Making the Right Choices
Lizzie Eder Zobel is a co-founder and chairman of Teach for the Philippines, an organization that works to provide Filipino children with inclusive, relevant, and excellent education. She is a member of the Board of Trustees of the Center for Asian Philanthropy and Society, board member of the Population Council, and a founding member of both Friendly Care Foundation and Forum for Family Planning and Development. Lizzie is married to Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala, chairman and CEO of Ayala Corporation, and mother to four children.
Dear Mariana, Jaime Alfonso, Eugenia, and Mercedes,
In a life that is filled with beautiful possibilities, I know that you will agree with me that the choices you make shape the journey and, eventually, the people you will become. Listen to your heart and make these choices carefully for they must be deeply personal and driven by your own aspirations, not those of others. Know that the paths you choose will require perseverance and discipline but, above all, they will require a sense of responsibility—to yourself and toward others.
Be responsible, to yourself. Sign up for life. Seek to find your passion and pursue it without restraint. You will need to be brave—take on as many experiences as possible and immerse yourself in those that you find meaningful. Finding meaning in the work you do will cue you where your passions lie. But know that, although you will feel enormous happiness when the results of your work are positive, inevitably some of the tasks involved in getting the job done will be at times tedious and uninteresting. Remember always that happiness in life is not spread along one single continuum. Fortunately, there are moments of extraordinary happiness and you should not confuse the tediousness of some of these tasks with unhappiness. They will simply serve to get the job done.
Be responsible, toward others. Remain cognizant that as much as our choices affect us, they will most definitely affect others. We form a part of an extraordinary community that strives to provide us with a sense of possibility. Remember that these possibilities have been constructed by those who courageously responded to the challenges with a vision for the future. And, if you take the time to listen and watch those around you carefully, many of the most important lessons have already been learned, and some of the more painful ones may be avoided by those who remain attentive. Ultimately, you must treasure what has been achieved and do your part to contribute toward a fairer and more just Philippines.
Always persevere. Although the contradictions and challenges may seem overwhelming, there are solutions and they become more apparent when we realize that it’s the work of many that will build a nation that provides opportunities and where possibilities are real. There is no single answer to the issues we face, but the coming together of efforts that restore hope. Your efforts—sincere and honest—will bear fruit, so do not give up easily on the challenges you face.
My thoughts are abundant with admiration and love for the wonderful human beings that you are. I cannot end this brief letter without saying that I feel that “I am preaching to the choir.” I have learned more from your grit, perseverance, and compassion than I could have ever hoped for. You make me very proud. But, if these words serve as a reminder of how significant it is to find meaning in the work that you do and that true meaning will ultimately come from serving your larger community, my heart is with you. Remain brave and always true, but mostly deeply compassionate.
May the sun shine on your paths,
From the book Letters to My Children published by Summit Books. Available at National Book Store.