Last year, I was asked to write a letter to my younger cousin who was graduating high school. The letter, along with others, was presented to him during their Senior Breakfast. It was such an honor to be among the people who have impacted his life that I wanted to make sure I used the platform wisely and share some insights that I wished someone would have shared with me at that age. These eight things are directed towards young men but hopefully can be appreciated by all.
1. Remain filled with wonder and curiosity.
There will be various forces in this world that will try to steal your youthful inquisitiveness along your path. They could be peers pressuring you to think their way out of their own insecurity (misery truly does love company) or bitter adults whose perception of the world was solidified in stone and calloused over years ago. Don’t let them steer you away from a path of wonder and adventure.
2. Treat everyone with respect regardless of social status, sex, gender, sexuality, race, ability, political affiliation, religion, or country of origin.
We all have special insight and beauty that should be shared with each other. Albert Einstein once said, “I speak to everyone in the same way, whether he is the garbage man or the president of the university”. Understanding the power of respect and humility is what separates great leaders from the rest of us.
3. Treat everyone with compassion regardless of social status, sex, gender, sexuality, race, ability, political affiliation, religion, or country of origin.
Keep your heart open, even during times of pain. Pain is inevitable. How we react to pain and use it to strengthen ourselves by softening our heart and having compassion, not only for others but for ourselves, is what makes humanity beautiful.
4. Treat women with dignity, respect, and above all else equality.
Historically, women have had it a lot harder than men. Understand that and work to improve it on an individual level by not falling victim to “boys club” mentality.
5. Meditate or pray every day.
I suggest doing it right after you wake up but at least carve 10-15 minutes out of your day to close your eyes, count your breath, and be completely present in the moment. Your mind and spirit are muscles and like every muscle, they need to be worked out on a daily basis to stay in shape.
6. Realize how lucky you are to be a human being.
Wait…what? Yes! Entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk says that the odds of becoming a human being are 400 trillion to one. That means that you are more likely to win the lottery 10 times in your lifetime than becoming a human being. So, whenever you feel like complaining or whining about this or that just remember that you are literally a triple miracle in the form of a human and use that knowledge to take life by the throat!
7. Be patient and practice equanimity.
Life is going to throw you a ton of curve balls so try and remain calm through the storm (Number 5 will help with this). As corny as it sounds, the journey really is where the gems lie are found in life and not necessarily at the finish line. Appreciate the struggles and obstacles that arise during your journey because they will help shape you and allow you to value the victories that much more.
8. Never forget that family is always first.
No matter how many friends you make, girlfriends that may or may not break your heart, classes you take, internships you land, games of golf you play, cars you drive, sandwiches you eat, concerts you attend, beers you chug (when you are of legal age of course), late nights you spend studying, or spring break trips you conveniently forget…your family is everything and will always be there to support you in any way, through the good times and the bad.
Don’t forget it.