By Eric Butler
Jimmy Cabrera’s book is called “What’s In Your Backpack? Packing For Success In Life.” Its cover features a bag stuffed with notebooks, pencils and highlighters.
Although the Muleshoe man works year-round giving motivational lectures to audiences of all kinds, it is perhaps appropriate that the school motif is utilized for Cabrera’s written work.
“He is absolutely the greatest. He’s very versatile and his knowledge base is phenomenal,” said Rebecca Katz, assistant superintendent for the southwest region of the Clark County (Nev.) school district. “I tell him all the time — I say, ‘Jimmy, you know you’re good with adults, but your gift and calling is working with kids.’”
Katz lures Cabrera from his Houston home to speak to groups in her Las Vegas-based school district.
“He just does a fabulous job of putting together some little key phrases that we were able to put in the building to remind kids about what they learned,” recalled Katz of her first experience with Cabrera while in Houston.
Cabrera, a 1963 Muleshoe High graduate, lists himself as a “CSP,” which stands for Certified Speaking Professional. He took up motivational speaking after he began speaking at San Diego banks about his personal success in real estate.
“I went from branch to branch to tell my story,” Cabrera said. “I had never spoken in front of people in my life. When I did that, I started liking it. I said, ‘Man, I might like to do this someday.’
“I got hooked, you might say.”
After leaving his real estate position in 1979, Cabrera began working as a speaker for Tom Hopkins — a national sales trainer.
When Hopkins wanted someone in south Texas, that eventually led to Cabrera seeking a career as an independent motivational speaker.
“He needed somebody in Houston and I thought I would never come back to Texas, because all I knew was north Texas — all I knew was Muleshoe, my background,” Cabrera said.
He said he experienced racial discrimination while growing up in the ’50s and the ’60s. “So I didn’t have a good taste of Texas when I left. When I went to see the world, I found out people don’t treat you that way,” he said.
Cabrera does return to Muleshoe on occasion and even gives motivational lectures, although his worldly messages do not always play well in his hometown.
“Some people didn’t like some of the things he said about Muleshoe, but that’s Jimmy — he speaks his mind,” said Noe Anzaldua, owner of KMUL-AM radio, remembering a talk Cabrera gave a few years ago.
Cabrera lists his strengths as “motivation, mastering change and diversity training.”
This is a busy time of year for him, with half of his speaking engagements related to academia.
“A lot of schools at the beginning of the year have staff development, what they call in-service training. I’ll go in to kick off their year,” he said.
“My goal is just to empower them, compliment them, tell them how great they are, how they’re changing people’s lives. Just encourage them that it’s going to be a great year.”