My wife Nesrin and I had many discussions about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and never agreed on anything. However something that she told me many years ago, in one of our heated discussions, stayed in my mind… “Everything has been taken from the Palestinians, even their PRIDE”… I repeat this is a non-political blog.
Even their Pride…
Constantly I tell my kids that the most important thing that they have is their pride and nobody can take it away from them. When I use the word “pride” (in Spanish, orgullo) I do not use it as arrogance. I use it for self-esteem (amor propio, autoestima). “The consciousness of one's own dignity” which is one of the definitions I found in the dictionary.
While I was attending American University in my early 20’s I created a student discount card, PHD Express. I expanded PHD to 5 other universities and had over 500 businesses honoring the card in the DC area. The venture was doing well but due to the lack of management experience I lost control and it failed.
The result of me focusing on my business was that I lost sight of my studies. My grades dropped, failed some of my classes and lost my partial scholarship.
My venture folded as my life did as well. I did not have any money to pay for school, rent or food. So here I am, broke with out a degree, with out a place to live and hungry.
Now, what kept me going? My pride, my self-esteem, my determination. It would have been very easy to pick up the phone and call my father, “Padre, I am done, please send me money to go back to Ecuador.” My Pride, would not allow me to accept defeat or a call for help.
A good friend of mine was kind enough to allow me to sleep on the floor at his studio. Another friend allowed me to borrow his school cafeteria card so I could have something to eat. I was at a point where I couldn’t even afford a bus ride, so my mode of transportation was roller blading.
Although I was completely broke I never lost hope. I kept my posture and my smile. I would speak in a loud confident voice, always dressed in clean and ironed clothing. I would talk about my ideas and did not show defeat. Slowly I got back on my feet and began building my business…
While I was building my business, I met many homeless who ended up working for me and becoming my friends. I tried to take some of them out of the streets but I never succeeded. They did not want to leave the streets because they did not want any responsibility. They already had given up on life, accepted defeat and lost their dignity.
A few weeks ago, at home, we rented the movie “The Pursuit of Happiness.” It is a film based on the life of Chris Gardnes and his humble beginnings. The story is about a man who was able to get a job as a stockbroker in a prestigious firm even though he was homeless and had to fight every night for space to sleep with his young son at the shelter. He was able to defeat many bad situations because he never lost his self-esteem, and always had hope and determination. I mentioned to my kids that I could really relate to his life. I even had a little tear in my eye from the similarities of our lives.
Where would I be today, if I had gone back to Ecuador?
First, I wouldn’t have met Nesrin and have 3 amazing kids, then… and finally wouldn’t have the authority to write about failure.
We all have defeats in life but the key is to maintain our confidence, and preserve our self-esteem. When one is so down one can only rise! No other option!
The most important thing that you have is your pride and nobody can take it away from you!