Well, here we go again. A new year and some more unsolicited advice from your great grandpa. We have been at this quite a while. I hope these observations have been of some value to you. A lot of what I want to share with you are matters I wish someone had covered with me when I was your age. Maybe I wouldn’t have made as many mistakes in my life as I have.
On the other hand, mistakes can be a learning experience. We are all going to make them. It is how we react to them that matters. Don’t let a mistake create doubt in your mind about your abilities and try not to make the same one twice.
Make a difference. You don’t have to invent a cure for cancer or write the world’s next great symphony. Just be someone who makes this a better place by being here. Be nice to people even when they don’t deserve it. Say “thank you” and “please” and “I apologize” and mean it. Courtesy never goes out of style.
Don’t be ashamed to tell people you love them. For some reason, we guys find that awkward. It shouldn’t be. We all like to know somebody loves us, especially those we love. And be generous with your hugs. Hugs are huge.
Be the best you can be at everything you do. You won’t succeed at everything you attempt but don’t let it be from not trying. Never allow yourself to compromise or rationalize a lack of effort. Be able to look yourself in the mirror at night and know you did your best. Maybe it wasn’t good enough but it was your best effort. That’s all that matters.
Which leads me to a hard truth: Life is not always fair. In fact, life can be harsh at times and inexplicable. But it is what it is. Sometimes, you will lose when you feel you deserved to win while witnessing someone winning who didn’t deserve it. That’s life. If it knocks you down, get back up and keep going. That takes courage. Don’t lose faith in yourself because of a temporary setback.
Be a leader but don’t try to be a leader. Let me explain. You cannot become a leader by saying you are. Leadership can’t be manufactured. It must come naturally. People will follow those they respect and admire. It is not what you say that will make you a leader. It is what you do. Be sure what you do is the right thing. The right thing isn’t always the popular thing. Know the difference.
Don’t let anyone define who you are. Not your parents, not your grandparents, not me, no one. You know you better than anyone else. Be yourself. If you will allow me a bit of Shakespeare: To thine own self be true. And the reverse is also true. Don’t try to be something you are not. You are a unique individual. Celebrate that fact.
Believe in God. Have faith that there is a magnificent order to this universe and a Creator behind it all. Let no one get between you and your God. Most of all, be leery of religious denominations that have a my-way-or-the-highway view of religion by interpretations they have gleaned from the Bible to fit their own narrow-minded view of religion. Ignore them. Focus on God.
Love your country. I pray your generation is not the one that lets die what George Washington called “the last great experiment for promoting human happiness.” Human happiness seems to be in short supply these days. Instead of focusing on all that is good about us, we obsess on what isn’t. Don’t apologize for being proud of being an American. We aren’t perfect, but who is?
You have been given a unique legacy – your name. It has been handed down over the generations, most notably from your great-great grandfather, my father. Please don’t do anything that would tarnish that legacy. If your name appears in public, be sure it is for something good you have achieved and not something that would embarrass your family. You owe that to your great-great grandfather. You owe that to me. You owe that to yourself.
In closing, I am very proud of what you have accomplished thus far in your life and I’m excited for the future. I hope this is your best year ever and I pray I am around to be a part of it.
You can reach Dick Yarbrough at [email protected] or at P.O. Box 725373, Atlanta, Georgia 31139.