First, a reflection. On love, marriage, fatherhood, business and why I don’t believe in bad years, good years and universally celebrated myths like being your own man, blazing your own trail and other mumbo jumbos of self-deterministic success. Then, 5 very specific resolutions for 2017.
2016 marked 5 years since Renee and I did the unthinkable. The federal government of the most powerful country on earth had just given us a green card: the official designation was Permanent Residence on the basis of Exceptional Ability in the National Interest. It was our Charlie in the Chocolate Factory moment. A few weeks after receiving this golden ticket to the promised land, we decided to come home to Manila for good, and 15 months later, we completed the exodus. After 10 years in the US Northeast, we gave up life and home as we’d come to know and love and moved the entire family across the world to what was then a clearly uncertain future.
Such is God’s sense of humor. He gave us something that was 10 years in the making and would have shaped, as we understood then, the next 2 decades of our individual and family destiny – then he asked us to give it all up on a snap. It was a very clear voice with which he asked, and for a reason that might have sounded incoherent in purely secular terms as there were clearly smarter alternatives than giving up the coveted green card and sure path to citizenship.
But his ask was very clear and something I understood in the depths of my soul: go home and give my sons a Filipino Jesuit education; raise them in Ignatian spirituality to be thinking and fighting Filipino men for others.
With grace and only with grace, Renee and I embraced his call and the whole new world (cue the Disney music) that awaited. We didn’t feel like we were on the short end of a forced move replete with uncertainty at every turn; we were excited about the adventure that lay ahead, assured that the Lord was in charge. 5 years hence, the wisdom, power, majesty, depth and breadth of his guiding hand remains ever more assuring, even as its fullness continues to be revealed daily, often in small strokes, and sometimes in calls that once again jar the soul.
2016 wasn’t just the 5th year anniversary of our family exodus; it was also the second time the Lord asked for something scary big in such a clear undeniable voice that said: just trust me, say yes, and follow fully; I will reveal all to you in my time and way.
Five years after he asked me to come home and move my family back to the Philippines, he asked me to change the course of business and dedicate it to the Greatness of 100 million Filipinos. The Greatness of 100,000,000 Filipinos. From a purely secular view, another preposterous proposition, even more so than the first. Who, me? Do what? With these meager tools? Really? How? HOW?
But I have learned that my role is not to be the smart one in the driver’s seat with the plans; my role is to follow blindly and learn every day, EVERY DAY how to find, not the good or the bad, but God, only God in all things.
This leads me to my 5 resolutions, which he personally whispered before I left for the holidays.
In 2017 I will…
1. In 2017 I will continue to ask for these 3 graces at the start of every day, no matter how much I fail daily in all of them. Because if there’s anything I’ve learned in these 5 years, it’s that it will take me a lifetime to fail my way to these most cherished ideals, to learn through the futility of my own ways that this is the only way, truth and life:
Lord, help me to see your will, to desire only what you desire, to desire all of what you desire.
Then, Lord, help me to say Yes with full surrender (because I’m so good at saying maybe, or not now, or when my XYZ terms and conditions happen).
Finally, Lord, help me to do it with love, your perfect love.
2. In 2017 I will begin every initiative, big and small, with a clear and specific ask that can be answered by a “yes”, or “no” or “how do we move forward” by the parties involved.
3. In 2017 I will be a life mentor as much as a business CEO to my teams – by holding regular sessions where we can check in on each other, not just about the business of KPIs but about the business of life, dreams, fears, etc.
4. In 2017 I will be an active fan and supporter of the dreams of my family and friends – as many dreams of as many family and friends as I can meaningfully encounter in “days of thunder” Jeffersonian Dinners that I will host on the 1st Saturday of at least 6 out of 12 months in 2017.
5. In 2017 I will continue to shut off Facebook Monday to Friday during the work week – so I can keep all the best things in me – my focus, my quiet, my emptiness – for him and him alone to fill.
So help me God – my lord and my god, my captain, chairman and CEO, my buddy, my bro. With Renee and our boys all the way.
One Big Fight, AMDG.