Every person has his own hero’s journey, the path that one has trodden to get to where he is now. This was the topic that fittingly capped my birthday week when I attended a talk on founders that I didn’t know much about. Interestingly, it happened at the Ateneo where my very own hero’s journey started.
An Inkling of Something More
Growing up poor, I always knew that there was more to what my current reality was. There was always that nagging feeling that there was more to this. And so when I was given the chance to study as a 100% scholar at the Ateneo, I immediately said yes.
This notion of something more continued to haunt me even as I was working and flourishing in a stable corporate career. I knew that I wanted to build and create something of my own but was not entirely sure what that was. I just kept my sights open, my eyes pealed.
Learning and Seeking Mentors
In school I was not great at my major subjects but excelled in Philosophy. I even chose the hardest teachers and learned Philo in Filipino. I must’ve written my best Filipino essays during this time. I was grappling with my questions and the introspection that this subject offered me was a balm that gave me much relief and consolation.
Before deciding to leave the comforts of my corporate job, I started seeking out people who could teach me the things I wanted to learn. I also invested in learning from conferences and talks. I also discovered reading as a form of mentorship. This practice remains to be a helpful one in my role now as an entrepreneur.
Taking a Leap of Faith
Being a poor student from the province, I started in a prestigious college feeling insecure and unworthy. I even would pray everyday that I be able to speak English better so I can interact more freely. It was only in my third year that I really immersed and opened myself to varied experiences in school.
After over three years of mulling over what I really wanted to do I finally decided in 2014 to take the plunge into startups. I realized that all that I was learning was not from where I worked but from the interactions that I initiated outside of it. I wasn’t sure what I really wanted to build but firmly believed that the best way to find out was to jump right into it.
As I delved more into college life, getting involved in extra curricular activities, the challenge was to make sure that I still met the minimum grade requirements to keep my scholarship. It was not easy especially since my major subjects were not my strengths. I sometimes felt that my hard work was not sufficient and that maybe I was just not smart enough.
Leaving a comfortable job that I knew well left me feeling inadequate. The challenge was how to learn fast now that I was a newbie all over again. For someone who wants to be mostly in control, not knowing is not easy. I had to unlearn bad habits and tendencies, learn new ones and fill up my tool kit with skills that I would need for the next chapter of my life. This continues to be a work in progress, including ceding a sense of certainty.
On my third year in college I went through a dark phase as I struggled with our poverty. I always did not have enough to get by, always scrounging for loose change around the house just to get to school. The stark difference between me and my wealthy classmates became more apparent. I was also struggling with my grades. And so I reacted with the only way I knew how. I retreated into myself and dealt with it on my own. I truly have an avoidant nature ever since. It was during this time that long walks around campus became a staple for my sanity.
As an entrepreneur, I had to leave a business that wasn’t working out anymore. More accurately, I was compelled to let go of it. It was a good thing since if it were entirely up to me, I would’ve just kept at it through sheer stubbornness even if I knew that it really was not for me any longer.
Coming Back Home
I capped off my college life with a silent retreat that took me back to my birthplace. The retreat that happened at Mirador Hill in Baguio gave me a lot of my fundamental learnings that up to this time serve as a foundation of my actions. Most important of all was the desire to see Him in all that I do.
The past three years of start up life was a period of finding my rhythm. It was not a linear path but it was guided by the same compass that has led me to where I currently am, the fervent desire to find meaning and to find myself in the work that I do. I realized that this is but another dimension of the same fire that burned within my twenty year old self. Having this in my heart leaves me with a deep sense that I am where I ought to be and I would like to grow and thrive richly and beautifully right here, right now.