Consucasa Group General Manager
Today, suddenly, I discovered the path of my life. Being with myself, without thinking about it, while shaving, my mind connected the cables that have allowed me to understand the path that my past and present experience have followed. I must do everything on my part so that, now that I am concious of it, the path follows the right way.
When I have told my friends or my family some episodes in my life that I have considered significant, I have explained some reasons for their occurrence, between coincidences and my determination.
I have to go back to my childhood, when I was 7 or 8 years old. I am the fourth in a family of five children. By then my father was a Congressman for the Department of Chocó, Colombia. We lived in very modest conditions. Both my father and my mother came from humble families. On the grave of my father I wrote as an epitaph the name of the book that he proudly wrote “Memories of a Son of Miners”. On my mother’s tombstone, I wrote: “Mother of Love, Humility and Devotion.”
I, the child who was just beginning to reason, without sharing it with anyone, thought: “My father is the representative of his people. He has reached one of the highest categories he can aspire to. However, our way of life and our economic conditions are quite limited”. I toured the new neighborhood we moved to, the Palermo neighborhood, near the Americano school, where I would begin to attend the first year of primary school. For different reasons, I had the opportunity to enter the houses of some neighbors or look through their windows. I looked at the old and shabby furniture, with dark spaces and thought: “No, these are not the conditions in which I want to live.”
After elementary school, my father managed to get me a place to study high school at a national school, the Externado Camilo Torres, which was free but very demanding. At that time, the school distinguished itself because its students got the best college entrance scores. In fact, my best friend, from whom I learned a lot, obtained the best score at the National University. I was not such a good student but I managed to get the required scores year after year. We started about two hundred students in the first year of high school and we finished fifty. It was not easy and a true discipline of study was required.
Already at that time professional aptitude tests were carried out to guide the next high school graduates towards their university careers. The profile that best suited me was Economics, but I knew that was not what I wanted. I understood that Economics was referring to national accounts and problems at the macroeconomic level (although I did not know this word). What I wanted was something like being an entrepreneur, something that would provide me with a better income. If the Business Administration career had existed in the country at that time, surely my profile would have suited it very well. But such a university curriculum did not exist in Colombia at that time, and I had no idea that it could exist in the world, because my world at that time was limited to Bogotá.
So I finished high school at the end of November 1960, without knowing what I was going to study, but I don’t remember worrying a lot about it.
I think it was around December 10 when I saw a small ad in the newspaper announcing the School of Administration and Finance of Medellín, which had already started work that semester. I wrote to my older brother who at that time was studying at the National School of Mines in Medellín, the same place where my father had studied, because he followed in my father’s footsteps, accompanying him in his duties as a civil engineer throughout the territories of the country during his vacations. They did not take me with them. My brother’s concept of the School of Management was not very positive, because it was new and small. But the concept of him didn’t put me off. I took the respective exams and got my admission. It turned out that it was a very well designed program by USAID (US Agency for International Development) and ANDI (National Association of Colombian industrialists) to start training Business Administrators in the country, a lack already felt by growing Colombian companies. Syracuse University, USA, ran the program very seriously. It was identical to the program in the United States, and its teachers were the same from Syracuse. The teachers did not speak Spanish, always needing an assistant or interpreter. Today EAFIT university is one of the most recognized in the country.
In such a way, I began my career, soon realizing that the study discipline acquired in high school and my interest in the profession made me a good student. An Honor Scholarship was instituted, which exempted the student who obtained the highest grades in the preceding semester from paying, and with determination I became the recipient of the scholarship during all the semesters of the career. In the middle of it I realized the importance of doing an M.B.A. (Master in Business Administration) in the United States, since logically it did not yet exist in Colombia. I also thought that someone had to replace the North American professors, and without thinking again I convinced myself that if I was the best student, they would give me a scholarship to do a Master’s degree at Syracuse University, to return as a professor, and that’s how I dedicated myself to study English, alone in the University laboratory. And I did it. I did my MBA at Syracuse and returned as a professor of Marketing and Management at EAFIT. But my intention was not to be a teacher. That was just a necessary step. My intention had already materialized in being a senior marketing executive in a large Colombian company. Shortly after my return to Colombia, I returned to the United States to marry my American girlfriend. She unfortunately passed away about five years later, leaving no children from our marriage.
The senior executive position I aspired to became a reality, perhaps too quickly for a young man without any experience. Then I achieved the financial well-being that I had pursued for so long. But I must confess that it did not go well for me, and in a short time I had already decided to establish myself on my own in what I knew how to do, research and marketing advice. I found it very satisfying to identify the initials of the I AM company. I thought it was finding myself, without depending on anyone. But later I realized that I was always depending on the contracts that I managed to make with the companies, in a more unstable way and no more remunerative than that of an executive in a large company. I understood that to achieve true economic independence I had to make a capital, to have a company in any economic field. So I dedicated myself to doing it. Living alone now, I moved to my parents’ house to save some money, investing it in stocks, which I had always liked. I was fortunate that at that time the large economic groups in force in Colombia were being formed, unleashing fierce competition, some to conserve and others to take control of the main companies in the country. Stock prices rose up to ten times, to the benefit of tiny investors like me. I continued to live in my father’s house, and returned to work as an executive to have a secure income while consolidating my financial position, for about eight years. I obtained a scholarship from the government of the Netherlands to study senior management in that country for six months, with the purpose of living and getting to know Europe. In Holland I married my Colombian girlfriend, who today is my beautiful and talented wife, forming a happy home blessed with three children who follow the profession and the path of their father, surely their paths will go much further than mine.
With initial capital consolidated, I entered to the construction business. Encouraged mainly for the reasons that it is a large business and because the credit and sales system allows a volume greater than the initial resources.
Meanwhile, for four years I studied a Master’s Degree in Philosophy at the Javeriana University, already in search of spiritual nourishment, after so many readings and explorations in this field.
In the construction business, I have done as well as my resources and the conditions of the Colombian economy have allowed, which had all the builders inactive for several years that coincided with the turn of the millennium. After my Philosophy studies, but more important than these, the other important event in my spiritual life is the knowledge of the Urantia Book, which came to me a year and a half ago and whose reading has accompanied me ever since.
Short before the construction crisis, I tried to establish Fundación Contruímos to help especially construction workers in Colombia. After the crisis and in view of the new economic activity of the company, I definitively established the Foundation, today in charge of my eldest son. This is a very young entity, with 18 months of foundation, and with a very difficult but very enriching task ahead. We propose that with the resources provided by a third of the company’s fiscal profits, people with a minimum wage and especially construction workers, can access a home of their own through the mechanisms of programmed savings, credit and state subsidy. Although it may seem incredible, the regulations in Colombia seem to go against this purpose, which should be the axis of housing policy in the country. At the same time, we have soup kitchens for children and the elderly, which is a much easier task. I believe that so far the greatest achievement of the Foundation is the commitment of my children to it.
This is the story. Now: what is the common thread?
Why was I born in a home of good manners that gave me a basic education, in contrast to so many human beings who have to face very adverse circumstances from a very early age?
Why did that seven-year-old boy make up his mind from such a young age to overcome his economic conditions?
Why did I have the opportunity to study at that college with high academic demands?
Why immediately after finishing high school did I find the right career path?
Why was I convinced that they would send me to do a Master’s degree in the United States, when no one had promised it?
Why was the executive experience of which I had dreamed of so much frustrating?
Why did my experience as an entrepreneur go well, but not as a marketing researcher?
Why did I study philosophy and went into spiritual readings?
Why did I establish Fundación Construímos?
Why did the Urantia Book get to me?
Each of us must make an examination of his own life. Beyond the immediate circumstances, the causalities and coincidences that can be identified for each thing that happens to us in life, what determines it? Is it our own will, the will of others, or chance?
There is no doubt that we have a freewill, an absolute freedom to choose one path or another among the many options that we face at every moment of our life. Nothing forces us to make one or the other option. It depends on ourselves. But there is something within our consciousness that tells us which is the right way to go. There is something that drives us, each one in his own way, because we all start from different points and must reach different goals.
It is in each one, in their own freedom, to attend or ignore their own inner self. This inner self can have a greater or lesser influence on the direction of our lives, according to our own will to attend to it. Generally, especially as children, we do it unconsciously and spontaneously. But we must try to become aware of that something within ourselves that is trying to lead us on the right path.
The correct path is different for everyone. For some of us it presents some tests and for others, other tests. But always difficulties, deprivations and setbacks lead us to our own maturity and improvement. We can still succumb to them, but that is one more test towards greater improvement.
In the case of my personal history, which is the one I can best understand, if I had not been born, raised and trained as I was, I probably would not have had enough strength to supply my shortcomings. The same that so many people have had, who, being born within the most adverse circumstances, or suffering them at some point in their lives, overcome them to rise above these limitations in a truly exemplary way.
From a very young age, the desire for economic improvement was manifested in me, seeing it then as a purpose in itself, and still not understanding that, like everything on the path of life, once reached, it constitutes a step for a bigger purpuse.
The opportunity to study at a college with high academic demand was a necessary preparation for good performance in a university career.
Finding immediately and without any effort the continuity of the right path through the EAFIT University, and the different circumstances within the University, I do not think they can be attributed only to coincidene. Or perhaps coincidence for our understanding, but determined by something higher that governs our lives.
In professional experience, seemingly negative failure in executive position and market research is actually positive because it leads me to where i can achieve higher economic goals. If I had been successful, perhaps, I would still be a senior executive or researcher who would not have been able to study philosophy and the Construímos Foundation would not have existed.
Success as a construction entrepreneur apparently meant reaching long-desired goals. But then comes the realization that everything we do for ourselves is still a selfish purpose, it has no real value. Only what we do selflessly for others has true meaning. Although in the daily work of each of us we are doing something for others, generally we do it for our own benefit. Of course, many people are engaged in truly altruistic and selfless work. For them our recognition.
The study of philosophy is a step toward spiritual growth and preparation for understanding the revelation contained in the Urantia Book.
Fundación Construímos is a desinterested expression for those who need it most. For the worker who builds our homes without having the right to one of his own. Our capitalist system is the most suitable instrument for the creation of wealth, but not for its distribution. Much less are socialism and communism, which have already proven their failure. Entrepreneurs and leaders have to understand this and make an effort to create fairer and more equitable conditions for those least favored by the system. If we understand it and dedicate some of our effort to this purpose, we would have a better country, a better world, since the seed of our poverty, our violence and our guerrilla is the result of an imperfect system of wealth distribution that needs individual action of each one of us. It is not enough to pay taxes.
Let’s remember the parable of the talents. Interestingly, this word applies to both mental and material gifts. Talents have not been freely given to us for our own benefit. We have a legitimate right to enjoy the fruits of our efforts. But we have not obtained these fruits alone. We have been given the resources and opportunities to obtain them. We have an obligation to repay them to the same extent that they have been given to us.
What I finally understood this morning is the phrase so significant that we have heard so many times without stopping to think about its real and true meaning. Christ said: “I AM THE WAY, TRUTH, AND LIFE.”
The path is there for each one of us in every moment of our life. It is not just a future path: it is a present path. It is up to each one to accept it and follow it. Even if it does not seem easy and adequate or it leads us through suffering, divine wisdom will know how to take us along the paths that it has prepared for us. Let’s accept it with courage, humility, faith, and a lot of will.