It was a bad day for me.
I was set to speak at 2 California prisons, but I lost my wallet.
This was a big deal because state law says that you cannot enter a correctional facility without a government issued ID, and I had nothing.
Fortunately, I had been a guest speaker at one of the prisons before and through a lot of verification I was allowed in to speak.
It was a great speech, but interestingly enough one of the convicts, Adam, taught me something that day. He was 26 and had been locked up for 6 years. He was a standout athlete in California, but bad decisions led him to being locked up.
After my presentation he came up to me and gave me complements about my speech especially the parts where I mentioned my Dad’s influence on me.
My Dad has always been a brutally honest type of guy. This is the guy that told me that I had a better chance of getting struck by lightning twice and dying in a plane crash than I did of going to the NBA.
When Adam and I were chatting he said this statement that prompted me to prepare this writing for you he said, “I wish somebody in my life would have been more honest with me like your Dad was for you.”
I thought about what he said and started thinking about how my Dad’s brand of honesty helped shape me into the person that I am today. And though I am my Father’s son (meaning I can be a bit brutally honest to my kids at times) I believe I am more ‘eloquently honest.’ With that being the case I wanted to share a few points that most parents, teachers, counselors, and advisors will never share with their kids.
(1) Nobody cares about you.
Wait, that sounds harsh right? Okay maybe it is a little harsh, but his the eloquent part: Most people don’t care about your well being and success more than they care about their own. Translation: If you can’t make your destiny align or fit into someone else’s they’re not going to care about you. We’re all tuned into this radio station: WIIFM, what’s in it for me. This should not be a statement of hopelessness, this should be a statement of optimism. This statement means since people primarily care about themselves, if you can do something to help them help themselves then they will want you in their life, their school, their community, or anywhere else. We are all special to certain people, but most people could care less about us, and that’s okay. Don’t make them care about you, make yourself valuable to them so that they come to you. Nothing will be handed to you, nothing worth getting will be easy to get, and nobody really cares about you. Tell them that repeatedly and eloquently.
(2) Life does not get easier as you grow up…Ever.
I have an 8 year old daughter that constantly says, “I can’t wait until I grow up so I can do what I want.” My wife and I always laugh at her because what kids and teenagers don’t understand is that for most of them, this is the easiest life will ever be. Life is hard for everybody at every level. And as you get older you get more responsibilities that cause you to be more accountable. When you’re a kid, you’re only accountable to the people that care for you. As an adult you become accountable to the people you are in relationships with, your boss, your clients, your bills, and your children. Furthermore, as an adult you always need more money. Financial gurus may fight me on that point, but think about your life. When you started making more money things got better for a little while but then you bought a home, relocated, got a new car, got married, had another child, and then you realized you needed more. Life does not get easier as you grow up. It get’s harder. What we have to continue to do is help our students get better. But prepare them for the grind that is adulthood. We don’t want them to come to the reality that Ben Franklin wrote about when he said, “Life’s tragedy is that we get old too soon, but wise too late.”
(3) You’re not as smart as you think you are.
Every year I speak to tens of thousands of students. Many of them come up to me and ask me all sorts of questions. One of the common questions I get is: “What is 1 thing I would have done differently at their age to be better off than I am now?” I always give them the same answer: I would’ve listened to my parents more. In this day and time we are in the “Wild Wild West” of information. Information is literally at our fingertips every second of the day. We are drowning in information but starving in wisdom. This piece of advice should let students know that they don’t know what they think they do. Odds are that love that they think they feel for their boyfriend or girlfriend is just lust compounded by new hormones. Odds are that friend that they think is cool, isn’t really that cool. That is the type of intelligence they do not have at this point in their lives. They need to know this, those that know the most, know that they know so little. The wisest man in the world understands that he can never live long enough to learn it all. In the words of the great hip hop philosopher and scholar Kendrick Lamar Duckworth, “Sit down. Be humble.”
(4) The things that you want to achieve aren’t as important as you think they are.
This one is huge. I mentioned earlier that I wanted to go to the NBA. I didn’t want to go to the NBA because I loved playing basketball and I felt a strong calling to do it. I wanted to play in the NBA because I was pretty good as a kid and they got paid millions of dollars to play a game. I failed miserably at that though and it turned out for the better. I doubt very seriously that if I had have become a professional athlete that I would be doing what I am doing now. What your students have to understand is that success is less about what we get and more about what we become. So whatever it is they want to do, accomplish, or achieve, they need to learn now that it’s more about what you become on the way to that achievement. Because odds are their idea of success won’t look the same when they get older. So encourage them to be in a constant state of becoming.
Until next time.
**My major goal in life is to simply be a significant supporting character in your success story. If there was a movie made about your life I would just want to play a role in a couple of scenes. That being said, I hope this information was useful.**