I almost cried writing this one.
Newcomers, welcome to the journey.
Last week I wrote about the “building process”.
Remember, there’s NO SHORTCUT to SUCCESS.
So don’t get frustrated if you feel like you’re not making progress. Whether it’s finding a new job, a life partner, or your life’s work, just LEARN TO LOVE THE PROCESS.
To build something great YOU NEED TO KEEP SHOWING UP.
Now, let me share what can happen if you do…
Many of you know Haiti is a part of my story. But few know why.
One of the LAST WORDS I’d use to describe the process of building a school in Haiti is: Predictable.
One of the FIRST WORDS I’d use to describe the process of building a school in Haiti is: Humbling.
I’ll never forget October 30th, 2005.
Vanessa was 16 when she was in a fatal car accident.
I still get a heavy heart just writing about it.
We were close childhood friends. In fact, she was the first girl I called. And she actually picked up.
But the other phone call was more memorable.
It felt like a mistake. Why do bad things happen?
After I heard the news I remember hanging up the phone and walking out my front door. My head was spinning. How it could be so bright outside when everything felt so cloudy inside?
I never expected to lose a friend that way. But I never expected to gain one (or two) either…
Over the next few years I became just as close to Vanessa’s family as I was with her. Little did I know I was also growing closer to Haiti.
After Vanessa passed away her sister Monique decided to quit her job at Goldman Sachs. One of the first things she did was establish the non-profit Vanessa had started to create. It’s called the VIP Foundation, and it's dedicated to supporting children's education in Haiti (their father’s native country). I think it's Monique's way of honoring Vanessa by “paying it forward”...
Five years later, it’s now 2010.
Haiti, a tiny country, is driving the global news cycle after a devastating earthquake took 100,000+ lives.
It made me think about Vanessa.
I wanted to help. But only if it meant I could keep living my life the way it was. Besides, what COULD I do? I wasn’t a trained professional. I was just a college kid.
If I’m honest, I wasn’t WILLING to do more than a little fundraising. But connecting Virginia Tech with Vanessa’s foundation was SOMETHING. And that made me feel better than nothing.
Little did I know I was actually moving towards SOMETHING way WAY BIGGER…
Almost exactly one year later, it’s now 2011.
I'm still in college when I get a phone call to come to New York City.
That's when I meet Rubens.
You know how people say everything happens for a reason?
Well, it does. If you’re paying attention.
I was nervous walking into that interview. I had just bombed my chance at an internship with Morgan Stanley. And I didn’t expect Goldman Sachs to be any easier.
I sat down. He smiled. Then quickly got serious.
He said, “Why do you get up in the morning?” I thought, “Finally. A question I can answer.”
Within three minutes we were done with the interview and he was telling me about the school he was building in Haiti…
It wasn’t until I left the interview that I started to see the bigger picture, connecting the seemingly unrelated dots.
Vanessa <--> Haiti <--> Monique <--> Goldman Sachs <--> Rubens <--> Haiti and Goldman Sachs
Something big was unfolding.
My enthusiasm started to take over. But back then I didn’t know better.
Remember how I’ve said you need to keep showing up?
Well it’s equally important to slow it down.
Success requires commitment and patience.
Over the next few years I found myself slowly becoming a part of Rubens’ story.
First, as an analyst on his team. Then, as a naive young kid who was hungry for advice. Later, as a workout partner, a friend and school supporter. Now, as a brother and business partner.
In relationships and business, success requires commitment and patience.
Rubens and Freddie (his older sister) continue to show me this truth. It’s been seven years since they first had a vision to build a school on their grandfather’s land.
I don’t think either of them knew what they were getting into. They were just following their heart, and doing what felt right.
Many people visited Haiti to provide short-term “relief” after the earthquake in 2010. But few decided to commit their lives to a solution that would create a sustainable change. I think it’s Rubens' and Freddie's way of honoring their family by “paying it forward”...
We each have our own story. But life is more fun when you create one together.
Rubens and Freddie were both born Haiti but grew up in New York City.
Given less opportunity than most, it’s fair to say they're familiar with achieving the “unlikely”. Each have overcome tremendous odds to create success on their own terms, both in business and at home.
I mean it.
Let’s take Rubens, for example. How many people do YOU know who can dunk at 5’7”?
Building a successful, sustainable education system in Haiti seems just as "unlikely". But it's happening.
Over the last seven years Rubens and Freddie have literally boot-strapped and privately funded a $650K+ foreign investment in a country most people wouldn’t even consider visiting. All while working full-time, from two different cities, with kids...
I've come to learn you can't measure your life on WHAT you do. It's WHO you choose to be with you.
In this case, though Vanessa’s not with us, her life continues to bless mine through relationships.
Rubens and I have had a lot of plane rides, car rides, and even one or two small cries.
I’m so grateful for his friendship, mentorship, and leadership.
He’s not perfect. But he knows it. And that’s the best part about him. He knows how to keep humility.
Losing a friend like Vanessa was a humbling experience. Gaining a friend like Rubens has also been a humbling experience.
In both cases I’ve learned and re-learned what it means to focus on “what matters most”…
In late 2014 I made my first trip to Haiti before joining the school’s Board.
I’ll never forget that first visit to BATI School’s campus.
I sat at the top of the hill wondering how it could be so cloudy outside when everything felt so bright inside.
It’s humbling to realize how small you are in the big picture of life. But it’s rewarding to know you have a role if you want it.
For me, my role in Haiti is to make sure our students graduate from BATI School so they can pursue a higher education on Vanessa’s dime. I don’t think she’d mind.
If my numbers are right, that’s going to be at least eleven more years.
I sure hope I’m around. But that’s not the point.
“What matters most” is that although one life was lost, many other lives are being and will be restored (including my own).
That’s the point.
You get what you give. And more.
Haiti has already given me so much more than I could return. And the story is just beginning.
After seven years we're now in the final stages of preparing to open school doors.
During that time we've been building a business to support the school financially, growing our presence in the local community, partnering with experts in education, and physically constructing buildings across five acres of land at the top of a mountain.
We've also been learning how to navigate the unpredictable nature that is "Haiti". How should you respond to a hurricane that displaces your employees and causes $150,000+ of damage? How do you find someone you can trust to pour the right cement mixture for the walls?
It's important to remember perfect can't block progress. But preparation is paramount.
This September we'll welcome 75 students and six new staff members.
Our school is structured so parents pledge their time, not money, for their kids to attend. We’re intentional about getting family buy-in so our students and teachers are set up for success.
I'll speak for many of us when I say WE had the chance to THRIVE because of the support we received from our parents. But many of BATI School’s parents won’t be able to support their kids in the same way.
We know the success of our school is dependent upon the experience we provide our students and teachers. We'll be world class. But we need your help to get started.
I’m not asking you to consider if you’d be willing to replace your next date night. Or bar tab. Or weekend trip.
I’m asking you to consider the role you might play in this story, if any.
Are you our emotional or spiritual support?
Are you an engaged financial contributor? A visitor? Or nothing at all?
No matter what you may have been, I’m now inviting you in.
What role COULD you play?
Do you want to help create jobs by paying a teacher's monthly salary? Email me.
Do you want to fill the classrooms for our students and teachers? Visit our Amazon wish list.
Or something else? Email me.
Whether sharing words of encouragement or making a trip to Haiti, the point is you have something to gain. It may take years to unfold, but if you never take the chance then the story goes untold.
For now, this story remains unfinished. But the future looks bright in Haiti. And we’d be honored if you decide to help us “pay it forward”...