Chicago, 2016 – Present
Inspired by an article by Andy Boyle, I started thinking about the things that I’d regret if I died today.
Now that I have three sons (5, 2, and 1 week at the time of writing), I think often about leaving them a legacy to follow or telling them things postmortem. This may be entirely screwed up but I think most dads think about it and, if they don’t, something might be wrong with them.
What follows is likely a random list of irreverent things that, for some odd reason, are easier to write on the internet than to say out loud to people who love me.
I’ll also be checking them off if I’m able to take some sort of action on them.
- I have never traveled abroad (Canada and Mexico do not count)
- I never took the time to invest in a single person enough to lead them to know God the way that I do
- That sweatshirt I wore every day of high school
- Letting my body and health go to crap in my early 30s for the sake of making money and trying to build a business
- Missing my grandmother’s funeral to go to a business conference.
Despite being raised by my mother and *not* having my feelings beaten out of me at an early age, I still refuse to cry in public…
And that includes church. When I sing worship music, like REALLY sing it, I always start to cry. In the car? Crying. Mowing the lawn? Yup. In church Abso-freaking-lutely. But for some reason, I just refuse to let it out unless I’m by myself. Also, I never raise my hands when I sing in church. Other people do it. I WANT to do it. I don’t.Not following through on charity and service work
- I never got to see my sons grow up into men.
- I didn’t stay in touch with any friends from any point in my life before ‘now.’
- I never wrote a book.
- Never gave a sermon.
Or any serious public speaking for that matter. I never worked on improving my relationship with my father.
- I never fought in a professional (or amateur, for that matter) mixed martial arts bout
- I didn’t leave my wife in a situation where she’d be set for life if I died. I’ve wanted this above any other financial goal and it didn’t happen.
- I had to give back my dog Phoenix. He was a great dog, but we didn’t realize how traumatized he was when we got him. He was great with adults but scary vicious with other animals and, we feared, small children.
It’s funny how this list quickly turns into a list of the things that I give a shit about the most in life.
In reflection, it’s odd how many of these I can still change.
I still have time to work. So do you.
The letters that follow are partly my words, partly those of others. If I’m able to pass on all of these lessons to you in person, as I intend to, all the better. But should I not, I hope you read them here.
Letter 1 – Be Alone
I often feel like we’re addicted to noise, afraid to be alone with our thoughts.We cram every second with a soundtrack of music, podcasts, etc. all under some guise of necessity.
Create time alone with yourself.
In silence, often in meditation, I’ve been able to see God/myself/others/everything more clearly.
You can too. I promise.
Letter 2 – Be Humble or Get Humbled
I’ve found there’s no need to announce myself with a title.
I’ve worn many hats and have learned that the key is not name, but actions.
Never announce you are a knight, simply behave as one. You are better than no one, and no one is better than you.
Everything on this earth relies on eachother. If all of the seemingly insignificant insects on the planet died at once, our entire ecosystem would fall apart.
You need others as much as they need you. Never ride into battle alone.
I’ve done my best to raise you without a sense of entitlement, painstakingly balancing the idea that you have greatness in you, but without empathy/kindness/work/etc. it cannot be unlocked.
Never allow anything in your life to become ‘the new normal,’ less you begin a vicious cycle of never having ‘enough.’
Letter 3 – On Gratitude
I hope ‘gratitude’ hasn’t become a ridiculous buzzword like ‘mindfulness’ and ‘meditation’ by the time you’re able to read these letters.
I’ve started and ended almost every day for the past few months with a regular practice of gratitude.
Every Morning — 3 things that I’m grateful for
Taking a pause to start my day.
Not worrying about what’s in my inbox.
Or my to-do list for the day.
Instead, looking at the things that I already have. And once I was at it for a while, looking for things that aren’t obvious.
It started with you, your mom, being born in this country, in this age, God’s grace, etc.
But then it became smaller things: shoes, clean water, the ability to read and write), warm breezes in the summer, etc. Once I did the research and realized how many people don’t have access to clean water, or even shoes, I realized that I’d been born into the top 1% of history. So have you.
Evening — 3 amazing things that happened that day
Similar to my morning list, these might range from huge, life-changing occurrences, like your births, or something as trivial as making smart choices with food for the day.
A written journal, or an app, of course, makes this infinitely easier. However, buying a book won’t do the work for you. Owning it and placing it neatly on the shelf, or on your desk, won’t make to successful by osmosis.
Realizing that you’ve been given much, but that now much will also be asked, is a scary notion.
But it’s true.
With great power comes great responsibility.
You have greatness in you. Be a responsible steward of what you’ve been given and put it to work.
The best form of gratitude is not burying your talents.
Letter 4 – Pride, Not Arrogance
NEVER pretend you are not a knight or attempt to diminish yourself because you deem it will make others more comfortable. We show others the most respect by offering the best of ourselves.
I am loud, smart, well-spoken and think quickly and it was made known to me that this intimidated others. Rather than hiding these traits, I developed secondary attributes of listening, and appreciating pause in conversation. This put many at easy and made the moments that I chose to speak even more powerful.
When you’re arrogant, you are insecure.
This is truth.
Pride, however, is different.
Take pride in your handwriting.
Take pride in the material goods that God has blessed you with.
Take pride in your talents.
Care for each other, your pets, and those under your charge.
Take care of others time.
The best type of pride is found in that of service to others and to God. Leave everywhere you’ve been better than where you’ve found it. This is both literal and figurative.
Selfless self-improvement. Become better in as much as it benefits those around you.
Remember: Your surroundings reflect your state of mind.
When my desk is a mess, often times, so is my life (and my mind). This is why your mother works tirelessly to keep our house clean. She mastered this years before I was even aware of it.
Be fully engaged in what you are doing at present.
Don’t live in the past, or in the future. Take time to plan correctly, and then execute in the present.
I’ll never forget one of the most important things I’ll ever be able to pass on:
Act like you deserve to be here. Because you do.
You will often feel that there are others that are better than you. That you’re an impostor. That you don’t, and will never, belong. Your body mirrors your mind and can influence it as well. By acting confident in situations that inspire fear, your brain assumes your posture as correct and gives you the mental fortitude to carry on. To win.
God will never put you in a situation that you can’t handle, no matter how much you disagree with Him. You always deserve to be where you are. God has put you there and you are meant to make the best of it.
Don’t be distracted in pursuit of success. By focusing on the goal, and not the work, we divide our eyes between two targets.
Don’t worry about your prize. Focus only on your target. Empty your mind. Think of nothing and..
Letter 5 – Working Together
This may be your hardest lesson.
Each of us is walking on our own path. You were born at a specific time and place and your challenges may be similar to others, but are truly unique to you. Becoming self-aware of your strengths and differences is essential to succeed as a family. While strength is highly regarded, empathy and justice matter most in leading one another. You must learn to work together as brothers or risk perishing as fools.
Evan, not long after you were born we decided to have more kids. I grew up an only child and while I have no regrets regarding that (neither does your grandmother), your mom and I wanted you to have siblings.
You will forever be compared to your brothers. You will discover areas that, despite being younger than you, they move more quickly.
Know right now that it is possible for you all to win.
For you each to be great.
Their skills are not your weakness. They are there to compliment you. To make up for what you lack. The same is true of you for them.
Their excellence challenges you and makes you stronger.
Their talents come from the same place as yours.
Do not compare, however. You will either become vain or bitter and neither serves a purpose in your life.
I’ve learned these lessons at a slower rate than you will and it is my hope that you are your brothers ride together, covering each other’s flanks and pushing each other ever forward.
Long gone are the battles of knights, but present are battles for faith, business, and family. This is where you will need each other most.
Letter 6 – The Secret of Friendship
The quality of your life will, to a large degree, be dependent on those whom you choose to surround yourself with.
You are the average of the five people that you spend the most time with.
Now this isn’t canon, but it’s really hard to be successful in whatever you want to do if all of your friends and family are going in the opposite direction.
Take pause for a moment and consider who it is you’ve surrounded yourself with most intimately. Are they pushing you forward? Are they pulling you up with them? Or are they pushing you down or pulling you in a negative direction?
Take stock of this regularly.
My favorite part of this thought process, however, is that they’re also the average of you, so step up.
If all of your closest allies are one-fifth of you, you need to make sure you’re pulling them up along with your or pushing them in a positive direction at all times.
Beware of grand gestures; the real mettle of friendship is forged in life’s daily workings.
It’s hard to explain, but in a lot of ways, it’s easy to be supportive when you friend is sad or hurt. Comforting them in their time of need will come easily to you.
The reality is that it will be exponentially more difficult to be supportive when your friend is befallen by great fortune, and you are not.
See how your ‘friends’ treat you in times of triumph, as well as sorrow.
More importantly, be aware of how you treat them in these times as well.
I can tell you from experience that it’s hardest to support others when you feel you deserve the success, money, relationship, kids, family, career, etc. that they have.
Again, this comparison only breeds envy or bitterness and has no place in your life.
Being a true friend who supports others at all times and wait to see who flocks to you over time.
On a long enough timeline, you’ll get exactly what, and whom, you deserve.
Letter 7 – What Success Really Is
Failure and the choice to Forgive
A knight knows that success is most easily measured by how he handles his disappointments.
Your mother and I have tried to shield you from as little disappointment as possible.
We learn infinitely more from our failures than our successes so it is vital that you experience as much failure as possible.
You either win, or you learn.
To head north, you may use a north star to guide you, but you will never arrive at the north star.
Your duty is to proceed in that direction.
There is no ‘there.’
You never get ‘there.’
With our eyes on God and our aim toward heaven, we have to realize that this is not our home and, for now, our duty is only to proceed in that direction.
We do this through forgiveness, kindness, empathy, and acceptance. There is no reward on this earth (or the next) for hating or fearing those who are different from you.
Gratitude and forgiveness are like taking a bath: they don’t last and should be done daily.
There is a story of a husband and wife who are out for a walk and happen upon a young boy and his caretaker.
Obviously of great wealth and means, the young boy was berating the woman for allowing him to wander into some mud and dirty his shoes. He demanded she carry him to dry ground.
Without a thought, the man’s wife walked over to the young lord, picked him up and carried him to dry ground. Without a look or notion of thanks, the boy continued his tirade and began running home.
The man grumbled to himself for a while before looking to his wife and saying, “I can’t believe you helped that brat!”
She replied with intention, “I set that boy down hours ago, but you are still carrying him.”
We need not carry the burden of others. While it is in your (our) nature to spend time in anger or frustration, to want to feel its power, it doesn’t serve our purpose.
Long after they have moved on, our quality of life remains diminished because we refuse to forgive.
Simply put: You are not characters in their movie. They are so selfish that you have a passing role, at best, and the movie of their life continues unabated.
Mistakes are always forgivable if one has the courage to admit them.
Letter 8 – The Blue Flag
I fondly remember attending, and later working, at the summer camp where I’d meet your mother.
Every morning, afternoon, and evening we’d line up at flagpoles dedicated to various positive attributes that the camp hoped to instill in its campers and staff.
My memory has faded a bit, but if I remember correctly they were: Respect, Caring, Responsibility, and Honesty. Service was added in later years as well.
My favorite color (and yours too, Evan) has always been blue: the Honesty flag.
I believe that this attribute, and the color that stands for it, will also always be something you boys hold dear.
The obvious example of honesty is not to lie to place yourself over others, whether that means falsely elevating yourself or putting them down.
It’s my hope that this point is so obvious, in fact, that I don’t have to belabor it here.
However, the more dangerous type of dishonesty is that which takes place because you feel the truth will cause pain to yourself or others.
Often we hear this referred to as a ‘white lie.’
Don’t fear their pain or suffering.
The strongest steel is forged in the hottest fire.
The weakest of all weak things is a virtue that has not been tested in the fire.
The earth must be tilled before seeds can be planted. In a similar fashion, you will find in your life that a layer of yourself must be painfully ripped away before seeds of compassion, empathy, and wisdom can be planted deep within you.
You will wrestle with the concept of justice. Why are liars and cheaters rewarded for their insidious actions? Why isn’t honesty always rewarded?
Remember: A knight does not protect the truth; he lives inside of it and it protects him.
Letter 9 – Choosing Courage
Anything that gives light must endure burning.
Fear is not always something to be ashamed of.
It keeps us wary, alert, mindful. It has power, if used correctly.
Keeping the Breath
When struggling to find courage, you must rely on your breath.
When I was a kid, my father told me to control my breathing as a part of our karate training.
And, like a kid (maybe like you), I blew him off.
Every animal breathes. Humans are the only animal that holds their breath when they’re attacking, defending, running, or scared.
Watch a cheetah, a lion, a wolf… they breathe perfectly.
So can you.
You, my sons, are lions.
The lungs are like bottles and, mostly, we only use the upper half. It is essential to breathe through your diaphragm. Feel the air in your lower ribs.
All of your emotion. Everything. The fear. The anxiety. It’s all in your panicked breath. The short, shallow, top of the lung breaths.
Focusing on that deep breath will take you to another level in the boardroom, the wrestling mat, and it your relationships.
When you’re arguing with your girlfriend.
When somebody yells at you and gets in your face on the street.
When something critical happens, you absolutely must be in the moment.
Breathe and you become clear. You become present.
And then it doesn’t matter what happens, because you’re ready for it.
I think that is something extraordinary for your life.
Primal hunters, such as wolves, can ascertain everything they need to know about a man without ever hearing him speak.
So can you.
The Real Key to Success
Most say the key to success is practice. But I disagree.
They key to courage is why you do it. Never for yourself. When you serve only yourself, you falter. This is why I, in service to you and your mother, have done more than I ever thought possible. More than any of my friends or family could dream.
Letter 10 – Change and Beauty
Grace is the ability to accept change. Be open and flexible. The brittle and unbending are prone to breaking.
Habit, routine and too much consistency numb our minds and allow us to walk, sleeping, through our lives. Day in and day out. The same thing for years. Until we wake one day to find we don’t know ourselves or those around us. Everything passes, everything changes.
I caution this by saying not to move too much. Like a knight always building his next castle, his next conquest, an apple tree can’t bear fruit if it is transplanted too many times.
Strengthen your foundation and accept the inevitability of change.
No matter what is happening now, you will look back on today as an easier, simpler time in your life.
These are the good old days.
I have hopes for you, but they may not be typical, or popular.
One of which is that you be flawed.
Nothing gives a young man permission to be weak-minded, lazy, and dull as being considered to be beautiful. I pray you be chubby and awkward, much like me.
Young men often use the possession of beauty or wealth as permission to be undisciplined, ill-informed, or uninteresting. If they are fortunate enough to reach my age (thirty-three years as I write this), they become like a coyote: cute when little, but as adults they become nasty, fearful, and living off the scraps of others.
This is why you must excel in athletics. Few things build self-confidence and cooperation in young men the same way. Should you ever have sisters, know this is even more important for them. Unlike you, the world will not encourage them in this regard, so you must.
A knight never concerns himself overly with his own appearance or the appearance of others.
His garments are an expression of his humility: clean, simple, well-made and flattering.
Never feel you need to ride the coattails or the name of others. Never count on others to make you successful or achieve your dreams for you.
Beware any deep feelings of need for the approval of someone more influential than you. It is a deception.
As you age, like me, do not worry yourself with aging. Remember that a rose is beautiful because it is temporary.
Aesthetics can be a distraction that leads young men away from pursuing a sincere exploration of their lives.
We are all asked to surrender the splendor of our youth and step towards greatness. We are being made ready to live out eternity. Each wrinkle is a crack in the shell of our arrogance and pride. Our conceit must be pulverized for our souls to fly.
Letter 11 – Patience is Grossly Underestimated
There is no such thing as a one-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
Every single opportunity is like a city bus: there’s always another one coming.
If getting what you want in life, was fast and easy, or if there was one clear path, wouldn’t every single person on the planet be doing that?
When you’re passionate about something, it becomes all that you think about. For me, this became being financially successful in a way that would allow me to provide advantages of time and money for you boys.
But I was missing a key ingredient.
Here’s what I mean:
Sure your passion will wake you up at 3am for the first week, or the first month, or even the first year. But will you be patient enough to keep that passion for 5 years? Can you get up at 3am every day for the next 5 years? Because that’s where I am. Can I do this for the next 10? What about the next 20?
I refuse to let my passion diminish because I refuse to be patient.
Whatever you want: some girl to notice you, a starting position on a team, a grade, an award, hatever you want…
Whatever your passion is. The REAL reason you’re reading this. Time is your unfair advantage.
There will always be people with better ideas and people more talented. But they’ll all quit.
All of them. (I promise.)
They’ll keep looking for the shortcut. They’ll keep playing the short game. The day to day. The next move. And you’re thinking 10 moves ahead, waiting, watching, and working. Never not working.
Every time you want to cheat and get somewhere fast, read this and know that nothing beats hard work over time.
If Passion is the jab, patience is the right hook.
It’s the multiplier.
It’s the 10,000 hours Malcolm Gladwell talks about in Outliers.
I want to help you get there.
I want to teach what I’ve learned and it’s why I’ve written these letters.
You just need to wait. I’m a huge advocate of coaches, but it’s hard to see past all of the gurus out there. I’ve wasted thousands of dollars on courses and coaches where they promised me riches and glory almost overnight.
But just because I could, doesn’t mean that I should have.
Just like that, I want you to hear my mistakes. Of when I tried to grow too fast and burned a ton of money. When I invested in all of the shiny objects and the backlinking service and the crap that didn’t matter. Just because you can do these things, doesn’t mean you should.
Fight for passion, not for payoff. Have patience in all that you do. If you have the passion, and you’re ready to exercise some patience, then you’re going to be able to get whatever you want in life.
No matter what anybody tells you. No matter if they tell you that you can’t get whatever it is that you want… know the obstacle is the way.
This is a long, long game. There is a moment for action and, with a clear mind, that moment is obvious.
We play the long game. Always.
Hard work and patience will get you everything you want, and deserve, in your life.
Letter 12 – Have No Patience for Injustice
There is only one thing for which a knight has no patience: injustice. Every true knight fights for human dignity at all times.
While I hope the issue I’m writing to you about is a part of our archaic past by the time you read this letter, I’m not so sure that it will be.
Boys, as I write to you, our nation has seen a frightening increase in awareness of violence (sometimes deadly) between police officers and its black citizens. I say ‘awareness’ because it would be foolish to assume this hasn’t always been the case. I don’t believe I’m being pessimistic in saying that we only hear of it now because we all carry small video cameras in our pockets.
In recent years, we’ve seen more violence by police (Alton Sterling and Philandro Castile shootings) and against police (Dallas and Baton Rouge) than in many years prior.
To say that tensions have reached a fever pitch is inadequate.
Allow me explain:
A common phrase that we have seen used is ‘Black Lives Matter.’ This is not to say that others don’t. That’s ridiculous. Of course ALL LIVES MATTER. Saying that ‘black’ lives matter is simply to acknowledge that white privilege exists in this nation to this day.
You benefit from it.
So do I.
This may be hard to understand because you’ve never known anything different.
Saying that ‘all lives matter’ in the face of ‘black lives matter’ is to deny the unique struggles and grievances of black people in this country. They should be allowed to organize around them and we should support them. Race and ethnicity is a construct meant to separate and divide us from (whom I believe to be) our brothers and sisters.
If others take offense to a persecuted group calling attention to their plight, then I think that says a great deal about them.
There is a reason that our first black president (who I voted for, twice) was also the first president to have his citizenship and religion called into question. The leading voice in that racist debacle is now our president. He’s referred to those calling for justice as “sons of bitches” and defended white racist terrorism.
I’ll be honest with you boys. It’s frightening.
Once, a woman named Jane Elliot asked an all-white audience ‘how many people would be happy to be treated how black people are treated in society?’
She asks those who agree to stand and of course nobody stands, to which she rightly says …
“That says very plainly, you know what’s happening, you know you don’t want it for you, I want to know why you’re so willing to accept it or to allow it to happen for others.”
I’ll be honest. This isn’t me trying to tell you how I feel about our nation.
What is now my current events and will be your ‘history.’
See for yourself:
- African Americans are 30% more likely to be pulled over that Whites
- African Americans & Hispanics 3x more like to be searched after being pulled over
- African Americans are shot by police > 2x the rate of Whites and arrested 2x the rate of Whites
- African Americans are 75% more likely to be charged with offenses carrying mandatory minimums
- African Americans received sentences that are 10% longer than comparable arrests for Whites for the exact same same crime
- African Americans & Hispanic make up 30% of population but make up 50% of the incarcerated
I’ve worked for a decade in schools that are between 50–98% African American and I have yet to encounter a single (not one) black adult who does not have a story about a negative experience with police.
This letter will not include instructions how to talk to police to avoid becoming another Philandro Castille, Alton Sterling, or Alex Landau.
What breaks my heart is that, in this nation… today.. if you were black.. it would have to.
It’s not acceptable that men who I care for deeply have to coach their sons in this manner.
Here is why this is important for you…
I am a white, heterosexual man and it’s a risk to speak up on issues like this. I always try to make sure I don’t represent that I have a deep understanding of the struggles of people of different ethnicity, sexual orientation, or gender.
Because I don’t.
I don’t know if this is my fight or our fight or their fight.
I don’t know all of the rules.
I certainly don’t say these type of things to you to be recognized in any sort of positive manner.
But I know that remaining silent on this topic is worse than being misunderstood.
We must all fear evil men. But, there is another kind of evil which we must fear most … and that is the indifference of good men.
I say this to you because I believe that in the future you will feel strongly about an injustice that you see occurring.
And I ask that, in that moment, you speak.
Saying nothing about intolerance or racism is far worse than risking being misunderstood.
Of course all lives matter.
Of course police keep our society civil and are great men and women.
But black men and women deserve justice. Justice being equal treatment by law enforcement, our legal system, and our penal system.
And that justice, you must support.
A knight sets out to illuminate the darkness in society, not just from its leaves but from its roots. This is how justice will be realized. Find the source.
Letter 13 – How to be Generous
In my life, I’ve seen two ways to be rich:
- Amassing large sums of money and material wealth
- Needing very little
Be frugal and you can be generous.
Realize that everything on this Earth belongs to God. We are merely stewards given the chance to have things but for a short time.
Gratitude must replace entitlement in this matter.
I am grateful for you, your mother, our home, my career, and everything else God has allowed me to steward here on this Earth. It is not mine. Or yours.
It never has been and never will be.
Possessions can be, and almost always are, a total distraction from the real work of your life.
Give freely of what you have been given. Give easily to allies in the struggle for a just world where no child goes unfed or uneducated, where the health of everybody is cared for and where ideas are openly expressed. Give aid to those working towards stewardship of our planet.
The quality of a man’s character determines his worth, not your bank account, not your house, not your khakis.
The things you own, often end up owning you.
The peregrine falcon is not fast because of what it has, but what it does not have. Like many birds, the falcon’s bones are hollow. Travel light.
A lion owns nothing, yet we all know his power.
You were born owning nothing and with nothing you will pass out of this life.
Letter 14- Discipline is Not What You Think
We often think of discipline as something that we do to others, when in fact, it is not.
I do not discipline you.
You create discipline in yourself.
Discipline is something we do to ourselves. It can be learned.
Be the first to arrive and the last to leave. Oddly, with discipline, structure, and order, you will find there is freedom.
This is true from your earliest days.
I taught you how to walk on the sidewalk and stay out of the street and to look both ways when crossing. Once you had learned these things sufficiently, and had disciplined yourself to follow them, I no longer needed to watch you every second. Your discipline had led to more freedom than you would have had otherwise.
As you become older, simplify your diet, dress, decisions, etc.
We have a finite number of decisions we can effectively make on any given day. This is science.
The more we reduce those decisions, through order and discipline, the more we can find freedom in other areas of our life that truly matter.
Be orderly in your life so that you may be violent in your art.
In the field of battle, as in all things, you will perform as you practice; so practice hard.
The better a knight prepares, the less willing he will be to surrender.
Do nothing that is of no use.
Your life is your responsibility and you always have the choice to do your best. Whether you’re mowing a lawn or delivering a keynote presentation, you have the choice to do it well. Doing your best will bring you happiness, no matter the task. No task is beneath you.
You are not fragile.
I pray that you never have an easy life.
Beware of needing or wanting too much praise. The odd thing is that the only praise that matters is already given to you. Thus, we seek it from those whose opinions do not matter.
Be resolute in your beliefs, my boys. Your friendship can never be bought. Discipline yourself to know when somebody is attempting to do so.
Under the guise of love or loyalty, people can use guilt or fear to manipulate. I don’t wax poetic on this point. This lesson has been learned through great loss in business and in friendship.
Friends and family may ask you to be weak, and may even beg it of you, but all anybody really wants is for you to be strong.
Adapt what is useful, reject what is useless, and add what is specifically your own.
Letter 15 – Massive Action and Extraordinary Effort
Ordinary effort will never yield extraordinary results.
Luck is the residue of design. Be steadfast. The anvil outlasts the Hammer.
Everyone wants to be successful; wanting is no great accomplishment. How hard you work is the difference between good and great, squire and knight.
Those who want only ever take an ‘average’ level of action in their lives. They perceive they are doing something great, but never realize why their efforts leave them wanting.
You always have a choice in everything and there are four levels of action you can take:
- Do nothing.
- Take normal levels of action.
- Take massive action.
‘Average’ is the most dangerous level of action because it is also the most accepted by society.
You must take massive action.
A man remembers that his body is not his, it is a gift from his ancestors, from God. Therefore, he does not poison his roots with intoxicants. He eats to live and does not live to eat. He keeps his teeth and hands clean. His mind and body are kept sharp with exercise, learning, and contemplation. He steadies his nerves by getting enough sleep, but not too much.
When his family and friends need him, he is ready. He is selfless in his self improvement.
Noah built the ark before the flood; likewise, you must not wait for the inevitable storms of life before you prepare yourself.
There is a story about an invading force who laid siege to an ancient city. They hoped to starve the occupants prior to their grand attack in the hopes that they would be fighting a severely depleted source.
They waited weeks to attack and themselves suffered from lack of supplies, progress. They depleted themselves in the hopes that the city’s spoils would replenish them.
What they could never have known, however, was that in the years prior, the city’s knights had devised an escape route from the city into the mountains should an event like this ever occur.
The attacking force found itself wrought with conflict and without a prize.
Steady your mind.
Thought precedes action.
How we handle times of peace and calm will determine our behavior in crisis.
Letter 16 – My Most Important Letter
As your father, I was present at each of your births, and I can attest there is the stuff of magic in each of you. We are made in the Lord’s image, none more so than you.
You are not in control of your life.
Neither am I, so much that I wish I was.
In fact, we are in control of very little outside of how we choose to reach to situations that present themselves.
We tend to find what we seek. Be careful what you wish for.
You must have faith.
Trust the people who you respect, who you love and who love you, but in the matters of the greatest importance, trust yourself. Trust God.
Don’t be fooled.
Don’t be hurried.
If you feel as though somebody is attempting to do either to you, walk away.
There is plenty of time to make mistakes.
Ask hard questions.
Read these letters.
Read how other men and women who are smarter than me (there are many) have answered the same questions you now have.
Your elders and your ancestors have done their best to pass their best wisdom onto you. As have I.
You did not create the mountains, the oceans, the sun, or the rain. You did not even create yourself. So relax a bit. The world is not yours to save.
Beware becoming overzealous in anything. People often talk about a man so holy that he can walk on hot coals or another whose prayers are so powerful, he too, can walk on water.
For me, I have seen enough miracles in my short years.
Believe not only that “this too shall pass,” although it will.
There are two phrases that have held me in order in times that would come to define me as a man:
- Memento Mori
- Amor Fati
They still reside on the inside of my forearms. Reminders to myself at all times.
I’ll touch more on both of these in two future letters.
Have faith that wherever your ancestors have gone, you will go to.
You are not an island.
This is happening to all of us.
Somehow, in writing this, I feel that it will outlast me and in the day that you find it, we will remain close.
In that, I must also have faith.
Letter 17 – Equality is an Unwavering Truth
A knight is never present when men or women are being degraded or compromised in any way, because if a knight were present, those committing the hurtful acts or words would be made to stop.
The easiest times to fight for equality, or equity, is when it is obvious.
A minority group persecuted by the state.
Children denied an education.
A woman beaten by her husband.
Young men without fathers.
These people are easy to fight for. To support the underdog and the minority.
At least, this is my hope.
If I am right about you boys, you will feel the same way that I do.
That it’s worth sacrificing part of what you’ve been given to steward on this earth to help another.
You were both born with my sense of justice.
You will find it infinitely harder to fight for equality when it is your friends and your family who are the ones who persecute.
Will you be ready to stand up to them? Or will you fall in line?
This is when your mettle, your virtue, will be tested.
The weakest of all weak things is a virtue that has not been tested in the fire
This day WILL come and you will be ready.
Letter 18 – The True Meaning of Love
Whether from my mouth, or from scripture, or from the words of your favorite orator, everything good is done in Love.
Often, the obstacle is the way, but there is no obstacle that love cannot move.
Heal, lead, and fight with love.
Fight with love for what you believe in. Turn the other cheek, yes, but do not turn your eyes to injustice, and inequity.
Your power is to empower others.
Selfless self improvement through self discipline. Do what good you can.
Protect your mother and each other. Care for those who cannot, no matter the reason.
The power of love is that it is infinite. One mustn’t lose for another to gain. Consider others to be family, care, live, and fight for them as such.
In matters of the heart, know yourself before another. Self-awareness is not only an attractive quality, but also allows you to know what you’re giving to another. Honesty is a requisite.
Love is not a word, it is an action, a choice. Love is a commitment to doing the work of relating to another person when they are, simply, unlovable.
Do not confuse love with obsession.
It also does not lovingly commit to the same work with you.
I did not fall in love with your mother. In fact, after our first few months together, we spent almost a year apart. Another few months together, followed by another near year apart.
In that time we forged a bond by talking to each other on the phone every day.
Ther was no room for lust or obsession. Had we not had the makings of a serious relationship, we would have quickly tired of one another and ended things. In fact, we both attempted to do just that a few times.
And yet we stayed committed. We chose.
It’s not the fairy tale you might want to hear, but above all else, your mother and I are best friends. If I could wish one thing for you, it would be to know the kind of love that I give to, and receive from, your mother.