Hive Global Leaders program January 2015, San Francisco, CA.

12 Leaders You Should Meet To Elevate Your Thinking (And I Can Actually Introduce You To) — Part 1

By Cesar Romero

“But none of that really mattered. I had found my tribe. It felt like a family reunion for the family I’d never really known, a homecoming at the place where I was always meant to be” -David Levithan

This is part 1 of a 5 part series about the amazing people in my life that have changed my life for the better and continue to inspire me to keep pressing forward and live a life of authentic leadership and purpose.

Like the quote above, they are the family I’d never really known; they are part of my tribe!

Matt Wilson and Jared O’Toole

Matt and Jared are the founders of Under30CEO and Under30Experiences where they help young adults to think different, live different, and travel more.

In 2013, Matt wrote this article that changed my perspective and prompted me to start looking for new friends and experiences: Quality Time with Quality People.

I met Matt in April 2013 during the first Under30Experiences Nicaragua trip and the 4th trip as a company. I loved the experience so much because it made me realize the importance of finding your tribe and sharing life-changing experiences together.

I knew I had to get involved and on the 3rd day of the trip, I basically straight up asked Matt about how to get involved in growing the company.

It took a lot from me to make the ask but I knew I had to give it a shot. To my surprise, Matt said YES and I’ve been involved ever since.

On June 2013 I finally met Jared during the official launch party of Under30Experiences in NYC.

Here are some of the things that have become possible thanks to the Under30Experiences community:

-Joining StartingBloc and Hive leadership communities.

-Working with people that I actually like and enjoy their company.

-Traveling to Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Iceland, and Peru.

-Opening my eyes to freelancing and working on projects I truly enjoy.

-Meeting my now fiance Jennifer DeSimone

-Visiting my family at least once a year and not worrying if I have “enough” vacation time.

-Joining the Rich20Something community and meeting the freelance master Daniel Colossus DiPiazza

-Giving me the courage to continuously make mistakes on the road to designing my own life.

If you want to know what the best years of our lives are all about, I encourage you to come on a trip with Under30Experiences!

Jennifer DeSimone

A proud Elon graduate, Jennifer is passionate about collaborating with organizations that empower people to live happy fulfilled lives, especially women. She’s all for women empowerment and enabling women to thrive and succeed, especially in under-served communities.

In her capacity as operations and sales consultant, her portfolio includes organizations like SheaYeleen, Waveborn, Feelgoodz, Akilah Institute for Women, and others.

She’s also an active member of Startingbloc and Hive social impact leadership communities.

I met Jennifer in December 2013 during an Under30Experiences trip to Nicaragua and little did I know that 18 months later, we were going to get engaged and plan our wedding for June 2016.

Life sure is interesting and it will definitely give you what you want if you just ask for it and are willing to take risks.

You can ask her for the whole unconventional story if you are interested in learning more about it.

Here’s a glimpse of her work with SheaYeleen empowering women in Africa:

The Social Impact Show: SheaYeleen

Daniel DiPiazza

Daniel is the founder of Rich20Something and Freelance Domination where teaches young adults (or anyone with a hustle mindset) how to start/grow businesses using skills they already have and that people would pay for.

Daniel is literally a BEAST!

Not only in business, but also physically and just an overall good guy who wants to help others succeed.

I first came across Daniel’s work through his infamous Letter to Frustrated 20-Somethings where he opens up and shares from his own experiences that is possible to create your own lifestyle if you consistently put in the work.

We first met in Nicaragua during an Under30Experiences trip where I witnessed first hand his unmatched ability to destroy burritos.

If you want to learn how to hack the freelance game, check out Daniel’s Hacking Elance Guide. It will blow your mind!

Adam (Smiley) Poswolsky

Adam empowers millennials to find meaningful work. He is the author of The Quarter-Life Breakthrough, a bestseller and #1 top-rated job-hunting book on Amazon. Smiley has spoken about finding meaningful work at Fortune 500 companies, international conferences and leadership development programs, universities and graduate schools.

I first stumbled upon Adam’s work through his indiegogo campaign for his book and I remember relating to it 100%.

In the book he talks about his own personal journey towards finding work he’s deeply passionate about and how the reader can embrace the journey to find meaning, when it’s time to quit a mediocre job that’s no longer inspiring, what questions to ask to figure out what you really want to be doing, what type of impact you want to make, how to get paid for what you really want to be doing, and many other topics that millennials can relate to.

I met Adam in October 2014 in DC during Startingbloc’s ReUp and we both attended Hive #4 in San Francisco.

We have remained close friends ever since and I’m so excited for his 2nd book in 2016.

To get a glimpse of what Adam is all about, check out his talk on “Refusing to Settle” and be inspired!

Ryan Allis

Ryan is the Chairman of Connect and the Chairman of Hive. He was previously CEO of iContact from 2003–2012 and led the company to 300 employees and a $170 million sale to Vocus.

He studied economics at UNC-Chapel Hill and currently attends year two of the MBA program at Harvard Business School where is a fellow of the Harvard Graduate School Leadership Institute and Co-President of the Social Enterprise Club at HBS.

If Ryan ever runs for president, he has my vote.

Ryan embodies the definition of “authentic leadership”, and that’s exactly what most leaders are lacking in the 21st century.

I met Ryan in January 2014 during the 4th Hive conference and I was immediately inspired by his authentic leadership and passion to develop other leaders.

I’m so proud to be a member of this exponential community of leaders.

You can get an idea of Ryan’s philosophy from these resources below:

Lessons from my 20s

The Startup Guide

The Connected Age

Adam Griffin

I first met Adam in February 2014 during an Under30Experiences trip to Nicaragua and we have remained good friends ever since.

Adam is the founder of Better Than Yesterday Publishing and Bodeefit. He writes regularly on personal development and how to create the best version of ourselves. His writing has been featured on Men’s Journal,, The Huffington Post, Men’s Fitness and Under30CEO.

“The Guy at The Bar” is Adam’s first book and certainly won’t be his last.

The major lesson I got from the book is this:

We all have bad experiences, we do not like them, some of them bring unimaginable pain, but in order to grow as human beings we must manage bad experiences to our advantage.

I’m really looking forward co-hosting Bodeefit Fitness Retreat in Costa Rica with Adam this November 2015 and hanging out with a group of people passionate about fitness, travel, and personal development. If you think this is up your alley, come and join us!

Liz Flores

Liz embodies the words Artistic Leadership.

The proof is in her successful track record leading trips with Under30Experiences and inspiring the world through her love of painting, writing, and photography.

The first time I met Liz was in April 2013 when she was a participant in a Nicaragua trip with Under30Experiences. I was really impressed with Liz’s passion for travel, art, and lifestyle design.

Through her writing and painting, she shares the journey of creative recovery, vulnerability and her own small steps of bravery that began a year ago during her 100 day project. She’s also a contributing artist to The World We Want art movement.

Her next small act of bravery from the heart will be becoming a speaker at TedxNormal on November 7, where she will inspire ISU alum to create the life they want.

Check out her podcast interview on Idea Lemon where she talks about having the courage to live a creative life.

Carla Blumenthal

Carla’s passion is to build environments and work on projects that cultivate self-love and empower women. One of this projects is Tea + Purpose, a community of women who inspire authentic, action-oriented conversations over tea.

She truly believes that life is best with a cup of tea, a warm scone, and real conversations.

We traveled to Nicaragua together in April 2013 and we have remained good friends ever since.

She’s actually the reason why Jennifer and I met when she recommended her to go on an Under30Experiences trip to Nicaragua. Thanks Carla!

I’m so thankful for her encouragement and push for me to join Statingbloc.

Get inspired by watching Carla’s TEDx talk on finding freedom in discomfort.

Courtney Slade

Courtney is passionate about travel, photography, tacos, and good coffee. She helps businesses engage their communities through photography and videography.

She’s currently the resident photographer and videographer for Under30Experiences and fellow trip leader.

She’s one person that embodies the words Leadership, Travel, and Photography.

The proof is in her successful track record with Under30Experiences leading trips and documenting the experience through vivid pictures and videos.

The first time I met Courtney was in February 2014 when she was a participant in a Nicaragua trip with Under30Experiences. I was really impressed with Courtney’s passion for photography, travel, and lifestyle design. And of course her always charming and welcoming personality.

You can follow Courtney’s inspiring adventures on her instagram account.

Learn how Courtney gets paid to travel the world and take pictures in this insightful interview:

Get Paid To Travel The World And Take Pictures

Mike Malloy

Mike helps people change how they see the world through entrepreneurship, mentorship, and funding life changing cataract surgeries around the globe through his work with Waveborn.

He’s also entrepreneur-in-residence at Georgetown University serving as a mentor, advisor, panelist, and pitch competition judge for Georgetown students. Mike also coaches the men’s ultimate frisbee club team.

Mike and I met in NYC at Under30Experiences launch party in June 2013 and we traveled together to Nicaragua in February 2014 where he brought joy and style to kids from a local school by giving away Waveborn sunglasses. What a great guy!

If I had to describe Mike in three words, those would be: frisbee, sunglasses, and entrepreneurial mindset.

Jahn Karsybaev

Jahn is a serial entrepreneur from Kazakhstan and one of the first people who introduced me to the entrepreneurial thinking mindset and unmatched hospitality of Almaty, KZ.

We first met while collaborating in a process improvement project at BankUnited about 4 years ago (2011), during which we both brainstormed ideas on how to increase productivity. Shortly after, Jahn decided to pursue other opportunities and commit to his startup Moomkin full time where we had the opportunity to collaborate once again.

Throughout all of this years, what really impressed me the most is his leadership, discipline of getting things done, and thinking outside the box. And, of course, his loyalty to the people closest to him.

If you are looking for someone to push your limits, physically and mentally, Jahn is the man!

I know this because I didn’t just work with him in a professional environment, but we also worked out together and I don’t know how I survived his workouts, but I did. Pushing my limits every single time.

If you are looking for great quality watches, check out his latest ventures with Amir Watches and Stranger Time.

Cesar Gonzalez

Cesar is the CEO of Startingbloc, a social impact fellowship bringing together entrepreneurs, activists, educators, and innovators working to create meaningful change.

Cesar believes that for the first time in human history we have the real opportunity, the tools, and the will to build a world that works for everyone. He lives out this belief by supporting leaders of change to build the skills, the alliances, and the strength they will need to bend the arc of history.

He first welcomed me into the Startingbloc family in June 2014 during the Boston Institute and I could not picture anyone else doing the work as the CEO of Startingbloc because he truly cares about the fellows and expanding the reach of Startingbloc’s supportive community.

Why does this list matters?

Because your environment determines where you end up in life.

The quality of people is a critical element of any environment.

If you hang around 5 negative people all the time, very soon you’ll be the 6th.

There are different ways to reach out and if you need a warm introduction I can help you out with that. Just ask me!

But ONE thing all of these authentic leaders share is that they value their TIME like their most precious resource.

If you have the mentality of getting something for nothing, then forget about it and don’t even bother reaching out.

It’s not going to work and most likely you will be ignored.

But if you have a “how can I help?” mentality, I encourage you to reach out to at least one person from this and the other upcoming lists.

Learn from them.

Become part of their communities.

Help them solve more problems.

I promise you it will add value to your life and inspire you to keep pushing outside your comfort zone.