“Great is the human who has not lost his childlike heart.” ~Mencius
I have an amazing sister who is currently in kindergarten. I wrote her a letter summarizing everything I’d like her to know as she goes through life. It occurred to me that these lessons are things we could all stand to remember, so I’ve decided to share it here.
Times are hectic now. It won’t be long until I leave home and move to a magical place we seniors call “college.”
I have one semester left to learn from amazing teachers, one season left to wrestle and lift my heart out, and one chance left to live a high school life. It’s safe to say that I’m pretty sentimental right now.
I’m about to leave the system that you’re just entering. By the time you read this letter, you will not know me as a grade school student. Before I miss this opportunity, I’m going to share with you some brotherly advice as a non-adult.
1. Maintain a childlike imagination.
When I was your age, I would make living room forts out of blankets and couches. I was an unsung hero fighting bad guys that didn’t exist. Imagination was my world, as it is for most of us as kids, but we naturally lose our imagination when we get older.
Imagination is the key ingredient to creativity, innovation, and making dreams come true. With imagination, educators can develop more inspiring teaching methods. With imagination, physicists can come up with a world-changing theory. With imagination, authors can write classic novels. The world needs imaginative people. Even Einstein stressed imagination over knowledge.
Schools tend to underemphasize creativity. Whatever you do—whether music, art, or poetry—find a creative outlet and don’t let go of it. Challenge reality. Change it. Create it. Write your story and share it with the world.
2. Try new things.
Every time you try something new, you broaden your horizons. At the age of five, that might mean eating something other than macaroni and cheese. However, as you grow up, you’ll have countless opportunities to try new things. Sports. Hangouts. Musical instruments. The list goes on.
If you go out and experiment with many new experiences, I can promise that you will find something surprising that you’ll love. Even if you don’t like new experiences, trying new things will help you grow as a person.
People naturally fear the unknown. That’s a silly fear if you ask me. Imagine a world without new experiences. Life would be drab and without risks. Exploring and discovering yourself is an exhilarating part of life, and I hope that you will grow up with many interests and passions.
3. Write down your goals and dreams.
Writing your goals will motivate you, focus your mind, keep you accountable, and arm you with purpose. Pick up a pen. Find something to write on. Tape it somewhere you visit every day. My hope is that, when looking at your written goals, you will recognize that you are in control.
Goals are important because they help accomplish dreams, and dreams are important because they influence action. At the start of every big human accomplishment is a dream that has yet to happen.
The Wright Brothers did not have government funding or a ton of cash, but they did not let that stop them. They financed themselves with a humble bicycle shop and became the first humans to accomplish flight. It all started with imagination, an inspiring dream, and well-planned goals.
Whatever your dreams may be, I hope you set goals and have the initiative to pursue them. A lot of people are capable of doing great things. Some people dream of doing so. Not many people set the goals to do so.
4. Make things happen.
There is nothing wrong with living an ordinary life, but I see a lot of people with big dreams that never happen because they do not take the initiative to make things happen.
True dreamers are those who make their own opportunities, pave their own paths, and follow through with sheer fervor. If you ever get stuck without knowing what to do, look for places to start. Life favors those who live actively. Bottom line, if you ever want to do something, go do it.
5. Don’t stop at failure.
Failure does not happen when you fall down. Failure happens when you refuse to get up. Life is full of obstacles both big and small, and everyone has experienced these difficulties before.
Stephen Hawking was diagnosed with ALS and given only two years to live; yet he persevered to become one of the greatest theoretical physicists in history.
Martin Luther King Jr. managed to love the very people who hated him.
Helen Keller, despite her blindness and deafness, managed to change the world with her activism.
Whatever hurdles you face, realize that you are greater than your obstacles.
6. Time is more valuable than money.
Money is not the key to happiness. It’s replaceable and unfulfilling. If you’re a materialist, you likely won’t feel grateful or happy because you’ll always want more.
Unlike money, you can’t replace time when it’s gone. Once you spend it, time exists only as a memory. Use your time well. Do things that matter to you, things that are priceless. Create unforgettable memories. Time is your life; money is not.
7. Be yourself. Have fun. Do what you love.
I think I have a good formula for a happy life: make the most out of my college life and education, become an engineer, write a book, pay for a stranger’s groceries, continue aging my cheese, take my future family out for some gelato at Wisconsin Dells, and do something great for society.
I won’t measure my life’s success by wealth and social status; rather, I’ll measure myself by happiness.
I hope you approach life with a similar attitude. Explore your surroundings. Make some meaningful friends. Live your own life. Everyone is born with different traits, tastes, and skills. It is up to you to find out what makes you happy.
As meaningful as I take my brotherly advice to be, I’m just one person with a strong opinion. I can’t explain everything. No one can. It’s up to you to search for answers and define yourself.
Your awesome brother,
Happy child image via Shutterstock