My oldest son just turned 18 years old. A milestone that I wanted him to remember and I struggled with what I could give him that would make a lasting impact. I decided to write him a letter with the goal being it could be a compass he can return to over the years to set his course in life. Here is the letter. Perhaps you can get some ideas for writing a letter to your kids in the future. I shared this letter because I got the idea from someone else who had shared their letter.
Happy 18th Birthday Davis,
Today is a day you will long remember. Today you become a man. At least you are the legal age of maturity according to our culture. But it’s true. You can vote. You can drive. You can enter into a contract. You can fight and die for our country. Voting, driving, signing and fighting don’t make you a man. Being a man is about more.
I believe you were born for greatness. You were born to make a difference. Inside you are the seeds of greatness. Being a man means digging deep, finding those seeds, believing they exist, being able to delay gratification, being patient, thinking long term and watering and tending to them diligently. You must also be willing to take a close look and pull out the weeds that can ruin everything. I tell you this because I know you and what is possible for you. Our family has a long history of success and you will continue that legacy.
You are here for a reason. Being a man means making nothing more important that finding out what that reason is and then living it fully. There is a famous quote says there is two great days. The day you are born and the day you discover why! Live your reason and your why with every part of you.
What kind of man should you be? That’s up to you. Be your own man. Claim your place in the world. Being your own man means not taking someone else’s path. It means standing for something worthy of who you are. It means saying no and not doing what you know is wrong. It means saying yes to what’s in your heart, even though your head says something else. It means knowing that your thoughts will lie to you sometimes.
Being your own man means being a man of your word — saying what you will do and then showing you really mean it by taking strong, decisive action. It means doing the right thing even though that thing may be scary, or difficult, or you think will piss people off, or even seems dangerous. You do it because it’s the right thing to do. You know it’s the right thing to do because your conscience and your heart tell you so. Boys do what is easy. Men do what is right. Doing what you say you will do is a rare thing in our world today. It is one of the easiest ways to stand apart from the crowd.
Be a good man. A good man knows himself. He knows who he is and has a clear vision and game plan for his future. He does not wing it! He knows his shadow side and what his negative tendencies are and takes action to change them. A good man treats others the way they would want to be treated. He is fair in word and action. He admits to being wrong when he is wrong, and he defends his values when they are attacked.
A good man knows how to love. He loves with his whole heart and he knows that vulnerability is not a sign of weakness but of strength. A good man lives for the joy of being alive and of knowing he is doing his best. He does not allow himself to be bound by regrets of the past nor by wishful thinking for the future, but instead takes quiet and decisive action in the present. A good man constantly strives to be a better man. A good man can be a great man and the world needs more great men. I believe you will one day be a great man.
I believe we are all here to love and be loved. So give of yourself generously, willingly, constantly. Be quick to smile and engage others with energy and empathy. Wear your heart on the outside and let your love and energy shine. It will be a beacon that calls other willing hearts to you. Yes, you will hurt sometimes. Yes, you will feel lonely sometimes. But let yourself love. When you love fully, with your whole heart, there will be no stopping you.
Be a man who is known by his affections and his actions. Value your family and forge friendships that last. I have seen growth in your relationship with Lucas. You are the big brother and need to set the example. He watches you very closely. Take the opportunity to do things together. Stay in touch with Madison. Spend more time with your grandparents and create some moments that will stay with you.
A good man is confident in their abilities but remains humble. You can accomplish anything you put your mind to, so don’t doubt your abilities. Napoleon Hill said, “ Whatever the mind can conceive and believe it can achieve.” Remember that talent is overrated. Having grit, guts, perseverance, heart, determination and passion is more important than talent. Your superior work ethic and curious nature to figure things out yourself will serve you well in the future.
Be willing to arrive early and stay late. Smile, be nice, be gracious with exceptional manners and be one of the few to write the thank you card. Look people in the eye, speak with enthusiasm and keep your great handshake. You can take 100% control of your effort! Doing your best is a habit that will have a compounded impact on your future. There will be disappointments and set backs. Expect them and know there is a lesson to learn. Everything happens for a reason and purpose and serves you. Know that one day you will look back and often be glad it happened.
You have heard me speak about the law of association many times. You will become like the people, books, music, movies, TV show, phone apps you spend the most time with. Some things that are consuming large parts of your time write now are simply not worth it. When you were a boy, you could maybe get away with it, but that time has passed. You must choose to disassociate from them. When you get to college soon you will have to choose your friends wisely. You can have more because you can become more than you are today. One day the girl you will marry will be attracted to you because of you because of who you have become. You will not have to pursue her.
Remember what Jim Rohn taught me, “Money is an exchange of value.” It is not an exchange of time! You will be paid for how much VALUE you bring to the hour, week, month. You need be thinking about simple ways you can become more VALUABLE each day. 4% of each day in is one hour. That would be a good goal that will serve you well. I have an amazing library of books and can direct you to the videos and podcasts that will make a difference. The Harvey McKay University is a great resource on line for you. Getting a “degree” there will do more for you than the college degree you will earn one day. You must be a lifetime student. NSA founder Cavett Robert said, “School is never out for the professional.” Continue to be involved in the NSA kids leadership program. Those relationship can last a lifetime.
Being a Christian and accepting Christ as your Savior is the path you have chosen. Your faith will be your guiding light. Asking the question, “What would Jesus Do?” can be your inner compass to help guide your decisions. Treat your body as a temple, a holy place, and fashion your life carefully, knowing that every step you make matters. Making good decisions with what you choose to put in your body is critical.
The Holy Spirit is in you. I see it even if you yet do not yet. Know it is there and remember it on those tough times when nothing seems right and you feel lost. Remember the Holy Spirit inside you — its light will never fully dim, and is always ready to warm you even at the coldest of times. Let your actions spring forth from that light within you, guiding your way and lighting your steps. Be a shining light for the Holy Spirit.
I believe in you, son. I believe in your heart, your desire, and your courage. I am excited about the journey that lies before you. I am deeply proud of the boy you have been and equally proud of the man you are becoming – A good man now and a great man in the future. It begins today. I hope you review this letter often.