Dear Alex and Andrew-

I know you both think I am nuts half the time.  Nonetheless, as your parent, I have a right to share some words of wisdom.  I realize that some of these things may be a little over your handsome teenage heads, but as your mom, I insist that you trust me, and if nothing else, just keep them in mind.

Here are the 12 powerful lessons/bits of advice, in no particular order, that I wish to share with you.

1. A PASSION FOR LEARNING IS A PASSION FOR LIFE.  A curious mind will help you explore your limitless potential.  Be a learner.  Understand the difference between a fixed mindset and a growth mindset.  A fixed mindset believes that intelligence, abilities and personality are fixed, genetic traits.  A growth mindset believes that intelligence, abilities and personality traits can be cultivated.  Trust me, the fixed mindset is a self fulfilling prophecy. A growth mindset makes for a life of learning, expansion and progress. You were created with trillions of neurons in your head, a fixed mind spends a lifetime utilizing a choice few neural pathways over and over again.  While a growth mindset is constantly expanding that neuron tree in the mind. Please study the basics of neuroscience to understand yourself, and this concept better.

2.  FOCUS YOUR COLLEGE STUDIES ON SOMETHING YOU ARE PASSIONATE ABOUT. Do not worry that it may not have a lucrative career path.  Do not choose a major based on how much money you may make.  More and more people are pursuing non-traditional jobs because technology and social media are greatly expanding our world. The things that you are passionate about are not random, they are your calling. They will help you discover your unique gifts.  A job that gives you purpose will spark your creativity and pave the way for you.  Do what you love and you will never work a day in your life.

3. BE PRESENT.  So few of us live in the moment.  I struggle with this every day.  Just try to look around, and appreciate your life.  There is so much good, and so much to be thankful for. Far too many of us spend a life time focusing on the bad, or what we don’t have.

4. PRIORITIZE YOUR HEALTH.  Eat real food, mostly plants, lots of water.  What you think and feel is just as important as what you eat.  What you “consume” physically, mentally and emotionally will determine your health.  I drill this into your heads every day. You control your physical and emotional health.  Emotional intelligence is your ability to recognize, and understand and manage your own emotions, and that of others.  It literally is the difference between the Dad on the soccer field screaming at their kid/refs/coaches, and the Dad that remains calm and content under the same circumstances.  Emotional intelligence is about healthy emotional responses to life.  But first one needs to understand what their own anger is really about, this taps into #9, self awareness.

5.  UNDERSTAND THE MOST IMPORTANT RELATIONSHIP YOU HAVE IS WITH YOURSELF.  When you are hard on yourself, you will be judgmental of others. When you don’t love yourself, you cannot truly love others.  When you cannot forgive yourself, you will not be able to forgive others. You will make mistakes.  You will be wrong.  Others will wrong you. Learn to forgive and apologize sincerely, and freely.  Take responsibility for your thoughts, emotions and behaviors.  Your reaction is always YOUR choice.  Don’t take yourself too seriously.  Don’t make life all about you, which means don’t take ANYthing personally.  What other people do, is never about you. Belong to yourself, not to the world.

6.  EXPERIENCE MORE, CONSUME LESS.  Be aware of consumption in America.  Many of privilege tend to value materialism above all else.  Materialism is a value system that emphasizes wealth, status, image and material consumption.   The bigger the emotional void inside a person, the more they will value materialism.  In fact, materialism is the cause, and symptom of emotional and spiritual bankruptcy.  Spend your money on experiences, not stuff.  Know the differences between want and needs and don’t let this consumer culture dictate your life.

7.  MAKE YOUR MARRIAGE A PRIORITY.  Understand marriage is work.  It is no different than anything else worth having in this world.  You have to intentionally cultivate a good relationship with your spouse every single day.

8.  READ. TRAVEL. BE GRATEFUL.  Expand your mind.  See the world. Make yourself uncomfortable.  Be open to new experiences.  Understand that as you get older, you can get very set in your ways.  Stay curious.  Be humbled by how much you do not know.  Cultivate an attitude of gratitude.

9. BE SELF AWARE. This is a doozy…. So many people go through life completely unconscious.  They never tap into the true power or potential of their own minds.  This is because they never realize that the way they see the world is their choice.  Many people cannot fathom that their beliefs or their thoughts are not the reality for everyone.  They do not even realize that their focus is their choice.  But here is the thing, how we see the world does not define the world as much as it defines us.  The fact is that we only have the ability to read our own minds, know our own intentions, and what is in our own hearts.  In other words, what YOU focus on, you will find.  If your intentions are good, you will assume other’s have good intentions.  And what is in your heart- be it love, fear, hate, etc- is what you will see in the hearts of others.  What we see in the world is nothing more than a projection of ourselves.

10.  BE SOCIALLY CONSCIOUS.  Never stop exploring the world, and understanding that you are an important part of it.  Never be afraid to challenge your perspective or your thinking. Dive into systemic cultural problems and understand how you play a role in those problems.  Take responsibility.  Most importantly, know that you matter.  Your choices matter.  Indeed, every choice you make dictates your life, and greatly influences the world.  You may feel like a small part of this world, but you have immense power to change it.

11.  BE BRAVE.  To be brave is to be free.  “Your life will shrink or expand in proportion to your courage.”(Nin)  Your fears are signs of things you need to work on within yourself.

12.  YOUR CHARACTER IS EVERYTHING.  “You make your choices, and then your choices make you.”  Your character can change, for better or worse, all depending on your choices. First thing first, have integrity.  This means doing the right thing even when no one is looking.  The world is a seductive place.  Know that you will be tempted and enticed often.   Know that you may feel alone in your choices.  Know that the right thing, may not always be the popular thing.  Most importantly know that self respect and self worth come from what YOU think of YOU, not from what the world may think of you.  And you can never really run from, or fool yourself.

There you have it boys.  My sage advice.  I want you to forge your own way, and live life like you mean it.

Life really is about people, and this great big beautiful world we live in.  Your experience will be enriched when you connect less with material things, and more with life itself.