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.

My sons,

I have always been a firm believer that the written word has power. Words have the power to create, to bring life, to elevate, and to empower, but they also have the power to tear down, to diminish, to dishearten, and to bind. They are the tools we use for communication. Whether we are conveying ideas, expressing sentiment, sharing dreams, or commiserating loss, they allow us to connect with each other with great depth and high fidelity.

We are a communal species. Whether you believe in creation, evolution, or whatever the latest theory of the day is, human beings are social creatures. We need one another. Together we stand. Divided we fall. And humanity has stood for many millennia, and hopefully will continue to do so for many more.

And so it behooves us to not only understand the power of our words, but to study, to learn, and to develop mastery over them. When used effectively, great authors and speech writers can smash through walls with them, can distill even the most complex of ideas for the masses, and can embolden an entire generation with them.

Our inputs inform our perspective

The things we take into our system inform our perspective. The things we read and hear daily impact the way we see our world. The words we commit to memory, the phrases and mantras we recite, the encouragement we hear from our environment - these all impact not only how we respond to our world, but also the people whom we are becoming.

It therefore is in our best interest to be vigilant in managing the inputs we get on a regular basis. Remember that it is not the severity of the input but the frequency that matters.

My mentor told me once that as a manager, when I feel that I’ve repeated myself so much that my team must think me to be a broken record, that is the point at which they may actually begin to hear me. So too are the inputs in our lives. When we encounter something once, our brains can filter that out as an outlier, but when we are consistently bombarded with the same message repeatedly across multiple channels, we begin to give credence to the message regardless of the strength of our defenses.

As such, we must watch our inputs.

The words we say and write shape us

Closely related is the fact that the words we say and write also shape us! Turns out that we like the sound of our own voices. Our ego is the portion of our personality that is experienced as “the self”, or “I”. It is the consciousness of your own identity that distinguishes itself from others and the external world. And the voice it listens to the most is our own.

This means that the things we say and write not only impact others, but they impact ourselves too! They reinforce ideas, they alter our emotions, and they change the way we see the world. We’ve all heard of the power of positive thinking, of power poses and of self-affirming inner (and outer!) dialogue. The reason that those things work is because they leverage the fact that our ego, our conscious mind, our “self” listens to us.

It is therefore important not only for us to guard our inputs, but for us to tailor our outputs as well! The things we discuss and debate, the company we keep, the topics spend our time learning about and sharing with others - all of these are important in shaping the people that we become!

This is why the Good Book tells us in Colossians 4:6 to

“Let your conversation be always full of grace”.

In speaking with grace, we become people of grace. In sharing big ideas, deliberating, debating, challenging, questioning, and reframing them, they become a part of us. In talking about great character and lofty traits that we desire for ourselves, we slowly but surely take them on. In speaking of our love for others, of why we love them, and of the things that desire for them, we not only encourage our listeners but we enlarge our own love for them.

We live in a time of influencers and trend setters. We live in an era where people are bombarded with all sorts of inputs ranging from traditional media, books, articles, social media, and podcasts that it is easy for us to become silent. Let us speak. Let us speak of elevated things. If we wish to be always relevant, let us speak of eternal things, of character, of compassion, of love for our neighbors, and of our moral duty to our world.

The power of writing

Finally, we must write. The written word has power for those that read, but it has an even greater strength to impact those that write! As surely as speaking changes our lives, how much more so does writing! Writing requires deliberation. It requires thought. It requires us to sit in silence, contemplating the concerns of our hearts so that we can express. It allows us to refine our ideas and discover the coherent themes across them, and in doing so makes us better.

And so my sons, I urge you to endeavor to master your words. Be mindful of your inputs. Be thoughtful in your outputs. Speak. Write. Listen. For these are the things that refine us as men!



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