When I reached fifty years old, I had a realization, I have lived longer than the life I have left to live. That was a WOW moment for me. As of now, the average life expectancy for a male in the United States is 78.40 years. Now that I am fifty three I am staring down the barrel of 25.4 years. The first twenty five years of my life went by as a glimmer in my eye, I hope the next twenty five go by a lot slower. Now, being fifty three years old I have been there, done that and bought every T-shirt imaginable with fifty three years of life experience printed on them. I have been to the basement of the lowest valley and taken the express elevator to the peak of the highest mountain, and I can say this fifty three year journey has been five plus decades of education. There has not been a day in my life that I did not learn something new and good, bad or indifferent it was life lessons learned. I learned at a early age that listening, paying attention, and just taking it all in was a big part of learning, learning from others lives, their mistakes and their accomplishments. Nothing I learned in a book ever taught me to be kind, to be forgiving, to be patient, to be loving or to be a father. All of this, I learned from my parents, grandparents and from other influential people in my life. I can, with all honesty and humbleness say, the people that have come and gone in my life have taught me many things but the people that have stayed in my life taught me everything and made me the man I am today.
On October 28th, twenty one years ago, my son was born. So, I have had 21 years to prepare for this day, but I am as unprepared as I was day Jarrett made his debut. What advice do I give a twenty one year old when he has grown up in a generation worlds apart from the one I grew up in. A time in which technology is the norm and instant gratification is a touch or a swipe away. A time when you have the entire world in your hand, infinite information at your finger tips and no idea what a dial up telephone is. Well, the advice is the same no matter the generation, no matter the year and no matter the amount of technology. So here it goes, my advice to my twenty one year old.
Learn something new everyday. Nobody knows everything and that includes you. Listen to everything. Pay attention to the people that have succeeded and failed, they have lessons to be learned. Knowledge is food for the brain, don’t starve your brain.
Be kind. Kindness is reciprocal, and the more you present the more you receive. No one ever lost anything trying to be kind. Kindness is a gift that you give freely with no strings attached. Never expect anything in return from an act of kindness, if you do it was not truly from the heart. You never know when that one random act of kindness will change your life or someones else’s forever.
Be humble. Put the needs of others before your own, when at all possible. If you are wrong, admit it, a true sign of maturity and humility.
Be proactive. Think ahead, plan for tomorrow, next month and 10 years from now. You are twenty one now but in the blink of an eye you will be fifty one. Don’t think “I will always have tomorrow,” because before you know it, tomorrow will be yesterday.
Be respectful. Respect the ones that brought you into this world, and the ones that teach you something everyday. When respect is given, respect is returned. Respect is something that is earned and you earn it through being trustworthy.
Be mindful of others. You never know what someone is going through in their life. Never judge them until you have walked in their shoes.
Be a dreamer. Dream big and work toward that dream. Never let the dream die, even if life takes you down a different path keep your dream alive. Dreams are the fuel that keeps life going.
Be grounded. The saying goes “You can’t have roots and wings.” I disagree with that statement, I believe you need to be grounded to fly, you need stability to grow, you need to be grounded to seek out the wonders of life. So stay grounded as you take on the world.
Be faithful. Stay strong in your faith. Faith and hope are the only two things that give you peace in times of turmoil and tragedy.
Be honest, don’t lie or cheat. Lying and cheating are cowardly acts. If you were man enough to say it or do it be man enough to admit to it. That first lie starts a snowball effect that creates an avalanche of hurt, and lack of trust that could last a very long time. No matter how bad it is, the people that love you will still love you, always tell the truth.
Love with all your heart. When you find that someone, love them with all your heart. If that someone turns out to be the wrong someone and your heart gets broken, I assure you it will heal, it will be whole again, and you will love again.
Never let anyone change who you are. God made you the way you are for a reason. Don’t ever let anyone try and change you to be what they want you to be. You will lose yourself and live in a world of misery. Stay true to yourself. If they are your friend, or the love of your life, they will love you for who you are, not what they want you to be.
Don’t ever think you can change some one else. Don’t ever think, “I can change them.” You will be in for a rude awakening. People change when they want to change, when they decide to change their life, not when you “will” them to.
Be happy and love your life. Be happy and love your life. You will never be truly happy or love life until you are happy with yourself. I am not referring to your appearance, your income or your social status, I am referring to your heart, your soul, your inter-self. Happiness is not a destination, it is a journey that never ends. True happiness is seeing how happy other people are because of you, and you make a lot of people happy. Learn to love yourself for who you are and then you will see the love of others surround you.
At the end of the day, when you lay your head down on that pillow and it is just you and your own conscience lying there, it does not mater what size house you live in, it does not matter how many cars are in the drive way, how much money you have, or how many friends you have, what truly matters is the person you have become and how you treat the people around you. Stay true to yourself, maintain your course, keep your feet firmly planted in the ground but reach for the stars, respect the ones you love and even the ones you don’t, think ahead, love with all your heart and I believe you will have a truly “Wonderful Life” and in the words of Harry Bailey “Be the richest man in town”.
I love you son, as always, “Make wise choices.”