Dear Younger Self:
This letter is long overdue. Sorry it took so long to write it. As a child, I heard the quote “youth is wasted on the young.” It is attributed to George Bernard Shaw but I heard it on reruns of sitcoms. I remember Ralph telling Alice on the Honeymooners and Edith telling Archie on All in the Family. If only I had been wiser at your age. That’s what this letter is about.
Now short of a wormhole, a collective consciousness or memories that transcend time, you’ll never read this letter. But If it is any consolation, others like you, in my present, hopefully will and will learn what I wish you knew when you first started the practice of law and started on your career.
I’m going to share with you five things and only five. These aren’t principles or values. They are paradigm shifts. These are lessons learned the hard way – life and experience. They could have easily been read in a book or heard from a loved one and followed, but so often the most important lessons, the ones that shape us, change us, transform us, come from making mistakes, often the same ones and often repeatedly, until they finally seep through and change us. Sometimes the\se lessons come too late, but they change us nonetheless.
Choose being fearless over fearful.
Fear limits us. It boxes us in. It stifles creativity and discards opportunities. Don’t simply choose not be afraid. Choose to be fearless. Embrace risk. Suck its marrow and transcend it. The biggest mountains have the best views.
Fear and Pride are the flip side of one another. Avoid both.
Fear undermines confidence. Pride over inflates it. Not believing in your talents and believing in them too much both have the same result – failure. Don’t be too afraid to take risks and don’t be too proud to ask for help and rely on your team to compliment your blind spots.
Chase your purpose, not your dreams.
Each of us has a purpose to change this world and others for the better. Our purpose is the lodestar we follow. Our dreams direct us toward our purpose, but the two shouldn’t be confused. Our dreams may be selfish. Our purpose never is.
Don’t be Hamlet and ponder a decision to the point of madness. No matter how much you analyze a situation, no matter how much information you gather, no matter how many people you ask for advice, at some point the decision is yours and it will be imperfect and you will not know the result until you make the decision. So stop hesitating and decide.
There is a life before we make a choice and one after. Never confuse the two.
Some say our life is the sum total of our decisions. I believe our life is the sum total of how we accept our decisions. The world we live in is the world we have chosen. There is a world that exists before we make a choice and a world that exists after we make it. There is the choosing and then there is the accepting. Once you make a choice you must accept it, consequences and all. Efforts to go back to a reality before a poor choice are wasted. That choice created a new reality. Accept it, learn from it, and move forward. Looking back to a world that no longer exists is folly. Accepting responsibility is maturity.
I hope this letter finds you and it changes you. If it does not, I hope this letter finds others and changes them.