1. Remain optimistic.
Life becomes complicated in high school, college, and the “real” world. When you were little, everything was good as long as you had your toys, your parents’ support, and a few nice friends. It’s easy to get bogged down as you get older and have more responsibilities. Things happen slowly in the real world. Red tape and people who don’t have your best interest at heart challenge your perseverance. Failure will occur more often than you’d like as you tackle new situations. Try to remain optimistic. Better times are normally around the corner. It’s hard to imagine a beautiful sunny day during the darkest, wettest storm. Eventually it happens; same thing applies to life.
2. Be open to new ideas and experiences.
Children are hard-wired to experience new ideas, new tastes, and new experiences. I want my children to try things that they aren’t sure about. I am not from a very outdoorsy background. However, if my child wants to learn fishing or (as he told me the other day) climb Mt. Everest, go for it! You live one time. You should soak up as much in life as humanly possible. Listen to other people’s ideas. Some of my favorite conversations are with people who do not share my political opinions.
3. Your job or position doesn’t define you or others.
I’ve had “good” jobs and “bad” jobs. It’s not easy to feel a sense of worth when you have a dirty apron on and you’re listening to a miserable customer complain about their coffee. It’s easy to be envious of the man or woman with the thousand-dollar suit walking confidently down the street. I want my children to know that you are not a barista or a cashier or a lawyer. You’re a person of value—a son, a brother, and a friend. Of course I want my children to be successful in their career of choice. That’s why every parent sacrifices. At the same time, I do not want my children to be defined by their current position. Just as importantly I do not want my children to judge other people by their position or “role” in life. Most actors, politicians, successful business entrepreneurs, and the rest of us have cleaned toilets, picked up people’s dishes, and taken crap when we didn’t deserve it. Children are not born to disrespect people. Let’s not teach them.
4. Dreams are good—act on them.
Dreaming can get you through a tough day. It’s amazing to dream about a warm beach and Mai Tais when it’s the middle of a gray, snow-blanketed day at work. Better yet, it’s wonderful to dream about where your life will be in a year or five years. People without dreams are without hope and without much of a chance in life.
5. Take your coffee black and without sugar.
Just my opinion. (Side note: Fraps aren’t coffee…they’re great, but not coffee.)
6. Marry someone who supports and encourages you.
Your spouse must be the person with whom you can share your worries, fears, and dreams. If you can’t, you’re wasting your time and theirs. A spouse doesn’t need to blindly support every endeavor, especially if it’s unhealthy or unwise. By and large they should be your greatest cheerleader. This applies equally for men and women.
7. Believe in something.
As you get older you gain a certain level of cynicism. If possible, believe in your team, your company or organization. If you believe in a religion, great; if not, believe in something. I want my children to believe in their country. This country has faults, makes mistakes, and is not perfect. Our country’s fundamental ideals are worth believing in. I don’t believe in blind patriotism. I do believe in my country, though, because ordinary citizens can affect its change through politics, journalism, and education. I want my children to believe that they have a voice and are important.
8. Travel everywhere you can.
Traveling enriches our lives. A well-traveled person eats differently, sees the world differently, tackles problems differently, and has a greater appreciation for other people. I know that not all French and Italians are sophisticated, that not all Eastern Europeans are poor, not all British are stuffy (hardly any), and that despite years of war, many Afghan families are friendly and hopeful.