnosed. He says, “my hope is that this dispels a lot of the fear that comes in that moment. So that everybody is more equipped emotionally to support that person who has been diagnosed.”
I’m so thankful I had the opportunity to meet Hernan so many years ago; he forever changed my life for the better by instilling a strong sense of the gratitude in my life. Here is some of his precious advice that he shared with us about staying positive, concentrating on the future and living life to its fullest.
Is there one piece of advice that you wish your 9 year old self would give you today that would make an impact on your career?
My 9 year old self would tell me to play with more action figures, and I would tell my 9 year old self to:
always help others achieve their goals, but broadcast your own, so they can help you achieve yours.
Was there a time you messed up and felt like you’d failed? how did you bounce back?
When I was fresh out of school, I took my student film to an independent film market. I had a lot of hope as I stood in front of a screening room full of buyers, wearing my dad’s suit because I didn’t yet have one of my own. But I came home extremely disappointed because my film didn’t sell. Over the following weeks I would learn more than ever from my failure than I could have learned from success — because I was able to examine the flaws and mistakes I had made along the way — and that make me determined to take those lessons and start again.
How did you learn to embrace risk-taking?
I learned risk-taking before I learned problem-solving. But the first thing I had to realize was that anything I break I can also fix. Once you know that, you can take any chance — because even if things go wrong, you can always reset and repair. When I was a teenager I wanted to know how cars worked, so I took my car’s engine apart and then put it back together. But what I really learned was that even though there would be problems along the way, those problems could be solved — and the real point of making anything is the journey that you take as you solve problem after problem in order to create.
What’s the most important leadership lesson you’ve learned and how has it proven invaluable?
Trust is the most important leadership lesson I’ve learned. When you’re building something that you’re passionate about, it’s easy to want to control every little part of it — but the best thing you can do is learn to find the right people and bring them into your passion, and then trust them to bring their own special uniqueness — and celebrate it, because it takes many voices to bring true meaning to anything worth building.
What is the most fun part of your job?
The most fun part of filmmaking, to me, is dreaming up ways to help people work through their feelings — the hard parts of life — then watching the effect when an audience is able to take those feelings and see them as their own.
Everything in between is work! But it’s the best kind of work.
About Amy Powell:
Amy Powell is a recognized industry leader and pioneer in the next generation of digital marketing & content creation. As an entrepreneur and founder of multiple digital, film and television companies, her expertise spans across digital marketing, story-telling, brand-building, content creation and business intelligence.