Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Best Foot Forward

Remember when you were in elementary school, at the very end of summer, that night before the first day of classes when you would lie in bed in anticipation and think about how the following year would be so awesome!? How you would become the coolest and most popular kid in school by being the homerun kicker/defensive monster on the kickball field during recess? How you would become such a hot commodity among the ladies that the hottest girl in your grade (or at least the first one to hit puberty) would be your girlfriend (what do you do with a girlfriend anyways? Err, hold hands, duh)? When you had all those hopes and dreams to make a huge impact on the world (the schoolyard) for the coming school year? I find myself in a similar situation right now, but instead of the schoolyard, I have a country in mind, Ecuador. Tomorrow is my first day of work as a volunteer at Catapulta, an incubator for startup companies.

Earlier this year, when I was sitting at my desk at UBS, I was thinking about my next move and decided that I wanted to move to an emerging market with the general goal of making as big an impact as I possibly could given my background. In my opinion, I had valuable experience (3 years of i-banking) and wanted to leverage it as much as possible. My train of thought was that a waste of talent/experience/effort is a waste of life for more than just yourself. I´d crossed off teaching English early on because I felt that anybody from the US could do it. I nixed volunteering with an environmental NGO because although the environment is important to me, it is not something I had much experience (interest) in. In the end, it came down to microfinance and Catapulta. I chose Catapulta because it was the best opportunity for me to leverage my knowledge, build upon my skills and most importantly, make the biggest impact.

I may be consulting with entrepreneurs around the country in order to help develop operational efficiencies and financial projections for businesses, coordinating workshops for aspiring entrepreneurs, or fundraising for Catapulta. To be honest, I´m not exactly sure what kind of role I will be filling in the next year. Nor can I be sure of the impact of my efforts. Elementary school wasn´t exactly a cake walk for me and I´m not sure how the next year will play out. But right now, I have the same positive hopes and dreams in mind as I did that night before the first day of classes. And as I did on the first day of school, I will put my best foot forward tomorrow to see what kind of difference I can make.

I am updating this blog in order to raise awareness for my fundraiser¨"Race for the Fallen." Please visit the following link to support and read about why I am supporting this cause. Thank you.

Jericho Project - Race for the Fallen

Tuesday, September 23, 2008


I didn´t quite fully comprehend the significance of what I was doing by moving to Quito until I was done packing my belongings. Whatever was in those bags would see me through the next year in a foreign country! If you were to give me 3 letters to describe what was going through my head, they´d have to be "WTF!" WTF was I doing, moving away from the greatest city in the world? WTF was I doing going so far from my family and friends and WTF why Ecuador?!

Calm down, it´s ok, those same 3 letters with the same sense of urgency have crossed my mind before, twice. The first as an 18 year old, on the bus to Parris Island and the second prior to and during the invasion of Iraq.

Up until my fateful ride to boot camp, I had never been out of my element and thus never had the chance to know who I was and what I was capable of. The following thoughts traversed my mind as I saw civilization subside and swampland take over:

-Is the training going to be too tough for me to handle?
-I weigh 130lbs, how the eff am I going to do the things the other guys can do?
-WTF have you gotten yourself into Robert?!

Throughout boot camp, I kept 4 words in mind and lived by them, "I can do this." As a result, I was able to handle the training quite well, despite my size. Most importantly, I came out with the knowledge that I am capable of whatever it is that I want, if I put my mind (and hard work) into it (sorry for the cliche). I grew tremendously as a person because of the "WTF experience."

To be honest, I was scared out of my mind prior to and during most of the invasion of Iraq. I simply could not get the thought of dying out of my mind. I would think about the following:

-How I am going to die (shot with an AK-47 or friendly artillery shell)
-Where I am going to die (if I don´t die now, I´m surely going to die when we get to Baghdad since it´s going to be a bloodbath)
-WTF, it´s HOT
-What will happen to my family (my Mom will be so upset, but at least she will get the $250,000 life insurance policy, wait WTF I´m only worth 250K?! That´s BS!)

I felt so sorry for myself and my family and everyone else that loved me that my death nearly preoccupied my life. After a little (a LOT) of thought, I came to the conclusion that if I spent my life, whether it´s in a combat zone or a luxury resort, worrying about death, then maybe it´s not worth living! I swore to myself that I would stop thinking about death and start thinking about how to enjoy life. In addition, I gave myself the credit to do the right things when bad things happened (like combat) and decided to embrace everything I enjoyed about life (like my family and friends).

So why am I leaving behind such a wonderful group of family and friends to live in Ecuador? I truly believe that this "WTF experience" will help me grow as a person (in addition to learning a new language and culture) while helping people in a developing country. Besides, family will always be there and true friendship endures through distance and time. I don´t know what lies ahead of me this next year, but I will enjoy it as much as possible and trust that I will handle whatever challenges come my way.

I am updating this blog in order to raise awareness for my fundraiser¨"Race for the Fallen." Please visit the following link to read about why I am supporting this cause. Thank you.