Coincidence or God?

This post is about a revelation. It’s about tying together all the little pieces of my life that brought me to the moment that I decided to join Hallow. The journey to clarity was one of prayer, as I discuss in a previous post. The following paragraphs describe the unlikely and sometimes unexpected steps that built this road to Hallow. Were it not for each of these pieces coming together, I find it extremely unlikely that I would've joined Hallow full-time. 

The story begins with a conversation on a beach. Apart from a brief introduction on campus during our senior year, I did not know Alex (Hallow’s co-founder) at all while we attended Notre Dame together. We met only because we both joined the Chicago office of the same consulting company. And even then, we never worked together and only met because we found ourselves on the same beach at the same time of night during a company retreat. Somehow the conversation turned to God and faith and how to keep up a strong faith life during a hectic job with a largely secular employee base. So, we continued to talk on a regular basis about precisely this. And over the course of 3 years at the company, we never worked together and never even worked in the same city, yet became great friends. Had I not met Alex on that beach, or had faith not come up in our conversation, we may have never gotten to know each other the way we did, and Alex’s conception of Hallow might have taken the form of a journal entry, rather than a phone call to a friend.

Fast forward two years. For the third year at McKinsey, you can choose to do one of many “third-year rotations”, including anything from externships at technology companies, to living abroad for a year, to an internal rotation with the company. I had my mind set on one in particular: an externship with The Gates Foundation. It would have me performing very meaningful social justice work in a cool position at an impactful and inspiring organization. I thought I had the necessary skills, passion, and intention to be a valuable asset to their work. I had very favorable performance reviews and had spoken to prior externs and I felt good about my chances. Instead, I got my second choice – working in the Fast Growth Tech practice at McKinsey (now called Fuel). During my rotation with Fuel, I spent the year serving tech startups on go-to-market and growth strategy. The projects on which I landed could not have been more pertinent to the work that I do at Hallow today. Perhaps even more importantly, if it weren’t for this rotation, I certainly would not have moved to San Francisco to begin with, and I have a hard time believing I would have left Chicago for a new business venture later if I hadn’t already been there.

Then, shortly after hearing about my third-year rotation, I applied to business school. I fell in love with Stanford’s program, and, once again, thought that I was doing it for the right reasons and that this was the path on which I belonged. I was going to use Stanford’s Social Entrepreneurship resources to build up my skills to have an impact in the social justice world. I fit in well with the culture, and I was even already living in San Francisco. I applied and I got an interview, and I thought it went well. I didn’t get in. I had no idea why. But if I had, there is not a doubt in my mind I would have accepted an offer; had I done that, I know that I would not have been able to dedicate myself to Hallow.

In my other post, I mention that at this point in my life I so nearly moved back to Chicago that I applied for two full-year leases with my old roommates. We had the income levels and the credit scores we needed to get the places, and I had never been rejected for a rental application in my life. We didn’t get it. If we had, I would’ve been locked into a lease in a different city. In that instance, I am uncertain I would have pursued Hallow. Even if I did, then I certainly wouldn’t have been able to dedicate myself to it to the same extent as I have.

Now, when I applied to live in Chicago, I obviously told my roommates in San Francisco that I was leaving. Even though I was leaving, they decided to re-sign our 3-bedroom place and decided they would search for a replacement on their own. However, by the time I changed my mind and decided to stay in SF (less than 3 weeks before my planned last day in the city), they hadn’t yet committed my room to anyone. If someone had taken my room, I am not sure I would have stayed – I was lucky enough to be living in a place with very low rent and moving would likely mean paying 50-100% more each month, which is tough to justify with a new absence of income.

Of course, I did not understand the eventual implications of any of these things as they happened. In fact, I was severely disappointed when most of them happened. I had really wished I had gotten the call that said I was going to the Gates Foundation. I was severely disappointed when I found out that I didn’t get into Stanford. I was praying that the place in Chicago would accept our application to live there. And these weren’t long shots for me either. I was confident going into each of these situations that the result would be the opposite of what ultimately occurred. It’s not easy to overcome these initial reactions, and I didn’t put the pieces together on my own. It was through my days of prayer in discernment that I realized how all of this had come together to put me in the perfect position to pursue the project about which I was so excited. If I hadn’t met Alex, or if I had gotten my first choice for rotation, or if I had gotten into Stanford, or I had been accepted for a lease in Chicago – any of these seemingly extremely likely events would have almost certainly prohibited me from joining Hallow full-time.

Now you may read all of this and be happy to chalk it all up to coincidence, or just making the best of the cards I was dealt. And I cannot stop you if you do. But to me, I see a guiding hand behind it all. Some divine nudges here and there. And I choose to call it a recognition of His will. It wasn’t me thinking long and hard about it, slowly coming to convince myself, but rather the realizations came flying in all together at once. It was almost as if someone decided to sit me down and say, “Sorry for how all those things turned out, but step back and look at everything I lined up for you. Don’t just throw all that away to take the less scary path.”

I must clarify, I do not think that following this path means everything will work out perfectly, that Hallow will be a booming success, or that it'll be where I spend the rest of the life. It simply means that I believe it is the right thing to do at this time, in this place of my life. Maybe it's all just to learn a few lessons before everything fails and I move elsewhere, or maybe it's the beginning of something bigger - only time will tell.

In prayers of petition, I used to explicitly ask for specific outcomes. Now, whenever I pray, “Lord, please let X happen” or “help me to do Y”, I’ll always add: “I mean, I guess unless You think there’s something better for me like all those other times.” This is the heart of Hallow’s Letting Go ‘Praylist’. Jesus probably said it better with “Not my will, but Yours”, but I prefer my version; it sounds more like me.

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