Dear Future World Changer,

Congratulations on getting this far. It feels great, doesn’t it? Everything is perfect and has gone pretty much exactly how you planned. Life is so much fun and I’m sure you have it all figured out. But in the words of the great poet Eminem, “Hold your nose because here comes the cold water!”

Life is hard! You are going fail so many times that you question your whole existence. You are also going to have great successes and think you are the smartest person ever. You’re not. You are a human being with all of your personal faults. Knowing that gives you power. Power to be resilient. Power to be humble. Power to be the person other people want to be. Accept it and you will be the best version of yourself. Deny it and you are in for a long painful ride.

How do you define success? What is it that you want out of life? Money? Power? Fame? I was asked a question by one of the first coaches that I had in professional baseball, “Why do you play the game?” I would ask myself that question many times over the next 11 years and the answer was always changing. When I was younger, it was all about respect and having people remember my name. Money was a big part of my ‘Why’ but I really just wanted people to know my name.  Youth and early adulthood is such a fun time. The world and all of its ideals are at your fingertips. I wanted it all. Everyone has a ‘why’ and there isn’t a wrong answer. When you know your ‘why’, then ask yourself ‘how’. How are you going to accomplish your goal? As I grew older and adversity started to mount, my reason for playing the game changed. My idea of success needed to change also. We never visualize ourselves as failing or struggling. We have these beautiful pictures in our minds, of how things are going to go perfectly, and in a certain order. But, what if it doesn’t?

These next 5 steps are what I have learned about life and success.

1. Surround yourself with a team of people who are smart and just as focused on their goals as you are. People that you can trust and have your best interest at heart. You cannot be successful on your own. You need a team of warriors all going in the same direction and with the same goals. When you fall, they will pick you back up and vice versa. These friends may change and that’s ok. People change and evolve. You must be focused on your own path and not be dragged down by someone else’s.

2. Don’t be entitled. Just because you have been successful in the past does not guarantee you will be in the future. Every day is a new day and there is someone behind you that would love to take your position. It is a very competitive world out there. Earn your place in it.  To do this, you need to understand you don’t know everything and must be willing to listen and learn. Ask questions and have a desire to learn something new every day. There really is not a finish line in this process. Getting yourself in the frame of mind to make you and the people around you better on a daily basis is the way to happiness and success.

3. Making mistakes or wrong decisions is how you learn. You will not do everything correctly. Those bumps in the road help you make better, wiser, decisions in the future. So-called ‘failure’, sets you up for your next success. Being humble is how you get through these times. Asking your friends or colleagues for help is important and shows maturity. Opening yourself up and being vulnerable is not a weakness but a strength.

4. Set goals. Short term and long term goals are vital to being a successful and focused person. I always write down my goals to hold myself accountable. Goals should be attainable on a short-term basis and push you over the long-term. Visualizing where you want to be in 5 to 10 years is great but you need the small victories on a daily basis to get to the long-term goal. Those small victories can keep you positive and moving in the right direction. Live in the present with an eye on the future, not the other way around. That’s called a dream, not a goal.

5.  Be you. There is so much pressure from the outside world to look a certain way, talk a certain way, and think a certain way. It can all be so confusing. You are special in your own way and are good enough just being yourself. Everyone has an opinion and will most likely tell you what it is. At the end of the day, yours is the only one that matters. Being able to look in the mirror and feel confident in yourself is truly the most important part of all of this. That confidence in yourself will glow and people will follow your lead.

Nothing is going to go exactly how you planned but it doesn’t mean you have failed. It means something better is coming. It will be hard to understand at the time and most likely hurt badly. Believe in yourself, step back, and get some perspective. Understand that you have had success in the past and you know how to do it again. Having a positive attitude and focusing on the positives in your life is the key to getting through these times. Never give up on your dream and if you want it, you will. I believe in you and good luck in changing the world.

– John Patterson

*Proceeds from The Conversation Event benefit The Mobile Book Library for Homeless kids and families.

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