An Open Letter to Every Husband, Brother and Son - Part 2: Conversations with Dad
Dear Fellow Brother,
Welcome back. It’s been a while. I know you have been working hard on yourself, I can tell.
When we first talked we went through some important stuff. I know it got a bit heavy but I also know you felt a lot lighter afterwards. It was important for you to know that it’s okay to go through struggles and suffering – its human. It’s just not okay to suffer in silence. There is support. If it is time to read over it again then be sure to visit my letter to you in the link below.
There was however, some stuff though that you weren’t ready for. That we didn’t go through. Everything comes in stages and it comes to us when we are ready.
I think it’s time to talk again. I think you are ready. And even if you are not, then maybe that’s a better time to hear it.
You see, sometimes your Dad wasn’t always there. And if he was, sometimes not in the capacity of what you felt you needed. I want you to read this from a place of understanding that a father isnt always blood. Sometimes they are the man that was there when no one else was. Letting you stand on his shoulders. Fathers are bound to us by love and strength – not blood.
Sometimes in life things just happen. We have a choice to attach meaning to it and let it dictate our life or we can accept that is what it is and build our future from the rocks that have been thrown at us. I know my dad wasn’t always around, I mean I love him dearly but for the last 2 decades he may have been a phone call away but he wasn’t there to teach me how to ride a bike or to share bad jokes at the dinner table. That’s not his fault – life happens. I have grown to be okay with that.
Sometimes the man who isn’t physically there every day is more important than the man who is. Each story is different. Truth be told we need to have that father figure. Our mothers are amazing. The care and love is something you just can’t get from anyone else. Dads are just different. Or, at least father figures. I know you are thinking of him right now. Whether he is a phone call away or you have to close your eyes and speak to him in your mind. He still has the right answers for you. He still supports you.
I have absolutely no doubt that throughout your developing years and probably right up until now your father or father figure gave you some words of wisdom. Sometimes without even noticing.
Maybe it wasn’t so much as what he said but also what he didn’t say. Looking back, he just kind of knew when to say something or when not to.
Then again, maybe this wasn’t your experience. Unfortunately a lot of us grew up without a strong male model to look up to. Maybe our models weren’t really models of who to be but rather who not to be and what not to do. How we responded to this situation was up to us and our underdeveloped, reactive, juvenile frame of mind. If the parents didn’t teach us values or principles then no one else did.
A life is an opportunity. Don’t lose that opportunity because you think the world owes you something. It doesn’t. And, in case you didn’t take it in back then or you are hearing all of this the first time then please allow me to share 20 lessons your father told you. Or at least should have..
1. People are going to pick on your body. Skinny, fat, strong, little. Body shaming – guys get it too.
Don’t take it personally. Honestly, chances are these kids have some issues at home. They lack values and its actually not their fault. I know its shit that they take it out on you because you’re different to them. Chances are, these kids will either apologise in the future. The reality is your body is going to be different than all of the other guys. I can promise you that. Maybe you don’t put on muscle as easy as the others or maybe you have more tub than the others. Whatever it is, just understand that what you put in your mouth while your young develops to be your habits as you get older. Truth be told, some of the best athletes don’t have the genetics. They have the desire. A lot of gifted athletes don’t make it because they were given everything and don’t know what hard work is. Don’t let your physicality deter you. Be known for your intent and effort. That will always trump talent.
2. Your Work ethic will do the talking for you.
People say don’t work hard, work smart. While you’re young, working hard is working smart. It installs the value of hard work. When you grow up and your experience outweighs those that are older than you, then you can work smart. Truth is, by then your work ethic is just a part of who you are. It isn’t a choice anymore. That is smart. So no matter what you do, work hard and I promise good things will happen.
While you are young, work for free. It’s important to do this when you are young because your parents will put a roof over your head and feed you. Even if you have a side job at a fast food joint ask around to do work experience at places you are interested in as a career. This is the best way to get experience at an early age with low risk. Do this while the other kids are playing video games.
3. You get to choose your actions, you don’t get to choose the consequences to those actions.
This may take some time to understand. But don’t get all sooky when shit doesn’t go your way. You have the power to choose your response to each and every situation. You cannot control what happens to you but when you learn the discipline of choosing your response you start the journey of leadership. Not everything in your life that happens around you or to you will be good. What you make of it is up to you. Like a game of chess, you get to choose your next move. You don’t, however get to choose anyone else’s.
4. Be respectful but don’t take shit
Guess what? You won’t always be right. So be respectful to other people’s point of view, especially if they have more experience than you. Always give respect even to those you don’t know. Because you should deserve it from those that don’t know you. If they have a chip on their shoulder, leave them with their chip but don’t take shit. Stick up for yourself. You can’t let life walk all over you otherwise “that’s just how it is”. And that’s a lie. Choose your response. Remember to choose to always respond from a place of value. Don’t feed other people’s issues otherwise they become your own. It helps to understand that being right is the fastest way to mediocrity and in turn, being wrong. Don’t be right, be open.
5. Learn some Self-respect.
Self-respect taught at a young age is extremely important for your future development. Just don’t get it confused with Ego. Be a student of life. If you have an open mind you will never be the smartest person in the room because there is always something to learn from the people in it. The more you understand this, the more you will learn. “Know it all’s” know very little. They also don’t develop. Because, to them, they already know it. And if you know and don’t do then you don’t really know. Self-respect isn’t just about knowing your value. It is also knowing not to spend energy where you shouldn’t. Not to just sleep with someone because it’s a notch on the belt. It is having values and building skills. If you don’t build them, the person hiring you definitely did. Have some respect for everyone, but yourself first.
6. Don’t leave school and think about what it is you want to do - Think about who it is you want to be.
You aren’t going to get this time again, Son. You need to define success for you and if you haven’t then take my advice that success is the magnitude of the beneficial footprint you leave upon society. Who do you want to be? Then, go ‘DO’ the things that will help you become that person. You don’t discover life, you create it. So, make your life mean something more than a 9-5. It has so much more value than that. Act like it. Don’t think the decisions you make while you’re young don’t matter. They are the bricks that build your house which is your life. Lay them properly – you are going to have to live there.
7. Win arguments with your intelligence, not your sarcasm or physicality.
This will help you out in life far more than you may realise right now. Every conversation is an opportunity for education. What’s even better than winning conversations or arguments is creating a win/win solution to any problem you come up against. If all you do is push against and force someone to agree with you then they aren’t really agreeing. They are only complying. It won’t last. Just because you disagree with someone doesn’t mean you have to dislike them or fight with them. Not every disagreement has to be taken personally. In fact, the key to success is to understand that in life you are going to get fucked over from time to time. Just don’t take it personally. Take it as a payment towards your education and don’t spend that same dollar again.
8. You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink
The more I have worked with people and come to understand leadership the more this makes sense to me. People are going to do whatever they want to do. You will never make the right decision in life. You can only ever make the best decision based upon your current knowledge and resources possible at any given time. Looking back in a few years with more knowledge and more resources you may of made a different decision. That being the case don’t try and make the right decisions for other people. You can’t even make them for yourself.
9. Write down your goals. Your friends won’t be doing it but I can assure you that your idols did.
I was 19 when I first took it upon myself to write down my goals. Fuck it felt weird. But I persisted anyway. There hasn’t been a 3 month period go by where I haven’t set my direction since then in almost a decade. Like any skill, you just get better and better at it. Don’t not do it because it felt weird the first time. I promise you the people you look up to sat down and did it. Don’t be too proud to write down what you want most in life. Success doesn’t happen by accident and don’t swap dream time for screen time. Work on yourself harder than you do on your job.
10. Don’t not know
It's ok to not know. It is not ok to stay that way. Endeavor to go find out. Whenever we make a statement we reaffirm a truth and whenever we ask a question we open up an answer. The power of negative self-talk has stalled more dreams than any hater. It’s a weed that you plant in your mind and each time you repeat those lies about yourself you water the weed. Take care of the garden that is your mind and only have the best soil. Don’t let other people plant weeds in your garden. Protect it. its where everything grows.
11. Be careful of Decision fatigue
Learn to make decision at a young age. It will either work in your favour or you will learn. To gain experience in making decisions means you are gaining experience in leadership. There is a reason super successful people wear the same boring clothes day in and day out. To choose what to wear is just another decision they have to make throughout the day that will attribute to decision fatigue. Only make decisions where necessary but never get stuck in indecision. Any decision is better than none.
12. Learn how to use tools.
You don’t have to be a mechanic or tradie. Just don’t be useless when your mates need a hand. Even if you aren’t good with tools then get your hands dirty and do some labour work. It’s good for your soul and you need to earn your keep. Better yet, if you can’t use tools, buy a ute and be sure to help people move where possible. This may sound a little off topic but you need to contribute to the tribe. Breaking things down and building things are important to the tribe. Be a useful part of that tribe.
13. Mates that only call you when they want to go out are not mates.
They will not be around in 5 years. This is relevant for literally any time in your life. You have no obligation to be or do anything for anyone or anything that isn’t serving a bigger purpose. Most people will tell you that you have changed because they haven’t. Most of the time it’s because you grew whilst they are still watering their weeds. Don’t take it personally – focus on what you wrote down. Chase dreams, not people. They will come and go because you are the only person you have to live with your whole life. Make sure you get along with him.
14. A good idea at a bad time is a bad idea.
Don’t be fooled into thinking that every opportunity is an opportunity. You must learn when to say no to good in order to work towards great. The enemy of an extraordinary life is a good one and what’s worse than hating our job is not minding it. Every decision matters. Sometimes, you have to wing it, sure, just remember you don’t get to choose your consequences.
15. Be the best at whatever it is you do.
Be the best accountant, the best athlete, the best knitter. It doesn’t matter what it is. Just be the best at it. You can do literally anything, you just can’t do everything. So whatever you do, be the best at it. It will take you 15 years to master something if you do it daily. Don’t be discouraged by the time it will take because one day you will look back and realise that time passed anyway. Start now where you are with what you got. Don’t focus on what you can’t do; instead ask what can I do with what I have?
16. Drink good alcohol
This will teach you not to get drunk and be disgusting for the sake of it. The younger you are when you get an appreciation of good alcohol the better off your wallet will be because you won’t just drink for the sake of drinking. It will give you instant credibility with older adults that are more likely to give you a break in your career and future than your goon drinking friends.
17. life isn’t fair.
The arsehole gets your girl, the wind blows the ball into the goal and flat tyres only happen at the worst times. Shit just happens. Don’t personalise it. If you are too busy creating a victim situation you will lose the opportunity to move forward and grow. Your brightest hour may come in your darkest day but if all you see is the dark then you will miss the light. I believe the merit of a man should be judged not by the power of his body at its best, but the strength of his mind at its worst.
18. Rock up
The common denominator of the winner is they rocked up even when they didn’t feel like it. They didn’t always win, but they always learnt. Sometimes when you have done all the work and deserve to win you won’t. And sometimes when you just rocked up luck will favour you and you will come on top. The lesson here: rock up and prepare to win, don’t be attached to the result. Be attached to your learning. You can’t do the things you want to do without becoming the person you want to be. Focus on becoming that person and persist forward. The outcome will come at the right time.
19. Failure is an event – not a person
Failure and success both come from the same thing. They both come from the little things. They are both an accumulation of thousands of little events. Each time you do either one your mind will look for evidence to reinforce what you think and therefore, who you are. Don’t get in the habit of punishing failure. Failure is the secret ingredient to your success. It’s just hard to swallow. Not quite as hard as mediocrity though. The beauty is that you get to choose.
20. Trying is not enough – commit
Trying for a job, trying for the basketball team, trying to pass a test. Commit to it. Maybe it will take longer than the average person but have it locked away in your mind and commit to it. leave no opportunity for excuses. You are growing up in a world where everyone gets an award just for participating. But remember that a participation award isn’t always an award. A job opportunity isn’t always an opportunity and a healthy burger is definitely not a healthy burger. Don’t be fooled with all the hype. Don’t be satisfied with participating. Shift your thinking from competing to dominating.
And lastly but most importantly; the world doesn’t owe you a damn thing.
It doesn’t owe you money or entertainment. It doesn’t owe you a job or applause for rocking up. Don’t expect shit to be given to you. If you work hard, take risks and commit to your cause then I promise good things will happen..
The trick is rather than asking for the meaning of life; give your life meaning. Give it purpose. Then watch your world evolve.
Our Fathers advice is timeless. It is, also priceless. Hence why it’s even more important for me to pay this forward.
Until next time, Brother, you know what to do.
Oh, and Dad – thank you.