His father told him he believed in him — the rest came from God
It’s my favorite line in the 1989 movie “The Dead Poets Society.” English teacher John Keating, played by Robin Williams, says, “Carpe diem. Seize the day, boys! Make your lives extraordinary.”
A young man in Washington, D.C., Juan Pablo Segura, has taken this advice to heart.
During his time at the University of Notre Dame, Segura started an “Angel for a Day” program with the inner city kids of South Bend, Indiana, providing a day of faith, fellowship, and fun for the children while getting a big group of fellow students involved.
After college, he began his career at Deloitte and then founded two separate companies that are both still thriving. In his spare time, he is leading a Catholic group of 200 young professionals. They meet for Mass and discussion sessions, and focus on serving the poor and homeless in D.C.
His secret sauce? He tries to attend daily Mass and makes time throughout the day for personal prayers. There is truly a sense of urgency in this young man. I asked him to share what is driving him so hard.
“I’ve been blessed to have incredible role models in my life,” he wrote, “and they have constantly challenged me to be a better man. One of the defining moments that I will never forget early in my life was a track race when I was 10 years old. As I was hitting the last 100 meters of a mile-long race, I saw my father screaming, cheering me on, saying, ‘Never give up, never give up, Juan Pablo!’ Those words have been a whisper and a yell in the back of my mind for as long as I can remember, shaping my dreams and also drawing me closer to God.”
Segura also told me: “I believe those words pushed me to study hard in high school and go to my dream college, Notre Dame. Once there, I graduated cum laude in both Accounting and Chinese while also racking up 150 credit hours in four years to be able to sit for the CPA exam immediately upon graduation. After college, I pursued the logical next step, which was to work for the largest consultancy firm in the world, Deloitte & Touche, as a finance consultant. While the work was challenging, I was not completely happy. I felt I could do more and make a greater impact. Part of my desire was not only professional but also spiritual.”
He continued: “During my second year at Deloitte, I decided to leave the firm and start not one but two businesses. If that wasn’t enough, I also created a young professionals group that would take a different approach to cultivating the faith and engaging millennials. From that moment almost four years ago, on the professional side, I’ve raised more than $7 million in venture capital for my company, Babyscripts, and have built a company that is redefining how pregnancies are managed in this country.”
“I was also a founding member of District Doughnut, an up-and-coming gourmet doughnut concept that has grown to two stores and is pushing the boundaries of how food and art are combined. My most important accomplishment, though, is participating in our young Catholic professionals group. From what was at first a pipe dream, we have a community of more than 200 young professionals engaging in either a social, service, or catechetical way on a weekly basis.”
Segura closed with these words: “I’ve been able to do all of this with the help of amazing friends and a sincere friendship with Jesus Christ. Jesus has been the pillar I turn to when I’m tired, when I struggle with challenges in my life. The challenges are not just professional. They are social, romantic, and intellectual. Having the sacraments and the example of the saints are what keep me grounded and give me the strength to not stop trying to change the world.”
I’ve reflected on this young man’s life and words in my own life — and consider this. I have the privilege of being able to going for a daily run in the beautiful town of Rye, New York, and one of the highlights is jogging past the cemetery. So many illustrious and accomplished Rye residents are buried there — and it is a constant reminder for me that the clock is ticking and eventually the checkered flag will appear.
In the words of Blessed Paul VI, “Somebody should tell us, right at the start of our lives, that we are dying. Then we might live life to the limit, every minute of every day. Do it! I say, whatever you want to do, do it now! There are only so many tomorrows.”
Fr. Michael Sliney, LC, is a Catholic priest who is the New York chaplain of the Lumen Institute, an association of business and cultural leaders.