Our oldest son returned late summer from Denmark where he spent a gap year before starting college this fall. We are so glad to have him home. He was part of an exchange program, lived with a host family, and volunteered at a Danish school helping middle and high school students perfect their English speaking skills.
Our youngest son has also started college this fall. Like most parents we want the best for our kids and over the past two years I have been especially trying to pass on my “vast array of knowledge” and hopefully wisdom to spare them unnecessary trials and tribulations as they make their way into the real world. One thing I repeatedly stress is the importance of making good decisions.
The quality of all our lives is directly related to the quality of the decisions we make. We all receive misfortune at times; some more than others. We all receive good fortune at times; some less than others. But, in the end it is our decisions that determine our fate.
Yet, rarely are we taught how to make decisions, and yet we make decisions by the minute. Making good decisions is likely the most important skill one can develop, but it is greatly ignored. It is has been estimated that adults make 35,000 remotely conscious decisions a day. Many are reflexic but, some take great care and deliberation.
Over the next few weeks I will write a mini-series on making decisions and share words of wisdom that I have found helpful in my own life even using some of my bad and good decisions as examples. Before our son, David, left for Denmark I wrote him a letter with some last minute advice. My original plan for this first article was to write in typical article style on these words of wisdom but found it too clumsy, cumbersome, and not very impactful.
Instead, I have decided to personalize the message for more relevance. I will simply re-print my letter to David here. Parts of four paragraphs have been condensed into one making a single teaching point that trials and tribulations make us better. You will see a break in the text where that occurs.
The remainder of the letter stands as originally written including personal thoughts and feelings which I have left in to provide context to the letter, purpose to the advice, and to allow this piece to flow like a letter should rather than simply turning it into a laundry list of hollow advice by omitting them.
I doubt any of the advice I shared with David is original. But, it is amazing how effective following these words of wisdom can be. And, it is equally amazing how infrequently they are actually practiced. These are ancient philosophies that have stood the test of time.
I thank you in advance for allowing me to reveal a private side. I hope this is well received. And, while this advice was for David, it is the same advice I would give any young person venturing into the world today.
May you find the advice sound and practical, and perhaps even applicable to your own life today regardless of your age. The letter begins after the photo below.
Wow! Where has the time gone? I am so very excited for you and happy that you have this terrific opportunity in Denmark. Make the most of it.
I love you more than you know. And, I will miss you more than you can imagine. You have brought so much life to our lives. And, you have become a wonderful young man with the biggest heart I know.
Our responsibility as parents is to give you roots to ground you and wings to let you soar. I hope mom and I have succeeded in giving you the roots – the roots to live a virtuous and moral life.
But, now it is time to let you soar. Spread those wings and take off. Experience all the you can. Discover as much of the world as possible. Discover yourself. You are very fascinating person in case you did not know.
Stay curious. Stay kind. Stay generous. Stay young at heart. Stay positive. Stay David!
There will be ups and downs – but nothing worse than anything you have already experienced ………. I have no doubt you will come out better for enduring it. And, I think you begin to see that as well. Such challenges and difficulties better prepare us and better make us …………. You may some day look back ……. and see it as a blessing in disguise.
Pray for wisdom, courage, and strength. Wisdom to understand God’s plan for you, the courage to fulfill it, and the strength to endure the challenges along the way – and there will be challenges.
Seize the day! Don’t let a day slip by without taking advantage of it in some way. Don’t simply get through the day. Make the day. Make each day a masterpiece!
The quality of your life will be directly related to the quality of the decisions you make. A big part of that is the people you choose as your friends. This also includes the person you choose to marry.
Choose wisely. Make good decisions. I warn you, it is not always easy as it sounds. Too often most people make decisions out of convenience. Don’t fall into that trap. Most often the least convenient option is the best option.
The best decisions are frequently the hardest decisions, and they generally require sacrifice, time, effort, and patience.
Be a great volunteer. You are representing your country, your family, but most importantly you are representing yourself. Take pride in your work. Leave everybody with a favorable impression of you.
You only get one chance to make a good first impression. Overcoming a bad initial impression is difficult.
Arrive early, stay late, do more than you are asked. All of that does not go unnoticed by quality people. It is the little things that will pave your way to success.
Finish the job! Anyone can start something. Successful people are the ones that finish what they start.
Keep your word. Do what you say. Say what you mean. Be good. Do good. Live well.
Live life large while keeping regrets small. Go for it.
Love people. Love life. Love and it will be returned. Sow and you will reap, though not always from the same place you sow. But, sow anyway. You also reap what you sow, so sow carefully. We attract that which we are.
You can never know enough. Seek out wise people, and learn from them. Listen more than you speak. Many times it is who you know that matters most. Take advantage of opportunities to meet new people – and then stay in touch with them.
Keep laughing! Keep smiling! Keep the little voice inside close by and listen to it. It will keep you from difficulty and steer you in the right direction. Follow your heart. It knows where you are destined to go.
I am most curious to see how your life turns out. All of that is now up to you. You are now your own person. You always were – but not you get to make the important decisions. Your life is what you make of it.
Make your life special. Make it unique. Make it purely David! You have an extremely bright future. Be sure to standout from the others and shine in your own way. Be yourself and become the best you the best you can.
It is time to show the world what you can do. Now go out and do it!
You have come a long way this past year and I am very proud of you. It is a privilege to be your dad. You have already touched the lives of many. Touch the lives of many more along the way.
We will always be your parents. We will always be here for you. We will always wish the best for you. We will always pray for you. We will always help you. We will always believe in you. We will always love you.
And, most assuredly, we shall miss you!
You have touched our lives immeasurably, and for that we are grateful. We thank you for being part of our lives.
David, thank you for being such a wonderful son and the terrific young man you have become.
With all my love,
The advice in this letter is simple but everyone must make their own decision to follow or not follow these recommendations. The letter alludes to making decisions based on convenience. Pursuing convenience is a fatal flaw and the fundamental reason the outcome of lives for many fall short of expectations and hopes. It will be the focus of the an upcoming article on this topic of decision-making.
Until that time ponder this from Theodore Roosevelt, “Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure, than to take rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy much nor suffer much, because they live in the gray twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat.”
The poor spirits he speaks of are those who pursue convenience (seek comfort) through their decision-making.
The next or second article in this series is “We Get What We Deserve By the Decisions We Make”. This is will be a 3 part article.