Episode 196: Uncovering Your True Calling - How Gonzalo Peña Found His Way

your next stop Jun 14, 2023

Gonzalo’s an innovation & inclusion storyteller, and his content always aims to inspire people to improve themselves and their community. Gonzalo is the creator, host and founder of InnoLatino Newsletter (available on LinkedIn) and InnoLatino Podcast (available in Apple, Spotify, Google and many other platforms). He’s interviewed leaders from the entertainment, media, space, and technology fields. Gonzalo has had many different roles in different arenas – including in places like a Program Coordinator in the United Nations, a Database Manager in Wall Street, a Baritone with the Utah Opera and a Language Analyst for the Department of Justice, among others. Originally from Venezuela, he believes in the power that good education can have on a community to raise their standard of living.


You can find Gonzalo on LinkedIn.


Remarkable Quote:


“If there's something that I'd like to do is inspire my people, so I quit my job to become a content maker.”


Find Us Online!


Welcome back to your next stop. This is Juliet Hahn. In this episode, I speak with Gonzalo Peña. He is a storyteller voice, talent, thought leader, and he has a podcast called Eno Latino. You can find that on every podcast player.

Gonzalo really hangs out on LinkedIn. He's got over 17,000 followers on LinkedIn because of the connections he's made throughout the years. He went to business school, even though he was a trained singer, because he wanted to make a living for his family. But listen in on how he decided he needed to bring back the singing and how he got into basically was in the opera, which is pretty fascinating. This is a really great story because we talk about the pivots, but also from where Gonzalo was from in Venezuela and some of the paths that he took to get where he is now.

You guys do not want to miss this. You can follow again, Gonzalo on every podcast player. Eno is in O Latino podcast and you can also find him on LinkedIn. And Gonzalo is G-O-N-Z-A-L-O-P-E-N-A. Another episode you do not want to miss.

Hi, it's Juliet Hahn, storytelling consultant and the host of five different podcasts. I have two more podcasts coming out. Stay tuned for those. So, what do I do? In my consulting parts of my business, I help small business owners shorten the buying cycle and increase sales.

By using key parts of your story. By leveraging your personal and business story, you can build relationships with potential customers on a deeper level and help them feel more connected to you, help you stand out in this noisy digital world. When you're doing that, this can lead to a shorter buying cycle and increased sales. So what makes me an expert? I have developed a strong intuition for understanding and reading people from a very, very early age.

It is my superpower. I have perfected my skills over the last 20 years. And it started in advertising and then I pivoted into interviewing podcasting and speaking. So what I really help you guys do is find those gold bits of your story and be able to help you connect the dots. I help you find those pieces that always should be brought up.

If you are doing podcasting, if you're doing social media posts, if you're networking, I find and help you connect those dots to those little gold bits that should always be brought up. I offer a 30 minutes free discovery call. If this is something that you're interested in exploring a little bit more, please email me at [email protected].

Welcome back to your next stop. You know, I say it every single time. I'm so excited to bring you guys another story of someone that has followed a passion. Welcome. Gonzalo pena.

How are you? Excellent. Thank you for having me in your show. Yes, I'm really excited to get into this. So Gonzalo is a storyteller voice talent.

He is a thought leader and then he also is the host of Eno Latino Podcast, which you can find on all the podcast players. So we're going to get into this conversation, but I would love for you just to start a little bit, Gonzalo about your background, where you grew up, a little bit about your early childhood years. Sure. I'm originally from Venezuela. That's where I was born and raised the son of a musician and a clerk and a secretary.

And I thought my entire life that I was going to be like my daddy. My dad started singing for a living when he was twelve years old. And I thought that was it because he was very ingrained in my identity. My dad never forced us to study music, but that's what I did. I did twelve years of musical theory and I started a different career to be able to follow the music.

Because I saw that my dad had to have like five jobs to be able to feed us. So eventually I had a visa, student visa to come to the US. And my dad, I told my dad, hey, finally I'm going to be able to fulfill my dream and be like you dad. And my dad told me, get your degree in business please, and then do whatever you want.

I do have to ask, obviously you were able to hold a tune. Was it as easy for you as your father? Or is it something because I know there's people that naturally can sing. It's just like a gift. Other people have to work on it.

So was it something that you were just gifted with your voice? Or was it something that you did have to put a little effort into? Well, we all had to perfect or craft somehow and I had to work on it. But all my siblings and myself had good pitch. And I remember.

Thank you. And I remember in the school of music, I was run by kid geniuses kids that were winning international competitions of piano in Europe or that were being, becoming famous because of their talent, you know, and I thought it was like just me. And one day one of my music teachers, she was kind of upset. Do you have any idea of the talent you have? Do you think that anyone else has your talent here?

And up to that moment I consider myself like average, like nothing especially it took a teacher to tell me, actually, you're good at this. So my answer would be I probably have inherited a lot from my dad. In that aspect, the natural talent. Now, can your mom hold a tune as well? She was able to hold a tune, yeah, pretty much.

She had a beautiful voice as well.

And I find that so fascinating because that's one thing I cannot I could be tone deaf. I think that I can sing, but I really cannot. And my entire family were kind of all like that. My husband, though, every once in a while he'll sing and I'm like, Wait a second, you actually don't sound like my siblings and my mom and stuff. And it's interesting because the kids, when they were like, younger, they did course in school and I think some of them a little bit could hold tune.

Now, we did not go into the arts of singing, but I always find it really fascinating when someone has that natural talent, right. It's just something that really comes to them easily. And then others it comes easily, but they still put that extra effort in and then others don't have any singing voice. And I'll give you an example. It's funny.

My uncle, we kind of always said that my mom's family really could not sing. There were seven of them, or there are seven of them. And he decided that he wanted to go and practice and do the Ave Maria for one of his nephew's wedding, my cousin's wedding. And we were all like, oh. Because the cousin that was getting married actually has a gorgeous singing voice, but it comes from his mom's side.

So he sang the Ave Maria at my wedding. I mean, he's amazing. He's in a band. Shout out to you, Michael Cummings. But so he just really has a beautiful voice.

So my Uncle Jim did go and trained for a while and did the Ave Maria. And I have to say we were all super impressed, like, oh, my gosh, maybe you can practice. I mean, he had to really practice and really focus. It didn't come naturally to him. But I always think that's fascinating, especially since you got it from both sides that you had the talent.

Well, that's something interesting. Two things. The first one, it reminds me that Michael Jordan, when he grew up, his older brother was better than him on basketball. But that became the challenge, the spark for him to get better and train and train. So he would become the kind of player, the legend that he is.

Still, the other hand, interestingly. The only thing I've done professionally on a regular basis as a musician was six years in the Utah Opera as a Barry Tony. But in order to audition, I got a voice coach, a singing coach.

She was meto soprano from Ecuador. Great talent. Jokonda Bacca. Shout out for you.

It was really special because I got myself also a very good pianist to accompany me. And I was really nervous, really nervous when I did that. And I got there and the conductor of the opera choir, she had this poker face and really piercing blue eyes and okay. And so on, so and go ahead. It and the piece I had started is from The Marriage of Figuero.

And it just starts with one chord. Boom. And then you start singing.

So it was like, okay. He's giddy up now. Right? It was one moment in which the pianist and I didn't get the same time. I think I got too long in a note, and I just did one gesture and he kind of looked at me, and then we continued.

So the conductor raised her eyes and, Is everything okay? And then she went back to reading my resume, and I was surprised when I was done that she on the spot. She offered me a contract. So that was very fulfilling. Yeah, no, that's amazing.

I love that. And I love that. Thank you for sharing that. So now we're going to go back. Your dad said, Please go into business.

So what did you study at university? So I went to study business administration with a specialization international in Utah Valley and Utah, where I reside now with my wife family.

I always had music on the side in my church. Sometimes I conducted a choir, sometimes I was part of a choir. But with the limitations that you have as a student on a student visa here, I knew that if I had chosen music as my major, I was going to start here. There are already very few spots available for any musician out there.

And I knew that if I had to justify me working out there as a musician, because that was the career that I was involved with, and those are the type of limitations that you have as a student visa. I wasn't going to be able to move forward eventually. I wanted to become a good provider for a family. So I thought the most practical thing was to study business. Having said that, it really, I'm going to say painful not to be involved with music the same way I had been involved before.

Well, I mean, when you're passionate about something, and I talk about this a lot on this podcast, creative passion is everyone needs to find that. Everyone needs to figure out what their creative passion is. And it doesn't mean you have to draw, because that's what I originally always thought that creative passion was. Oh, I'm not creative because I don't draw.

Basically, I'm like stick figures. That's how when I draw, I'm really terrible. Same with in the singing. Those are not my creative things. But what I'm creative is my storytelling and how I connect with people through talking.

And that is creative. But you don't think of it as something that's creative or athletics. That was for Hahny times of my life. It was the athletics that I was doing, and I was getting that same kind of feeling as following creative passion. And so a lot of times I talk to women in my time, at the age that I am after, our kids are a little bit older and they feel lost, and it's usually because they're missing that creative passion.

And I always say, you have to find it, you have to explore it. So the fact that you just brought that up right now you're studying business, and the thing that you truly love, you're not doing. So take us through that a little bit. And how did you incorporate it back? As I said, sometimes I had the chance to sing or conduct choirs in my church.

I graduated from business, and interestingly, I applied for a master's in orchestral conducting and I didn't get in, and that was very frustrating to me. I knew I had another passion, which was diplomacy, international relations. So I applied for a program that had deep connections with the United Nations because I wanted to be in an organization where I could help make the world a better place. So I got accepted and I was able to work for a couple of years in two different agencies of the United Nations. But interestingly, one of those jobs that I had was because I joined the choir of the UN workers.

And that was very special because a couple of times I sang in the general assembly hall with the big symbol of the world behind you. And by defaulted, I'm like, wow, I'm in the center of the world, I'm singing to the planet. Eventually, my wife and I moved back to Utah. She was the one who told me, they're requesting people that the Utah Opera is looking for men to join. You should audition.

I was like, Nah, I mean, sing in choir. I mean, the opera as a kid was tosca I was an ultra boy and that was it. And she kind of insisted. And that burden inside that need to have that creativity was too much. So I decided to listen to her.

And I didn't know that eventually when I auditioned, I was going to get contract on the spot. Right. Spouses out there, listen to your spouse. Right. But here's the thing, and I would love to know a little bit about when you started doing that.

Did you see things in your world changing? Did you start getting that fire back that you maybe were not having? Because I think that's something that people don't really think about. Like sometimes you just are going through life. Life is fine, it's not bad, it's not great.

But then when you add that passion back in, it's like firecrackers. So if you could take us through that a little bit. Yeah. At that moment I had to pivot into something different because I live in a state where not a whole lot of people believe in the United Nations and the role they do. I don't know if I believe the same way as I did before, so I had to reinvent myself and try different avenues.

And what really stuck was becoming a translator, working in translation services. So I did that for different agencies of the Department of justice, as a matter of fact. So I was working with law enforcement a lot and I was dealing literally with the worst of huHahnity there. And you can tell that you're feeling that you're making a difference. Sometimes you felt, Hahn, I'm in a movie.

But other occasions like this is really burdensome at that time is when I found out about the audition and I started practicing rehearsing and singing in operas as well. And it's interesting because when I was on stage, it was going back to what I was being on stage over an orchestra and a conductor and you being able to sing your heart, your heart out to an audience and finally getting a stand innovation. And it's not just me, it's just a team. And we work together in this. And not only that, the people from the Utah that make the costumes, they're real artists.

And sometimes you thought like, wow, I can't believe I'm getting to be part of something so great and so beautiful. And that brought back a great piece of my identity, something I had lost in my life and very grateful for those years that I spent in the Utah. Yeah, I mean, I'm sure again, as you said, listen to your spouse sometimes we know, and vice versa when our partner is flailing and what maybe they need to explore. And I think it's really important that open communication. So after you left the opera and you were doing the translation, where did your career take you there?

Well, I kept working with law enforcement and as a language analyst for a bit and it got to the point that I wanted to do more for my people, latino people. And not only that, but I realized that in the organization that I was working, there was no career path and I wanted to grow. I have that growth mindset. And I've had witness good leadership and bad leadership as well. And I thought, my people need to see good examples of leadership in Venezuela.

And right now Venezuela is still going through a dictatorship. Hahny people, several generations now, the only thing they know as leadership is the autocrats that have been in power. I'm very poor example. So I thought if there's something that I'd like to do as inspiring my people and I quit my job to become a content marketer. What I didn't know is that weeks later a pandemic was going to start in the world and I'm still a counter marketer, but it brought a lot of uncertainty.

Now I need to backtrack a little bit because growing up in Venezuela, my dad was very involved in the audio scene in Venezuela. It's very hard to get a permit to speak in the media, on TV, speaking live. So he had passed that test. You always saw him or listen to his voice on TV because he sang commercial jingles. And we were used to being in audio studio.

So I knew for Hahny years that I wanted to do something with audio, something in which my voice could have an impact. And I knew that I wanted to do something that would inspire people. So literally around 15 years, I had this project of doing something with audio.

I knocked on the door on a couple of radio options here locally, and I didn't think that that was going to be scalable or optional. By the time COVID hit, I realized that the technology had evolved so well that I could start my own podcast and that I wasn't going to have to invest a whole lot to put my content out there. And by then, I had grown very strong network on LinkedIn because I had sought out to meet the people who would inspire me. And I knew that I think to interview those people, they would inspire my audience. So I finally took the courage.

I'm very hard on myself, so I was really afraid that whatever I was going to put out there wasn't going to be a quality. Despite the fact that I sang in the opera, I hate to listen to my own voice singing because I'm very self conscious. So when I was at a point that I would tolerate my own voice speaking on microphone, I decided to start my own podcast. And the name came on a whim, literally like, well, I want to do about innovation and I'm a Latino and that's kind of my target. Latino leadership.

Okay. No, Latino. Okay, I know Latino. Let's go with it. Right?

And that's it. I make an effort in every single episode to inspire people. And the thing is, when we're meant to be doing what we're supposed to be doing, I believe in God and I believe that we all have a path. We all don't always find that path, but when we find that path and the doors just open and it's effortlessly kind of going through, you run into a little bit. Maybe you're supposed to go left instead of right.

But it is such a beautiful feeling of, okay, I'm in the right path. And so for 15 years, you had this kind of in the back of your mind, what was the feeling when, as you said, the name came up? Like you really just kind of flowed with what you were doing. If you could let the listeners know how that felt. Juliet, thank you for saying that because even today I was talking with my wife about that.

We're religious people, and one of the tenets of my church is a verse in the New Testament Epistle of James that says, if any of you lack of wisdom, let him ask of God. Sorry. Another scripture in Spanish. But pretty much say that if you need wisdom in your life, you can ask of God and he will give it and grant it to you abundantly.

I have a project right now of taking now the content on my podcast, also in print and online. So I was telling my wife when I married you, everything fell into place. Fell into place and felt like we clicked and we were right for each other. And then she reminded me, yes, but remember, I wasn't easy to be with sometimes. And I say this because she had me wait four months, five months before she say yes to me, to a marriage proposal.

And we had to work together and put effort into it. So it's a balance between both things, between feeling that you are the path, that you are at ease, and your mind and your heart field, that shot of dopamine. And, yeah, this is building me inside and outside, and I love it. But the other side is also daring and taking that leap of faith to go to the next level, to take the next step, which is not easy sometimes. And to be honest, I still need to take a lot of steps into the dark or leaps of faith, if you will.

And it's a balance between both things, you know, that this has felt right for a long time, and let's keep going. If it wasn't fulfilling, if it was actually becoming something to the detriment of your health, Hahn, that should be signed enough for you to change something.

Not. Necessarily the entire professional path, right? But exploring it, right? If someone doesn't feel right, explore it. So please.

I know in the beginning of the episode, we kind of took people through where they can find you, and I do kind of an intro, what we talk about, but can you let people know where to find you when your podcast, when you release your dates, and anything else that you want to share with the audience? Thank you. So I operate exclusively on LinkedIn, at least for now. So Gonzalo. That's Gonzalo.

And last name? Pena. Pena. And my platform is called INO Latino. That's in N-N-O Latino.

It's a bilingual podcast, but I'm also posting weekly written content on my profile in the feature. So LinkedIn has the feature for content creators that are really cool, by the way, and I highly recommend that to everyone. And it can be either video or written.

If you're a designer, you can put your stuff there out there, too. And I'm about to launch the next season of my podcast in two weeks, so be on the lookout, please. That's great. Well, I have to say, Gonzalo, thank you so much for joining your next stop. We really appreciate you here, telling your story and inspiring others.

Thank you. Thank you, Juliet. Thank you for doing the same and giving us a chance to do this. Thank you. You guys, you know what to do.

Like, rate review and share. You might be listening and saying, oh, that's an interesting story, but you don't know who needs to hear this story. You don't know who in their life right now is maybe stuck, maybe needs to pivot a career and this episode is going to help them. So also go and follow Gonzalo on LinkedIn and his podcast. Thank you again and we will see you guys for the next episode of Your Next Stop.

I hope you liked this episode of your next stop. Please subscribe to my channel, share with your friends and join in each week.


My focus is entirely on helping you follow your passion, even when you feel like you've got stuck in crazy town. There is a way out, its me helping you. You don't have to ditch everything in your life that is making you feel overwhelmed and stuck, you just need some help to navigate it.


Come See What We Can Do Together