Age is a wonderful thing.
If you let it, it can produce wisdom and I did my best to infuse a touch of it in a note I wrote to a young man, who was leaving middle school to start high school.
My hope is that by turning it into an open letter, it can provide some measure of guidance to other young men, who are entering one of the most crucial phases of time in their lives.
An Open Letter to an Eighth Grade Boy
There’s a song I wish you could hear, from a time when I was about the same age as you are today. It’s called, “Be Thankful for What You Got” and it’s by a guy named, William Devaughn. It was huge in 1974. Everywhere you went, you heard it.
It always reminds me to stay positive about everything, even when you feel as if nothing is going right. I used to play it much more than I do now, because – thankfully – life is treating me with kindness these days as opposed to a decade ago, when I literally thought my world was falling apart.
I was once part of the longest running television news anchor team in Chicago, when the station managers decided not to renew my contract. It meant that I was out of a job, a short time after my wife and I made our first home purchase and had our son. What made things even more complicated was that my wife was not working at the time.
That was scary.
I decided to do everything possible to stay encouraged, up-beat and focused. I succeeded more often than not at that and now I believe I have discovered a path that will enable me to achieve personal freedom in ways I never imagined. I thought I was experiencing disaster. Turns out, I received a blessing.
You have an opportunity right now to have an enormous impact on the person who you’ll become, as an adult. I still define myself, in very large ways, by what happened to me in high school and that was 42 years ago.
Discover what you love and do not be distracted from it. Do your best to keep a positive frame of mind. Failure and set-back represent moments when you can make some of your biggest discoveries. It’s a version of what my man, the great Raiders owner Al Davis had to say about playing the game of football: “Try not to make mistakes, but don’t worry about mistakes.”
Some of the biggest discoveries I’ve made at this stage of my life: you are where you place yourself and the best purpose in life is to operate from a place of compassion, righteousness and love.
I would encourage you to try what I do each day – say a humble thank you for the goodness in your life. It helps me keep things in perspective.
Here’s another musical reference, from the band Boston. It’s from the second album, which was not nearly as big as the first one, but the second record started with a song called, “Don’t Look Back.” The writer said, “Now I see what I am is holding me down. I’ll turn it around.”
You are the solution to all your problems. You are the answer. Today and what’s ahead of you are supremely important. Enjoy the ride.