Recently, I was asked to write a letter sharing advice to a student growing up in today’s world. It was published yesterday in The Conversation’s Letters from a Mentor. I want to share the letter with you because its not just for students – it’s for everyone. Just replace the student references with your situation.
Here is what I wrote:
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,