Forty years ago this week I began my freshman year of college. I felt as if I had the world by the tail. Today, I have returned to the same campus, where my son will begin his freshman year. He probably feels as if he has the world by the tail. I just feel blue.
He will major in business administration with a minor in accounting, then go to culinary school for two years to become a chef. He will then spend two years working for friends of mine in the industry in Italy and New Orleans. After eight years I told him he could come back and work in one of our restaurants, but he’ll start at the bottom like everyone else.
After helping him move into his room, his mom and I offered our final farewells. It was a tearful moment.
Before I left his dorm room, I slipped this letter into the drawer of his desk.
I am excited that you are entering the next phase of your life. There is no other time in life that equals one’s freshman year of college. I hope and pray your mom and I have given you the necessary tools over the past 18 years to set you up to be a productive citizen and fine Christian example for others to follow. You’re a man now. It’s time to do what men do – prioritize your life in a healthy manner
You are in college to absorb as much as you can about your major field of study and your electives. School comes first. Your social life is about to get kicked up to another level. Your mother and I want you to have fun. But be responsible, and never forget why you are there – to learn.
We are always a phone call away. It doesn’t matter what time of the day or night. If you need your mother or me, call.
I will tell you exactly what I told your sister four years ago. When it comes to college classes, there are three hard rules you need to follow for certain success in your college career.
1. Go to class: I can’t overemphasize how important this is to the success of your higher education. When you wake up one morning and you don’t feel 100% and realize that mom isn’t there to push you out of bed and make you go to class, you have to man up, dig deep, and make yourself go to class.
2.) Sit at the front of the class: Do whatever you can to sit on the first row on the first day (and every day thereafter). Always sit up front and always pay attention.
3.) Take thorough notes: You can use your phone to record lectures, but that should only be a backup to your hand-written notes. When it is time to study for a test, take your notes and re-write them to use as your study guide.
Outside of the classroom, you know what I always say, “Make good decisions.” It took me a long time to learn the difference between intentions and decisions is that intentions are always followed by more intentions. Decisions are followed by action. Never be afraid to take action. Just make sure you think before you act.
You’re going to make mistakes. That’s OK. Try to keep them limited to small mistakes. And then don’t dwell on your mistakes once you’ve made them. Learn from them, and move on.
Be humble. When your head begins to swell, your mind stops growing. You are about to need your mind more than ever, so keep your ego in check.
Help others (especially the underdog).
Always know if you take care the possible, God will take care of the impossible.
Pray every day. Don’t worry if you’re good at it or not. Trying to pray is praying. You should always pray like it depends on God but take action like it depends on you. And when you pray, don’t worry. Because if you’re going to worry, there’s no need to pray.
You’re about to learn that way too many people suffer from Yard of the Month Syndrome. Don’t worry so much about what the outside of your house looks like. Focus on the inside of your house. A happy life is all about your heart, not your head. It’s a good rule to never compare your insides to other people’s outsides. Be you – it’s a good you – and be bold.
I was 40-years old before I learned the best things in life aren’t things. The best things in life are relationships with your family and friends. Know that you probably haven’t even met your best friend yet.
Make friends. And when you think you’ve made enough friends, make some more. In the next few years you’re going to meet most of the men who will eventually be groomsmen at your wedding.
Don’t confuse pleasure with happiness. Pleasure is fleeting. Happiness lasts. Once you’ve reached a comfortable level of happiness then strive for joy. Joy is happiness with peace and serenity thrown in. Peace and serenity come from always doing the right thing.
You have so much to be grateful for. So, be grateful. Grateful people do grateful things.
Now is a great time to start giving. It doesn’t have to be money. Give of yourself and give of your time. The only thing you’re going to take from this world is what you gave away. Your life will truly begin when you stop expecting the world to give you something and you start trying to figure out what you can give to the world.
Son, life is really short. This isn’t a rehearsal for something else. This is it. This is your life. Be bold. Live it. Enjoy it. Be kind to everyone. Go to class and call your mother.