Ernesto Paredes at the Easy Lift offices in Goleta
Paul Wellman

Ernesto Paredes understands what it’s like to dream big and loves connecting people and ideas together. During our recent lunch at Olio Pizzeria, I could see his mind racing to figure out ways that the film festival could partner with Easy Lift, the nonprofit organization that’s been providing transportation to people with limited mobility for the past 30 years.

Long before he became executive director of Easy Lift, Ernesto knew he wanted to help people. After going to SBCC and transferring to USC, he took an elective class in gerontology. That both made him understand the wealth of experience that older people have and inspired his dedication to nonprofit work — or as he calls it, “the human service side of business.” He’s also on the executive team of Social Venture Partners, which cultivates effective philanthropists, strengthens nonprofits, and invests in collaborative solutions.

Ernesto is one of the most enthusiastic and positive-thinking people I’ve met. If you spend any time with him, you too will believe that anything is possible.

Here he answers the Proust Questionnaire.

What is the quality you most like in people?

A quality that always sticks with me is when people in positions of power and/or influence take the time with everyone. I recall as a younger program manager, not getting the attention or care from some people because I wasn’t an executive director yet. But I have a great list of people/mentors that DID give me the time and shared their energy with me. I love that, and pay that forward as often as I can. I will NEVER pass by a lemonade stand without buying some and heavily over tipping. We never know when and where we will impact the lives of others. So be good…really good.

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

I took a thought from the former North Carolina State basketball coach Jim Valvano who said in his legendary ESPN ESPY awards speech, “You should laugh every day, spend time in thought, and have your emotions moved to tears.” This encapsulates the emotions I love to share with my family and friends, people who know me, have seen and shared in all of these with me, and for that I am grateful.

What do you like most about your job?

I love to serve. I always have and always will. My job allows me the ability to come from a place of yes, we can and we will continue to solve the unmet transit needs of the whole community: seniors, people living with disabilities, brother and sister nonprofits, schools. We are a community resource here to serve the community. Oh, and have the best staff and board. Really!

What is your current state of mind?

Always curious, always learning, always growing. I plan to live to be 120 years old. I’m only 50. I have 70 years to meet more people, learn more things, and visit more places, including getting a ticket on Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic spaceline!

What is your greatest fear?

I wish I could say I have no fears. The truth is I have daily fears that come in all sizes and extremes; the challenge and opportunity is to face and acknowledge them and still do what needs to get done. Fear can be a great motivator or anchor that prevents progress. Having a great tribe and confidence in yourself is the greatest antidote to fear.

Who do you most admire?

My father, Ernesto Paredes Sr., who recently passed on March 10 of this year. A father, husband, teacher, and gentleman, in the truest form. A rare individual I had the absolute pleasure and privilege to be with for my 50 years on this earth. I will always love the way he loved his children/grandchildren, my mother, and his students. Those who had the opportunity to have known him understand what I mean.

What is your greatest extravagance?

To travel. This month, I have planned a trip I have dreamt of since I was a kid. I will travel to Machu Picchu, Peru and travel on the Amazon with four great friends of mine: Seth Streeter, Ken Saxon, Ben Romo, and Jeff Bochsler. It will be epic, because travel has always been my best educator about myself, my priorities, and my community.

What is the quality you most dislike in people?

I’m stating this here and now for public consumption, so take note. “Early is on time, on time is late, and late is unacceptable.” Respect each other’s time; it’s the most important commodity we can offer one another.

What do you most value in friends?

Accountability, keeping it real, but also being able to laugh about things that maybe we aren’t supposed to laugh about. Without humor, it would just be lectures.

What is your most marked characteristic?

That would be congenially authentic. Life is too short not to speak in truths, and there is a way to be kind to one another. People have to understand that our differences is our uniqueness. Disagreeing is a choice, but being an A-hole is a decision. Be nice people.

Which words or phrases do you most overuse?

“Ay Dios Mio (Oh my God)” and “Fight On!” If something doesn’t go exactly the way I planned: “Ay Dios Mio!” As a USC Alum, we were conditioned to always “Fight On!”, holding up the victory sign on hand.

Which talent would you most like to have?

The ability to really camp and be comfortable in the backcountry. Have you camped/hiked with Ben Romo? That kind of talent.

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?

Five inches taller. I would have loved to take my shot at Division-1 College Basketball. That being said, I still love being an Ironman Triathlete.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?

Finishing the Hawaii Ironman World Championship Triathlon. That truly opened my mind to the fact that the impossible is possible. There was a time that there was no way even imaginable I could/would ever compete in such an epic race. Racing down to the finish line was all in slow motion, I don’t think my feet ever touched the ground. Imagine, in the movie Wizard of Oz, when Dorothy opens her door, and the movie goes from black and white to color. That’s what is was for me to finish. Awesome.

Where would you most like to live?

Not even close. I love Santa Barbara. Best place to live, and the best place to return to from vacation.

What is your most treasured possession?

No treasured possesisons. That’s not how I live. I love memories and people, not things.

Who makes you laugh the most?

I still have the pleasure and privilege to meet up with an early professional/life mentor, Mr. Larry Crandell. He will have you laughing before you even sit down. Larry is the purest form of funny, and he shares it with everyone.

What is your motto?

Don’t believe everything you think. The world will be a much better experience when we understand other ways of thinking. Challenge yourself with this one.

Which historical figure do you most identify with?

Even Steven, if that was ever a person. I didn’t start out really in a lower situation, nor in the highest of resource or wealth. I started in that middle bell curve. There is hope for those of us from the middle. I was also a middle child of three boys, so there you go.

On what occasion do you lie?

When I’m tired. You see, I do not “lay” down, I “lie” down. I’m the son of two teachers. Do you know what a diphthong is?


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