Flipping the Script: My Inspiring Interview with Peter

Peter Cauton, Founder of Juan Great Leap, sharing a father-son moment with his son, Wakeen
Peter Cauton, Founder of Juan Great Leap, sharing a moment with his son, Joaquin

This past Saturday, Jan. 5, 2013, I sat down with Peter to experience Startup Saturdays first-hand. Initially, my initial vision for the interview was to ask as many thought-provoking questions as I could to get the insider’s scoop on the person behind Juan Great Leap. I sought to reveal a different side of Peter that showcased him as not just the inspiring founder behind Juan Great Leap, but also as an ordinary fellow.

However, as I was playing back the interview and transcribing his words something really clicked (it sometimes takes me a while to process things), I realized that Peter isn’t ordinary, and that we already know him. He’s already poured out his heart and soul to those that follow Juan Great Leap, and it shows in his honest and compelling answers.

Peter is many things: an entrepreneur, boss, teacher, mentor, husband, father, friend. This interview didn’t reveal any “different” side to Peter. It was simply inspiring. This is the Founder of Juan Great Leap, Peter Paul Cauton.

Juan Great Leap is known for the coffee talks you have with entrepreneurs on Startup Saturdays. What are the most interesting observations from your talks with entrepreneurs?

Peter: Well, there are several things. First, no two entrepreneurs are alike. Each entrepreneur has a compelling a story, with an emphasis on the word compelling. It’s not just that each person has a story, but every entrepreneur’s journey is a compelling one because there’s always a leap that’s involved.

When I get to talk to people, I always make it a point to ask them,

“How did you end up doing this?”

And there’s always a very real story behind it.

Secondly, and this is related to the first, I’ve experienced people really opening up about their stories, and you see how personal it becomes. It’s not just a job. There’s something of themselves that they pour into their venture. It’s a reflection of who they are as a real person and what they’re going through in life. For example, I met with someone who came to me about a problem he’s been having with his dad about inheriting the family business. It was a problem that’s always hung over his head and has been bogging him down in doing things.

Or a person who’s completely torn between his passions and what’s practical – which might sound pretty common.   But this time, I get to hear what his wife is like, and see a picture of his son. I get to hear what his startup idea is. I get to feel his passion directly.  Suddenly, his story is completely personal, unique, and I daresay, beautiful.

What is your opinion on taking the leap based on passion?

Peter: When you’re passionate about something everything else follows much easier. For example, if you have a hobby…let’s say you love following the NBA, you spend time on it, research about it, you know the players…it’s not work for you. You actually create competence from the sheer time and devotion you pour into it. In a sense, you get to learn the business side of it- the intricacies and details- because you spend more time on it…because you love it and it’s not work for you. If you’re passionate about the business and you’re pouring your heart into it, everything flows much faster.

Passion begets time, which begets competence. Without passion, it’s drudgery.

A few months back you met with a group about social enterprise. What interests you most about social enterprise?

Peter: A few weeks ago we were driving along Katipunan we saw a poor family literally living on the island in the middle of the road. Joaquin, my five-year old son, said,

“Dada, they’re having a picnic!”

When you’re exposed to seeing that and you really feel the gap between what you have and what they don’t, you can’t help but feel like something has to be done.

I see a very clear role between entrepreneurship and nation building and poverty alleviation.

When I talk to entrepreneurs, like earlier with Rex, even if it’s a more technical talk, I see a very clear link between entrepreneurship and the development of the country. Social or not, I think all entrepreneurs are crucial to building this country. If we can get more of our people – our very gifted people –  to take those leaps and build great startups, we could dramatically improve the economy and make a positive impact on lives.

What are some of your favorite things about JGL?

Peter: Definitely the diversity. I get to meet and hear the stories of people I wouldn’t otherwise have bumped into working in my other startups. In the community, you have people like Raquel who is doing a startup focused on teaching.  You have people who want to do tech and you who have those who are setting up service-based startups like a yaya academy.

How do you see Juan Great Leap as a Filipino Startup Movement?

Peter: There is a ton of value in letting people know about the tools and resources about doing a great startup. More than that though, I’d like to think that in JGL, there are heavy doses of passion and a certain spirituality mixed in. I’d like to think you can feel this a bit going through some of the posts in the blog. I want to help people find their mojo and place, and usually, finding one means finding the other. The usual result is that you get create something beautiful. Something that’s yours, too.

So it’s not only the technical part, the tools, but also the spirit of starting something that you love and the journey to make a living out of it.

What are you most excited about for 2013?

Peter: Lahat. Meeting more people. Getting to hear more ideas. Helping people out. Doing bigger and more events that touch more people. Setting up some sort of a school because I love teaching. Trying to bridge and connect people.

I love it when I see startups get the right mix of people with the right idea. It’s extremely fulfilling.

What are your top 5 books?

Peter: Very tough question.

1. Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling– this book got me into reading. Prior to reading Harry Potter, I didn’t read many books. Instead of appreciating books in school, the system of teaching made me hate reading. Rowling started my love affair with reading.

2. Reality Check by Guy Kawasaki- the first “business” book I bought. The book is very irreverent, unlike the business books I read in the past, which were pretty dry and scientific.

3. The Lean Startup by Eric Ries –

4. Tribes by Seth Godin  – Actually, any Godin book post All Marketers Are Liars. I’m a fanboy, and it’s not just the hair style.

5. Bible– It’s a cliché, but I read this book the most, this is the book I often go back to.

If you had the choice to live in the life of any NBA player, who would it be and why? 

Steve Nash because I like the assist. He scores, too, but helps other people on and off the court. This is different from my current favorite player, Kobe.

What inspires you to take the leap everyday?

God.

My own leap was such a profound experience for me. It changed me. I learned not to rely on myself too much. I’ve learned that the best way to make decisions is to truly discern – asking God what He wants for you.

I’m 100% sure that if it were just based on my own desire, I would still be in corporate. I allowed God to lead me to the decisions that have brought me to this place in my life and really, there is no place else I’d rather be.

A Merry Christmas Never Comes too Late

Christmas can be a very busy time of the year, especially here in the Philippines. In the Philippines, Christmas is not just a one day celebration, but rather a series of celebrations that starts weeks and sometimes months in advance. Here, Christmas is a marathon of celebrations.

I attended my first Christmas party at the end of November and started exchanging presents at the beginning of this month. It’s been non-stop since then. Just thinking about all the Christmas parties I’ve attended makes me exhausted.

As I stop to think about how my Christmas has been spent, and is being spent, I’m starting to realize that I’ve been very selfish this Christmas. I’ve received so much, but given very little.

I’ve been blessed with so much. Blessed in coming here to the Philippines. Blessed with technology that enables me to connect with loved ones back home (though I haven’t taken the time to effectively use it, but thank you Lord for the time difference!)  Blessed in celebrating Christmas with so many: friends, relatives, officemates, street kids, passionate entrepreneurs, and just plain good and wonderful people! Blessed with good work, health, food, and shelter! It all so beautiful!

Christmas is a beautiful time! Time to rejoice, be glad, receive and accept all the gifts that God has given! Emmanuel!

It’s never too late to have a Merry Christmas!

Lets live one everyday! MERRY, MERRY CHRISTMAS 🙂

Photo Credits: Kristin A. Militante
Photo Credits: Kristin A. Militante

Don’t let Christmas be a Corporate Cliché

nativityI spent a twelve years in corporate, from one company to another.

Across these dozen years, I have bounced around in different firms.

Christmas is celebrated more or less the same way:

A big “Christmas” party is planned

The party starts with a token prayer (typically by the HR guy)

The CEO starts a speech, usually beginning with something like “Hey, I know you guys want to party, so I’ll keep this short!” (he usually doesn’t).  It’s on       dreaded Powerpoint. It’s filled with graphs about the company, how it performed, how next year would be even more amazing.

Then the CEO ends the speech with something like a “KAIN TAYO!”

Food and drinks are served

A raffle ensues. Some games.

A band starts playing, people start dancing, and getting drunk.

There is nothing wrong with this per se.

But why call it a “Christmas” party at all?

Just call it a “Year-end company party”, since there is no mention of Christ anywhere but the token prayer. Not one of the CEO’s I’ve witnesses have ever mentioned Him. It’s all about those graphs and things.

To those of us building firms, we have a chance to do much better than this.

Let’s celebrate, but then let’s also remember why we are celebrating in the first place.

How to Avoid The Marshmallow Career

marshmallow_test

In a landmark study done in 1972 by Stanford psychologist Walter Mischel, hundreds of children were offered a marshmallow. However, each child was told that if they could resist eating the marshmallow for 15 minutes, they would receive a second marshmallow.

Decades after, it was found that the children who delayed gratification (around a third of the 600 students who participated), were described as more competent, had higher SAT scores, and went on to have better careers.

A few days ago an entrepreneurial friend of mine posted a quick “Pera o Passion?” poll on his Facebook page. The last I checked, “pera” was leading.  It was understandable, but I have to admit, I felt a bit disheartened.

Quick money is almost always un-strategic.

Let’s talk about this overused word for a minute. For me, to be “strategic” means that decisions are always made to support a much bigger picture. To be truly strategic almost always means to defer gratification. Think Amazon delaying becoming profitable for so many years (CEO Jeff Bezos was barbecued in the media in those days). They were burning hundreds of millions to acquire customers year after year because they were after the bigger picture (a much larger community). This long-term plan paid off. Amazon is now one of the world’s most admired and successful companies.

I think very few of us  really think about our careers strategically.

Instead, most people eat the marshmallow.

A friend of mine recently reached out to me about career advice. He was explaining that he wanted out of the industry he was in, that he would never go back to it. A few weeks later, a high paying job became available in a company he really admired. I noticed it was in the same industry he was in. In a recent email, he was asking me for tips on how to get into the that firm.

Huh?

He’s eating the marshmallow.

We fall for it early. After years of not earning anything, we finally attend job fairs and get dazzled by the offers we get. Sadly, most people still decide to go to the highest bidder, where the assembly line starts and is built to keep you in.

As we get older, we then feel it:

This money thing isn’t as cool as I thought it would be. 

I’m earning, but I’m not living. 

What field/job can I be truly happy?

or even

Hindi ko natutugunan ang aking pagmemeron.

Quarter life, or even mid-life crisis, at its full hurricane force.

If we ask the people who voted for “pera” in that earlier casual survey 20 years from now, I’m guessing the pendulum would shift to the other side.*

So what am I getting at?

Young people. I’m talking to you. Don’t fall into this trap. Take it from us (slightly) older folks. Think about your careers strategically.

Repeat after me. Big picture. Big picture. Big picture.

Here are some tips on how to avoid the marshmallow career:

1) Take Time to Understand YOUR Big Picture

I think this is where a big chunk of the problem lies. We lack self-awareness. We don’t invest enough time understanding who we are, what we like doing, what our natural gifts are, and what we want to be when we “grow up.”

As some great military people once said “knowing is half the battle.”

Take time to assess. Ask friends about what your strengths and weaknesses are. Take personality tests. Ask people about other careers.

Granted, this won’t be automatic, as “finding out who we are” can take a long process. But I think part of that problem is, we don’t really put enough investment in consciously trying.

Try. Perhaps asking this simple question can help start the process: who am I?

Also, think about YOUR big picture. Not your parent’s. Not anyone else’s.

2) Work Backwards

Once you have a reasonable idea of your Big Picture, do a Covey and try to Begin With The End In Mind.

begin

What career move can you do NOW that will inch you closer to your Big Picture?

Since this is an Startup Blog, here’s my quick tip on what next career steps you can do if you want to own a business someday:

A) Go fulltime and take the leap! Startups are all about learning through doing. Anything else is a bit of a  compromise. Try naming a great startup which was done part-time.

B) Work for a startup. Next best thing.

C) If A & B are too unpalatable, you could: 1) get into sales – it might not be that sexy to some, but selling is an extremely valuable skill to develop in any startup, 2) get into the industry you plan to develop your startup in, the smaller the firm, the better, 3) get into anything which expands your personal network in a hurry.

3) Just Say No

Okay, you’ve got your Big Picture. You’ve got some semblance of a plan on how to get there.

What are you going to do when Company X offers you a big package from out of the blue because your friend gave a good recommendation?

Think Amazon. Think strategic.

If something tempting comes and shows you all the shiny things you can have now if you break your plan, well, just think of all the SHINIER things you could accomplish sticking to the plan.

This is easier said than done, of course. But possible.

4) Pray

By far, my best career advisor has been God. My best career decision-making process has been Discernment. I’ve always maintained that it was He who really pushed me into an entrepreneurial path.

Here’s an interesting thing.

I belong to a Community  which really encourages its constituents to pray, talk to God, and surrender to His will. This group has a disproportionate amount of people who have taken leaps from their long-standing careers into what they truly want to do. A longtime banker who has become a pre-school teacher. An longtime FMCG executive who now works for a foundation. Another longtime marketer who put up her consulting practice. A longtime IT employee who’s put up multiple small businesses. There are more. All of which would tell you they had the courage to take the leap because of prayer.

You should see their faces when they explain how happy they are in their chosen fields. Passion is always evident.

As is the lack of it.

(know anyone who will benefit and resonate from this post? be a blessing and share!)

self-awareness

*The big assumption of course, is that we are earning enough to cover our basic needs. Maslow’s hierarchy in full effect. 

One Awesome, Blessed, and Unpredictable Year for Juan Great Leap!

anniversary

When Pauline and I celebrate our wedding anniversary together, we usually find a fancy restaurant which satisfies one important criteria: it has to be conducive to talking.

Then we talk about the year that was. All the highlights. Good times and bad. What we thought God was saying to us. Afterwards,  satisfied with our summary, we talk about our hopes for the next year – and what we want to try to work on.

For this year, I was planning to have a big event to commemorate JGL’s first anniversary. However, due to circumstances (1-2 weeks being wiped out because of a nasty viral infection), I wasn’t able to plan it out properly.

I think it’s fitting though, that I get to celebrate JGL’s first year in a very simple fashion – through how it all started.

With a post.

So, like my annual commemoration with Pauline, let me just talk about the year that was, as well as my hopes for the future.

Matt was asking me the other day what made me write this blog in the first place. To me, it’s very clear.

I felt my whole entrepreneurial career was the result of intervention from God. I cannot and will not talk about my entrepreneurial career separately from the faith-process I underwent. There were more than a couple of very hairy moments, but by 2011, I just felt so freaking happy with my career! I was calculating that I would’ve made more money staying in corporate, but I just didn’t care. I was totally in love with being an entrepreneur and with what went with it. With this energy came two things: a) a humongous sense of thankfulness, and b) an unsatiable need to give something back.

At first, I wanted to write a book. That was taking a bit of time. So I said, “what the hey” and began this blog.

JGL started on November 29, 2011, with this post. I actually wrote that post early November, but I was afraid of posting it. Finally mustering the courage, I said to myself “what the hey,” and hit PUBLISH.

Then I just poured my heart out with post after post, hoping that at least I’d get to help even just a handful of people.

Then, something unexpected happened. I was expecting a few dozen hits in the first few days. Instead, there were a couple of hundred already. There were also a more than a few people I didn’t know who were reaching out directly asking for questions and advice. My heart was warmed. It turns out more than a handful of people were interested in JGL’s message. This strengthened my resolve to write more. To write better.

In three months, there was already a small community of folks interacting with me through the blog and through email. I figured, I NEEDED to meet them. I booked a small room in Astoria and opened up 40 slots. They were booked pretty fast. We held a pretty amazing event in Astoria, there was such energy in the room! I actually had to kick people out because it was getting late, so naturally, the conversations just continued along the corridors, and ultimately, into a very active Facebook Group.

This was also around the time that a reader, Glen, invited me to talk about startups over coffee. I was pretty busy, and my consulting background shrieked “you have charge for this,” but it was just out of the question. I met Glen, and we had a blast. Soon, I was meeting other people for coffee. This was the genesis of Startup Saturdays.

The energy of the event and these face-to-face meetings made me realize a lot of things. I had originally just planned to manage and write a blog – that was it. JGL was snowballing into something else though. I hadn’t bargained on giving up this much of my time and resources, and I had a ton of other stuff to do. But I realized this was something bigger than me.

I just had to give more.

By late August, we had our second event and attracted 200 people at the Ayala Technohub in QC.  Smaller events – geared more towards sharing and collaboration, were also being held (and wow, what energy is created when you bring in entrepreneurs into a room). I was also getting to meet a number of entrepreneurs, want-to-preneurs, and venture guys during startup Saturdays. There were startups being spawned by activity from the Facebook Group.

To scale, JGL needed to be managed more like a startup. I could no longer do everything on my own.

Naturally, I suddenly get this crazy email from someone from California who said he wanted to work for JGL so much that he was willing to take a big continental leap, face uncertainty, and swallow a paycut. It sounded familiar. I was crazy enough to give him a shot. This brings us to now.

I find it truly amazing that all this activity was the result of a reluctant post I published just 12 months ago.

thank you

Thank you so much for reading. It is any writer’s satisfaction to be read. Thank you for the time you take in reading these posts. Thank you for sharing them to more people.

Thank you for going to the events and participating. I know there are a million other places you could have gone during those times. You have blessed me with your presence.

Thank you so much for letting me hear about not only about your startups, but also your stories. Thank you for trusting me with them. It is a deep privilege for me to be able to listen.

For those in the Facebook Group, thank you for all the contributions and the activity! I keep telling everyone what a blessing that Group is. It’s become a startup founder’s resource and a quick market research tool. Fun people, too 🙂

For the JGL “core team” – Sherwin, Ryan, Orvin, Nicole, and Eric. Thank you so much for believing in the cause and your profound gift of working for free.  This is deeply, deeply appreciated. I hope to work more with you more this coming year!

For those who’ve started something as a result of some of the activity above, thank you for taking that leap. This means more to me than you will know. It’s ultimately what JGL is all about. And please, if you need any help, just holler.

Thank you, to the Maker of all things for making all this possible.

2013

For next year, there is so much planned. More events. More events with investors. Going out into the countryside. Talks on specific topics. Podcasts. I could go on and on. But you know what?

If this past year is any indication, we’ll probably end up doing something really very different – and much better – than anything I’ve planned or thought of.

I might have started all this with a post, but it’s really YOU who has taken it to levels I never would have thought of. It’s you who have shaped it into more than just a collection of blogposts.

JGL isn’t mine, after all. It’s yours. Happy anniversary 🙂

So what do you think? Where should we take it? What is it for you? What have you appreciated? What else do you need? Hit the comments and share, knowing there’s a huge chance for us to incorporate whatever good idea you may have! 

The Dangers of a Fragmented Life, Part 2

(This is the second of a two-part post, the first of which could be found here.)

In 2004, I decided to try to live on my own. There is nothing wrong with living on your own – my mistake was that I allowed the situation to further isolate myself from my family and friends. This accentuated the fragmentation my life was already experiencing. The circles in my life were separated even more profoundly. Who I was in my condo, at home with my parents, with different sets of friends, at work, in graduate school – all were different people.

Leading this sort of life meant having virtually no rules for myself. I was willing to try anything or be anyone to fulfill the expectations of whatever group I was in.

Not knowing who I exactly was, I stood for nothing. And as a friend once said, if you stand for nothing, you will fall for everything.

So with bad decision after bad decision, I spiraled.

I had a good paying job, my own place, my own car, and whatever niceties I was able to afford. But I didn’t really know who I was, work was meaningless, I was doing things people who loved me would not approve of, and I felt really alone. Yes, a lot of people knew me from my different circles, but no one really knew me. In retrospect, I didn’t even think there was any reason to change. I thought that was how life really was.

Things started to change when I attended this retreat where I found God. I had attended dozens of retreats before, so I wasn’t expecting lasting change in this one, but this was different.

In a moment of spectacular clarity, I asked myself, if I truly believed in God, if I loved him – then what was I doing with myself? Why was I so intent on pleasing these other people?  On doing “cool” stuff?

If I believed in God, and if I loved Him – then shouldn’t everything revolve around following Him? And if I believed that God created me for a specific reason, and He has the absolute best intentions for me, then shouldn’t I stop pretending to know what’s best for me and instead just listen? (something very challenging for my very independent self)

Oh, and is there any sense in stalling? 

I then went on with my life with renewed vigor – I started discerning instead of deciding. Reclaiming my life was going to be difficult, but I had found my needed Anchor. In finding God, I had found myself. (And you know what, I think it’s the absolute quickest way to do so.) I suddenly knew who I was and very importantly, who I wasn’t. 

One by one, my horcruxes disappeared. It wasn’t something instant or even something I was consciously aware of. It was a long process. But one day, I suddenly found myself thinking: hey, you know what – there’s little need for me to pretend anymore! Suddenly I realized, who I was at home was the same person I was with my friends. There was no tension felt when my worlds collided. I could do stuff like share my faith freely at work (or write about it in my entrepreneur-centric blog) or in meetings.

It was liberating. Wherever I was, I was me.

I realize that I also have to fight the tendency to create silos and fragments. I do my best to talk to my wife about everything, even with the powerful man-tendency to solve problems on my own. I just don’t want to create other universes which she isn’t part of the equation. (I think this is where a lot of problems begin) At the same time, I can freely share with my STORM partner Pao the things at home which might affect stuff at work. I share with people in my spiritual community how I am with everything. That’s a lot of sharing for someone who’s intrinsically very, very private, but holding myself accountable to people I love and respect helps a lot in ensuring I live one, integrated life.

The Dangers of a Fragmented Life, Part 1

In grade school, I used to be deathly afraid when my parents would pick me up from school. For some reason I couldn’t understand, I was ashamed of them. I didn’t want my friends to see me with them.

One funny result of this was when people would call me at home (yup, we used the landline to chat then) and look for “Peter,” the people at home thought they were calling the wrong number. You see, at home I was called “Pitpol” or “Popo.”

I was deathly ashamed of these nicknames.

It sounds funny in retrospect, but perhaps the funnier thing is, it turns out I wasn’t the only one who was like this! Turns out a lot of people hide their “home” names, in an effort to separate family life from school life.

Perhaps its not that surprising.  After all, weren’t we all trained and raised to separate the different “areas” in our lives?

Aren’t we so used to saying things like:

“how’s your love life?”

“trabaho lang yan”

“my spiritual life’s been dry”

The connotation is telling. A lot of us live our lives in silos and fragments.

So fast forward to 2005-2006, and upon analysis, my life consisted of these very defined circles:

So, wait…

You know what? Part of me actually liked this set-up. It’s additive. I could check stuff off. I could even mathematically deduce how happy I was in my life!

This month I’m 5/6 happy!

But I’d so hate it when my worlds collided.

When my wife went to a corporate function with me, or when my family would ask me how work was, or when the people in my different circles would meet in a party , I’d feel like my grade school self. There was this weird, uneasy feeling of something like “being discovered.”

The thing was, I DID have something to hide. When I think about it, I was a slightly different person in each world. 

I think this is dangerous because:

1) The anonymity results in lack of accountability, which results in the temptation to be “someone else” in each circle. This lack of accountability can lead to awful choices.

2) Existential angst is created because the question, “who am I” suddenly is difficult to answer

3) There is an uneasiness, a heavy restlessness when the other parts of our life are not in conjunction

Is life truly meant to be lived in such fragmented fashion?

Do we really mean what we say when we say things like:

“I’m really happy. Work really is depressing and demotivating, but, you know, that’s just work! So I’m really happy.”

I think not.

We need to get rid of our horcruxes.

(Continue on to part 2!)

A Different Startup Saturday, Inner Before Outer, and Startup Spirituality

Last Saturday in Starbucks Masinag, I had a slightly different Startup Saturday meeting with Nico Policarpio, a promising young entrepreneur (whose team won the second Startup Weekend).

I was originally going to meet 2 other people, but they each had sudden emergencies, so I met with Nico one-on-one.

Partly as a result of the decreased number of people, the conversation went into deeper ground. Instead of the usual “let’s come up with an idea” or “let’s develop an idea” or “let’s map out current opportunities,” we instead delved into   the philosophical – what drives us as entrepreneurs, taking a hold of who we are, and startup philosophy.

I won’t go into any of the details of our conversation, but let me highlight one very important theme:

Inner Before Outer

More than any other job in the planet, being an entrepreneur requires a tremendous amount of self-introspection and awareness.

Why?

A startup is basically an individual’s unique offering and contribution to the world. He’s basically saying, “Hey world, here’s what I can do, buy me!”

To be able to offer your best to the universe, you first have to figure out what it is, right?

A mistake a lot of entrepreneurs make is just going after the money. This produces a passionless startup which inevitably makes passionless products. Slow death.

Another is going after something “sexy,” – like perhaps forcing yourself to go into “mobile” or “social” even if it just isn’t you and it bores you to death. Destination Zombieland.

Another mistake is to go after everything you feel remotely interests you, ending up with 2-3 startups at the same time WHILE having a day job in some cases. Recipe for failure as what a startup needs MOST from you is time.

These mistakes are usually the product of a lack of proper introspection as to who you really are, what your gifts are, what you really want to do, what you consider to be your calling in this world. These mistakes are the product of choosing outer (ideas, opportunity, money) before choosing inner (who you are, introspection, Faith).

This is why I find the startup exercise such a Faith-walk.

I know most people don’t associate business with Faith, or business with God.

If you believe in God though, and you believe you have a specific Calling, it’s pretty difficult NOT to consider Faith when undergoing the entrepreneurial process.

Figuring out who you are in the world? Sounds like something God can help us out with, eh?

Align your life. Nothing will make you happier.

Desperation For Daily Prayer

It is a bit odd that I write this now, when my prayer time has been a bit inconsistent. Perhaps the silver lining is that at this moment, I can better explain how much life just is much better when I pray consistently.

At my best, I pray in the morning. (praying early in the morning is just refreshingly different) I grab my Bible and I proceed to my designated sacred space. I set the phone timer for 30 minutes. I usually listen to a praise song first and then read the Gospel reading for the day. Then I close my eyes and try to silence myself.

God is in the stillness, after all.

I then offer up those 30 minutes to my God. In silence. Listening. Conversing.

Sometimes, God reveals amazing things to me – and the feeling is wonderful.

Sometimes, prayer is dry. I have since learned that God uses the desert experience to reveal even more things to me.

I know sometimes we ask ourselves, why doesn’t God talk to me? Perhaps we only need to quiet down and listen a bit. When I started doing this consistently, I realized God has been talking to me all the time. I started seeing His Hand in my life more. He is in the everyday. But without prayer, I would never have been able to see and realize this.

30 minutes, everyday. Cadence.

Don’t we talk everyday to the ones closest to our hearts? A day wouldn’t be the same for me if I don’t get the chance to talk to my wife and kids. Shouldn’t it be the same – much more – with the One who gave us everything we have? The One whom we should love above all other things?

I have always said I believed in God. I have always said I loved Him. So how come I barely talk to Him? How come I never built a relationship with Him? Prayer is a gift which allows me to do that.

I can now FEEL IT in my life when I don’t talk to God consistently. I end up trying to control everything (the entrepreneur’s curse). And of course when things don’t fall my way (which is bound to happen very often), I feel frustrated and angry. There is no peace. I worry about things I shouldn’t be worried about. I get overly consumed with stuff I shouldn’t: like money, or winning, or reputation.  These are traps.

There are much better things in life.

I said earlier that prayer makes life better. Does it make it make life easier? No. The usual problems life will throw at me will still be there. But prayer allows me to handle things so much better. It’s like having God in my corner in a boxing match. I can get pummeled – but I know God is there to support, guide, encourage, and even heal me.

But prayer is much more than balm. It can lead to breakthrough. 

who’s in your corner?

It is only through consistent prayer that we can know what His wills in our lives (discernment). There is no greater source for career, love, or life advice better than prayer. Through prayer, I can say that God has truly directed me into a career I am excited with, a family I adore, and a life I cherish and love every minute of.

If you have God in your corner, He will tell you what you need to do. There is no problem too big (or small) for Him to help you with.

How can you get Him to be in your corner?

Easy.

Just talk to Him.

Is following God a strategic career move?

Do we, really?

I had always believed and said to people that God was at the center of my life.

Only, I realize now that for most of my adult life, that was mostly just lip-service.

Yes, I would go to Mass every Sunday, quickly pray before sleeping (especially when I needed something), and always tried to do the right thing. Me and God were “good,” I thought.

In the meantime, the decisions I made in my life never involved Him. I would go from job to job never thinking about what God would want from me. I formed relationships in my life with nary a thought on faith. I had always been fiercely independent, leaving my parents’ house to forge my own path as soon as I could’ve. This would partly explain why decision after decision would involve only what I alone felt and thought. I would buy what I want, spend my time doing what I wanted, did what I want. It wasn’t really God who was at the center of my life, eh?

Not that I thought there was anything wrong with how I was doing things. This was no prodigal son story, right? I mean, I wasn’t really doing anything inherently wrong. But when I think of it, I ended up straying from the right path anyway. I was so intent on following my own way I just went around in circles. I conquered my corporate professional dreams, but felt empty. Left to my own devices, I found myself alone, frustrated, and confused.  No, I wasn’t leading a ruinous life. I was, however, leading a mediocre one.

In some ways, I think this can even be more dangerous because mediocrity tends to subtly creep up on you. I can see how some people would only realize one’s presence in the mediocrity mire after decades have gone by – but you can even chalk up this late realization as a blessing. Some people never get it.

I guess life phase-triggered crises occur when we realize that the decisions we have made has resulted in a life that’s missing something, and existential desperation sets in. You can call it a search for meaning, or purpose, or pagmemeron, or saysay, or happiness, or joy, or peace, or even searching for yourself.

All along though, I realized I was searching for God. My infinite hole could only be filled by something, someone infinite.

It was only a few years ago that I truly, fully realized this. It was when my heart caught up with my head. So I resolved not to waste any more time. (why do we waste so much time?)

I had always heard holy people on TV say repetitively “Do you have a personal relationship with God?!” It was only recently that I truly understood this.

If I talked all the time with my close friends, got to know them better, and read their updates, I figured I would do the same thing with God. I endeavored to talk to God everyday during prayer, get to know Him more, and read His teachings.

I endeavored to make Him the center of my life. As in REALLY make Him the center of everything in my life.

This of course, includes career choices.

At first I thought, huh? Really? Careers and God don’t seem to mix. I had never encountered God in the corporations I had been in, save perhaps for the obligatory prayer said before Christmas parties. No one has ever told me to “pray,” when I asked for career advice.

But aren’t “careers” so inextricably linked to WHY GOD PUT US HERE ON EARTH?

God uniquely made each of us, endowed us with a specific set of gifts, for a purpose. And you know what? I bet that if you just find that purpose, more than anything, it would make you incredibly happy. So I prayed to God fervently to lead me to that purpose.

My big mouth.

One day, I found myself in a very difficult career decision point (detailed here) that put everything that I had resolved to do for Him against everything I held dear. It was one of the two most difficult decisions I’ve ever had to do.

In my gut, I knew it was a seminal moment. The decision I made here will determine how the rest of my life would unravel. To the world, it was a blatantly clear decision. To my God, it was a clear decision as well: Take the leap. I will take care of you.

It took guts which I didn’t have, but I took the leap no other career advisor would have recommended.

It was difficult going through that process, but God showed me a career path I never would have thought of in a million years – building startups. And oh boy, I can’t tell you how wonderful the fit is between what I do and who I am. In finding God, I had found myself.

Another interesting side effect is that my life was suddenly integrated. You see, before I would live a life divided into silos. I had my life at work, my family life, my love life, my life with my friends, and so forth. I noticed I was a different person in each silo. So during the times when worlds collided, I would feel very uncomfortable at the risk of being “discovered.” I don’t know if this makes sense to you. I didn’t do anything wrong, but I was projecting a different self, probably because I was trying to live in accordance to what each “world” expected of me. This has all changed. I am now one person. I feel integrated, complete. And the necessary foundation for this was and is, God.

A couple of weeks back, I posted this on a particular online forum. I was told by a reader that he had trouble believing how faith can determine the success and failure of a business endeavor. Friends, my whole happiness with where I am career-wise is a result of my faith and nothing else. The whole “business endeavor” would not even have existed if God had not intervened.

Not only can faith and work mix, but I would posit that NOT doing so would lead to something incomplete. The easiest, most direct way to find yourself is through God.

Of course, you can always do something part-time for God, like build houses, or help street kids, and stuff. This is all good, right? Think about that phrase though: part-time for God.

Hey God, you are my everything! I would give PART of my time to you!

Why not the alternative? I mean, you don’t necessarily have to be a priest or something, right? Why not be a full-time politician for God? An full-time entrepreneur for God? A full-time lawyer for God? A full-time website designer for God? The important thing is you follow that voice which calls within. Then you can still build houses and minister to street children in your spare time.

So, how exactly do you know what God wills for you? Three quick suggestions: One, it would help if you TALK to Him for starters, right?! Take a designated 30 minutes (say, 6:00am-6:30am) of your morning to pray. Everyday. Can’t overemphasize this. Second, search within yourself for your DEEPEST desires. I can guarantee it isn’t money. Our deepest, most intimate desires were put there by God. He sometimes can talk to us through our desires. Third, notice what sort of work you do makes time speed up remarkably fast. Notice what work you do brings you complete joy that you can do it for free, that you would PAY someone for you to do it. What did God put in your DNA?

Be warned though, that oftentimes in your journey, you will find that there will be a conflict arising between what God wants and what can bring in money.

So is following God truly strategic then?

It will depend on what you determine to be your ultimate end goal is.

In the end, what race are you really running?