Well… due to life in general, looks like my poor dad blog has turned into a quarterly’ish thing. Nevertheless, I must confess I think about writing here a lot. So, I decided to turn thinking into action. FIRST, a sidetrack — Check out this One Wave Surf Video I made with my GoPro!
But, now… on to the actual topic. I was thinking earlier about what I wanted Nathan to know… what I wish *I* knew before I turned twenty years old. It’s so funny, before… I’d even say, early 30s, people tend to be so in their own brains they lose perspective of life, entirely… everything is inflammed, high tension, out of control… everything matters waaaaay too much. So, I sat down to think of what I wanted my kid to know via what I wish I knew before I turned 20… written as a letter to my son.
10 Things I Wish I Knew Before I Turned 20
1. Dance more.
Dancing was something that wasn’t much part of my childhood until a transformative arcade (yes, I hail from those days) game came out — Dance Dance Revolution (DDR). This was the machine I fell in love with:
I got really good at it… was able to do break dance tricks, jump on and over the rails, ninja run up the screen… I even got invited to a DDR tournament, LOL! Sadly, I wigged out at the end… but, what I learned from all this and my own dance revolution is that I love to dance. It’s one of the most joyous and ridiculous ways of self expression. It’s a great way to let loose, it’s wonderful exercise, and it’s a perfect way of gaining self confidence.
The best thing about this: Nathan, you love to dance! You’ve always loved to dance and we still dance like sillies when we put on any type of music — period.
Life lesson #1: Dance more. You’ll be happier for it!
2. Be confident; everyone is just as insecure.
It’s funny how insecure people are, period — especially before the age of 20, people mask insecurities through overcompensating, hiding, acting certain ways, trying to fit in with certain groups, creating their own groups… the list goes on and on. The thing of it is, everyone is trying to figure themselves out — and, this doesn’t end. There’s thing thing called Imposter Syndrome where even the most achieving individuals tend to see themselves as a fraud — I definitely suffer from this… from time to time… the good thing is, your mother is there to smack sense back into me 😉
In any case, be confident. You do you, and anyone who thinks otherwise is merely projecting their own insecurities. Confidence will catapult you above and beyond the ordinary into the extraordinary.
3. Pursue what you love.
For too many generations, people have followed what they thought “should be done,” or “is the way things are,” or “is the thing to do” — and, so, they turn this into their life guiding mantra — pure foolishness.
Doing things for the sake of doing them, with no clear personal reason but for historical repetitiveness dooms you to the same fates of those before you.
If you wish to have more in life, pursue what you love. Pursue what impassions you, drives you to be more of a person — day in, day out. This can be on a professional level, personal level, emotional level, intellectual level, physical level, and spiritual level. Regardless of the dimension, just pursue the things you love. I promise you, this will lead to much success in life.
4. Grow in self awareness… and, acceptance.
It’s easy for people under 20 to chase all sorts of things in some self hidden effort to find ways to be more accepting of themselves. First, most people under 20 just aren’t self aware — I certainly wasn’t, though probably the extreme of this case. For me, young kid… I was really into girls and pursued any semblance of a relationship, regardless of health or outcome. That was dumb.
I felt, at the time, that relationships were the answer to my life — if someone would accept me, then I could accept myself. Again… foolishness.
Rather, what I should’ve been doing was working on my self awareness… understanding myself, what motivates me, what detracts me… and, most importantly, growing in self worth through self acceptance.
5. Work on doing you, not on what others expect you to do.
So often, we try to please others in a related way to being accepting of ourselves. Though, this piece of wisdom is less about introspection and more about external motivation.
If you center your life on the expectations of others, you’ll find that your life becomes meaningful to others… and, meaningless to yourself. Nothing could be more tragic.
Nathan, I want you to work on doing you — be who you are and be better, every single day. Don’t work on other people’s expectations; not to reject their advice or wisdom, but expect more of yourself and use other people’s expectations as guidelines of options in your life. This is how you travel that road of becoming who you are meant to be.
6. Be mentally tough.
Being mentally tough is something I feel I was never good at. I always felt I gave up too early when I was younger… frustration came easy, perseverance was never in close grasp. This thing called grit — it allows you to sustain, to power through, to endure what most would never consider subjecting themselves to.
I want you to learn this: If your mind is tough, your struggles will become easier.
7. Be physically tough.
Sports, fitness, and intestinal fortitude… while in parallel with being mentally tough, there’s an element of being physically tough, beyond strong — that helps with life in general. I was always the slowest runner, the first to give up on pull ups, crunches, and push ups… while much of this still relates to being mentally tough, there is a science to being physically tough.
I want you to train. I want you to exercise. I want you to compete, not with a championship or trophy in mind — I want you to push yourself because that is how you become a better man.
So, whether you choose to express this via martial arts, surfing, sports, athleticism, running, climbing… whatever the case may be, do it with intentional excellence. Your health will benefit from this immensely throughout your life and things that seem difficult for others will seem easy for you.
8. Learn to serve.
Son — be the first in, last out; first to offer food to others, last to partake and eat. Being a servant leader means that your actions speak louder than your words; it means that your words commit to action; it means that you do what you say, say what you do, and seek to fulfill the needs of others before they know they even exist.
Learning to serve prepares you for leadership. It prepares you because you first must learn to follow, if you are to lead. Now, I’m not saying you have to become a leader. What I am saying is that I want you to learn about what it means to be a leader — this is how you can decide upon taking up the mantle, should the time and opportunity come to pass.
Most importantly, learning to serve will make you a better teammate. Individuals may play, but teams win.
9. Pursue learning, not schooling.
Schooling doesn’t always equate to learning; the accumulation of knowledge doesn’t yield the formation of successful action in life.
A good education and the educational system are not the same thing. I grew up in a time when there were a lot of cross-cultural muddied waters when it came to the pursuit of academics, career, degrees, credentialing, etc. The problem was this: none of the prior makes you special. The value systems I was guided by was crafted during a time when completing secondary education was still considered a competitive achievement; therefore, a college degree was even better — a master, yet even better — a doctorate, the best.
By the time you reach eligibility for the workforce, it’s likely that having a double or even triple doctorate may be the same job market value equivalency as having a single doctorate “back in my day.”
I don’t want you to focus on the schooling. I want you to focus on LEARNING — acquiring, analyzing, and acting with intentional precision based on valid information, resources, knowledge, and wisdom.
If this pursuit takes you down academic pathways… excellent! If it goes down some other path, pursue it freely. It’s not about the schooling, it’s about true learning… learning to discern.
10. It’s not about you.
This, is one of life’s greatest lessons. I want you to live life as if it’s not about you, because it isn’t. While you are responsible for your own actions, your own pursuits, your own intentional excellence in what you achieve… the goal of life isn’t about you.
It’s about others.
Live life in a way that blesses others through you… be a conduit of joy, compassion, love, kindness, respect, patience, and peace. My hope is that you’ll learn this through a living faith in Christ; this is something your mother and I hope we are doing a good job teaching you. In contemporary times, even the previous sentence may be offensive to some folks… that’s okay. It’s about how you regard others that matters.
There is a wonderful phrase I’ve recently picked up regarding such faith: “No perfect people.” There are none, so we must not require it of ourselves, or others… we can only require of ourselves as close of a parallel pursuit as we can… of ourself and only ourself. As for others, it is their own choice in path… it is for them to navigate as it is not for us to pass judgment… only to share blessings.
Be about others.
Learn to discern.
Become physically tough.
Become mentally strong.
Refine yourself in excellence.
Become self aware, and self accepting.
Craft your life to chase what you love.
And, be sure to dance more… celebrate life!
Nathan, if you’re reading this, I hope I’ve done a good job imparting, and more importantly, teaching through example. Your mom and I love you very, very much and you are the joy of our lives.