Dear Cameron Charles Yarbrough:
It is that time of year again when I attempt to pass along a little of what I have experienced over my long life in hopes there will a nugget or two that you may find helpful as you make your own journey through life. If memory serves me correctly, I began this annual exercise when your dad was about your age.
You represent the next generation in our family and that carries with it important responsibilities, including protecting our family’s good name and reputation. Handle with care.
One way you do that is with your decision-making. You won’t always make the right decision, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try. In that regard, trust your gut. Your mind will allow you to rationalize a potentially poor decision, but not your gut. Deep down inside, you will know whether something is right or wrong. Listen before you leap.
Don’t be afraid to make a mistake. Some of our best learning experiences come not from our successes but from our failures. They keep us humble and remind us we are human. Just try not to make the same mistake over and over again.
It is nice to be popular, but it is better to be respected for who you are and what you stand for. Don’t let people drag you down to their level. Try to bring them up to yours. Don’t compromise your principles or your beliefs.
Feel good about yourself (and you should because a lot of people love you), but don’t get cocky. The world has a way of knocking the stuffing out of us when we think we know it all. There is no redeeming value in being a braggart and a blowhard. That is a telltale sign of insecurity. If you are good at what you do, people will recognize that. You don’t have to tell them.
That goes for class, as well. We can’t always define it, but we know it when we see it. Maybe it is how we carry ourselves or how we deal with people or a self-assurance that radiates a quiet confidence. Money can’t buy class. You either have it or you don’t. It is a worthy goal to be considered by others as a class individual.
Speaking of goals, have one. Have several. Some can be career goals and some can be personal. Have something to aim for that gives your life purpose and meaning. Don’t live a drab life in a drab world.
One of my goals is to inspire you to greatness. There is nothing wrong with being ordinary, but there is something noble about great achievement. Someone has to be the scientist who makes a discovery that will change the world. Someone has to be a statesman who brings peace in our time. Someone has to an innovator, an inventor, a philanthropist, a scholar, an artist, a builder, a composer. Why not you? Don’t let small minds deter you from being the best you can be. Dream big dreams. Dare to be great.
And work. Work hard. Your great-grandfather was not always the smartest guy in the building or the most talented or the best-connected, but I have yet to meet the person who could outwork me. I was usually the first one in the office and the last one out and in that time, I tried to learn something that would make me a better person and a more valuable employee. I suggest you do the same thing.
But don’t lose perspective. Enjoy life. Laugh a lot. Make good friends. Be a good friend. Don’t gossip. Don’t take yourself too seriously. Believe in God. Hug those you love. Don’t grind over things that happened yesterday. Yesterday is over and done with. And don’t lose sleep over tomorrow. We aren’t even guaranteed a tomorrow. Live in this day and live it to the best of your abilities.
I doubt I will live long enough to see how you turn out but I have high hopes. At nine years of age, it is obvious that you have all the right stuff. You are doing gangbusters in school and in the Cub Scouts. You are active in your church. You have the makings of a pretty good golfer, thanks to your grandfather. And what you can’t build with Legos hasn’t been invented yet.
But, most of all, Cameron Charles Yarbrough, you love me and I love you. May that never change. Happy New Year.