En español | When I was starting out in the music business, I thought it would be the greatest thing in the world to attend the Grammy Awards show. That dream came true in 1993 when I sat in the front row alongside my musical hero, Quincy Jones, and won my first Grammy. It was a night I will never forget!
Quincy became a lifelong friend and godfather to our daughter, Emily. I never could have imagined this when I was playing an accordion in restaurants for tips. I did know that music would always be part of my life, because it made me happy. But what I didn't know was that it would have such an amazing impact on me and my family.
When you look back at your life, what surprises you? And what made you happiest? Understanding the story of your own life is key to taking your next steps, say life coach Richard Leider and business journalist Alan Webber. They write in Life Reimagined: Discovering Your New Life Possibilities, "Use the lessons learned to create the next chapter, to extend your old story into a future of new possibilities."
On one of the worst days of my life — in 1990 on an icy road in the mountains of Pennsylvania — an 18-wheeler truck slammed into our tour bus. We were at the peak of our career, we had the world in our hands and suddenly in one split second, everything changed.
Gloria's spine was broken and she was paralyzed. We didn't know whether she would ever walk again, never mind ever perform again. We didn't know what our next steps would be. After surgery to repair her spine and a year's worth of hard physical rehab, Gloria not only walked again, she performed her first concert back on stage. She was back on her feet. That accident has had an impact on us that we still reflect on to this day.
In life, when things go wrong, I only focus on making things better. Gloria and I support and work closely with the Miami Project to Cure Paralysis, which was founded by father and son Nick and Marc Buoniconti to advance spinal cord research and ultimately find a cure for paralysis. This year I produced a documentary called An Unbreakable Bond, which tells the story of their incredible relationship and relentless mission to find a cure for paralysis; Marc became a quadriplegic in a football accident at age 19.
What were the hardest times in your life? What choices did you make? The pain of having to start over can be devastating, as you figure out how to move forward. Leider and Webber write: "Transitions can be hard. All transitions start with an ending, move to a period of limbo, and then lead to a new action or a fresh beginning."
Gloria and I have always worked hard to be true to ourselves and our heritage. When music execs told us that our sound was too Latin, or that we should change our names, we believed in ourselves. We believed in what we had to offer the world — a sound and style that was, and still is, unique to our roots. Happily, our first hit, "Conga," was a song that touched people all over the world. It became a worldwide anthem. We're now producing our life story for Broadway. I hope our music and our story will inspire others always to reach for their dreams.
What's your unique story? What can you share with the world? In no way should you compare your life with anyone else's. "Everyone's life is an experiment of one," say Leider and Webber. "The whole point of Life Reimagined is to be who you are and to start where you are."
You are the only person who can author the incredible story that is your life. What's your next chapter?
Emilio Estefan is a music mogul, a restaurateur, a father, a husband and a philanthropist. As Life Reimagined ambassador for AARP, Emilio will share his expertise on a variety of subjects, including his passion for living, mentoring, entrepreneurship, philanthropy and much more.