Letters to my sons
A collection of thoughts and lessons I've learned along the way for my little men, and anyone else that's interested.
Posts posted in 2017
We live in a world that is quickly commoditizing skills, assets, experiences, and capabilities. Globalization began with goods; starting with raw minerals and materials and eventually expanding to finished products. Then came services; the ability to have offshore call centers for example. Then came ideas and philosophies; the internet has made mass proliferation of thoughts and ideas instantaneous.
Just about everything you can think of that is outside your body can be exported to you in a matter of days, if not sooner, and if desired, can be replicated fairly effectively and efficiently.
That leaves our minds, our opinions, our beliefs, and our convictions as the last bastion of our unique selves.
There’s a scene from one of my favorite movies, The Shawshank Redemption where the incarcerated main character Andy Dufresne, played by the marvelous Tim Robbins risks his life boldly stepping up to one of the prison guards to offer his services as an accountant. After dangling Dufresne’s body over the edge of the roof where they were standing, the guard relents and accepts Andy’s help. In exchange, Andy asks simply for two buckets of beers for his fellow prisoners currently working roof detail.
His prison mate Ellis Redding, played by the legendary Morgan Freeman narrates, speculating that the reason Andy pulled off such a stunt was simply so that he could feel human again. That sitting up on the roof in the hot sun with a bucket of beers allowed him and his fellows to remember what it meant to be free men; and that was a beautiful thing.
Our beliefs, our convictions, our values - these are things that can never be taken from us.
And so it behooves us to be critical of them. If men are defined by what they believe in, what they stand up for, what they are passionate about, then you must be critical of those things. Do not allow the world to imprint them on you unwittingly. Be intentional about defining and refining your beliefs. Debate them with trusted peers. Meditate on them. Reflect and expound on them. They are the things that make you unique, and are the things that will ultimately drive the direction of your lives!
My prayer for you is that the two of you will be steadfast in your beliefs; that when the winds of the world blow, they will find you firmly grounded in beliefs that you have thought out, debated, and formulated as a culmination of your experiences, your relationships, and your critical thinking. I pray that the two of you would have a relationship where you can be that sounding board for one another. May you both grow to be men of bold beliefs, strong convictions, and non-extinguishable passions.
Tags: #Character #Discipline #Connection #Intentional #Mind
Today, we grew our little family of three to a family of four! What an amazing journey it has been, and what a thrilling ride, filled with many ups and high points as well as its fair share of plummets into the low points. But I am blessed. We are blessed. Welcome to our world, my little boy.
To my firstborn -
You will always be my firstborn. You will be the one to blaze the trail, to forge a path for you and your brother to walk. You will hold a special place in my heart, not because I love or will love you any more or less, but because you are my firstborn son. Yours is a life of leadership, of nurturing, of guiding, and of great responsibility. I love you and will always root for you, cheer for you, converse and discuss and debate with you, and be here to support you as many days as I have.
To my newborn -
You are my baby boy. You are blessed to have someone who is a little further along to look towards, and to walk with. You will hold a special place in my heart, not because I love or will love you any more or less, but because you are my youngest, my baby. While your life may have an example and a blazed trail ahead of you, you will also have the luxury of choosing whether or not you want to follow that trail. Where your brother needed to lead, to nurture, to guide, and to be responsible, you have the privilege of deciding which of those things you want on your own unique path and journey. I love you and will always root for you, cheer for you, converse and discuss and debate with you, and be here to support you as many days as I have.
To both of you -
Today, our family has grown. May this be a reminder to both of you to always grow, to always be learning, to always be moving forward. May you grow individually into the men that you are meant to become. May you both step into the richest and fullest of lives laid ahead of you. May you decide to grow together and to walk this journey with a friend. And may God’s favor and blessing be upon you, all the days of your lives.
Tags: #Love #Connection #Family
Each generation stands on the hard work and tireless efforts of those that have come before. The world changes at a rapid rate, and this fact has never been more evident than it has in our lifetime. The information revolution has exponentially accelerated the pace at which the world changes, ideas proliferate, barriers are broken down, and collaboration happens.
This is the world that you will grow up in, that you will experience, and that you will impact.
As such, it becomes increasingly important to be mindful of where you get your grounding and the influences that shape you. There is no such thing as a self-made man; every man learns from others, studies those that have come before, and gets advice from those that have run ahead.
We stand on the shoulders of giants.
Never forget that. In times past, social currency was anchored on many different things; coats of arms, gold in the vault, status in society, position in a patriarch, net worth, and even physical beauty. In an age of globally proliferated ideas, social currency is being increasingly anchored on thought leadership and on the reach of one’s ideas.
I urge you to be well-learned; study the thoughts and artifacts those giants before us have left behind. Learn from them. Life is too short for us to learn everything we need to know on our own. Ask for help, seek advice, and listen to the stories of your elders. Though they may come from a different context and from a different time, there are transcendent lessons to be learned and universal concepts to be shared. And who knows, you may stumble upon a wonderful mentoring relationship in the process.
Learn from those giants. Stand on their shoulders and elevate our world to new heights. I’m so proud of you, and can’t wait to see the world that you shape.
Tags: #Connection #Changing the world #Perspective #Intentional #Mentoring
Today, you turn four. What a joy you are! You are such a beautiful, wonderful, kind, adventurous, and mischievous little guy - I love you so much! Your mom calls you my little buddy cause we do all sorts of things together. I couldn’t be happier. Much of what I’ve been learning these days I’m learning from you and with you, and I love the thought that I get to share those learnings with you here with the hopes that someday when you’re older, you’ll read them and they’ll be learnings for you as well.
When I was growing up, I read many different articles and perspectives around what love is. Love is a feeling. Love is a commitment. Love is a choice. Love is easy. Love is hard. Love is patient. Love is a million different things, depending on who you ask and what perspective you’re coming from.
While I don’t pretend to be any expert on the matter, and while I won’t attempt to give a full definition of what love is, I believe that one of the things that defines people who love strongly is that they choose to love. Regardless of your definition of love, regardless of how you experience it and what it means to you, I firmly believe that very often, love is a choice.
It’s easy to love someone when everything is going very well. It’s easy to love someone that’s very lovely, loves you back, is in sync with you and your thoughts and perspectives. It’s hard to love someone that is doing things to make themselves less lovable to you. It’s hard to love someone when they’re at odds with you, when they’re attacking you, when they’re in violent opposition to things that are at the core of your being and values.
And yet I urge you to choose love.
Whether we’re talking about an unlovable neighbor, a combative classmate, a family member currently at odds with you, or even a spouse that you’ve got a strong disagreement with; choose love. It’s hard. It takes self sacrifice and patience. It requires you to grit your teeth and not fight back. It means you have to take punches without throwing up your guard and without counter attacking.
But it will be worth it.
My prayer for you is that you are able to choose love more often than the alternatives, and that you grow to become a man that is characterized by his heart for people. We have always prayed that you be a kind person; I would urge you to go one step further and be someone that chooses to love when everyone else disagrees. Because love conquers all things. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Tags: #Character #Love #Connection #Joy #Purposeful Living
Something I realize I’ve taken for granted in these posts is the fact that I believe deeply that you can change your stars. Not just that you can be whatever and whomever you want to be, but that the future is unwritten, and that you can be an author in the grand drama that is ever unfolding.
One of the greatest founding principles and beliefs of many of our modern nations is that we are free. Free to believe, free to speak, free to associate, free to express, and free to be happy with the life and path that we’ve chosen. That freedom is the very foundation on which many, if not all, of the thoughts that I’m able to share with you are based on. I have nothing but the utmost respect and gratitude for that freedom, and for the men and women that make that freedom possible.
That very freedom is the foundation by which we are able to move life forward, are able to be a change agent, are able to thoughtfully and intentionally shape our world the way we dream of. To quote from Whitman:
You are here - that life exists and identity,
That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse.
You may contribute a verse. You may author a verse. You have the power to impact that powerful play, and you can be a force that can change the world.
The only way to do that is to be authentic in your expression. Write your verse. Speak your mind. Sing your songs. Make your music. But do all of those things authentically. Do them with the fullness of your conviction and your beliefs. Don’t take half measures. Be all in.
The world is full of people, of corporations, of agendas that want to shape you into something you’re not. Don’t let them. As the Lord said to Joshua,
Be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go. ~Joshua 1:9
So my challenge to you today is to write, to sing, to dance, to paint, to create, to invent, or to do whatever it is that you do. And to do it all with all your heart and determination. The future is truly unwritten, and it is up to you how you want to write it.
Tags: #Intentional #Perspective #Purposeful-living #Tomorrow
Something in life that’s very difficult to balance well is risk against comfort. While these are often at odds with one another as many other things are, these two have the power to completely shape a life. Comfort can be a place of healing, of relaxation, of rejuvenation and recovery. Risk can be a place of trial, of hardship, of overcoming, of victory and growth.
Both of these in moderation can be great things, and finding a strong balance between the two is difficult. To top that off, there are many different philosophies and beliefs as to what the right balance is, and undoubtedly you have friends and acquaintances that will strike different balances and may even entice you to share their view.
I urge you to strike a balance that leans towards a risk and growth mindset.
Now, I’m not saying that comfort, rejuvenation, and relaxation are bad things; rather, I’m saying that those things reduce momentum and lower movement. There are certainly times in life where lowering movement and being still are exactly the right things to do. But those times shouldn’t be as often as our times of movement.
Life is a constant refinement; we were made to grow, to move life forward, to progress and advance our world. One cannot do that without motion.
And so I challenge you to keep moving. Let your default be to move, to risk, to take action, to grow. Know that inertia is hard to overcome. Know that comfort has many vices and becomes easier the more we seek it and stay in its embrace. Know that you are not a finished product, that the potter has much molding to do, much refinement to make. And know that I will cheer you on, in whatever race you’re running, along whatever path you find yourself on.
Tags: #Movement #Character #Focus #Fulfillment
One of the most remarkable things about our world is how diverse it is. From the thousands of different species of plant and animal life to the millions of tiny organisms that the eye can’t even see, there is such diversity and imagination in every living breath and being that we encounter. And yet it all works together to form something more beautiful in its entirety than its individual parts.
As I’ve grown and learned over the years, I’ve realized that just as how the natural world has much harmony in its diversity and is more breathtaking and awe-inspiring as a result, our social world ought to follow nature’s path.
It’s an interesting phenomenon, our natural instinct to stay close to the similar, the familiar. It starts so young - little boys sticking together in packs because the girls have cooties, strangers from the same race sitting at the same lunch table together, people who dress the same way forming their own little cliques. Part of this stems from a feeling of familiarity and belonging in shared similarities; this much is totally fine and good, but the other part, the part that stems from fear of the unknown and fear of things that are different, that part is a bit trickier.
My challenge to you today is to be brave. Ever since you were little, your mother and I have been encouraging you to be brave, encouraging you to face your fears with bravery and be willing to stand up to things that aren’t right. You’ll need that bravery to be inclusive, to welcome all comers, to embrace those that are different than yourself. Not only because you’ll need to overcome your own fears, but because you’ll need to stand up to the masses that are telling you that you’re wrong, that those that are different aren’t welcome.
The Bible tells us that God so loved the world. The whole world. Not just one race, not just one gender, not just one demographic, not just one intelligence level, but the entire world. And our goal is to spread that inclusiveness in all our circles, be it professional, academic, or social.
So my prayer for you today is that you’ll be someone who is known for being kind, for being inclusive, for bringing in those that need shelter from the storm, for being the one that stands up for the little guy.
Tags: #Character #Fear #Purposeful Living #Inclusion
We live in a time when the amount of information that’s available out there is enormous. The information age is in full swing, and we’re generating data at an astronomical rate. Gartner has forecasted that the sheer volume of information that will be generated in a single year in 2020 will be four times the amount of information accumilated from the dawn of the internet to our present day.
By 2020, we’re also expected to surpass one trillion devices in the world that are connected and generating raw information for someone to consume. For a world population of 7 billion or so, that’s an astronomical amount of devices.
So why am I bringing this up? Because the average person will be overwhelmed by the sheer volume of the stream of noisy information that they get, and it will become critical for you to know how to turn that information into insight that you can act on.
As with everything in life that’s worth doing, this takes practice. There’s no substitute for raw hours put in to refine your craft and your abilities. So practice. Be diligent about consciously tuning out the noise and filtering out what you need to hear.
Next, know what you’re looking for. Know what you need from each information stream and don’t get drawn in to the distractions. Remember that much of the content that’s out there is made to distract, to entertain. Isn’t it strange that when something doesn’t have actual value, we say it has entertainment value?
Lastly, tell stories. Each new insight that you take in should sharpen your narrative and provide clarity to the story you’re telling. Make sure it does that, and make sure you tell each updated version of your story often.
Because at the end of the day, the most valuable thing we’ll be able to add to this world’s story is our own.
Tags: #Character #Focus #Intentional #Purposeful Living #Storytelling
As the technology of our time advances to automate more intelligent tasks, the differentiating factor becomes the ability to create, to innovate, to dream, and to realize those dreams. Our world has evolved such that success and productivity are no longer achieved by repetitive and well-known tasks. As we automate more of the routine tasks required for sustaining life, the acts of creativity and discovery come to the forefront.
It’s said that creativity is simply us discovering things that God has hidden for us.
If that’s the case, we must ask ourselves how we can discover more of these things. What lifestyle changes, what behavioral adjustments, what values and investments do we need to shift so that we’re ready and able to see what’s hidden there? What can we do?
First, we can be intentional with the time that we spend. As with any other skill, the skill of discovery and detailed observation takes practice. Set time in your day to thoughtfully observe, to ponder, to consider. Be thoughtful about your experiences, your circumstances, and the inputs that you have in your life. Examine them to see if there’s more than meets the eye there - you might find some transformative insights there. (Yes yes I know, your dad’s a Transformers nerd).
Second, find people that are interesting and run with them. Interesting people tend to be thoughtful about their interests, and tend to have reasons for doing the things that they do. These conversations help shape you, help refine your context, help polish your thought process. Interestig people also tend to have interesting friends, so expanding your circle there helps too.
Lastly, never say no to a new experience. Yes, I know there are exceptions to that rule, but your default stance should be one that is willing to try new things, to expand your horizons. This is something I didn’t do nearly enough of when I was younger and it’s one of the few things in my life that I’d change if I had to do it over again.
I’m not guaranteeing that by doing these things, you’ll end up discovering the next big thing. I am guaranteeing though that these actions will make your life that much richer and that much more full. And ultimately, that’s the prayer that I have for you every day - that God would give you a rich, full, abundant life.
Tags: #Character #Fulfillment #Intentional #Purposeful Living #Creating
Last time, we talked about paying attention. More explicitly, I suggested that the world has a road that they want you to follow, and if you don’t choose your path yourself and pay attention to where you’re going, you’ll naturally fall into that path.
Today I want to encourage you to follow your passions.
How is this related? For starters, people who follow their passions whole heartedly tend to carve out a path for themselves that allow those passions to flourish. More importantly though, following your passion allows you to encounter others that do the same.
Passion is one of those things that is entirely additive in nature - the more you do life with passionate people, the more that passion rubs off on you.
As you grow up, there will be many attempts to get you to conform, to “fall in”, to focus on doing what’s expected of you. By the time you read this, I hope I’ve helped you keep time set aside for yourself, for you to follow the things that excite you, for you to let the things that spark your soul flourish.
As much effort and pressure the world puts on you to conform to a path, it strangely doesn’t reward that conformity, which is a bit of a mystery. Those that have the patience, persistence, and gall to follow their own path are the ones that not only end up being more successful, but end up being more interesting, keeping more interesting company, and leading rich and full lives as a result.
While I’m not saying to completely buck the trend and be completely non-conformist, I am saying that you need to pay attention and invest in your passions as well. At the end of it all, that’s what brings you the joy, fulfillment, and happiness of a life well lived.
Tags: #Character #Balance #Intentional #Purposeful Living #Passion
As you know by now, I try to be a pretty intentional person. I heard something the other day that I absolutely loved, so I thought I’d share it with you.
Wherever it is you want to go, there is a long and conventional path, and there are shorter, less conventional approaches. The long conventional path is the outcome of not paying attention. It’s what happens when you let other people dictate your life.
I’ve found this to be extremely true in my experiences.
While I do believe it is sometimes beneficial to not pay attention, those times should be explicitly decided upon. Some of the best memories I’ve had were days where a few of us had no firm plans or designs, but rather played the day by ear and presently discovered that we had a fabulous time as a result. Those are days that are intentionally unintentional, and aren’t the subject of my attention today.
What I’m referring to today is the consciousness and critical nature that is required at a grander scale. It is more than just ability; it is a trained state of mind, a refined attribute that may take years of intentional practice to adequately acquire.
It is the art of knowing what pieces of input to process and come back to, and what to discard and not spend time on. It is the discipline to remember to step back and look at the bigger picture ervery so often. It is having the audacity to challenge the norms that are given to you, that you’re supposed to just accept.
The truth is that society doesn’t want you to do that. It wants to raise a geeration of people that are easily influenced by the latest greatest marketing trends that are out there. Capitalism is selfish by nature, and so it will do everything in its power to numb your senses and have you follow the path that profits it the most.
If you don’t have a plan for yourself, someone else will and you’ll fall into that.
My challenge to you today is to make sure you’re paying enough attention to be able to intentionally choose which path you take. Because even if there are many paths to your destination, time is the resource that you’ll never get back. So make the most of your time and pay attention to what you’re doing, where you’re going, and who you’re going there with!
Tags: #Character #Balance #Intentional #Purposeful Living #Time
As a kid, I loved candles. I loved watching them flicker, loved watching the glow that they made. I was always amazed at how much light could come from such a small little flame. I loved the glow; soft, warm, almost magical in nature.
As I grew older, my fascination with candles changed. While I still loved that warm familiar light that they emitted, I became enraptured with how they shone brighter when a small breeze would come through the room. The small, gentle flame would become large and fierce. It would fight to stay alive, would flame up and light up the room more brightly.
The noble human spirit shares this beautiful quality; it is a peaceful glow that flames up fiercely under adversity, fighting to stay lit and illuminating all those around it in the process.
Jesus said that “in this life, you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world!” - John 16:33
In this life, we are assured trouble, trials, difficulties, struggles. That’s a fact, guaranteed. The true measure of a man is how we handle these trials. When the wind comes, do we carefully nurture that candle so that it gets just enough wind to let it fiercely light up our spirit? Or do we turn that candle straight into the wind, letting it blow out completely?
One of the hardest things a father has to do is to not stop the wind even though he sees it heading straight for his children. I pray for the discernment for you to know how to nurture that candle so that when you need it to, it will shine brightly in the night. There is much darkness all around us, and the world will need more candles to keep us in the light. May yours be one that shines brightly, and may it bring light to all those around you!
Tags: #Character #Changing the world #Intentional #Purposeful Living #Confidence