By Erich Kerekes on Jan 15, 2019 1:40:30 PM
Yesterday over dinner someone asked me if Hallow had changed my life. I answered “Of course, it has drastically improved my faith life, and I am now praying in a number of ways I had never known before, and am praying more frequently than I ever did.” Clearly unsatisfied, he pushed me, “No, I mean a real, concrete example of what you’ve done differently as a result of your prayers and Hallow.”
Truth is, I simply would not be where I am now if it weren’t for the first ‘Praylist’ I ever tried out. I wouldn’t be living where I’m living, living how I’m living, or doing what I’m doing.
I’ll set the context. It’s 2017, and I just finished my second year in management consulting at McKinsey and was loving it. I was learning an astonishing number of truly pragmatic lessons every day, I had amazing perks, was traveling the world, and was surrounded by intelligent, driven, kind colleagues. I moved to San Francisco from Chicago in July of that year for a one-year rotation with McKinsey to serve startups.
My first ‘Praylist’ (though it wasn’t done through the app) was on the topic of discernment, and I began in July 2018, at the official end of my one-year rotation. In that year, I had started to involve myself more and more in a very exciting side project – the nascent stages of what would become Hallow. The decision before me was essentially this: Do I (1) stay at McKinsey and return to Chicago or (2) quit McKinsey, stay in San Francisco, and join Hallow full-time. I felt that joining Hallow from Chicago was not an option, as I knew if I was going to do it then I needed to dedicate myself fully to the cause, or else I’d always be stuck thinking what would have happened had I gone all-in. So, I mapped out the draws of each side, and I ended up with something like this:
My girlfriend is moving to Chicago
I was raised in/around Chicago and lived there for the first two years after college
My parents still live around Chicago
The majority of my high school and college friends live in Chicago
Chicago is way, way more affordable than San Francisco
I think Chicago is the greatest city in the world
My salary at McKinsey recently doubled to something rather competitive for a 25-year-old
I was just told I am weeks away from a promotion to manager
I love McKinsey – the work, the people, the learning, the travel, everything
McKinsey would pay for me to relocate since it was the end of my rotation anyway
There’s Portillo’s in Chicago
I love working on Hallow
It could be fun to try something on my own and be my own boss
Looking at these lists, my instinct was (1). I even went and applied to two leases in Chicago with my old roommates. Yet, something wasn’t sitting right. I stayed up every night thinking about whether or not it was the right decision. It was tearing me apart. So, one day, while waiting for my flight to board at LAX, I called Alex (Hallow’s only founder at the time). To his credit, he didn’t really push me one way or the other. He didn’t offer me a position, equity, co-founder status, or any money at all. He had only one push: take this discernment to prayer and see what happens.
Even today I have a long way to go in my prayer life, but back then especially, my prayer life wasn’t what I’d call strong. My immediate reaction was little better than, “Great, like that’ll get me anywhere.” But instead of voicing this to Alex, I asked for tips on prayers of discernment as I know it was a subject he had recently researched (in fact, these prayers would later be built out into what is now Hallow’s “Decision Making” Praylist). First, I tested my reactions to making the decision each way. I imagined I had already chosen option (1) and carried on with my day, meditating on the resulting emotions along the way, looking for confirmation from God, before then switching and imagining I had made the decision for option (2) and doing the same. Next, in Drake-inspired fashion, I considered what God’s plan might be – meaning which direction do I think God would recommend for me to essentially live my best life and be the best version of myself. Lastly, I meditated on what the person whom I respect the most might choose in this situation, and whom God might suggest I consult on the matter.
After each new prayer, I became more and more uncomfortable with moving back to Chicago and staying with McKinsey. Over the course of these few days in prayer, I was hit over the head with all of the things that had lined up in my life perfectly to bring me to that moment. It was crazy. So crazy in fact, I had to write an entire other blog post just to capture this revelation and the clarity that it brought me. Thomas Aquinas said that God sometimes talks to us through our own faculties, and it was through recognition of my own that my eyes were finally opened to God’s plan all at once, and I was overwhelmed with a sense of direction.
The last piece for me with which I needed to come to terms was the mission of what I was doing. I was unsure whether or not I was called to bring people into the Church. In all honesty, I myself didn’t feel like a big part of the Church for much of my life or even at that very moment. To this deliberation, one last thought came to me – clarity about what Hallow’s mission truly was. We are hoping to bring people peace, and we are hoping to bring through Christian values which essentially boil down to one thing: love. Peace and love are our mission. And yes, that is something to which I would dedicate my life.
So I did it. I left a job I loved, right before a promotion, to stay in a city that didn’t feel like home, with no promise of equity or title at Hallow, to pursue a calling. I realize that could sound silly to some of you. Frankly, prior to this experience I could never relate to “callings” myself either so I don’t blame you, but I’ve found that’s the most accurate description. Has it been easy? Of course not. But that wasn’t ever the promise. It’s hard. I’m living in the most expensive city in the world without an income, and sometimes I feel rather lonely and sometimes I feel rather lost. But, despite those moments, I have yet to doubt that I made the right decision. I wake up every day doing something I love, that I truly believe will help a few people. And hey, even if I spend years on this and Hallow brings peace and love to just one person, then the world is a bit better off, and that’s enough reward for me.