Letters From a MentorLetters that Change Lives
Letters From a MentorLetters that Change Lives
The Mentor Letter Project
Dear Younger Me:
I trust you remember how much as a young boy in the sleepy beach town of Dunedin, Florida, that I loved baseball. I lived, breathed, and played it as much as I could. Together, Dad and I watched almost every Saturday afternoon “Game of The Week” on television. As we de-shelled and devoured the salted peanuts, my attention was glued to every pitch, every swing, and every play. To hear a non-Saturday game required carefully tuning the AM transistor radio at night in my bedroom, often to a weakly powered radio station often hardly audible. Remember? Ah Baseball!
One time per year though, usually during March, the excitement of professional Spring Training baseball energized our little town. The anticipation of teams coming to train for six weeks getting ready for the new Major League Baseball Season was intense. Really? Once a year, we actually saw these amazing baseball players in person and watched them sharpen their skills in our town before leaving for New York, Philadelphia, Cincinnati, Toronto, Boston, and beyond to begin their regular season? No wonder I slept with my glove under my pillow each night. This kind of “in awe” feeling made seeing these well-known players, looking larger than life and giving the feeling that I knew them well.
So, what is this about? Life lessons have taught me there is a significant difference what is seemingly an insignificant, re-arrangement of these two words. Well-known -> Known well. To say someone is well-known merely places an external label that connotes notoriety, being recognized in a large way. This could be attached to someone popular, maybe well-skilled at something, or just notable for something that draws the attention of many. I now understand these baseball players who I saw and admired were just well-known. I did not know them at all, let alone well.
Relationships, real relationships in business and in personal lives involve being known well and knowing others well. These quality relationships with colleagues, friends, customers and business associates go beyond what just being well-known can bring. In today’s measure, well-known can be the number of followers, retweets, going viral or trending, number of downloads, likes or shares. By contrast, to be known well takes a real, human engagement, sincere caring and interaction over a period of time. There is a desire to find common ground for personal, professional, and maybe even a deeper level of connection with others.
While both of these “beings” are relevant and meaningful, which would you rather be, well-known or known well? If you struggle with identity, meaning, or purpose in life, business or relationships, I recommend you seek opportunities to be known and know others well. Your situation will improve almost instantly. Seek to know others well and allow yourself to become known well.
Keeps developing meaningful connections
Not interested in quantity, instead seeks quality
Owns and invests in self and relationships
Works to understand and to be understood
Notable by noticing the nuances
Walks side by side with others
Elevates and elevated by those around him/her
Listens first, long, and often
Loves without condition
– Bruce Pulver
*Proceeds from The Conversation Event benefit The Mobile Book Library for Homeless kids and families.
It hasn’t been easy being a first generation immigrant in this great country, the USA. But that’s okay because easy is no fun. It’s boring. Easy can keep you stagnant, complacent and flat-footed. In order to grow, you want to always be on your toes, not flat-footed. Learn something new every day, even if it’s something that seems minor and trivial.
Even after 42 years of being in this land of plenty, it never ceases to amaze me how some individuals let opportunities just pass them by. There’s a reason that us “foreigners” chose this country as a destination to rebuild our lives. It is with fortitude and determination that we forge forward to achieve a better and brighter future for ourselves and our loved ones. As for you, do you realize how fortunate you are to have all of this? Don’t take your wonderful country and all this freedom for granted. You can say and do whatever you want here in the US. Not so, in a communist country. They can kill you for saying and doing the wrong thing.
Be different. Be hungry for a greater purpose in your life. Don’t let laziness or excuses consume you. Don’t just merely exist. Live! Grab life by the horns! Don’t get mad at us “foreigners” if you deem us more educated or more successful than you. Instead of wasting your energy on being angry, invest that energy in doing the same thing for yourself, your future.
Be purposeful and intentional with each of your thoughts and actions. It doesn’t matter what job you’re performing. Even if it’s scrubbing toilets for a living. Do it well or don’t do it at all. Don’t be mediocre with anything in your life. It’s easy to be average. It takes hard work to rise above that. Are you up for the challenge? How much do you want to get out of the short life that you have here? With everything that you do, ask yourself how you would stand out from the crowd? How are you going to deviate from the norm? My father posed these questions to me as I was getting ready to graduate high school. I have never forgotten them because they permeate and direct my life. They’re part of my core values. I hope that they do the same for you.
As an optometrist, all I need to do is get the patients in, get them out. No more, no less. Just do my “eye doctor” thing, right? Wrong! People have many choices as to where to go for their eye exams. I have fierce competitions within a mile radius of my office. The long-termed success of my practice is predicated upon me standing out from others by my delivery of exceptional patient care. It’s easy to be like others, but it takes more work and dedication to be different. Being mediocre is not in my blood. Don’t be afraid to deviate far from the norm. Stick to your beliefs and to what defines who you are. Be real and genuine. Reach beyond mediocrity! With this mindset, my practice continues to thrive after nearly two decades. I am blessed. I implore upon you to embrace a similar way of thinking.
Last but not least, remember to mind your manners. Be kind and respectful. Don’t forget your please and thank you’s. Be thoughtful and empathetic. It’s not always about you. The world does not revolve around your ass. In working with the public, it just blows my mind the degree of rudeness and selfishness that I witness on a daily basis. Most patients seem surprised at how polite and nice I am to them. Certainly, you can see the disconnect between my standards versus what is considered acceptable in today’s society. Just because it’s acceptable doesn’t mean that you should behave like that. Refuse to accept society’s norm as your norm. Again, don’t be like the majority. Be the minority. You’ll leave a longer lasting and more positive impression with others when you stand out from the crowd when you deviate far from mediocrity. You’ll get farther in life. And you’ll make your parents proud because who you are is a reflection of your upbringing.
I can go on forever, but I just wanted to share some of these insights from a “foreigner” with you. Live a life of gratitude on a daily basis. Make a difference every day and make each day count. Life is a blessing and a most wonderful gift. Maximize it! You matter!
Dr. Susan Truong
*Proceeds from The Conversation Event benefit The Mobile Book Library for Homeless kids and families.
Don’t let the world change your smile; let your smile change the world!
I don’t know who said it but it resonates with me, right into my soul. Dear beautiful young person, the world will try to change your smile. The darkness, the haters, the horrific things that are happening around us will try to change your smile, but if you lose yours the world has no hope…
Life can be full of disappointments. We treat people in a certain way and expect at least equal treatment in return. How often does it turn out exactly the opposite?
A simple example, whenever the opportunity arises you let someone into the line of traffic that you are in. They wave to you and you wave back. And then it is your turn to try to get into the line of traffic and no one stops to let you in. Are you angry? Of course you are! You may decide that you will not let people into the line of traffic anymore…
This is such a small example but think about more important things in life. Someone told me a story once, about a woman who was smoking in a bus shelter. He was angry because he wanted to wait inside the shelter and it was a place where it was forbidden to smoke. To avoid the smoke he left the bus shelter and stood outside, irritated. A short while later, a man walked into the shelter. An argument between him and the woman ensued and he began to beat her. The young man, who told me the story, was smiling at this point, telling me how much the woman deserved to get punched in the face after she had the nerve to smoke in the bus shelter. This made me weep, not just because of what happened to the woman, but that this young man found it in his heart to hate her so much, a complete stranger, that he felt she deserved this. What had happened in this young man’s life to make him so uncompassionate and seemingly heartless?
Disappointment, injustice, disrespectful treatment, inequality in relationships can all make us feel jaded and like we just shouldn’t bother. So let’s imagine a world where every time someone’s expectations were not met, they just stopped trying. Where would it end and where would we be? Where would our relationship with our parents be, if our parents didn’t keep trying and didn’t keep loving us?
Dogs are amazing creatures! They love us no matter our mood, if we forgot to give them food or water, whether we don’t feel like going for a walk. None of that matters, they wag their tail, they smile at us, they lick us, and never have a memory for any disappointments we may have brought. Humans are different though aren’t they? We remember everything and some of us even have the urge for a little payback.
Here is the truth of it. If you follow the nature you were born with, which is to be loving and kind, every time you check that instinct, someone else wins. When people are mean, and you are mean back, when people are unfair and you are unfair back, when people are hurtful and you are hurtful back, they win! You have let the world change your smile because you are behaving counter-intuitively. No matter what anyone else ever says or does, be true to what is inside you, the good, the kindness, the loving nature and the joy. Those are the things that will ultimately change the world, not the hatred and the anger and the fear that is out there. Be part of the solution, in fact, my dear beautiful young person, you are the solution!
– Sylvia Marusyk
*Proceeds from The Conversation Event benefit The Mobile Book Library for Homeless kids and families.
Dear College Student,
You are at the point where you have all the ingredients for the foundation of your personality, but the cement has yet to settle. It’s likely that as you are now, you are persona non grata in the world you wish to create for yourself. To enter that world, you can only do it as your true self, no facades, no false bravado, no personas. If I asked, who are you? Would you say businessman, CEO, philanthropist, doctor, mother, father, brother, sister? Well, you’d be wrong with any such response because those are just nouns that describe what you are, not who you are. Most people couldn’t answer that question because it requires being vulnerable, admitting to yourself that you’ve spent all these years on this earth and yet barely know yourself. The journey to correct this flaw is very painful because it requires illuminating deeply rooted insecurities. As a result, most people either pretend these insecurities don’t exist or that they will resolve themselves over time. Such thinking is akin to attending a marathon without ever running to prepare for it but expecting to do well.
In the movie Deadpool, he receives his powers by essentially being placed in a pressure cooker. Similar to some of the other characters imbued with powers in the movie, they too were placed in the pressure chamber after being given a catalyst. However, depending on the individual, a different power would manifest based on how their body chose to adapt to the external distresses. Some individuals came out of the chamber with super strength, others unable to feel pain, and the main character Deadpool-regeneration. Apropos to that movie, we are placed in a pressure cooker from the day we are born until about the time we complete high school. Some of us, despite a tough childhood, may still grow up to be confident and secure individuals. Others may grow up to be callous, aggressive, apathetic, or insecure. Many of us in one way or another came out of this pressure cooker broken. We let ourselves heal incorrectly by creating false narratives, new identities, and confident personas. I emphasize persona because it’s just a false perception you present to the world based on how you wish for the world to perceive you. But a persona isn’t real. It’s an act, a practiced presentation style.
In my case, the distress placed on me enabled me to become greatly empathetic but also greatly insecure. Growing up, I didn’t have what would be considered a loving household. My parents valued respect above all else because, in typical African culture, respect, fear, and love are all just synonyms. I was emotionally fragile, living in a constant state of anxiety and it led me to believe that in order to be happy I had to be in a relationship with a woman. My outward expression, however, portrayed someone who was calm, happy, and confident. This façade very effectively hid my true emotional state. But the reality was that the one person who I was really trying to deceive was the one person that I couldn’t, myself. I didn’t know how to love myself or if there was anything to love. Every time someone saw through me, I resorted to my modus operandi – creating a new persona. The world pulled the strings on my cheap pride and I danced like a little marionette. I thought being loved would fix my lack of self-value. But the truth is, you teach people how to treat you. You can’t expect others to love you more than you love yourself. Though different people may have different origin stories as to how they became emotionally deficient, the ingredients are nonetheless the same.
But don’t fret. We are all granted two potential births, once into this world, and the second when you find your place among it. The second birth is both simple and difficult to execute. It requires that you be honest with yourself. Look back at your actions and how you’ve felt about yourself. Find out why. Your mind is an incredible accountant. It has kept track of everything that has happened to you. But your mind can also be a corrupt accountant. It keeps track of every line item but when the bottom line is not balanced, it creates false assets [narratives] to balance the book. Search inside yourself and find out what false narrative you’ve created, and when you started to abide by it. Once you figure that out, try to verify why it’s true. I’m certain you will not be able to find sufficient evidence supporting those detrimental thoughts about yourself. You simply never truly questioned your view of yourself. Just as the broken version of myself is unwelcome to this new reality I have created for myself, so too must you do the same. You have to rewire your brain to see yourself differently and that requires repetition and affirmation. When you understand who you are and what you are truly capable of, you will know true strength and joy. It is unattached to financial status, social status, or how you are perceived by others.
- Mory Diamonde
What is the intention to our meeting in this letter? There is a question you want to answer, within yourself, and my hope is that you find it! You are a unique human being. You might think I don’t know you – and maybe I don’t. Without doubt or pause, I can still express that you are truly unique. How? You are here! If you walk this Earth, breathe our shared air, you have a purpose and gift! Don’t ever doubt that!
Discovering what yours might be could be the very question you are struggling to answer. Rather than being frustrated with the answer not coming to you quickly, have you considered that everything you are living and experiencing are preparing you for it?
Life has become so instant gratification – don’t fall prey to it. Appreciate the lessons that have gotten you to where you are, right now. Education, relationships, and loss all bring learning. As you leave our time together behind, let my experience and philosophies serve you in a way that brings value.
Find the positive intention in what otherwise only serves as a disappointment or hurt. This isn’t always easy to do, and frankly, it can be really hard to do. PUSH THROUGH IT. The experience of life is the only way to gain wisdom. Some of your greatest learnings will come from your greatest pain.
The greatest growth comes when you are the most uncomfortable. Just as you have to push yourself physically to prepare for a marathon, you have to do the same mentally and emotionally in life. Living within what is easy and safe will leave you stagnant and unfulfilled. As a mentor, this is where I have been able to have the greatest impact with so many. I see what you are capable of – and I am not okay with your leaving it untapped. As long as you know your mentor has your best interest at heart – trust them and their experience. You may not understand why they are being so demanding. You may even begin to think they don’t like you, or they’re mean. There will come a time you look back on that time, and appreciate their challenging you – I promise.
Be solutions-focused. There will be conflicts, challenges, and potential defeat in life. Before you can find the positive intention, you must first derive solutions to move through it. If you find yourself stuck, always have at least one suggestion to bring with you – and then collaborate with those that will elevate your skill. Moving through tough times builds character and skill, but the solution is at least a light at the end of the tunnel. It will help create momentum to reach it.
Choose your mood. From the moment you wake up, until the time you go to bed, you have total choice in this. I have a frame that reminds me, ‘Happiness requires daily practice.’ People and life will upset or aggravate you. It is inevitable. When this arises, remember my words: You don’t control whether you become mad or angry, but you have complete control over how long you are mad or angry.’ Loathing in it only perpetuates a negative mindset. Appreciate how you feel – determine what the positive intention could be that came from it – and then reset your mood. Your journey should be to joy, and all that comes with it.
Believe in yourself. As I wrote before, you are unique! You are unique mentally, physically, and emotionally. The World will show you images and ideas of what you will unconsciously begin to believe you should look, act, and feel like. Don’t fall for it! In your desire to become a better human being, don’t believe there is a carbon copy of what that means. Self-shaming and hate will never bring you closer to your purpose and gifts. Love yourself – and be unique.
Help/serve others. We are not created to be selfish, self-absorbed beings. Where do you feel drawn to do this? If you aren’t sure, make it important to figure it out. A heart in service is a grateful one. If you tell yourself you don’t have time for this, you haven’t found the right way to serve yet. You will make the time for what matters to you. The gratitude you feel, though wonderful, is a far cry from the significance of the blessing you are giving to another. If you think you are too busy in your life and career, who do you look up to? The greatest entrepreneurs of our time are incredibly rooted in service to others. It isn’t how they made their fortune, and they don’t do it for notoriety.
We have talked about a lot in this time together, and yet I feel we could chat about more. Many of these philosophies took decades to be clear, to me. My hope for you is that you will discover your great gifts, live your purpose, and as you gain wisdom from your life, help another along the way.
Should a question about our chat arise, I will be here for you. Reach out – and I will support you and your journey. In the meantime, BeYOUtiful!
Hey World Changer,
I’m curious, how did you respond to me addressing you as a World Changer?
Did you relate to that with a proud “Of course!”? Maybe an accepting “Ok”? Or, would you relate better to being addressed as a “Future World Changer”? What defines success in terms of a World Changer and when do you become one?
In fact, what defines success in anything?
In this letter I want to share with you my perspective on three questions:
- What does it take to be a World Changer?
- What does success mean?
- What about all the terrible things that have or could happen to me?
To become a World Changer all it takes is a decision to change one or both of the following:
- Who YOU are
- The Life of others
You see, YOU are a part of the world and if you were to make a change in yourself then, as corny as it may sound, you will have changed the world. It follows that if you change the lives of other people then you will have changed the world.
Notice I did not say you would make the world a better place?
There have been many people in history that have changed the world and are recognized as “World Changers”. Nelson Mandela is one and Hitler is another. Also, President Obama and President Trump.
Their actions will be perceived by some as making a change for the better, and some will perceive them as for the worse.
So take note, every time you change or change life experiences for others, YOU change the world and some will perceive it as for the better and others may not.
What really matters is what YOU believe.
You must set the intention to be a better version of who you were yesterday. Take it from me, there will be days that you mess up!
Yet the trick is to have more better days than worse. Truth be told, the more you genuinely believe you are making the lives of others better, the more you will automatically enrich your life AND be a World Changer that is a force for good (or God).
Promise me, and yourself, that you will commit to your personal development so you may help those you choose to serve, even more so.
Question 2 – What does success mean?
Once again it’s a decision based on your own perception.
Many measure success by their wealth, health, relationships, and may have their definitions defined by others.
Do you define success on your terms or the definition of others (society)?
Allow me to take you deeper down the rabbit hole, World Changer.
The true question is, “What needs to happen for me to feel successful?”
Ask yourself that question, seriously. What has to happen for you to feel successful?
For many, the default answer is when I achieve the goals or tasks I set for myself.
Here’s the challenge with that, especially for World Changers who set many goals and have BIG goals. They have more chance of experiencing failure than success on a daily basis.
Here’s my gift for you in the shape of another question.
Who has a greater probability of experiencing success?
Person A who defines success as “When I achieve my goals” or Person B who defines success as “When I give it a go”?
Which one has set up the game of success in their favor?
Definitely the person who defines success in a way that they have greater control will experience more success more often.
Promise me, and yourself, that you will commit to CHOOSING your definition of success as one that sets you up to experience success more often than not.
Question 3 – What about all the terrible things that have or could happen to me?
I’ve witnessed so many amazing souls who live a life of service, adding massive value to the lives of others, yet they neglect to take care of or know how to handle adversity in their own lives. They spend most of their waking days serving others so they do not have to think about, let alone address, their own challenges.
I’ve not only witnessed this in others it was true of me too. So, my final gift in this letter is also from my heart to yours.
Yes, it’s true. Nothing gives me a greater sense of fulfillment than making a difference in the life of another individual and or groups of people.
The greatest return in business and life comes from adding value to the lives of others.
From a very young age, I was efficient in this principle, yet I was always helping others because I needed to. It was my way of gaining a sense of self-worth.
It was not until I took care of my demons that I could move from must serve to now, serving globally because I want to (not have to).
After all my experiences of domestic violence growing up with an alcoholic father, who beat up my mother and me, sleeping on the rough streets of London as a kid, you would expect that I had a sense of low self-worth AND feeling not good enough.
So my gift is to share a truth that will not be taught at school, business school, or any university other than the University of Life.
At school we are taught lessons and then given a test, whereas at the University of Life we are given the tests and then we learn the lessons!
The truth is that the feeling of not being good enough or worthy will cancel out any other perceived success you may have. It will cripple you especially as it is linked to the feeling of not being loved.
So what can you do about the challenges that lie ahead? And trust me they will come.
Anticipate that life will present us with tests so that we may in fact learn a lesson. The trick is to look for that lesson when adversity comes your way, whether that’s in Business Life or Private Life.
Remember, it’s not the adversity that will break you, it’s how you respond.
Here is the most powerful affirmation to use when you are facing adversity or have previously: No matter what happens in my life, I get to choose the meaning.
Say it out loud with conviction – No Matter What Happens in My Life, I Get To Choose the Meaning! Your primary goal will be to ask what can I learn from this.
What meaning am I giving to this situation?
What can I learn from this situation?
What do I want this to mean?
Use The Power Of Focus!
Because the real Truth is that there is no Truth other than the Truth you give it. Two people can lose their job; one person will see that as the most devastating loss and the other may see it as an opportunity to start something new.
It all comes down to what YOU choose to focus on. Remember, “Where attention goes energy flows.”
So promise me, and yourself, that you will commit to always choosing a greater meaning and response.
Hey World Changer (yes you), one final promise, please leave our beautiful world in a better place than when you found it. We are just borrowing it from our children’s children.
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
Dear College Kid,
I wanted to take a moment and write you a letter that will likely not make much sense in your current season of life, but please hold on to this letter and reflect on it over the next couple years.
First, you will graduate and you will struggle to get a job; let alone a job that fits what you thought you would do for a living. All the jobs you dreamed of having are tenure jobs that are held up by old “gray hairs” that won’t move on until they have enough money in the bank to retire or die. Don’t worry you will likely do the same thing in your old age; it’s the cycle of life. If you’re patient and persistent for the next 25 years you might land one of those jobs. The fact is after college unless your parents hook you up with a job you’re a bottom feeder in this world. You’re an infant, a baby, a no experience useless tool that has spent the past sixteen years of your life proving you can memorize information out of textbooks. Your greatest asset will be your heart, your desire, your will to achieve your lifelong vision.
Having that vision is important, but once you have it being able to get there is an entirely different characteristic that many lack. Too often people expect their visions and dreams to simply happen, but expecting something will never get you to your vision.
I understand you wanted that corner office right out of college, I understand you wanted six figures right out of college, but that was just a dream. Your dream is your vision, but your motor to get you there is your internal motivation. Motivation is the tool that is called upon to lift you up when your down, keep you going when it’s hard, remind you why you want that vision and more. Unfortunately, not everyone is motivated. Most people don’t know how to channel their motivation and often miss success due to being all over the place with where they apply the effort. Have one vision! Have one goal! Exhaust all your resources to achieve that one goal!
If you truly want what you say you want you will have a chip on your shoulder. This saying is one that means you have a grudge, a grievance, or you have been provoked by someone or something. Think about this. No one gets a chip on their shoulder by someone saying nice things to them, by getting everything they desire handed to them, or by being passive. If it’s the system you have a grievance with let it fuel you. If its someone in your past that broke your heart, hurt your feelings, embarrassed you; then hold on to that pain and use it. Keep that chip on your shoulder and channel these moments when you’re tired, when you’re about to give up perusing your dream, or when you feel you’re losing in this rate race we call life, pull these moments together to keep your fire lit. Pull from within and every day take one step forward toward your vision. Stay steadfast as you will fall down, rebound on days you get pushed backward, but stay the course.
Though you’re in the real world now keep that childish fire lit, continue chasing the dream, but just understand it will be harder than you expected to achieve. Success is hard work though many play it off like they achieve it with little effort. Understand the journey you are about to embark on. Understand no one will feel sorry for you in the real world or hand you opportunity without sacrifice. Mom and Dad are not responsible for you any longer. Be humble, be charismatic, be reserved, be outgoing, and learn to blend into crowds all while being motivated from within. The only thing people can see is your exterior. They cannot see your heart, see your mind, or understand how hot the flame is inside you from that chip on your shoulder. Harness the energy and use it wisely. Only allow people to see what you want them to see.
Mark Twain once said, “What work I have done I have done because it has been play. If it had been work, I shouldn’t have done it.”
Mark Twain was an idiot. Work is not meant to be fun and success was not meant to just happen.
“Good things don’t happen to good people. Good people make good things happen.” – Dru Riess
Go make it happen and perhaps you have a chance to reach your utopia at a younger age then most do; if at all.
Dear Young Professional,
When you woke up and drew your first breath this morning, there was far more “right” with you, than wrong with you. The rest of your day should go up from there. Welcome to the real world…where details matter, where hard work is rewarded, where being on time is “the easiest thing you’ll do all day,” where “right” is the foundation of all your decision making, and where dreams really do come true.
You probably weren’t aware, but you get the unique opportunity to change the world today. I know you weren’t planning on that when you were brushing your teeth this morning, but the “window of change” has opened before your very eyes. To prepare for this amazing event, you have to do one simple thing; “change the way you talk to yourself.” You see, before this conversation, you weren’t really sure that you could, or that you wanted to change the world. You didn’t know that every interaction you have with another human being, is literally a chance to do just that. But to change the world, you typically have to start with the most important person in it; THE MAN IN THE MIRROR. When you change the “man in the mirror,” in affect, you’re changing everything he has influence over.
Start working on that man, by replacing two simple words, with two powerful words. Replace, “I can’t,” with “I am.” For a good part of your life, the biggest thing that has kept you from accomplishing yours dreams and goals, is those two small words, “I can’t.” The problem isn’t the words, the problem is that you’ve said them so often, that now you believe them. And you’ve come to realize that what you truly believe, in the bottom of your heart, is what starts to manifest itself in your life.
So now, “I am ……..,” is the way you start every thought; I am a success, I am a winner, I am capable, I am valuable, I am loved, I am blessed….I am laying the foundation to do everything “right” in my life…I will utilize the power of “right thinking.” What you think about, you will speak about. What you speak about, you will bring about. What you repeatedly say to yourself, is what you slowly become.
Now, go take what you’ve learned about changing yourself, and teach that to the real “most important person in the world;” THE PERSON RIGHT IN FRONT OF YOU. Learn early in your wonderful life that, the quality of your life, will be built around the quality people you share it with. And learn that EVERYONE has the potential to be “quality people.”
Know that when you take love and kindness, dignity and respect, caring and empathy, and spread it in generous portions on everyone you come in contact with, you really can “change them,” and thus, the world.
I know that you think you’ve lost hope. And when you’ve lost hope, all hope is lost.
The thing that I’d like to tell you the most is don’t give up.
Put the gun away.
The reason I’m asking you this, telling you this, is that grief is something we all share. You haven’t had the chance to read it, because it’s not written yet, but Elie Wiesel, a concentration camp survivor who will go on to win the Nobel Peace Prize, will write a book called Night. The book is going to be published in your future.
In the book, he says something that struck me in my heart. He said that we are all connected by pain. When I think about it, all humans have all of these different emotions from pain, love, grief, and anger. If he can survive witnessing his whole family being murdered in a concentration camp, still live to endure the grief, and then write about it, why can’t we?
Dear Dad, we are all connected by pain. I think what he meant is that even if you’ve been through a divorce, even if you’ve been through a broken heart, or even if you’ve lost everything financially, you still have not lost it all.
Dear Dad, if you take your life what will become of your daughter? If I could see into the future, I would tell you that she would become a wrecking ball, a tornado intent on weaving destruction in the lives of men. She would tell them that she loves them when she really doesn’t. As a teen, she would seek love in all the wrong places and would run away from home — even when she is a cheerleader and student body president. She would achieve and exceed expectations, all the while covering up her heart of stone.
If you take your life Dad, I’m not sure what will become of her, of me. I believe that from that day on I would hate the world. I would be devoid of God. I believe I would spend my life trying to prove that I could be something, that I was worth something because I would feel as if you didn’t feel like I was worth it to stay.
Or, would I go the opposite direction? Would I one day find truth? Would I one day find the ability to tell lost men, like you, that you are not defined by your finances. That you are not defined by your achievements. That your legacy consists of all of the gifts inside your heart. Those God given gifts.
Dear Dad, which direction will I go? Will I live on the edge of life or death always? Will I teeter on belief and disbelief in God? Will I go to the left or to the right? Will I follow Satan and his belief that I am rejected and worthless into the depths of hell, making life so much more difficult for everyone around me?
Maybe I’ll do both.
Dear Dad, this is one last plea. Consider this, what will it be like for a little girl to grow up without hearing I love you?
What would it be like for me in college, at parents’ weekend, or even the princess parties at 8, 9, or 10 years old. What about the soccer fields, where the other Dads are with their daughters on the sidelines?
Dear Dad, what about me? What would it be like on the day that I walk down the aisle? If you can’t think of anyone else right now, at least reach up, reach one hand out of your grief for mine.
Dear Dad, you may not think I care now but your decision will impact me for the rest of my life.
Dear Dad, put down the gun.
Love isn’t a word used much in business. Yet, when you have the opportunity to walk into work and feel positive energy, see the smiling faces of people who you respect and enjoy working with, look forward to the day because of the excitement you feel for the work that makes a difference, and feel happy when your boss calls you into her office because there is a relationship where she wants to help take you to the next level rather than fill you full of fear….then you feel love.
It’s love when you are on a team of people all focused on achieving a common goal and you know they have your back. It’s love when you know you can make mistakes and learn from them and not feel like you’re going to get beat up. It’s love when you are trusted and can make decisions while in the heat-of-battle with your client and don’t have to ask permission.
It’s love when the lack of hierarchy creates a level playing field and everyone feels respected for the role they play in the company. It’s love when your mother is dying, and your company says it’s OK to take time off, so you can be there by her side as she passes. It’s love when you, and everyone around you, believe in the company’s core values and all walk the talk.
We’re taught from business school through corporate training programs to manage with fear. Fear isn’t the word written into the policy manuals, yet it is the impact of individual performance plans, compensation programs, commissions and other policies and processes that rely on individual performance, metrics that can be contrary to what’s needed for the greater good of the company. We’re taught that the corner office is the goal and that if we perform as an individual better than whomever is in the office next door, we can have that revered location.
Fear-based cultures are led by leaders who aren’t comfortable in their own skin. They hide in their corner office protected by spreadsheets and a desire to create “accountability”. They are not authentic. If they can hold people accountable to their numbers, and most people deliver, they hit the bigger number goal, their spreadsheet adds up and investors are happy. It works, short term. It doesn’t work when the company falls on hard times and needs people to go the extra mile. It doesn’t work when the competition heats up and their best people get recruited into cultures where they feel more comfortable. It doesn’t work when they get fired and all you can hear is the quiet applause from employees who have no respect for the executive team.
As business leaders we have fallen victim to patterns of behavior that promote fear. It’s not intentional. Who would purposely manage a company knowing the primary driver is fear. Yet, when cultures are formed where the individual’s success supersedes their contribution to the overall value of the company, fear will prevail and that employee’s VALUE to the overall success of the company is marginalized.
Value can’t be measured with precision. As a CEO, I found value in people who took team interviews seriously and protected the company from applicants who didn’t fit the culture. I found value in subject-matter experts who sat in the back of the room during major sales presentations, and when they talked, the customer listened intently to examples of experiences they had that would help reduce the risk of failure. I found value in people who would pitch in on troubled projects even though it took them away from activities where they had direct responsibility. These behaviors can’t be measured, yet the predominance of these activities are what separates the great companies from the pack.
When you shift your metrics to value, it becomes a subjective measure. An opinion. And to have a company where value is rewarded, rather than individual performance metrics, trust is required. Teamwork is required. And an understanding that for trust and teamwork to prevail you must have a love-based culture, not a culture based on fear. The lens each one of your employees needs to guide their actions is to do what is RIGHT, what is in the best interest of the greater good, regardless of the impact that has on the perception of their individual contribution.
A love-based culture inspires your employees to a higher calling. They will go the extra mile to do what is right for their company because they believe, they trust, and they respect. A love-based culture takes teamwork to the next level. It encourages each person not to look at their job as being pigeon-holed in the tight boundaries of a job description, but rather them understanding their role in accomplishing the company’s goals and feeling empowered to do what it takes to create value by helping to make the company successful. And more importantly, to do all this while living the core values that they helped forge as a guiding light for their company.
If you want to build a love-based culture, you’ll need to unlearn much of what you’ve been taught in the past about the role of HR processes, compensation programs, performance metrics, org charts, leadership, office layouts, and many of the other policies, core processes, and leadership tenets from the past. Re-think EVERYTHING. Re-invent who you are, the role you play in your organization, and be the example.
If you walk into the office with an air of superiority because you are the CEO, then you’re missing a very key point. You are the CEO hopefully because that’s the role you are uniquely qualified and good at doing. You may not be good at CFO, attorney, help desk support, AP clerk or sales director. You are in the role of CEO because it fits you like a glove and it’s the job you were born to have. You are not better, or higher or superior in any way to anybody else in the company. You are equal. You have simply been blessed with skills that allow you to serve and lead others.
Imagine what the world would be like if everyone who went to work felt love. This may sound like a bunch of mushy, hippie, flowery talk, but I’ve been there and seen what happens when a culture is formed that’s stronger than you are as the leader of your company. I’ve experienced what it feels like when a love-based culture challenges me to make decisions that are in the long-term best interest of the company, rather than decisions that reduce short-term pain. The power of brotherly and sisterly love in the workplace fuels growth beyond compare by people who truly care.
And CEO, think about what it would feel like to lay your head on your pillow at night knowing you were building your company the “right-way”. It’s hard to define the right-way, but we all know what that means. You not only built value for investors, but you made a difference in people’s lives. You loved and let others love you.
Sleep well my friend.
Dear College Student,
One of the BIGGEST mistakes I have ever made was looking for a job. I pray the wisdom to follow prevents you from doing the same.
The moment I decided to walk away from all the things in my life that required me to be small is the moment I truly began to love and find myself.
Think about that! What’s in your life that requires you to be a small version of yourself? What beliefs, relationships, activities, or thoughts require you to be less than instead of greater than? Or worse, require you to question the trueness of your visions and dreams?
IF YOU COULDN’T FAIL WHAT WOULD YOU TRY?
Some people live lives of bondage by choice because it allows for less responsibility and the idea of guaranteed comforts.
What is government?
Government is the entity that regulates social norms.
What are norms?
Norms and normality are defined as culture.
Therefore, the manner in which we govern ourselves regulates our personal norms. We create our own normality based on our own self-concepts. We decide what is normal for ourselves based on what we perceive our limitations and strengths are.
As a freshman in college, I chose a degree plan based on what I perceived as the responsibilities of life. Instead of searching for what visions inspired me, I both consciously and subconsciously asked and answered questions like:
- What would make me the most money?
- What would keep me safe?
- What can I do to get what I want in life?
These are the wrong questions. For their answers bare no fruit and build bridges to nothingness and impotence.
It is impossible to be truly successful without being fulfilled. Therefore, a successful life is a life of fulfillment. We never become fulfilled by doing. We only are fulfilled during the act of becoming. Becoming the next version of ourselves. Being the next fruit produced from the tree of our efforts.
As you work to receive your degree or run your company, chase your visions not your ambitions. Your visions are purpose in pictures. Your visions and dreams are the gift of seeing your perfect future by the designer of the future himself. You will always be able to differentiate your visions and dreams from your ambitions. Your visions and dreams serve humanity while your ambitions serve you. Both have their place.
– Germaine Gaspard
My letter to you,
If you’re ready for “real”, read further. If you aren’t, I advise not to, because I’m about to speak a truth you may not want to hear or believe, but nevertheless it is absolute truth.
Some of you are going to graduate and accomplish something most won’t. I stand and applaud your accomplishment. You’ll be asking yourself these questions when you do. “Now that I have a degree, what’s next?” or “Will I just be handed a job?” Or ,“Will I be next in line to run a big company?” You may think you have the answer, but you don’t.
You’ll be scared to death to hit the real world. The obstacles that you’re going to face are bigger than you thought. The competition will be fiercer than ever and now you’ll be judged for every move you make, and more so for the ones that you DON’T MAKE.
I’ll give you 3 free pieces of advice that will help you excel instantly, regardless of any degree or title… Stay humble. Work harder than the rest. And lift everyone around you up always! If… wait…. I mean WHEN you do this, you’re going to create more opportunities than any college degree will ever give you. Don’t get me wrong. It’s amazing you have a degree, but there’s going to be many with and without that are fighting for the same spot and will do almost anything to obtain it. Be ready. Be willing. Be aware of what’s coming next.
Then, some of you are going to drop out or not even begin college. You’ll be questioning your future. Did I make the right choice? Do I have what it takes? Do I need a degree to be successful? Will anyone take me seriously without one? How can I educate myself to be more without school? Well, first let me say… YOU DON’T NEED COLLEGE TO WIN AT LIFE! College, if you want to go, is a bonus. It’s just another way to educate yourself. You can still do this without enrolling into a college. All you need is heart, pure will to survive, determination, the ability to realize your car is a mobile university. You have access to everything you need with today’s technology literally at your fingertips. You just have to take massive action!
But you I promised you truth, so here it is. With or without a degree, life is going to beat you down. It’s going to throw opportunities at you that you’ll grab immediately. Some will flourish and some won’t. What’s the difference between the two? It’s how they cope with fear.
Look, whether you say you’re afraid of something or not, you are period! Don’t think you’re fooling anyone. But it’s how you handle fear that will guarantee your lack of growth or maximize success.
It’s the ability to use fear as a fuel to ignite your passion to levels most won’t reach. Need truth? This will have nothing to do with a degree or without a degree. This will have everything to do with how you handle: judgement, criticism, failure, haters, massive obstacles in life that are designed to test your very will to continue to JUST KEEP GOING! But what most don’t realize, is that the biggest fear in life is what most don’t speak of… and that’s the fear of “winning”.
Yep I said it. The absolute “fear of success”! When you win at any level, you have to always be ready to elevate your game. The more successful you get, the more you’re going to be challenged from every angle of life. There’s going to be people targeting your every word, step you take, and challenge your character, JUST BECAUSE YOU’RE DOING WELL IN LIFE!
This is when you’re truly tested. So here’s where most fail, and where I excelled. I can list my mistakes, but why? They all had to do with not believing in me. When I failed, I came down on myself so hard. It just took me a long time to realize, my failures became my strengths! I couldn’t wait to fail! Most don’t know how to handle the pressure. Anxiety sets in and you start questioning whether to continue. You’ll hear people speak of you and instead of understanding the truth, you’ll want to be loved, get more likes, shares and/or adored for your achievements.
Well, here’s the hard truth, most say they want you to succeed, just not as long as it’s not more than they succeed. Most won’t want you to win. Period! And most of the time it’s the people closest to you that DON’T WANT YOU TO WIN! Family, “close” friends…. etc….
Here’s the solution. Three words… “Always Be You!” Don’t EVER CHANGE! When you fall and people are laughing, get back up until they realize you just don’t quit. When you speak, be unapologetic. Speak your truth, because yours is yours alone and don’t let anyone change your mindset or they win…. simply put, game over.
When you run into a wall of judgment, plow through it with all your might and show the world what you’re made of. When you win, help those that once decided not to help you and prove to be the person you’ve spoken of being.
Live through honesty, integrity, grace and love, but most of all….authenticity. There’s only one you, and your success from this day forward, with or without a college degree, will solely be reliant on your strength to live your passion, not abolishing fear, but using it properly to exceed the expectations of few, to pass on the power of belief in the lives you were meant to touch.
I’ll leave you with this. Repeat after me…. “From this day forward…….” … actually that’s all you need. You finish the rest, because only YOU know what you’re MEANT TO DO. You have no limitations, it’s time. Don’t be afraid of anything, but respect the fear in everything and learn how to become more by utilizing the power it holds!
Here’s to you. God bless and always believe there’s nothing you can’t accomplish!
– Todd Speciale
Ding! Ding! Ding! The sound of the officer’s baton on the aluminum handrail annoyed all who passed by. It sounded like one of those huge bells at a Catholic cathedral calling worshipers to worship.
Amidst the loud banging, a homeless man is being awakened from a deep sleep. His eyes widen with fear. He panics, trying to focus in on his surroundings. He notices two uniformed officers standing over him: the one beating his baton on the handrail, and his partner, springing into action, kicking the elderly man’s foot, shouting, “Get up! Get up!”
The elderly man staggers to his feet. They grab him and throw his limp body on the hood of the patrol car. People stop and take inventory of the scene. “Spread your legs,” says the officer, “You got any needles or drugs on you?” “No,” the man replies. “You got I.D.?” He searches the man and places his I.D. on the hood of the car. He runs a search on the man for warrants while his partner stands at attention with his hand over his holstered gun.
The search comes back. No warrants, no fines. Nothing. The elderly man is set free with a warning: “If we catch you around here again you’re going to jail!” He picks up his belongings, tired and exhausted, he walks away.
The very next day, the elderly man was arrested for trespassing by the same officers. He was found guilty of sleeping in a vacant parking lot because he had nowhere else to go.
What’s not apparent are the miles he walked trying to find shelter, the weight of his possessions, or the bruises and calluses on his feet from his worn-out shoes, preventing him from going any farther.
Over 600,000 people in the United States are homeless, not counting those living on the streets, in cars, camps, under bridges, or empty parking lots across the nation.
In a single year, 550,000 young adults between the ages of 15 and 24 will experience some level of homelessness, usually for weeks at a time.
The most devastating factor is how much abuse and crime surface as a result of recklessness, frustration, desperation, even depression. When circumstances change, so do people.
Even so, after weeks on the streets, many return home without fear of running off again, if necessary. There is something enchanting about the streets to the youth; there’s freedom from responsibility and accountability.
And, when you’re young, no one is judging you. Most have compassion for what you’re going through. You’re like a baby cub who’s lost its way and stumbles upon a group that accepts you as one of their own. You’re taught new principles and rules that exist within the group, different from the ones established in a stable home environment. With every group, the rules change.
After a month on the streets, one can adapt swiftly with support. After six months, you develop the skills and routines to survive on your own. After a year, the streets become home. You learn the hustle, you learn to be free. Life goes on.
Talk with any homeless person and most will tell you they were on the streets for weeks or months at a time earlier in life before becoming homeless as an adult. They looked to the streets for answers or to escape abuse or neglect at home.
Many of us have a loved one, friend or family, who is homeless or sleeping on the streets. You may perceive them as an addict, mentally ill, or lazy like they’re simply refusing to go to work. What you don’t realize is that homelessness is one of the most damaging experiences to the human spirit— its unique, often violent hardships, the insults and lack of respect have all the potential to destroy one’s character and mental outlook.
Most cannot understand its impact unless they’re placed in its grasp by an act of God or desperation. Many will never know what it’s like to be separated from family and loved ones, from society, or the shame and loss of identity that comes with that.
Shelters are often found in the hood, or slum areas of the city, filled to capacity and frequently, even the closest options are miles away. Not all are fit to live in, either. And, many will turn you away for things like having too many bags or not having an I.D. or TB test. Should you arrive late or later than everyone else, they’ll tell you: “Check-in times are over, you’ll have to come back tomorrow.”
That’s one lesson you learn immediately, being at the right place at the right time. Another is when you realize your possessions are burdensome, preventing you from getting around or being on time. With baggage, a 30-minute walk takes an hour-and-a-half. That’s the difference between getting a meal for the day or bed for the night.
When you’re left without shelter, what do you do? What happens when you need to use the bathroom? The homeless are not the public. They’re not welcome in most places because it’s bad for business. City ordinances serve businesses and protect their interests and profits, regardless of the rights and privileges you think you have.
Too many homeless are being placed in handcuffs for attempting to get a hot meal or asking for change to make it through another night. Meanwhile, they are on the streets enduring extreme and unbearable conditions, everything from harsh weather to soiled clothes.
How do you go to an interview like that? Programs put in place to help are slow because the system is overwhelmed with caseloads upon caseloads. After several weeks or months of trying to get help or go through the system, many give up or give in to crime, abuse, or addiction. And, while most are looking for a way out, it’s difficult to sustain hope.
But, what would happen if the homeless were seen as a valuable workforce in the economy? Treated as members of communities and society? What if the public and private sector fully supported the financing and extensions of understaffed programs that work? What could change if every city invests in housing proportionate to its homeless population with the fully vested intent of job placement and stability?
In fact, what if we all pitched in and made a commitment to the value of human life and dignity? Would it be enough to encourage those whose lives are broken to fix what’s broken inside? The truth of the matter is food and clothing are helpful, for a few days. But, food spoils; clothes get soiled, stolen, or abandoned once one realizes they have accumulated too much for their journey. What the homeless person needs is forgiveness from loved ones, reconciliation, and immediate assistance in finding a place to work and call home.
Only then can they begin to see life as you do. I know because I myself have been homeless.
My Dearest Daughters,
While you are both too young to read or even understand what I am writing to you today, the beauty of the written word is that it lives on even beyond months, years and even generations. I hope that when the time comes that you can comprehend the things that I discuss in this letter, that you will examine each of them for yourselves and recognize for yourself what you know in your heart is right.
Your dad has dedicated his vocational life to managing risk. I have spent the better part of my carrier conveying to clients that the first step to effectively managing risk is identifying it. And, while I don’t want to talk to you as a client, the reality is that you will face many different risks throughout your life, and the process of identifying them can sometimes be critical and yet complex. The reality is that emerging risks are ever present in the world, and much like my generation has faced situations that my parents and grandparents may not have even comprehended, so too will you see a changing world that brings new avenues of risk with it. It is my hope that through the words that follow within this message you find the ability to identify hazards avoiding the possibility of peril, and instead create within the tides of uncertainty, opportunity.
Lesson 1: You don’t know what you don’t know. Recognize that within each and every situation you might face is the potential for areas of uncharted territory. Try to always seek advice and counsel from someone that has ‘been there’ before. Ignorance does not provide protection from reality. Just because you don’t know or didn’t recognize the potential impact of a risk in your life, doesn’t negate the validity of the situation. Ask questions of those that may have answers and in the absence of certainty continue to strive for knowledge.
Lesson 2: Don’t allow education to trump intelligence. Some of the smartest and most successful people I know are the least corporately educated people I’ve met. Your generation has the potential of being the most informed in the history of mankind, yet have the least amount of real life experience. Do not shy away from education, but don’t be so naive as to think that it can only be found in a classroom setting. There is such a thing as ‘street smart’. Judge those around you not by what paper is hung on their wall, but the fruits of their labor. Never stop learning even when you feel that there is nothing more to gain. The reality is that situations change and so should your ability to study.
Lesson 3: There is a fine line between arrogance and confidence. It’s important that in all you do, be confident in your actions; however, don’t let your confidence bleed over into arrogance. The people you encounter in your life will appreciate a level of confidence that you have in your actions but will resent arrogance. Never forget that humility is a valuable trait. It is better to stay humble rather than be humbled. You want those you associate with to respect you – they will respect a level of confidence, but despise arrogance.
Lesson 4: The “Jack of all Trades” is often the master of none. It is commendable to be well-versed in many facets of life, but know that every person has a capacity. It’s okay if you are not an expert at everything. Recognize what you are passionate about and what makes you feel relevant and pursue that to its fullest. Be sure to utilize your talents where they will allow you to flourish. It’s okay to not excel at everything you do in life as there will be things that just aren’t natural to who you are. Always remember that someone that is good at everything is often great at nothing.
Lesson 5: If you always tell the truth, you won’t have to remember what you say. If you don’t take note of anything else on this list, be sure to concern yourself with this. The truth is the truth, it doesn’t change. Never allow your integrity to be compromised in anything you do. We will all be judged and when that day comes, stand tall in that which you said and did. You may not always win in life and the easy road may not include honesty, but a much more difficult road lies ahead for those that are dishonest. Be true to others, and always be true to yourself.
Lesson 6: Failure is a reality, learn from it. I have learned more from times where I tried and failed than those times when I tried and succeeded. My hope for you is that throughout your life, you will triumph more than you will fall, but when that time comes that you do (and you will), get up and move on. Recognize the failure and learn from it. It’s okay to make mistakes and have missteps, but the key is not to make the same mistakes more than once. By learning from your failures you will be more apt to prevent them in the future.
Lesson 7: Crow is best served hot. There will come a time in your life when you make a mistake. If you are fortunate, those times will be fewer than not, but when that time comes, own the mistake and do it quickly. Don’t let them linger, and attempt to make it right. When mistakes happen that are the result of your doing, don’t ‘pass the buck’ and don’t deflect. I have more respect for those that have owned their mistakes than I do for those that find someone else to blame them on. Going back to my earlier point, at some time in your life, failure is imminent. When errors occur face them head on and if you are rejected because of them, move on, but know that when the rubber met the road, you did what was right and owned up to your shortcomings. By admitting your faults, you will also be able to own your victories.
Lesson 8: Never be afraid to listen to dissenting voices. The world is polarized and there will be times when you encounter those that believe just as strongly as you do in that which is the opposing opinion you have. That’s okay. Be principled in that which you firmly believe and stand up for it, but also recognize times when that which you believe may not always be that which others do. Everyone has the right to their own beliefs. Stand strong in yours, and passionately argue them, but recognize the rights of others to argue theirs. You may not always agree, but always remain open to hearing opposing views. When it comes to your opinions, don’t be so closed minded not to afford others theirs. And, it’s okay to change your opinions once all information is gathered. Wisdom isn’t always being right, it’s also recognizing when you are wrong.
Lesson 9: Associate with people that make you a better person or at the very least make you want to be. You are in complete control of who you associate with and allow to be associated with you. In all you do try to lift others up and be the voice of encouragement. Also, recognize that it is sometimes easier to be pulled down than it is to be lifted up. Surround yourself with those that have an equal desire to lift you up and bring out the best in you. What you will find is that life is hard and is not meant to live alone. Create within your own circle a surrounding of those that value you for who you are and give as much as they take. You will, at some point in your life, encounter those that will want you to detract from your calling. Have the foresight to recognize them and the wisdom to remove yourself from their influence. Be someone that others aspire to be and be around.
Lesson 10: Evil is real – stand up to it, fight it, but don’t become part of it. Unfortunately, at some point in your life, you will be faced with evil. It is a sad reality of the world, and one that since the beginning of time has never been eradicated. You may hear the words at some point in your life that “two wrongs don’t make a right”. Those words aren’t just some corny saying that me and your mother will tell you throughout your childhood, but actually accurate. Evil flourishes when it’s compounded. It is said that evil prevails when good men do nothing. That will never be truer than in your lifetime. As life becomes more global the opportunity for evil to triumph will become more prevalent. In all that you do, stand up to it at every level. Surround yourself with those that will passionately take up the fight with you and in the end you will overcome it.
In summary, the greatest give in my life is you and your mother. Of all the responsibilities I have, you are my greatest. My job is to protect you, but part of that is teaching you to ultimately protect yourself. Please take note of these words I have given you and reflect on them often. Do what is right even when it’s not what is easy. Also, be aware that recognizing the problem is equally as important as finding the solution to it. The world is an amazing place filled with wonders, but also hurdles. Identify the risks you will face and face them head on with the confidence to overcome them.
There is only one you. Know that your dad loves you more than you will ever know and as long as I’m able, will do my part to support you in the management of the risks you will encounter. Be confident, be relevant, and be wise.
All my love,
Dear Dad, (to seven-year-old you)
They say God gives his toughest battles to his strongest soldiers. Well, let just say you are the strongest soldier. It may seem as if the whole world is against you and your soldiers. But believe it or not, there is someone just like you. Me, your daughter.
She wants to save the world but doesn’t know how yet. You, her guide, you show her how to embrace pain, heartache and the toughest of them all, love. She sees the pain in your eyes and sees through your physical flesh. To her, you are a heroic figure, happiest to be able to say, “That’s my Dad.”
It wasn’t always like this. Every relationship has its ups and downs. For a while, I didn’t have this relationship with you. During that time, I didn’t know myself.
I wanted to fit in.
Dad, well Germaine (since I am talking to younger you. Way younger since you are getting up there now.)
My advice to you is to never think about your chance of failing. Always think of your chance of succeeding.
Have a bond with your son, Chance earlier, because, for a long time, I didn’t speak. But my silence meant a lot. It meant that I wanted a way out, but couldn’t find it. I was trying to figure out everything on my own.
I didn’t know my “outlet” until 9th grade, unofficially, and 10th grade officially, with softball. I love it. For a change, I wanted to be different.
But I love you and I wish there was something I could do or say. To show you how much I appreciate you, your existence means the world to me. Without you I am nothing.
It’s something about pain that leaves you open to anything really. Like most people, I balled it up inside. Until you made it a point to understand me. You said, “It will be me, you and Chance forever.” And for a while, it wasn’t like that to me. I was split between ‘cultures’, I didn’t particularly like either of them until the moment that I was honest with myself. Since then, you have become my everything too.
Dad, I see you. You belong here with me. You help me believe that anything is possible. No one believes in me the way you do, nor understands the things I say and why I say them. With you, I don’t have to wear the mask anymore.
You are my father, but also my everything else. I would say you are my mother as well. No disrespect to my mom, but when I need you, you are there. Not to say that she wasn’t, but the things you and I can say to each other and you know exactly what I am talking about is magic or something.
To my 7 year old dad,
I love you and your future has bumps. Hella big colossal bumps. But your protector, your life will come. ME!
“If you know better, do better. Each one, teach one, come together.”
Any man can be a father, but it takes a special man to be a dad.
I never met my father. Well, not in any sense that reaches the memory before our first step. Before I’d taken my first, he’d taken his last. I’ve no recollection of the man and that thought alone triggers the webbed tracings of my existence. How does a boy understand the shadows in which he’s to follow if the shadows aren’t visible to his physical eye? Maybe for some, it’s meant to be a greater journey; a longer one, a deeper one. Or maybe these gaps create an opening to grow beyond the molded generational army. Maybe I was meant to step out of line and wander beyond the branded nurturing of nature’s genetic fiber.
What if a different man was shepherded to fill the blank silhouette? My brand would change. My life outlook would change. The halls and windows I’d grow up looking through would be a stark contrast to anything I would’ve known. Without filling the void, I would’ve grown in line with the family tree. I would be a completely different human being. The stepping in of a father figure would break the pattern and the history of my family and my surname vanishes with the roots of my culture. And all done without me even approving or, in my case, even being aware that it occurred at all. I was eighteen before I even knew that the shadow-filled would only cast more shadows.
Regardless of the puzzled shock of discovering that your stepfather was not biological and that your last name is far from the Swedish roots that run your bloodlines, I was instantly grateful. Possibly my genetics, possibly my nurturing, possibly both or neither but my first thoughts were of gratitude. So many children grow without a father of any kind. Of course, there were flooding questions that consumed me as well. What’s my last “real” last name? Do I have any other siblings (oh, yes a sister)? Do I have grandparents? Where am I from? How did this all come to be? And through the answering of them, I couldn’t quite have any feelings of loss though. I’d no prior knowledge of what existed to comprehend “losing” something or someone. It wasn’t cold. It was part confusion and part appreciation for the man that helped shape me.
We are a culmination of what we observe. I’m by no means demeaning the legacy of my biological father but it’s been shared that his charisma was both a treasure and a curse when it came to moving wildly through life. And though I’m certainly glad for the spirit of my wanderlust, clearly a genetic hand-me-down, I’d not be the man and father I am today without the tangible presence and pillared strength of my stepfather. I’d not have the example of what it takes to color in the reality of a father figure. I’d not have had the learnings of discipline and respect. The caring for others above yourself. The battling a lifelong and debilitating disease and all the will it takes to take on another day with grace. I’d not have had a man that stepped in to take us as his own. He influenced the way I’d tailor my own fatherhood.
As a father of two maturing young women, I don’t know how I’d have had the collective sampling of teachings that I experienced without having a father growing up. My desire is for them to get the best of what was gifted to me and to understand kindness, work ethic, gratitude, will, wanderlust, trust, and the emotional resilience of navigating through a world that can knock you down, over and over. I hope that they’ll continue to open their minds and realize that my firmness and gentleness were present with the best intentions. I’m certain that time will weather their displeasured lessons, as well as my flawed ways, and they’ll always know me as a constant source of reliability and love. To be felt appreciated for my presence and guidance is enough for me. I know they’ll always know me as more than a figure.
Though I’ve lost two fathers, I’ve had years to appreciate the very presence of them both. I’m fortunate to have a curiously wild nature balanced with nurtured determination and discipline. Well before I was aware, my father figure was filled in with the necessities I needed. I couldn’t have been luckier. But like anyone else, I can lose sight of the greatest gifts both known or yet to be. I can forget how others may never have more than a father figure on a screen. How many grow up with abusive or absent “fathers”. And I’ve personally witnessed how tangled and frayed a child’s life becomes with fathers of addiction or incarceration … “fathers” figured only in broken picture frames and figments in wishful minds.
Yet, it makes no difference whether older brother, cousin, uncle, grandfather, teacher, coach or friend … we are all men fashioned as role models. Whether aware or not, we all become father figures. We are being observed with every gleaning of a child. Who we are to them should come with greater mindfulness than who are we to ourselves or our peers. Children are our best inspirations for improving our existence and our best audience for illustrating success should be them. We are designed to be more than a stoic contour. We are than an authoritative outline of masculinity. We are more than figures and we needn’t be a genetic father to fill the needed responsibilities of one.
Postscript: The brilliant lines of Eddy Vedder and Pearl Jam’s song “Release” sums up the yearnings of so many children and so perfectly of my own. “Oh dear dad, can you see me now? I am myself like you somehow. I’ll ride the wave where it takes me …. Oh dear dad, can you see me now? I’ll wait up in the dark for you to speak to me.”
Six thousand five hundred and seventy days have passed since August 21, 2000. On that day, you arrived in this world with a powerful “Hello World, I’m Here” splash. No hesitation, no doubts, no limits and eyes wide open. Your energy is boundless and you came without an “off” button. Your curiosity came fully stocked. You learned early and quickly in every experience. You embraced walking, you peddled your tricycle tirelessly around the kitchen island. In your three-year-old gymnastics class, you climbed the rope and confidently rang the bell at the ceiling. You removed training wheels and took on the bicycle, skateboard and roller blades with complete abandon. Never a fall, always chasing faster speed, and unwilling to let anyone beat you. This extraordinary effort continued through Pre-K Olympics, extended to school plays and gymnastics, basketball, high school Spirit Weeks and of course with great intensity on your SOCCER journey.
You absorb material from your course work and lessons/strategies from your club coaches. You improve rapidly ask for help when you need it. You have developed into a great artist which your heart shows as you share your work with others. You continue to put in the work to achieve good grades and put yourself in the place that will take you on your next step in life. You came to this world destine to make your mark and to do great things. We have no doubt that you will continue shine and chase your passion.
Be proud of your spirit, intelligence, determination, energy, and work ethic. You have learned to balance the responsibilities challenges of in and out of school commitments with care. You are bound for greatness because you put in the work do the hard things to get you where you want to be.
As you enter your senior high school year, the next section of this letter is meant provide additional tools for your life’s tool kit. Life will continue to bring you opportunities and challenges, joy and setbacks. Add these tools and make them your own. They will serve you well.
Always say I’m Possible versus Impossible – LIMITS ARE SELF-IMPOSED
Seek to be “known-well” instead of being “well-known”– BUILD STRONG RELATIONSHIPS
First step of a Human Being is about Being Human – THINK OF OTHERS ACT FROM THE HEART
Two negatives equal a positive only in math – ALWAYS FIND SOMETHING POSITIVE
Give before you ask, the world will open its arms to you – YOU RECEIVE MORE BY GIVING FREELY
The best learning comes from mistakes – MISTAKES ARE PRICELESS MAKE SMART ONES
You have more than you need, you need less than you think – LIVE SIMPLY
The only place success comes before work is in the dictionary – DO HARD THINGS
I LOVE and am so very PROUD of you.
Doubt melts away
Opens you to possibilities
Hard work becomes easier
Adversity is overcome
Regrets go away
Discovers your toughness
Thoughts become actions
Help finds you
Gets us out of ruts
Sets a new course
Bruce Pulver, Author
Above the Chatter, Our Words Matter
Dear World Changer,
I was leaving downtown Dallas, and I told my homeless friend that I was driving to Colorado and wouldn’t see him for a week.
I was worried he’d think I would forget about him. I wanted to save his life and we were making progress. He’d been to my home, much to the chagrin of my neighbor across the street.
“How can you bring those people, into your home?” she said, with disdain.
“Those people are people,” I replied. “How can you not?”
Sometimes we just don’t know what we don’t know. We stay comfortable.
She had said that as a Mormon her foundational belief was that it was important to help others. Her kids brought us so much bread and rice crispy treats and cookies that I gained 9 pounds the first few months they moved in.
I suppose it was easier to walk across the street and love the neighbor. But she was appalled by the homeless.
I tried to explain to her that sometimes you’ve got to search for those who need you. Sometimes they’re in dark places that you’d never go. I invited her to serve with us one Sunday. She never went, and I didn’t push it. Each one of us is called to serve differently, depending on the season.
When I told my homeless friend, I was headed to Creede with my two little boys he seemed concerned.
“Why are you going there, sister?” he asked.
“I’m not sure,” I replied. I feel like God told me to go.”
He looked at me direct in the eyes and I could feel his heart as if it were in my own.
“Rip off the rear view mirror,” he said urgently. “Go!”
That first drive to Creede changed my life.
As we drove around the mountain and saw the peak for the first time, I wept, and it surprised both me and my two little boys. Beauty unlike anything I’d seen in the mountains of Telluride, Singapore, or Argentina. Only the train from Macchu Picchu came close.
On the highway leading into town on that first trip we had the opportunity to save a life.
A white pickup crossed the median uncontrollably as if it were without a driver. It missed us by inches, and I pulled over, jumped the fence, and chased after it into a field until it came to a stop. The old man was hunched over the steering wheel, unconscious.
I saved a life that day, in that little town, but the journey of discovering this new place saved me too. I had needed the shift in mindset. I needed to appreciate the wonder of the simplest things.
Lesson 1: Pattern interrupt
Go somewhere different. You may want to stay.
We bought a cabin there after seven years of going back. We are not an adventurous family compared to some, and yet Colorado challenged us. “Well, we didn’t die,” became our mantra one year as we survived mountain ice accidents, river rafting near death experiences, and wildfires.
We paused. Considered it again. Enjoyed beaches and other locations. Then we drive back.
Lesson 2. Connectedness comes from doing, not just talking.
A new state with foreign activities than what we were used to at home gave my boys and I a bond unlike any other. As we fished streams, (daily) ignored voicemails as there was no cell or WiFi service, learned how to clean and cook trout by the riverbank, and hike mountains.
It gave me a new perspective on life, and momentum, and how there could be an entirely new world – new people – out there waiting for you.
Lesson 3: You May have Blind spots
Most people don’t know that the missing piece of your puzzle could be somewhere else. And what if you don’t know what you don’t know? What if you don’t even know there’s a better way?
I told a friend once, “Why do you think Mr. Right lives in the city where you were born? What if he’s in Singapore or Idaho instead?”
You can find people everywhere. But if you haven’t yet found YOUR people, or your place, or even your groove, you may need to venture out.
Is it time for a move?
If you’re in a rut, or just feeling as if you or your family isn’t living your best life – pick a place on the map and go.
You may just save a life.
Just by being in the right place at the right time.
Maybe that life will be someone else’s or maybe your own.
Dear World Changer,
There’s so much untapped potential inside of you that no matter how much you’ve achieved, there’s always so much more to do.
I’d like to give you 3 important steps to achieve greatness in your life – no matter what industry you’re in. These 3 steps are guaranteed to bring you immediate results.
Step 1: Get a life team.
A great way to do this is by attending a mastermind of high level thinkers. This should cost more than $500, and maybe even a thousand per meeting, if you’re going to get the best of the best. CEO’s and high level leaders don’t hang out at motivational conferences. I know, because in 15 years of working with CEO’s there’s not one, that’s right – not one, who does. When you’re young and growing? Sure. But that’s not the place to find your life team of experts who have built and led major companies.
Start with a mentor, and don’t confuse this human with a family member, friend or boss. A mentor isn’t a friend. He or she may become one – but don’t start with friends.
Focus on leaders.
Get a mentor in another industry, or in your own industry, but strive to select someone focused on leadership and life growth. Then, multiply it by ten to form your own life team. You may not call on your life team for months. But they’re experts, and they are a safety net when you need them. If you have a legal problem for instance and you call on an older and wiser leader, that person will likely have been through a battle or two.
Develop your life team today.
Please, don’t make the mistake of following the ones you think are famous.
Facebook isn’t the world. Get mentors with real businesses, measurable success, and observe them to see if they’re walking the talk. I’ve coached countless famous people who have asked me for financial assistance because although the world thinks of them as rich and famous, they’re struggling. Get a life team who can help you build in all areas. Don’t select someone with differing goals or values just because you think they’re rich or famous.
Step 2: Read a book a week.
Yes, this is possible. Many books are small now, and you can scan them at night before bed. It takes an hour to read a couple chapters on growth, communication, or leadership and I guarantee the results will be a huge investment in yourself. You are your greatest controllable asset. Invest in yourself.
I never had a mentor early on, so books became my mentor. I read books continually and learned everything I could. When I went to my first job interview after college, I remember repeating what I had read in the book. That author was my first mentor and helped me land a high paying job in management. It was the start of a beautiful corporate career. It prepared me well for the path of entrepreneurship.
Step 3: Invest in others.
I heard a young girl say recently, “I want to change the world but I don’t know how.” That was Jasmine, a 14 year old. Isn’t it true for us adults too?
Invest in others and go out of your way.
I have many late night calls with younger people who can never repay me for my time. I give away thousands of books a year, to mentor others, not only to the homeless or through our build a book library in children’s homes, but also random strangers who seem like they could use a positive word. Does this cost money? Sure it does. It costs money and time. But you cannot measure the results of your investment in another human being on earth.
If you don’t understand where to start, look around. Deliver dinner, visit an elderly care facility, volunteer at a homeless shelter or go to our website at OnFire Books and join one of our service projects.
And a bonus step: Eliminate.
Eliminate the noise.
It always surprises me to see thousands of people attending guru or self help conferences in Vegas when I go as a speaker. Don’t be a life long attendee. Learn, but why would you want to be one in a sea of thousands? Be one instead.
Be the one who breaks out of the herd and takes a divergent path.
Write your own book.
Create your own legacy.
Get up on that stage yourself and find people like me who are willing to equip you and help you grow. There are plenty of them. Remain passionate about investing in yourself and your ideas. This requires margin time.
Invest in time alone and create that margin time.
Finally, I promise if you execute these 4 things before the end of this year – your life will transform in ways you can’t imagine. Go get it! Today is a new day.
To your legacy,
My Dear Sweet Superstar!
Yes, I’m talking to you. I’m writing you this letter because I want to remind you how amazingly special you are. There is not one other person on this earth exactly like you. You are as uniquely wonderful, different, and spectacular as each snow flake that falls to this earth. No other person sent to this world has your exact fingerprint, heartprint, or soulprint.
What this means is the things you do on this earth, in the manner that you do them, with your beautiful flare using your gifts and talents combined with your experiences – can ONLY be done by YOU! The impact that you make on this world is so phenomenally unique and special that you can’t NOT flourish if you continually develop your gifts and talents!
We were sent to this earth to develop ourselves, develop our gifts, and develop our talents so we can bless other people with our greatness. It’s not a nicety, it’s a necessity and my dear sweet friend, it is our RESPONSIBILITY! Take your responsibility seriously.
We were given these gifts and talents to not just bless ourselves; we were given these gifts and talents so we can bless others. To help make other people’s lives better in whatever ways our gifts and talents can do so. Whether it’s music, art, creation, organization, problem solving, inspiration, love, math, science, etc…
Life is a series of peaks and valleys. Not everything is going to go your way. But it’s your attitude that makes the difference.
I’ve been through a lot of victories but I’ve been through dark times also. One of the worst moments in my life was as a single mother of 3 beautiful, young children. The exact scene was Christmas Eve, the first Christmas as a single mom.
Making the decision to divorce is never easy, making the decision to divorce with 3 small children when you are not employed is even more difficult. But it was a decision I knew I had to make for the good of my own growth and development which would be the best decision for my children.
I see a lot of moms making decisions, they believe, are the best for their kids, sacrificing themselves. What I’ve learned along my journey and many hours of knees on the floor in prayer, is that was is best for me and my development is what is best for my kids. I have to be strong for my children to be safe.
It was after years of prayer and soul searching that I knew I had to divorce my kid’s father so I could soar which in turn would be the best thing I could ever do for my kids.
The first Christmas Eve as a single mom I woke up to $12 in my checking account, not enough money to buy any gifts much less one. I drove to the ATM machine every hour on the hour that day to wait for my check to be automatically deposited into my account so I could do my Christmas shopping for my children. Every time I would check and the money wasn’t yet deposited I would drive off saying to myself, “It won’t be like this forever. It won’t be like this forever.” I repeated that sentence over and over again in my head and even said it out loud as tears ran down my face. I was determined there would not be another Christmas like that one in my life.
At 2am on Christmas I was in Wal-Mart buying my children’s gifts that year. I was up the rest of the night wrapping and preparing for their happy, excited faces to wake up to gifts under the tree with a mother sharing with them the reason for the season with love and a smile on her face.
I didn’t care about the pain I had to endure to get to where I was on that Christmas morning because I knew that pain had a purpose.
I got through it. And you will too. I’m not saying it’s going to be easy. I’m saying that you are in control of your mindset and the faster that you can eliminate toxic people from your world the better your mind so it’s going to be.
You are going to be knocked down; you’re supposed to, that is what will make you strong, develop compassion, empathy, and understanding for other people. You are going to feel like giving up; this is how you develop your tenacity, belief, and strength. You are going to be afraid; this is how you develop trust and faith.
It’s going to take time; this is how you develop consistency, discipline, and persistence. It also takes time to develop, master your skills, and to create your master piece. Typically, this time also allows you the opportunity to find the right people and get away from the wrong people along your journey. It’s not always going to be easy; it’s not supposed to be easy. If it was easy the exhilaration of success wouldn’t feel as amazing. The entire process wouldn’t be appreciated. The lessons we need to learn wouldn’t be learned.
You’re going to have to work hard, I mean really hard; this helps develop your decision-making skills and overall character. You’re going to have to give things up and prioritize what’s most important. There will be days you have to get up early, stay up late, and some days not sleep at all. You’re not going to be able to “play” all the time. You’re going to have to give some things up for the greater good. You’re not going to be able to get caught up in the “drama”.
Here’s a tip – Do what you NEED to do first, then do what you want to do second. Example: If you need to do an assignment, read, make an important call and you want to go to dinner with your friends. Do the assignment, read, make the important call FIRST before you go to dinner with your friends. If you go to dinner first, you won’t get to your important items.
Make the commitment to NEVER QUITTING before you start! Then your decision to win, succeed, soar has already been made which dictates all the decisions that follow. Make sense? You CAN DO THIS! YOU WILL DO THIS! I WILL ALWAYS BE WITH YOU! YOU ARE NEVER ALONE!
I share all this with you for the following reasons. I want you to know your responsibility. You can never stop developing yourself. Your gifts and talents were given to you to bless others. When you’re not developing your gifts and talents and blessing the world with them, it doesn’t just hurt you, it robs all those that you are supposed to bless.
I want you to always know how uniquely special you are. Never compare yourself to others. When you do, you start to take away from your uniqueness. You get confused, your vision starts to blur, and you will eventually not be able to identify what makes you special. If your gift is song, you will sing the songs of your heart differently than anyone else. Remember your power is YOU!
I want you to know what to expect so you don’t get side track or discouraged. This typically starts when you start thinking about yourself more than your purpose. You start to say to yourself, “I’m tired.” “I can’t do this anymore, it’s too hard.” “I’m not good enough.” “I don’t feel good.” “I’m scared.” “This is taking too long for me.” “I don’t have enough money to continue.” Etc… All the “I” statements will start you on a distraction path that takes you away from your purpose. Having the right expectations is critical. Success happens in decades. Just accept this fact, keep your head down, and continue working.
I want you to NEVER STOP! I will be the wind beneath your wings, the training wheels on your tricycle, the small whisper, the loud scream to remind you – YOU CAN NEVER QUIT!
I want you to know you MUST find the RIGHT people! You cannot succeed, soar, or win hanging around the wrong people. If you are not going up, getting better, doing more, it means you don’t have your wagon hitched to a leader. Nothing, and I repeat, nothing happens without a leader. You MUST hitch your wagon to real leaders. If you do, every year you will grow.
Always have faith that the journey you’re on is filled with the twists and turns you need to mold yourself in exactly the way you’re supposed to be molded. You can take a quicker path by doing more of the right things right with the right people having the right attitude being compliant to the absolute truths of the world….but if you choose to forge your own path remember there will be lessons you learn along the way that will help you be a blessing to others. Life is like a maze. There’s one way in and one way out. You’ll be fine as long as you keep moving. Success happens in action. You can’t stop.
Nothing and I repeat nothing you experience will go to waste if you continue your journey.
Go out into the world and BLESS people with your GREATNESS! It’s your destiny and responsibility! Not only can I not wait to see your creations, I am honored to be a part of your journey.
Until we meet again my dear sweet friend,
Be BIG! Be BOLD! Be YOU!
I LOVE YOU!
– Gens Johnson
Want to meet Gens? Gens will be attending The Conversation Event in Dallas, October 5th. Click the link below to register now or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
A letter to from my future self.
Life is hard, life is tough, you’re likely reading this right now and wondering where you are going to go next. How did you even get here? The world is a strange place that is always changing and is always unpredictable. Even looking back on my life and your future life, nothing makes sense. There is no predictable path and nothing that you can do to make your life easier, it will be hard no matter what you do. So what next?
It has been by stepping into the unknown that you have become great and it will be by stepping further into the unknown that you will be able to make something of yourself. Stop fearing it.
Life is easier than you think, it’s as simple as just doing the things that are right, the only reason that it seems so hard is because of the fear that you have behind everything. Fear of loss, fear of success, fear of taking the wrong steps, fear of missing the right opportunity. If you remove fear, life is so easy.
You have become crippled by your fear and it destroys everything that you can potentially be. It’s the only thing that holds you back.
Every solution you think will solve your problems is fake. Getting married won’t make your life easier or make you happier, making a multi six figure income won’t make life easier and make your concerns of money go away.
Fear is what creates your problems, if you can remove fear in your life you can be happy with everything you have and use the tools of life to propel yourself forward. You feel alone because you fear being alone and unwanted, you should know that by now with your experiences. You lived part of your life depressed and suicidal, you smoked and drank, and for what reason? Fear.
In your worst times it was always fear, nothing else. Fear of never making anything of yourself made you cry at night, fear of being alone and unwanted drove you to continue pushing people away so that you didn’t have to combat the unknown of if you were accepted by other people or not. When you changed your story and changed your life it wasn’t about pushing your emotions away like you thought, it wasn’t about becoming numb or deciding that you wanted to mimic what a successful person would be like. No, it was that you got to a point where nothing made you afraid, you were free.
When you fear nothing, you can do anything. You removed fear from your life once and you changed your life around completely, you created a new world for yourself. At times you have been getting afraid, fearing the unknown again because you’ve become comfortable, you just want things to be easy and continue to become increasingly better as they have been, but the opposite will happen.
If you continue to fear the unknown, you’ll be dragged back down to nothing. Fear will destroy.
You see people in your life now and you’ll continue to see them everyday, these people look normal, they look successful, they look happy, but it is all a front. They fear more than you do and fear is the greatest deterrent of success. Fear cripples and destroys, it brings down entire armies and civilizations and it certainly won’t stop at you.
So, there’s only one real question. How do you eliminate fear?
The thing with fear is that it will always be there, every time you step into the unknown, you will be completely surrounded by more unknown. There may be traps and predators in this unknown, there may be love and riches as well. It’s a gamble.
What is the purpose of this letter then?
I hope it frees you from the crippling fear that I have lived through, I hope it prepares you to be scared to wake up in the morning and still do it anyway.
Life is hard, life is tough, but only if you let it.
– Ian Streutker
Dear Future World Changer,
As you read this you may be thinking one of two things: “I already know where I’m going.” or “I have no idea what I’m going to do.”
Either way you are correct. Either way you will always be right. Your mind is the most powerful thing in the universe and it can be your prison or your salvation.
The choice is yours and yours alone. I assure you, it will change many times throughout your life. Crave the change, own it. Make it yours.
It comes down to a few factors. What are the stories you tell yourself? What are the questions you ask yourself on a daily basis? What are your morals and values? Is the world against you or for you? Do things happen to you or because of you?
Ahead of you is the vastness of the free world. It’s a drastically changed world from the one I knew at your age. When I was your age, I had a baby girl to raise.
I had a world of opportunity in front of me, yet I couldn’t see past my nose and I had no one to help me figure it out. I just knew that a person was counting on me to survive; and so, I tried my best. I had no guidance but I was blessed with grit.
In this new world the opportunities are endless and massively scaleable. They also mirror the risks. Nothing is perfect and timing is never right. Act anyway.
The only difference between winning and losing in life is action. What you see in your mind is what will become and is your reality.
I’m sure you will find it funny someday that just a year or so ago, you were considered a child and could not be trusted to make wise decisions on your own. That’s the reality and the truth.
You weren’t allowed to know what was best for you yet. Because you probably didn’t. Yes, you wanted to decide for yourself but you didn’t have enough life data to do so.
Then one day, you walked across that stage and somehow everything changed. You somehow were now expected to know what you were doing.
You had to choose what was being sold to you for your entire life like it was the end of the world, when it was barely the beginning. You had to decide “your path”. On top of that, you likely just lost many friends. That’s a heavy burden to put on a young person in your position. So much at stake yet in reality so little. The pressure can be daunting.
So maybe your parents made that choice for you. Maybe it’s on you. Either way, they want what’s best for you and also what’s best for them. It’s their job. But your mindset is still impressionable beyond measure and the things that will influence and matter to you today will not be the same as those that will influence you just a few short years from now. So you must stay present and unapologetically truthful and self aware of who and where you are currently. Always trust your gut, be where your feet are, keep your eyes on your dreams, learn from your past and never compromise your morals.
The best advice I can give you is to build this thing called grit. It’s a mindset of persistence. It’s like your bulletproof vest. When the slugs of life hit you in the chest and you gasp for air thinking you’re going to die, grit is that kevlar that keeps you alive.
Without this, the bullets pierce your flesh and the repercussions are deadly to your future. Let this be known, understand this fully. This vest will not protect you from bruises, it will not stop the scars from forming, or your heart from breaking inside you, and there will be days when you just wish you were bare so that you could just give into the world around you and retreat. At times you will and that’s ok.
Put it back on. Armor up. Without this you will accept regret. Regret is much worse than scars. Regret wishes for the scars. Regret looks up at the stars and sees loss, it sees only what was potentially lost, and ignores all that was gained. Grit looks up at the stars and sees the unlimited potential. It sees those losses and heartbreaks as lessons and bumpers for your path. It takes pride in the pain and the tears it takes to get up when everything in life seems to be beating you down.
I wrote this letter to you this way on purpose. Not to scare you but to prepare you. To let you know that there is no loss you can’t recover from. To make you aware that in every failure there is wisdom to be gleaned. These words are as true as you standing in your shadow and if taken to heart will give you the armor necessary to not only endure, but to thrive in all that is ahead of you in life. You must build this now.
Life doesn’t slow down or stop and the winners circle is reserved for those willing to die for their dreams. So prepare now. For starters, you must surround yourself with others that wear this armor too. People ahead of you, people you can learn from. Nothing on this earth is as harmful as being around the wrong people with the wrong mindset. Their thoughts become yours, their patterns become yours, their failures and excuses and pain become yours. Take this and own it as the ultimate truth. Reach up and listen more than you speak. Then, you can reach down and pull others up.
Now with that being said, enjoy yourself. Meet new people, go places, try things. Do stuff, take risks, be unoffendable, relentless and fearless in your pursuit of your love, your truth, your happiness and purpose. You don’t need to know it all right now, nor should you. Trust me, it’ll change. Change with it. Own it, accept it for what it is, no better no worse. Just truth. The more you know about yourself and your peers, what they like and what they want to be and do, the better prepared you are to solve their problems and take on the responsibility to change the world: 3ft at a time. It may sound hokey but you are the change you want to see in the world. Go change it and have a blast!
See you at the top,
I know it has been awhile since we have last spoken, and regardless of the reasons why, I want to let you know that I love you and always will.
Acceptance is a very interesting thing and I finally understand how important it is. I really struggled with it at 15, when we reunited. The crazy thing about it all is I thought it was you and your actions that I couldn’t accept, when in reality, it was me all along. Looking back, I can see that you have been the main influence in my life, why I have accomplished so many things. You placed me in many diverse situations that helped me develop skills and abilities that most people never have.
You taught me how to love in the most toxic environments and because of that I became a humanitarian. I have traveled to 17 different states and formed a youth empowerment movement, granting those in hard places in their life mentorship, love, and hope. The survival skills and abilities that I learned and witnessed from you have been shared with those in similar and worse situations. This has placed love, hope, security, and grit into 17 major cities around the nation and is practiced by thousands.
You taught me how to remain unbreakable and strong when no one else can and because of that I am globally known for my mental toughness and perseverance. It has most importantly been the foundation and pillar toward becoming a true leader and world changer. People see miracles occur and it is from never giving up and never giving in. As Eric Thomas used to say in those videos I listened to, “Never give up and never give in. Skill can only take you so far, but mental toughness will make you phenomenal.”
Last but not least, you taught me how to never lose hope. This is still one I know you struggle with and have been for over a decade. This drove me to getting us out of the darkest of situations, drove me to leading global causes, drove me to having vivid, detailed, goals and aspirations, and built-in skills ensuring I never fail. That I never give up on hope. I knew I could depend on myself to make it happen. Like you use to say to me, “You are the Make It Happen Captain.” That strange phrase always puts a smile on my face.
Thank you so much for loving me so much and seeing that I was strong enough to endure years of pain and difficult situations. The end result would create the woman I am today. You knew that I wouldn’t break or get trapped with a victim mindset but instead become unbreakable with a warrior mentality. I dreamed of being an alpha leader, building and leading a wolf pack, changing and inspiring lives indefinitely, and lastly impacting and influencing the world around me to make a legacy.
Forever your strong MiniMe.
– Riddelll Mackey
Hello Younger Self:
Life has taught me the importance of having a good set of tools upon which to draw in times of challenge and struggle. Here is an offering of three tools I carry in my Tool Kit of Life which have been of great value in my life’s journey. I hope you master each as you make your way in life. These tools found their way to my Tool Kit as a result of my own experiences. My desire is that handing them to you will offer guidance with the inevitable choices you will be forced to make during your unique journey in life.
Tool 1: YES I CAN. The only way to fail for certain is to never try and the worst pain of all is not the pain of failure but the pain of regret. When you embark a new adventure such as a career, a new assignment, learning a new skill, etc. start everything by saying “YES I CAN”. This tool is like a compass. It points your attitude in the right direction from the beginning. A “YES I CAN” attitude sets your intention even if you have no knowledge of how you will achieve success. YES I CAN means
Tool 2: FEAR. Having a fearful instinct will serve you well. It provides a balance point gives equal weight to evaluating any situation and using your sense of reason (which itself becomes a strong tool over time) to use in your decision making. FEAR comes with two optional attachments. The first is useless and reads:
This FEAR is a priceless source of rechargeable positive expectancy.
Tool 3 : HUSTLE. In whatever you do act with a unstoppable sense of purpose and tenacity. Begin, drive and finish with these characteristics, belief that the work matters and the impact is important. I call this tool HUSTLE because it is made up of
An endless number of tools can be found in the Successful Life Tool Kit. These are just three which have served me through my life. When you find a new tool that serves you well, keep it and be committed to sharing it with others who are coming up behind you.
Yours with Gratitude
Want to meet Bruce? Bruce will be attending The Conversation Event in Dallas, October 5th. Click the link below to register now or email email@example.com for more information.
From one lonely soul to another,
I woke up this morning and went back to bed a minute later. I woke up again, laid awake for a few moments then went back to sleep. I again woke up, ate some breakfast then, again, went back to bed. Even though I wasn’t tired, I continued to sleep.
I wasn’t tired, I didn’t need more sleep, in all reality I had woken up the first time, five minutes before my alarm went off, with enough energy to easily power through the day. Yet I slept for an extra three hours.
Time passes, it comes and goes. It feels like nothing changes.
I went to work, I excelled and made money. A coworker asked “if you had to say, what is it that’s holding you back, what would it be?” I replied by saying it was over sleeping and no focus towards a healthy diet. “Oversleeping and overeating are the first signs of depression” was the response to my answer, it was hard to hear but it was the truth.
I’m not depressed, I don’t let these things hold me back, but it is clear that I feel alone.
Have you ever felt alone?
As I sit here and write this I am in a building that I spend most of my time alone in. When I was asked today when the last time I had done a non work related social activity I had to look back several weeks and was only able to point out one night for this past month.
I hurt everyday and it slowly gets worse, it slowly takes over and it slowly becomes who I am.
I’m not afraid to be alone, my best work is accomplished by working alone. I moved across the country to work with the best and become one of the best in my industry, I am known by many and have seen great success. Being alone doesn’t stop me from accomplishing what needs to be done.
Yet I can only imagine what I could be if I didn’t feel this way.
Loneliness is a choice to me, I believe that if you truly don’t want to be alone then it’s as simple as forcing yourself to go talk to people, break your barriers that hold you back, connect with family and friends, make plans with people you like. You are the reason you are alone.
So why do I continue to make myself suffer? Maybe it’s because I want to focus all my energy to my career, maybe I’m scared of spending too much time around people that will inevitably hold me back. Maybe it’s just in my head.
One thing is true, knowing that other people feel alone at times makes me feel not so alone. Knowing that truly successful people can continue to pursue greatness while also feeling alone makes me feel human. When I get the chance to hear someone I respect say “I’ve been there”, I have confidence to push harder every day.
So maybe I’m not so alone after all
I share my stories of suffering not so people will feel bad for me, but to let people know that they’re not the only one. There has been someone in your situation who has made themselves into something great, it has been by knowing such things that I have been able to push back against the world. I hope it can do the same for you.
We will all feel alone at some point, reach out while you seek your greatness and remember that you are not alone.
– Ian Streutker
Dear Miss Worthy,
You must know this, believe this, and live this truth every day.
Set aside what you have been through, who has hurt you, left you, lied to you, betrayed you.
Don’t forget it because it has brought you to where you are, but this is not where you are staying. Set it aside, it does not define you. You are worthy. Worthy to be loved so unconditionally and completely. You are worthy to be admired and celebrated because there is no one on this planet like you. No one. Yes, you may have a doppelgänger, we possibly all do. A person that looks identical to you, related or not, but your DNA and fingerprints are yours alone. You are unique. Completely unique. God made you that way.
You are worthy to be treated with respect and love and grace. He must respect you with his actions and how he treats you. His love should be boundless and endless, pure and strong, make you feel safe, and like you are the only one because you are. His grace should be sweet and pure and constant.
You are worthy to be treated like a treasure. And when he comes to realized this, he will know your worth cannot be contained in a bank. He will cherish you and protect you. He will know he is the richest man in town.
You are worthy to be given time daily, conversations in person or on the phone, texts, time together, whatever that looks like for you but time — time invested because you matter. Time can be fleeting and being intentional to spend it together is vital. To build this relationship together on earth and for all eternity.
You are worthy to have him pick you up, plan the day or evening, open your door, pull out your chair, help you with your purse or coat if there is a chill in the night. You are worthy for him to treat you like nothing else matters in his presence but you.
You are worthy to have him lead you in prayer. A man of God, that seeks God and His direction and wisdom should be leading you closer to Him as well. This foundation is vital. Prayer is one of the most intimate things two people can do. You are sharing the words from your soul versus the words in your head to your Creator, to build your bond. Solid.
You are worthy to be told you are beautiful and special, that he loves you and feels fortunate to have found you. His words matter and he must know this. His words build and he must know this. His words create something that will be lasting between you both. He must know this.
This is not the end of your love story.
To get to this worthy place I share, with worthy comes the wait. The hard part. The part where you won’t settle anymore. For the guy that will say he will call and doesn’t. For the guy that doesn’t show up if you are meeting somewhere. For the guy that is just a jerk. That is hard with words and how he treats you. Life is just too short for this anymore. Pray for the jerk, this may be all he knows.
But the irony is that it is worth waiting for.
For that man to come along and do all the things you ever dreamt. In how he treats you, the things he tells you. If he likes to write those amazing letters, he will write you with words that seem only from movies.
For a love to finally come along and a gentleman with his chivalry “that’s not dead” to treat you like a lady with an utmost respect and a treasure he knows he has finally found.
For a man that is a “man of his word”. That he will do all the things he tells you and follows through without ever leading you to the left when you are going to the right. So you are walking side by side, in the same direction of life, in this new journey of worthy.
For a man that finds your grace for him and gives of his own to you because knowing we are worthy is not about being perfect. None of us are. Knowing we are worthy is knowing we matter and that there is someone out there that knows it too. Finds you and never lets go.
It may feel like everyone around you has someone. Like everyone is planning a wedding and you are last one on the planet alone. This could not be further from the truth. Because it is constant on your mind then that is all you notice. It’s time to shake it off and stop believing that lie.
Because there are country songs about love and broken hearts still written, then this is still going on, people are still searching for their love. You are not alone.
So back to the ones that have left, broken the promises, lied and hurt you. This is the brutal truth, brutal but true. He was not meant to be. If he was he would still be around loving you and lifting you up with all those words and his time. Telling you that you are beautiful and the only one. The one, but now he is gone.
I have been on this road too many times. A love lost, a love passed away. Then one broken heart after another thinking I found a love again. A suitcase of broken promises. Telling me they wanted to give me the world when all I wanted was him and that wasn’t enough.
So I know this WORTHY thing too well. I sure wish I didn’t because it is still a daily struggle. I carry dog tags on my purse from my best friend with one word: WORTHY.
All I can do now is remind myself, in my faith, my worth is in Christ and what He did for me. How He loves me so unconditionally. Honestly, I can tell you this has been my driving force to get to 50 still single. I wait for WORTHY.
Not just for me to know that I am worthy but for him to know he is worthy too. Life is full of pain, love shouldn’t be. Life makes us strong for the wait.
So do not give up. Trust that he will cross your path when you are least looking, least thinking about it. I promise you at the perfect time he will appear, and the dreams will begin and never end. He will remain and he will find you worthy most of all. Get ready, stay ready.
You are WORTHY,
Well, you did it.
You made it to the last day of High School Mathematics Class. I know you are busy right now; but at this pivotal moment, I want you to give careful thought to your next step. I am going to give you the advice I have given all my other sons because when you become a student of mine, you join my family.
You are in a unique position. Your skills, your gifts, your talents, your hard work, and the dedication of dozens of people who believe in you have brought you to this point. You did not get here alone. What you do next is an opportunity few get. With the next step, you must choose intentionally.
You will impact generations. Your family. Friends. Colleagues. Peers. People will look up to you because of your positioning right now.
What will they see? What will they be told by your actions? Will they be inspired to aspire to more? Will they see thoughtfulness, intelligence, generosity, hard work, and perseverance work together to create a legacy?
It has been a pleasure to have you in my class. You may not know it, but I, like many people around you, have watched you to determine the depth and essence of your character. You are a young man with a great destiny. Leave here and step into it. Please, be aware of the responsibility you have.
Much is expected of those who have been given much. Find your cause and create the beginning of your legacy.
Be both cautious and adventurous.
Be bold not rude.
Be free not reckless.
Be confident not condescending.
Be kind not gullible.
Be wise not arrogant.
Most of all-
Be true to yourself.
And be safe.
In the next few busy weeks, ask yourself, “What do I want my Legacy to be?” Begin to build it now.
You have the power to –
Transform the world.
Have an impact for great. Do not settle for good.
Remember the little, easy things that build a legacy are often hard to do and easy to not do.
Build that Legacy.
And know I will be praying for you. You know where to find me if you ever need anything.
- Caron Rivera
Dear Future World Changer,
Take it from me; life doesn’t come with a do-over button or a get-your-life-together manual, but one thing life does come with is guidance from outside perspectives.
This letter is dedicated to you, yes you, our future world changer! Here are some tips I’ve accumulated on this journey called life. Why listen to me or even consider my perspective? Well, that’s for you to decide after getting to know a little more about my story.
My name is D’Narius Lewis. I was born in a small town in West Memphis, Arkansas. I’m the younger brother of two sisters, son of a single parent black mother, an uncle, an entrepreneur, and a life coach. I was not raised in a household where everything was spoon fed and handed to me, but my mother always made sure we had food to eat and clothes to wear. In no way were we rich, we indeed lived a paycheck to paycheck lifestyle. I didn’t have many positive African American male role models in my life, and I certainly didn’t always see eye to eye with my mother, but what I can say is she really always did, and does, have my best interest in mind.
Before the age of eighteen I had been suspended from school over ten times from the ages of eight to fifteen. I allowed my anger and my environment, at times, to decide my fate. I used to hang around the so-called “cool kids,” but really they were the ones that I would get in trouble with because I was willing to be a follower and not a leader. Deep down I knew I was making poor choices, but I was lost. The turning point in my life was when I met Bill Soderholm, my high school wrestling coach, who had a lot of faith in me. Through this sport he taught me to understand what responsibility looked like, showed me what life tools a grown man needed to maneuver in order to lead a successful life, encouraged me to see myself in my best light, and taught me to always stay accountable. Although I barely graduated high school with a GPA of 1.7, I took all of my life lesson experiences with me and I decided college would be my next step.
I encourage you, world changer, to always acknowledge your life, stay humble, remember where you came from, and understand that you do not have to be a product of your environment or a result of what others expect of you. Never let another man create your world for he will always create it too small.
What turned my life and decision making process around was when I started to recognize that the world views you, the way you view yourself. As I started to see myself in a positive light so did others.
In college I raised my GPA to 3.5, met friends who didn’t grow up with similar backgrounds as my own, traveled to three different colleges, experienced many different cultures, lifestyles, relationships, some good and some bad, and ultimately decided to live for me. After three transfers, a lot of student loan debt, and an overflow of life experiences, I decided to put a pause on college — one day I woke up and just knew it was no longer for me. I was sitting in the same math class I had to take for the third time, due to my lack of transfer credits, and as the teacher was talking I was adding up the “real world” math. I started to add up the time wasted sitting in class, the borrowed dollars wasted on classes and books, and time spent following aspirations society had pressured upon the post-high school student culture.
I dropped it all, gave it all up, and decided this is it! That was when I made the choice to become a full-time entrepreneur. I became a business owner for myself. Not only was I a CEO of my own company, but I decided to become a CEO of my life. No matter how hard the struggle and sacrifice, I knew I had and would make it, no matter what.
So I say to you, world changer, at the end of the day you have to decide. What will you decide? What values do you hold over your own life and your own ability to make positive conscious level decisions for your future? We all have a choice; what kind of life do you choose? Will it be a life of struggle or self discovery? A life of hope or constant defeat? In order to succeed you must not be afraid to fail. You will fall, but you have the choice to either stay on the ground and get trampled or get back up again and again, no matter how long it takes. You got this!
I’ve been homeless, broke, and survived the summer of 2013 with only $1.78 in my pocket. Even when I was at my lowest, I kept the bigger picture of life within my imagination at all times. I met a mentor around this time and she asked me two questions. Question one: “If money was never a option, what would you truly do with your life?” And the second question was: “Will the work and activities you are participating in today lead you to the dream lifestyle you want and deserve?” I ask you to answer the same two questions for yourself, world changer.
Here is a list of four action steps you can take to help guide you into a powerful self leading life.
1) Evaluate and write out your current financial situation.
2) Analyze and write out what changes you would like to see happen in your finances, personal life, and work life.
3) Evaluate and write out action steps you believe it will take in order to achieve the changes you wish to see. 4) Take Action!
Actions always speaks louder than words. You can do anything you put your mind to, you just have to believe you can! The only way you will fail is if you stop trying. Believe you can achieve, achieve what you believe, be you, and always stay humble.
I wish I could tell you that this is going to be the last disappointment you face, but it isn’t.
Never say never in life.
Life has given me opportunities that I never dreamt possible: a wonderful husband, a career that I adore, gifted children, and the chance to work on building an amazing legacy in others. But it has also thrown me curve balls.
I will never forget crying out to God saying, “Listen, I didn’t sign up for this. I am 24!” I wasn’t ready to have a child with a disability. I wasn’t ready to have my baby in NICU. The feeling of despair when you realize you don’t need the car seat in your car anymore because you don’t know if you are going to take your baby home. Being told you might need to feed your baby with a G-tube. Being told she has failure to thrive. Hearing your baby scream as they poke and prod, taking more blood to test for rarer and rarer disabilities.
Being told by people around you, “Well, God knew you could handle a child like this, that’s why you have a baby with a disability.” Do you bond with this beautiful baby, or do you protect your heart, in case the doctor says she won’t live much longer? And then there is that strange feeling, knowing that outside the NICU the world continues on with a hustle and bustle, while you feel so alone, trying just to get through one day. Just facing one hour at a time, one day at a time.
Then the sun rises.
It always does. Life becomes manageable. It’s never the same, and we can’t mourn what was. What life was like last year, or even yesterday. Even through the tough times, there are rays of hope, and you know that you will find those unbelievably fun, happy, joyful times again in life. I wish I could tell you that people won’t hurt you, and that you will never face disappointment again. But it will happen.
Courage, my friend.
Courage to face tomorrow, keeping life in perspective.
Courage to do the right thing, not always the easiest or sometimes most profitable thing.
Courage to treat people with respect, even when they wrong you.
Courage to have boundaries and protect what matters most.
Courage to overcome fear and go after your dreams and make an impact in other people’s lives.
Courage to speak truth when it is easier to agree with lies.
It’s a new day. Embrace the gift you have been given and make the most of it. Find those small moments of joy and be thankful always.
Open letter to my future husband
It’s interesting to think that right now in this moment we’re strangers and you’re sitting in a different house, in another part of the world thinking about all the things that keep you up till 2 am.
I don’t know anything about you, or your story. I don’t know what your laugh sounds like, or what it will feel like to hold your hand. I don’t know if you are a writer too, or if you’ll read books beside me outdoors, or if you’re running out of breath waiting for me to get it together.
But I do know, you exist.
Don’t give up on me.
It’s been a difficult yet enlightening path, and I’m sure you haven’t had an easy path either. I regret that we’ve not met sooner.
I haven’t been ready for you; I’m sorry for that. I haven’t let go of the wrong thing soon enough, and foolishly tried to turn a dead end road into you. At times, my hope in God’s plan was depleted to the size of an atom, and sometimes my heart had simply had enough.
I’ve learned that nothing will stand in the way of God’s plan. I thank Him for making it impossible for anything to work but you.
I’ve learned that distractions aren’t loud, but rather quiet little nothings that feed on time you’ll never get back.
I believe you are the love that will stun me. You’ll flip my heart on its axis and I’ll beg to be forgiven for ever doubting that you’d be there every day when I open my eyes.
I believe we’ll have that untouchable bond, and the deepest kind of love people wish they had.
I do not know if we will meet tomorrow or five months from now, but I am here, don’t give up on me.
I haven’t given up on you.
*To meet Lindsay in person and get your hands on a copy of her first book, a poignant collection of poetry, come to The Conversation Mastermind, night at the ranch October 5th. Click here to reserve your entry. Space is limited to 100 world changers.
Dear 7 year old Germaine,
Your mother will divorce your father.
She will take your two brothers to Texas and leave you behind.
Sometimes there are no answers for the actions of others. You will remember being in court and not knowing what is happening.
Prior to her departure all the memories you have will include her face. You will not have one memory of spending time with your father prior to her leaving.
After your mother leaves, your father Malcom will be a single father for 8 years. During those 8 years your father will give you the foundation of manhood.
This foundation will fortify inside you and become a staple in your life. You will accompany your father everywhere. You won’t know it yet but your father is sick.
Your fathers’ sickness is the addiction of drugs, alcohol, and woman.
You will accompany him to dope houses and be left alone for hours at a time.
You will spend time, befriend, and come to know more women than you could ever remember. These women will entertain your father. You will often hear your father having sex with these women since your room is next door.
During your time alone, you will learn to hear and trust the voice of your spirit. You will learn to speak to GOD as others speak to people they can see. The enemy will also come upon you and you will contemplate suicide.
The only grade on your 1st grade report card will be “U” unsatisfactory. Your second-grade report card will only display “N” needs improvement. These grades will reflect the inner turmoil inside of you.
You will walk to and from the school bus stop alone and come home to an often-empty house.
You will be molested by a girl several years older than you. This event coupled with your father’s life style will attach a sinful sexual appetite and spirit upon you for years. You will run away and turn yourself in to the police station.
All this will happen before the 3rd grade. The enemy will place hedges of destruction and demons all around you to prevent you from finding your purpose.
In the third grade your father will meet and marry a woman named Fredia. She will be your bonus Mom. Your bonus mom will create stability in your life. The result of your stability will be passing grades in school and the family moving to Atlanta, GA. The move to Atlanta will be a new beginning.
You will learn that God sends angels.
You will learn that sometimes you need to move, to move mountains.
Once settled in Georgia you will live in Stone Mountain. Stone Mountain State Park is the home of the monolith that has a Confederate Memorial Carving that depicts General Stonewall Jackson, Robert. E Lee and President Jefferson Davis etched in its center. The Klu Klux Klan will host rallies here.
Once enrolled in school in Stone Mountain you will be one of two black students in your class. Many of the students will call you Nigger as you walk the halls and walk home. You will fight them but feel overwhelmed. Though you are physically superior you will become exhausted because you can’t fight them all.
Robert Robinson, a man you will call POP, the only grandfather you will ever know; will tell you this –
“If you ever see me fighting a bear in the woods, help the MFing bear, cause I’m about to get his ASS.”
One of the students at school will spit in your face while you stand in line for class. You will fight and hurt him, and will receive days out of school and detention because of the incident. “Being in trouble” will no longer mean much to you.
Help the bear.
A boy name Johnathan (the other black child in your grade) will approach you and ask, “why do you get mad when they call you nigger? You are a nigger. Johnathan had it all wrong.
A Jewish boy named Luke will be your only friend. Luke’s presence will make it impossible for you to hate all people that do not look like you.
Your father’s sickness will reappear after two years. He will go missing again, and you will sit outside on the curb as you hear your bonus mom and father fight. TV’s will be thrown and the kids you play with will ask “Why did your mom say your dad spent all the money.”
Soon after your father will take you away. You will be abandoned on more times than you can remember.
You will be left with his girlfriends, left home alone, and left at the Boys and Girls Club. You will be taken to a Youth Facility after being left. You will lie to protect your father.
While in the 6th grade your father will drop you off for days at a time at the home of his girlfriend Rose. Rose will have a son and daughter. While the son is incarcerated you will sleep in his room. Once released you will sleep on the living room couch. You will be introduced to pornography and Ole English beer. Your most frequent meal will be microwaved bacon and cheese sandwiches.
You will experience loneliness.
During the middle of the school year, you will walk home as you normally do. Except no one will come to get you that day.
You will be home alone for 3 days with only your Golden Retriever Pete to keep you company.
You will eat a half-cooked chicken because you don’t know how to cook and the only thing to eat is a frozen chicken the in freezer. You and Pete will eat the chicken together. Both abandoned and both hungry.
Rose will come to get you on the third day. You will ask her to call your mom. When your mom receives the news, she will book you a flight and you will be in Texas that night. That day will be the last day you see Pete. You will not remember the last time you saw your father.
You will have a new start in Texas. The next 3 years will be extremely tough, but you’ve made it this far. YOU GOT THIS! Everything will be foreign to you. Billy the man that married your mom has adopted your brothers. Both your brothers are straight A students. You have never seen an A on a report card in your life.
The next three years will be spent mostly on punishment. You will hear your mom say “we need to let him go outside and play so he knows what being off punishment is like.”
You will have access to the family but you will not feel like you belong.
You will talk to your mom about this and she will tell you “Baby don’t make me choose between my son and my husband.”
At 12 you will be in middle school.
You will have to stay on point here. Gangs are everywhere and you will have to establish yourself. You will be jawed (someone will hit you in the face when you’re not looking) twice, over a girl.
You will witness gang fights where kids are stomped and put in the hospital, fights that encompass the entire school, race wars, drugs, and you will learn to shoot dice. In the eight grade you will witness a classmate attempt to shoot another classmate during finals. He will miss and shoot a little girl in the leg.
But you will also stumble upon the game of football this year.
You will find that you are good at the game and that it gives you an outlet for the pain and you remember what pop said: “Help the Bear!”
In the ninth grade you will have a new beginning. You will attend Lincoln Communities and Communications Magnet High School. Principled by Dr. Napoleon B Lewis AKA “Papa Bear”. This time the bear is here to help……
You will be surrounded by kids like you. That have experienced many of the things you have.
You will also be surrounded by strong teachers that will become mentors.
You will learn once again that God sends angels on earth.
You will find your voice.
To be continued…
(to read the rest of this letter: find it on the last page of Germaine’s book – released at The Conversation Event, Dallas, October 5. Click here to sign up.)
Dear Young Me,
There are so many things I’d like to tell you. So many things you need to hear. I know you’re desperately looking for guidance and it seems most of the time there isn’t very much to go around. I promise you this, it doesn’t matter. You find your way anyway.
There will be lessons, hard ones, beautiful ones. After each, you’ll take a quick look back over your shoulder — quickly though, because you should always be looking forward and your past doesn’t define your destination — and say, “I did that.” You’ll make your own opportunities. Your mistakes will be your own and you’ll grow from them. Every choice you make will be a building block of the foundation of your own life. A life of your choosing.
You are not your circumstances. Not a single person on this planet gets to choose what environment they’re born into. You can learn from bad examples as well as you can from good ones. The trick is to always keep learning. Learn from the experience of others. Listen. Watch. You don’t have to repeat the mistakes of those around you.
I know things aren’t easy for you, but they get better. Storms always pass. Always. There is nothing in life that will knock you down and keep you down. You’re a fighter. Embrace your strength. Own your strength. You’re more powerful than you know. As an adult, one of your favorite quotes will be by Marianne Williamson, “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.”
Please remember that. Focus on that light you have inside you, and not any perceived “darkness” you have around you. That light inside you, you’ll need it for when that darkness feels like it’s going to swallow you whole. Even a small spark of light will keep the shadows from touching you.
Now, this next thing I need to tell you? It’s heartbreaking, and I don’t want to tell you but you should know. You’ll never be ready to hear it, now or as an adult when it actually happens…
Your mom, your port in those storms I mentioned? You’re going to lose her. In fairness, it’s supposed to be the natural order of things, right? That doesn’t matter. You’ll be devastated. It’ll feel like drowning, like you’re being pulled down deeper than you ever knew you could be, like you can’t find the surface, because you can’t tell up from down.
You’ll watch your impervious lifeline, that stalwart woman, wither away from an illness that silently lived in her body, making itself so strong that when the doctors knew what was wrong, it’ll be too late. You’ll be angry. At her, at life, at God. You’ll rage but the worst part is that it’ll be internal, growing just as quietly as the cancer that took her away from you. You’ll forget about that inner light you have, that inner fire you’re supposed to feed to help burn brightly.
I know you. I know you better than anyone ever will. I know all the things you can’t admit to yourself yet. And, I know that what you’re most afraid of in life is loss. I know that fear will sometimes keep you from pursuing the things you want most: relationships, friends, career opportunities.
You’ll be terrified of what her illness is going to do. You’ll constantly want to run away because you’re afraid.
All children expect to outlive their parents. Nature made that so; however, it’s a far different thing when you’re given a timeline to that loss.
I’m proud to say that you don’t run away. You will face your fears and you’ll hold her hand as you walk those dark hallways of uncertainty together. You will have no regrets about those final months together. None.
In fact, you’ll be given an unexpected gift, one that will ignite some lingering ember of your internal fire that you thought for sure would be lost in the ashes of your grief.
You will get to know your mother in a way you never have before. You’ll know her as woman, as a contemporary, as someone who looks to you for the support she so thoroughly and selflessly gave you for your entire life. And she will know you. In a real and tangible way that goes beyond a parent and child.
Get to know her sooner. Don’t wait until life forces your hand. Ask questions, don’t roll your teenaged eyes at her answers. Let her into your life. Please.
Here’s the thing about your relationship with your mother and it’s something that will apply to ever other kind of relationship you’ll have in your life. You’ve always said that no one could get under your skin faster than her. (This is still true, she sure has a way of pushing your buttons, doesn’t she?). But why is that?
There actually is a reason: sometimes it is our similarities and not our differences that can make a relationship difficult.
Embrace those similarities and try to understand those differences. Please stop pushing people away because the road together may seem difficult. You may have more in common that you know. Don’t run way from things you’ll love because you’re afraid to one day lose them.
You can survive loss. You did survive loss.
Approach everything and everyone with an open heart. Fearlessly pursue what makes you happy. Build the life of your choosing. Feed that inner light. And when it gets so strong you can’t contain it? Share it with others. Be someone else’s light when their own is starting to go out.
You are strong. You’ll be okay. I promise.
And if I could ask one more thing? Please give Mom a hug from the both of us.
To The One Who Can’t Take It Anymore,
I urge you to stay with us 1 more day. I implore you to have the courage to share your heart one more time.
Don’t go!!! Stay.
Dare to have a seed of Hope. Just enough to make it to tomorrow, is a great place to start.
Your story doesn’t have to be over. The next chapter could feel completely different than this last one has. You can’t quite see it now but trust me. There is something new and exciting just around the corner.
Share your pain with someone new. Break the cycle by trying something new.
I was in pain when my 15 year old brother died, so I left my job and disappeared into Arizona with my brother for over a month.
Another time I was in pain from betrayal. I cried for weeks and no longer wanted to live but I thought of my parents and others who love me.
When I went through divorce, I could barely breathe for months and felt like I was exploding into a million pieces. Sleep was rare. I volunteered for PATH (providing access to help) and I realized when I focused on helping others with their problems mine became a little less painful.
The late rock and roll nights and empty relationships plagued me for years and culminated in jail time and thousands of dollars in fines. I felt like I had wasted my life and was a 29 year old loser. The voices in my head told me if I would just end it all then the pain would stop. I wanted the pain to stop more then anything.
I didn’t want to live anymore.
I woke up, existed and breathed, all the while slowly dying inside and repeating this process over and over and over! It seemed like forever.
Then one day something changed. I felt a little better. Finally, I had a year that was better then the last.
After a long time depression began to leave me.
Someone gave me good advice that led to another battle won.
Another victory. Another smile. More happy tears. Another victory, another smile more cleansing tears.
After years I began to believe that a brighter future was possible. I began to believe that I could be happy. I began to believe.
Let today be Day 1 of your recovery. It may not seem worth it. It may seem that all is lost. It may seem like the world would be better off without you. Those thoughts simply aren’t true. Take those thoughts captive.
I don’t want you to go. Let someone help you stay another day. I would love to pray for you and your situation.
You were Made For More. Your past does not have to equal your future. Don’t let your story end this way. Stay with us a while longer. Hang in there 1 day at a time and just breathe.
Just breathe and Believe!
– Chad Kneller
A letter to myself: Dear Quitter,
Your life is about to change. I just want to remind you that you are braver and stronger than you know. You are about to find out just how much. You are going to wake up and decide you are done.
You stayed too long because you never wanted to be labeled a quitter. To you marriage was a life long commitment. You stayed because you accepted less. Maybe you didn’t know there was more. You will leave all you know, with no education, no job and very little savings to escape an abusive marriage of 14 years to be free.
“You are teaching the our daughters to quit.”, your soon to be ex husband said.
But you are not. You are removing them from the generational bondage you have been trapped in. You are teaching them how to be free and be who they are.
Your girls won’t care that you moved out. They see it as a grand adventure, and because you are lining your steps with where God wants you, in this one moment, everything will be easy. You will spend that first night in your tiny apartment, on New Year’s Day, as a single mom and you will have peace.
You will make several bad men choices during that first year. Taking yourself from being someone’s one and only, to having 4 notches on the proverbial bedpost before the year is out. Those mistakes will shift your mindset and being alone for Christmas is what you need. Let it happen. I promise. The alone, the feeling of not mattering to someone else will be heavy but so worth it. You will find your worth in who God created you to be.
It will give you peace. You will vow to make no more man choices based on what you think you are worth or the need to NOT to be alone.
One evening, hanging with a Starbucks coworker, your entire world will change and it all starts with the best pick up line ever. “Friends totally snuggle.” The course of your life will never be the same.
Joseph’s pick-up line will turn into friends with benefits, and while this is not the preferred method of dating, being able to be part of something with no expectations and growing through it was liberating. It was like someone unlocked the prison and you are seeing the sun for the first time. It will grow into Joseph saying he loves you first and in little ways that are funny in order to remove the seriousness and power behind the words because girl, you scare him.
“I just love all of this so much”
“I love Tiarra cause she’s so delicious” (yes that is the goldfish tune)
These moments will change your life because the lack of responsibility for someone’s happiness in this FWB relationship will morph into your forever. His stuff will migrate to your apartment, you will be lost when he isn’t there and he will be lost when he isn’t with you. His views on marriage will change from “I can see myself with you for forever, but I don’t know about that marriage thing” to replacing your last name with his when discussing your future and then eloping in the park.
I told you that your life was going to change. You certainly did not think that you would fall in love with someone at a coffee shop. Cheesy right?
When you read this, it will have been 7 years since you left, more than 6 divorced, just barely 6 since Joseph first kissed you (at your curious request). This year you will have been married to your upgrade husband for 5 years, and when he looks at you it still looks like he sees his whole world in your face.
Your girls see daily the affirmation and Godly treatment of their mother. You finally broke the generational cycle of abuse. Think of not just the implications on your girls but the generations that come next!
You are now stronger, more beautiful and more amazing than ever before. There is nothing you can’t do. So, if you find yourself in a rut, read this and remember how far you have come. You can do anything. Believe in yourself. It isn’t anyone else’s job to help you understand what you are worth. And you know you are worth it and that you can do it, because you did it before.
You are loved, and you are incredible, and you are free.
To my Future Wife,
Maybe I’ve met you, and maybe I have yet to. One thing I can tell you for sure is you have occupied my dreams, given me hope during times of adversity, and that guardian angel who whispers “Keep your heart open.”
I’m exhausted of the games, the pointless sex, the emotionally closed off, and the toxic relationships that Put a sliver in your soul. I’m ready for you- the REAL deal. You are one of a kind…
You will take pride in sharing your heart with mine, and your heart will be in caring hands with me. Together we will grow. We, just like the other lovers out there, will have our times of ups and downs. Times when we will be challenged to rise to a greater potential, a greater purpose; together.
You have been extremely patient with your process. I feel a tremendous amount of empathy for you, and my intuition tells me that we have both endured a similar pain along the way. I know you will not let up on me. You refuse to hear any excuses. Your boldness will keep me humble yet motivated to keep pushing as we both continue to climb.
Our foundation will not be built on the pillars of vanity, but will stand tall on a pedestal of trust and integrity.
I will mess up and you will mess up- We won’t degrade our value though. Instead, we will channel that to strengthen our love. You see, a relationship that can endure the trials of life is built to celebrate the triumphs and victories.
We’ve both been overlooked more times than we want to remember. It’s not our fault, it never was. We were meant to grow through the experiences we had with our past- to prepare for our best love yet, along side one another. Many came for a season, most come for a reason, and you will be my lifetime.
Most people will make obligations when the sun is shining, but be the first to run when the storm comes pouring down. The rainy days show who’s real, who can endure… while the redundant get washed away.
I want that kind of love where we don’t seek to change each other but we care enough to add to each other without losing ourselves through doing so.
That kind of love that is honest and promotes our individuality. God knows I’ve worn enough masks to make the other one feel comfortable. My power needs to compliment your power. We will continue to work daily at our relationship- giving attention and effort to allow our love to prosper.
There is a fireball of passion in the pit of my soul. And with you by my side, there is no telling the heights we can soar to. I can’t wait for that day when our two worlds collide.
The thought of the last minute road trip driving to an unknown haven in the heat of the night…
The touch of your lips as we kiss each other goodnight…
The ecstatic look on our faces in the morning when making breakfast…
Having a sexy workout partner for life…
Starting businesses together, leading each other towards our destiny…
All of this we have to look forward too!
In the meantime, let’s enjoy our ride. We’re closer to each other than you realize. Our time is coming to set the world on fire.
Dear Mother of Young Children:
I know you are wondering if you will ever go to the bathroom alone again. You have wiped noses and bottoms more times than you can count. You wonder when you will ever sleep a full night without extra drinks of water or fending off monsters under the bed. Older moms tell you how quickly time flies. You smile politely and wonder when because your days are sooo long.
I know because my children were young once. Today, as you embark on another long day, I want to share a few thoughts with you.
First, I believe that our children are God’s children. They belong to Him. I had to come to grips with this very suddenly when my youngest child, Jimmy left this earth at age 15 in a tragic boating accident. He had given his life to Christ and is with Him. We don’t own our children. They belong to God. Trust Him, even when the path is dark.
Second, I find that some of my favorite memories are of ordinary things that were so stressful at the time. Potty training, homework, school projects come to mind. They weave a tapestry that binds you and your kids together. Funny stories and precious memories will be with you your whole life.
Finally, I encourage you to give yourself a break! Breathe. Laugh with your kids, let the dishes wait a few minutes, sing silly songs. Look into your children’s eyes and feel the love that wells up in your heart. Now, look in the mirror and remember that you are God’s child. He loves you even more than you love your own children. Wow.
You don’t have to be perfect to have a great day!
To My Younger Self,
Today I write to you as a 31 year old man. You might be 12, or 13 or 14, much younger than I.
You have a great life ahead of you and many successes and failures to live through. I wish I could warn you of all of the pitfalls and the traps of life, but then you would never learn the important lessons for yourself!
It is only by touching the hot stove with our hand do we know that the stove is hot. We can only learn the lesson by burning ourselves. No amount of warnings from Mom or Dad can keep you from feeling the burn first hand.
Because I want you to feel the burn of life, I will share with you my only two regrets by the age of 31.
REGRET #1 – “NOT DOING IT” IN BUSINESS
In my life I have failed at many things, in fact, I fail at 80% of what I do, but 20% of my successes are so big that they make up for all of my failures and then some. Fail fast, fail cheap and fail profitably.
Do not be afraid to fail, failure is a major part of success.
Looking back on my life, I regret none of my failures:
I have loved and lost love.
I have won friends and lost friends.
I have made money and lost money.
I have had health and lost my health.
Through the wins and losses, the only regret I carry with me is “not doing it”.
The times in life when I didn’t even try are the most painful to think back on.
You must try, and try with all your might!
Be bold, be brave, be amazing.
REGRET #2 – “NOT DOING IT SOONER” IN BUSINESS
“I wish I started sooner” are the words of every man in the pursuit of greatness.
Just like the regret of “not doing it” which leaves the questions of “what if?” and an alibi against failure, “not doing it sooner” leaves a man with smaller results and smaller impact in the world.
They say hell on earth is meeting the man you could have became.
Why not become the man you were ought to be instead?
When I look back on my life and take stock of some of the habits that have made me successful, I wish I started them sooner:
Things I wish I started sooner:
- Getting in shape
- Getting my health and diet on track
- Saving more money
- Buying real estate sooner
- Investing in my brand and YouTube channel
- Learning the skill of selling
- Studying marketing
- Investing in my self education
- Getting a business and life coach
All of the things above are endeavors that I am working towards now, but I would be further ahead in an exponential way by starting sooner. Such is the virtue of compounding.
REGRET #3 “NOT DOING IT SOONER” IN LOVE
As I write this letter to you, I am 31, single, never married and alone. I wish to have a wife, family and children one day, in fact, I would be happy to have that right now – but I should have started sooner.
If I could do it again, I would find the girl earlier, perhaps in university, marry her on faith, have some kids earlier and grow with her and face the challenges of life together.
Would it be challenging financially? Yes of course, but I have coached very high performing men for several years now and I know that the highest performing men are married men with kids.
A man with a strong enough why –
can bear any how, for a man, his why is usually holding his young son or daughter in his arms.
Married men with kids work harder, are more focused and produce more than single men or married men without children.
We are all flawed and broken creatures, they have issues, I have issues and we must simply choose to work through our issues together.
My parents’ divorce set me back decades in love because I learned to distrust women, I always thought I had to be more established and have more power to sustain a relationship. This reflected the misbalance of power between my mother and father where my father didn’t have enough money or power in the relationship and my mother left.
I have spent all of these years acquiring power and money to avoid the position my father was in and in some ways I have created freedom for myself, but in other ways I have created my own prison.
Although power and being financially established as a man are desirable assets to bring into a relationship, it is much easier to find one good girl, commit, and grow with her.
Don’t be afraid to fail, just be afraid of “not starting”.
As I get older in my thirties, there are less women my age who are desirable for marriage. Many women my age are happily married, have kids already, are single moms, got fat, hate men, are jaded, or have suffered some other fatal wound from the slings and arrows of life.
I have to look at much younger women and younger women are great, but as I get older, I have less in common with younger women.
An older man can always have a younger woman, but at what point do you have so little in common that the relationship is meaningless? At some point if she is much too young, you will have absolutely nothing in common, and that is the danger.
Are you ok with her calling you daddy because you are actually her dad’s age? I’m not sure if I want to find out. Such is the price of deferring marriage.
Don’t be afraid to break the bank, don’t be afraid to break your heart, don’t be afraid to break the world!
Anything that is broken, can be fixed, but the things that never existed – simply do not exist, they are nothing.
Do not settle for nothingness, do not settle for things that never existed, do not trade your heroes for ghosts. Instead, live life as the hero, take the risk, go on the adventure and win the beauty.
The things that never existed can only live in your mind as phantoms of your imagination that whisper to you late at night; “what if”?
Go to your grave knowing that you broke it all and you fixed it.
You are the man who will break many things with your flaws and mend them with your virtues, it all takes work and it all takes time.
But don’t mind the time, the time will pass anyways.
Don’t mind the work, for work is a man’s purpose and you must live your purpose.
Use your time on this planet to find out how things work, take them apart, break them into tiny pieces, fix them and live your life in the pursuit of your highest and greatest self.
Live and be a creator as God must have been when he made the world, but as a creator, do not be afraid to break the world in the process.
Take a risk and never settle for “what if”?
Break the world…
Your future self,
When I was growing up, I never had the opportunity to read a letter like the one I am writing to you right now. I wish I did. Not because I would want to change anything in my life, but because it would have made me think differently and helped my decision making along the way. I know this now because the amount of times I say, “I wish I knew that back then!” is staggering. Frankly, I lost count. Because of that, my efforts today are to teach those things to the next generation of leaders like you.
I didn’t have a mentor growing up. I have many now. I went from growing up in a fatherless household to living incredible success before turning 40 years old. I am extremely grateful.
My wife often tells me that she has no idea how I became the man that I am today. I chuckle. Mainly because part of me asks the same question to myself and the other part seems to answer with “it was just factor of making a couple of good decisions and being blessed with ton of luck.” Ah, not really. The fact of the matter is that it was hard work. Very hard work – and I made the CHOICE to do it. Besides hard work, the real reason was that I didn’t take shortcuts. Shortcuts never lead to sustaining success. Never forget that.
I want you to commit to yourself right now that you will finish reading this letter. I promise that, if you do, you will think differently and act differently.
In this short letter I want to tell you about 3 things. If you keep these 3 things top of mind every day, you will see success – guaranteed. That said, remember that, as you walk through life, your definition of success will change; and that is perfectly ok.
The first thing that I want to make you aware is the power of choices. Choice is a wonderful thing. It simply means that we have options. You have options.
Choice will always overrule. Always.
The choices you make (a.k.a decisions) will define your life. Whether you are a college student or just entering the workforce, your decisions will open or close doors. They will make walls or give you the power to move them – or better yet – to go through them.
It is better to make a difficult decision with choices than without them. The more choices you have, the more equipped you will be to make the decision. So, be open to choices and hold yourself accountable with the choices you make.
Wake up early or sleep in. Study for a test or hang out. Spending time with the crowd that puts you down or the crowd that lifts you up. All of these are choices. Just like the choice you had to continue reading this letter or not. I am glad you chose to read on.
The second thing I want to tell you is this: Don’t be afraid to fail. Let me tell you a secret, that is not so secret, you will fail at some point – and it’s ok if you embrace it with a positive attitude. Failure gives you the opportunity to learn from your mistakes. It is a choice within itself.
It is human nature to feel hurt when we fail. Your emotions, your mind, your self-esteem will be take a hit. But a loss is only a total loss if you learn nothing from it.
Take the hard class versus the easy one. You will never know how you will do if you don’t try. Being afraid will limit your choices exponentially.
The third and last thing I want to tell you is this: add value to people daily. This is as simple as being nice to people. If you are intentional about this, I promise your success will compound. My coach John Maxwell has a rule of 5 for adding value to people and I want to share it with you today.
Think of ways to add value
Look for ways to add value
Add value to people
Encourage others to add value to people
Aren’t these rules great? Take a moment to think about them. Write them down and let them sink in.
Alright, those are the 3 things I wanted to make you aware today. The power of choices, embracing failure, and adding value. If you do these 3 things right, you will reap the benefits. You will be a better leader. Remember, success just doesn’t magically happen. You have to consciously work on it every day.
Thank you for reading this letter and if you found it valuable, pass it on.
My door is always open.
To your success,
My Young Friend,
You’ve made it through your teenage years. That is a feat!
You’ve decided on a career as an executive. That took guts!
What you do next will take courage.
By that, I don’t mean being brave or trying to accomplish something heroic. There are too many war stories of executives, young and old alike who have left a wake of destruction in their professional and personal careers by trying to be or do something in the name of “making an impact” or being noticed.
What I mean by courage harkens back to the origin of the word from Latin: COURAGE [cor] – heart – “to speak one’s mind by telling all one’s heart.” Dr Brené Brown reiterates that courage is the choice “to tell the story of who you are with your whole heart.” The best gift you will give to yourself and others is to courageously live from your heart, your whole heart.
I know that college was about what you could produce from your mind. I know that in your career you will be measured by the power of your mind. I am not negating the role of your brain. What I am saying is that you must make the choice to live, work, and relate to others from your whole heart. Notice the differentiation. It’s not just from your heart. Because your heart, my heart, is damaged, broken and frail. Rather, as Dr. Brown states, it’s living from your whole heart. “Wholehearted living is about engaging in our lives from a place of worthiness. It means cultivating the courage, compassion, and connection to wake up in the morning and think, no matter what gets done and how much is left undone, I am enough.”
That may seem painfully obvious at best, or at worst, trite. But most people I meet in business and in life try to prove they are enough or they have what it takes. That is the drive you will encounter in the business world, whether it’s in profit or non-profit. I know because I was one of those people. They (me) will wear a mask to make it seem they have it all together. They (me) develop elaborate mechanisms to posture so that you see someone who is put together. They (me) will hope you don’t ever find out that they are human, frail or broken. They (me) will avoid vulnerability and therefore, make it difficult to trust.
We live that way because we don’t know our story. That means that we don’t know the truth of WHO we are, WHERE we came from and WHAT we are up against.
I know that I didn’t have the courage or tenacity to look deep within. I focused on the 10% of the iceberg that was above the waterline and avoided the 90% of what is in the depths of my being. I just kept striving, hoping that with each accomplishment it would be enough to show people that I was good. How empty it was!
I remember reading these words from Dee Hock, “The first and paramount responsibility of anyone who purports to manage (or lead) is to manage self…It is a complex unending incredibly difficult, oft-shunned task. Without management of self, no one is fit for authority no matter how much they acquire, for the more authority they acquire the more dangerous they become.” (Chaordic Leadership)
As a young person (husband, father, friend, leader) I had no idea how to approach self-management. Now, as someone at this stage of my life, who spends time coaching and mentoring others, I confidently share with you that your courageous journey to self-awareness and self-management is the best gift you will give yourself and others.
I didn’t do that for two decades. I made decisions that were driven by my EGO and self-protection. I know what it means to try to get from other people what they cannot give you: validation. I know the impact of spending a lifetime of motivating people to see things my way and not having the insight to know that they saw through me and the selfishness of my motivations. I know what it’s like to be so wounded and not have the courage to face it, and by not facing it inflicting my woundedness on others, mostly subconsciously. I know what it means to have to come to “the end of my rope” and know that my only choice was to surrender and learn to change from the inside-out.
I had to learn about being a transformational person so that I could eventually be a transformational leader. Transformational Leadership is based on two fundamental principles: self-awareness and self-management. If you accept that change happens from the inside-out you will ruthlessly choose to pay attention to your interior world and by doing so, it will impact your exterior world.
You will approach work differently. You will embrace change: accept change, identify what needs to change, create a vision for change, and inspire change throughout the organization. Thereby, attracting people to sacrifice perceived self-interest for a genuinely appealing collective purpose. Why? Because you do.
I am a living testimony that with focused, intentional effort, and the guidance of those who love me you can live wholehearted. I am learning to live honestly, authentically, and with inner freedom. I know what it means to serve others out of settled purpose and clear values. I know what it means to be transformative.
Frankly, most leaders would rather just work in the business than develop their own skills. The speed of business demands it and revenue dictates it. Therefore, it takes a conscious decision to dedicate time and energy to personal development; to take your own development as seriously as the top and bottom line numbers of the business.
There is so much more to share. You have a lifetime to learn about transformation. May I encourage you to unpack your story? Then read, listen to podcasts, journal, learn how to recreate well, create margins in your schedule, self-reflect, and more. Find other leaders with whom you can develop authentic relationships. Do whatever you can to find a mentor (or two) who have traveled the path before. Schedule time with them. Further still, hire a coach to provide a safe space to be vulnerable, who will ask you the right questions, challenge your misperceptions, and encourage you to be audacious in both your personal and professional life.
Enjoy the journey and be courageous!
- Mark Freier
Dear Younger Me,
I’m writing you this letter with the desire to help you as you walk through this uncertain life. If you will receive guidance from one who has gone before you and walked in your shoes, you will not be disappointed. Believe me when I tell you, life is too short to learn everything the hard way. Yes, pain is a wonderful teacher, but it shows no grace. With that being said, I pray you have a willingness to receive my words of advice, believing that I am for you.
DO IT SCARED
I promise your greatest accomplishments in life will happen outside of your comfort zone, usually way outside of your comfort zone! This is where faith comes in. Don’t wait until you feel ready to try something new because that day may never come. Instead, do it scared. You will find that engagement brings clarity and that fear is a liar. Preparation is important and I encourage it, but there needs to come a time when you quit thinking and start doing, when “ready, set, go” must change to “go, set, ready!” You will be amazed by all that you will accomplish when you believe it before you see it.
You have a tendency to be very hard on yourself. Think about it, you would never talk to another person the way you speak to yourself. It will become a habit for you to look in the mirror and critique every flaw and perceived imperfection. Your initial response to any mistake you make will be a harsh thought or a condemning word. You will think it’s okay because you’re not saying it to another person, but it’s not. Stop it! Give yourself the grace you would give others. In order to do this, you have to change your thought patterns. You will struggle with insecurity until you understand who you are in God’s eyes. You belong to Jesus and that means you are loved, chosen, royalty, redeemed, needed, wanted, forgiven, and so important that He died for you. When you truly believe this, you will be able to be nice to yourself and to others. You will be able to freely give grace because you have received it. This is where you need to make a choice. You will either believe the Word or you will believe the world. The world will lie to you. God never will. When you put your trust in Him, your life will be filled with an inner peace, regardless of your circumstances, that no amount of fame or fortune can provide.
DON’T LET THE URGENT GET IN THE WAY OF THE IMPORTANT
The world that you live in believes that being busy is a virtue and to be successful you have to join the rat race. Don’t believe it! This is an exhausting way to live. Always remember that you can’t manage time but you can manage your choices. My advice to you is to never let the urgent get in the way of the important. Urgent, pressing matters will always be there, loved ones won’t. Choose to spend your time by putting people first. Who do you need to call? Who do you need to forgive? Who do you need to spend time with? Who do you need to encourage? In the end, the only thing that matters are relationships.