A few experiences in my personal life over the last two months have had me doing quite a bit of thinking about the kind of people I want to have in my life.
There are some guys at work that have quickly become some of my very favorite coworkers. Cool guys. Funny guys. Smart guys. And guys who seriously can't even be reasonable when they talk about how rad their wives and kids are. It was a few years ago when it really hit me that the guys I date can be fun and cool and interesting and smart, but if I can't imagine them teaching my little boys how to be good men and setting examples for my little girls about what a real man is, then I have no business getting attached. And if I have friendships that are clouding that judgement I probably don't need those either.
I may have gotten off target as of late. Made some questionable allowances for shady behavior. Done a few things that are out of character. Nothing awful but just enough off track that I've had to do some serious thinking about where and with whom I want to spend my time and invest my affection. At church on Sunday I made a list of all the people I admire and the many, many good marriage examples I have in my life. It's almost embarrassing how long that list was. It doesn't leave a lot of room for folks who don't bring out my best self.
In my thoughts this week I keep going back to one of the great letters I got for the Dear Me project. It came from an old friend from my idyllic days in Huntington Beach when I took it for granted that I would always be surrounded by cute, smart, surfer dudes who could make me laugh until I cried and were all trying their hardest to be good. Not always succeeding mind you, but sure trying. I still want all the fun stuff but that trying to be good thing has flown up the charts on my list of things I'm looking for.
So here is his letter. I feel like this is something Coach Taylor would write and as we all know, Coach Taylor is the perfect man.*disclaimer, there is some Mormon specific language in here but I think it's still pretty clear.
Hey, dude. It’s me. Well, actually, you. Just 25 years in the future.
I know that sounds entirely creepy, but it’s true. You see, in the
future (and this is one of the few things in the future that is truly
mind-blowing) there’s this thing called a blog and you’ve (I’ve?) been
asked to write something for it. Picture a fanzine but accessible
through a computer and available to almost everyone in the world. It’s
insane and you won’t be able to remember how you lived without it.
yeah, this is you in the future. Knowing how your brain works, right
now you are (a) wondering what has become of you and (b) completely
questioning the credibility of this. So, let’s just tackle those
questions upfront. First off, the future is a bizarre place where you
are shaving regularly (well, still only a couple of times per week to be
perfectly honest) and having sex (and, even when that is only a couple
of times per week, you aren’t complaining in the least). Yes, you
actually marry. Yes, you actually have kids. And (shockingly, to be
honest), yes, you actually like your job. The future is actually
awesome. Look forward to it, but don’t rush it. The ride to get there is
plenty awesome as well. Secondly, let’s address that credibility issue.
Here you go – 25 years on, you would still take a bullet in defense of
“Psychocandy” being the greatest album ever. Oh, yes. Now, I know what
you are thinking – “I’m an old man clinging to the past! Argh!”. Don’t
worry there are 25 great years of music ahead of you and you are still
on top of it. But, there’s still just something about “Psychocandy” that
nothing else has been able to trump.
So, I’m rambling a bit
(dad’s pet peeve about your writing style to this day; don’t change it
man, just keep rockin’ the overdose of commas and parentheticals; it’s
how your brain works). Let’s get to the point here – it’s time for some
advice. Yeah, I know that sounds all old and stodgy, but, dude, trust
me, this is still you. The energy and drive are still there (I’m
actually writing this on 3-hours of sleep in an airport heading to a big
corporate presentation today harnessing immense game face; lack of
energy never becomes a problem). Now, on with the old-guy-to-young-guy
1 – Follow the Prophet. Yes, there it is in the #1
slot. There were a lot of different things that I could say here (“live
the Gospel”, “obey the commandments”, etc), but “follow the Prophet” is
ultimately all you need to know. If there is nothing else you remember
from this (and I’m sure you are 84% tuned out already), just remember:
follow the prophet. Why? Well, here’s how it breaks down: If there is
truly a living Prophet on the earth, sent from God, then that’s kind of a
big deal, right? Yeah, completely. It’s a huge deal. So, attach
yourself to that huge deal. Listen to what he has to say and follow it.
Don’t sweat whether you understand everything or not yet, just follow
it. If it’s from God, then who are you to overanalyze it, right?
Totally. Focus more on making it happen than on understanding everything
in full detail. The prophet will point you to everything else of worth –
read the Book of Mormon, live clean, start a family, get a solid
education, man up and be a provider, don’t be a deadbeat dad, etc. If
it’s important for you to know, than trust me, you’ll hear it from him.
So, we got this one? Follow the prophet. Trust me, you’ll never regret
(Reminder: Everything that follows below is far less
important than what we just went through. So, should you ever get
confused, just remember to follow the prophet).
2 – Be humble.
Yes, it’s fun to act arrogant to push people’s buttons. It’s an easy one
and I’m not sure you’ll ever get over the temptation. But, seriously,
while you may jokingly act like that guy, don’t ever be that guy. Just
don’t do it. Stay self-aware. The world is a big place and you are not
the sun in the universe, so don’t ever think/exude that. Cool? OK.
Seriously, be confident, be strong, be bold, etc, but don’t ever be
arrogant. If you don’t know the difference yet, figure it out (hint:
constant and complete gratitude is a secret ingredient here).
Be mature. Let me make this super easy: Take serious things seriously.
Notice, I didn’t say “don’t have fun”. I didn’t say “be serious”. I
simply said “be mature”. Notice serious moments and respect them. This
4 – Be kind. This one is simple – just be cool to everybody. Done. If you are humble and mature, this will come naturally.
– Read like mad. I don’t necessarily care what you read as long as it’s
clean and at least somewhat engaging to your brain cells. Just read. A
lot. And read different things. A lot of your experience and
understanding in life will come through reading. You simply can’t
personally experience all there is to experience, so at least read about
it. This will be a huge asset to you in connecting with other people.
– Travel. If you had any idea how much I’ve been able to travel, you’d
be really tripped out. Look forward it. Embrace it. But, don’t ever
carry a “the way we do things in my part of the world is superior” vibe
(reminder: be humble). Keep your mind and eyes open. The world is a huge
and beautiful place. Dude, I’m jealous of the places you are going to
go. Be grateful for all of it.
7 – “Never lose that feeling”.
Dude, nobody will ever know you like you know yourself. That may sound
like a curse, but honestly it’s pretty awesome. Don’t do anything to
disturb the natural vibe/signal/energy that you have (hint: following
the prophet will keep your signal alive). Be grateful for some of the
internal blessings that God and your family have passed down to you.
– Listen to the Spirit. I’m going to close on this because this is the
only piece of advice that could possibly topple “follow the prophet”
for the #1 slot (and it’s definitely advice that the prophet will give
you repeatedly; follow it). Keep your mind and hands clean. This world
has some ugliness and you are smart enough to recognize it. Avoid it at
all costs. Be perfectly honest and able to look any person alive
straight in the eyes and know that you are good. That’s a very powerful
feeling (hint: this is the secret ingredient for confidence). Live by
the Spirit. To quote one of your future Bishops: “Once you feel the
Spirit, you never want to lose that”.
So, in conclusion, just
know this – it may be 25 years in the future (and you may be sitting in
an airport pre-dawn in a business suit as you write this), but you are
still 100% you. Your face is more wrinkled, your hair is less plentiful
(and less pigmented), your waistline is less trimmed-out, and your
responsibilities are far heavier, but your joys are far exquisite. It’s a
great time and you will love it. Live clean and get there.