Dear Cameron Charles Yarbrough:
Welcome to a new year. Admittedly, I am biased, but what I have seen of you in your eight years on Earth gives me great confidence that you have a bright future ahead of you.
I have been thinking about what I could say to you that might be of benefit as you continue your journey into a world that seems to grow meaner and shriller with each passing day. Life will be a challenge. It always has been and forever will be. How you live it depends on you. As one who has experienced some good days and some that were not so good, I would suggest that no matter what the future holds, there are certain precepts that never change.
If you have heard these things before, bear with me. They are worth repeating. A lot of what I am going to tell you comes from my own life experiences. I have been-there, done-that and have the scars to prove it.
Never forget that the greatest asset you have today and will ever have is your good name. If you lose it, it is hard to get it back. When temptations come — and they will — remember that however you decide to deal with them will not only affect your reputation but your family’s as well.
If you choose to do the wrong thing, be prepared to pay the price. Bad decisions can have bad consequences and you will have no one to blame but yourself. How can you know if your decision has the potential to be a bad one? Listen to your gut. Your mind has a great ability to rationalize things, but not your gut. Deep down inside, you will know right from wrong.
Don’t be afraid to do the right thing. Being popular is a worthy goal but it depends on how you get there. Compromising your integrity to please other people is not the way. Be someone that others look up to, someone they would like to emulate. Strive to be honest, trustworthy and a dependable friend. If those around you don’t approve, they aren’t worth your time and effort. Don’t act like you are their moral superior but don’t let them impact your own self-worth. No one knows you better than you know yourself.
Whatever you choose to do with your life, do it to the best of your abilities. All day. Every day. Never go to bed satisfied with anything but having given your best. Don’t cheat yourself. If you don’t succeed, let it not be for a lack of effort. Be the best you can be at everything you do.
Having said that, enjoy what you do. A wise man once told me to find something you love to do so much that you would pay someone for the privilege of doing it — and then just get them to pay you. That’s the perfect job. A bit overstated perhaps, but you get the idea. Never have a job just to have a job. Do something that satisfies you and fits your value system. I had some hard days in my career, but looking back, I wouldn’t change a thing. Not many people can make that claim. I hope you can say the same about your own career.
Keep things in perspective. Life is full of ups and downs. Don’t let your successes go to your head and don’t let your failures drag down your self-esteem. Be quietly confident. Don’t brag. Don’t whine. If it doesn’t need to be said, don’t say it. Have a sense of humor and be willing to laugh at yourself. Take life seriously, but don’t take yourself too seriously.
There is nothing to prohibit you for being whatever you choose to be. If you never remember anything else I tell you, please remember this: Dream big. Playwright George Bernard Shaw wrote these words: “Some people see things as they are and say, ‘Why?’ I dream things that never were and say, ‘Why not?’” Why not, indeed. Promise me that you will never let anyone or anything discourage you from dreaming big things. Then have the tenacity and drive to pursue your dream. This world is full of small people with small ideas. Don’t be one of them.
My own dream is that you will make this a better world because you were here. You have certainly made mine better. May that never change. Happy New Year.