I haven’t met you yet.
But as I turn 30 today, and you get ready to join us shortly, there are a few lessons I have learned along the way that I wanted to share.
Okay, more than a few: there are 30 — one for each year.
These lessons are in no particular order. They may not be immediately applicable. They may seem to contradict at times. But I have learned them, they have helped me, and I hope they can help you.
Despite what you might hear or see, we are lucky. There is no greater time to be alive — and no greater country to be born into — than this one, right here, right now. So here it goes:
You Do Not Know Everything
You will know more than your dad, but you won’t know everything—and when you think you know everything, that is the moment the universe will teach you exactly how much you don’t know. Be humble, and never stop seeking knowledge.
You Know More Than You Think
There are a lot of smart people in the world, but there are equally as many who want to appear smarter than they really are. Never doubt yourself — you are always smarter than you think, and always worthy to be in the room or the conversation.
To Whom Much Is Given, Much Is Expected
Your mother and I are lucky to build upon the foundation earned for us by our parents and grandparents. We continue that work for you, but you shouldn’t think of it as a gift. Rather, it is the greatest responsibility of all: to help make a better world for all, especially for those who cannot.
There Is Is No Such Thing as a Participation Trophy
True, sometimes half the work is just showing up — but showing up is easy. Working for greatness — to be the best, but humbly so — matters. Fight for it!
If It Was Easy, Everyone Would Do It
“The hard is what makes it great.”
Don’t Give Up. Don’t Ever Give Up.
No Guts, No Glory
Your mother and I have learned from our own role models — including distance running legends like Steve Prefontaine, Molly Huddle, and Meb Keflezighi— to embrace the pain that comes with hard work, because it can be a signal that you are about to succeed.
Your Dreams Are the Most Important Things You Own
Don’t give them up. Ever. No matter how hard things get. No matter how many people tell you that you can’t — you can. You can be anything you want to be! So make it really, really good.
It Doesn’t Matter What You Look Like
There was a time in this country when we believed that women shouldn’t be able to do certain things just because they were women. That is the way of the past, like horse-and-buggy or phones with cords. You can do anything you want — and it doesn’t matter what you wear, how you do your hair, or anything else.
It Doesn’t Matter Where You Come From
Your father grew up next to a cornfield in New York. Your mother grew up on a ranch in California. We will never forget where we came from, but there is no magic hometown that automatically creates success. We were proud to grow up and work hard in our small towns and big cities along the way.
It Doesn’t Matter What Names They Call You
Insecure people like to vocalize that insecurity through ad hominem, or attacking others personally. When your critics call you names, just smile and remember that you’re doing something right.
When Somebody Tells You That You Can’t Do Something — That’s Usually the Exact Time to Do It and Prove Them Wrong
(Unless you’re breaking our house rules — in which case, “honor thy father and mother,” please.)
The Most Important Religion Is Service to Others
Many people believe many different things. Regardless of where we go to church, no belief system or place of worship will ever be more important than doing good things for other human beings. We serve in many ways, from the military to volunteer work to simply being there for one another. Service is what we do.
The Most Important Rule Is Golden
Treat others the way you would want to be treated.
“If Not Me, Then Who?”
You may look around and wonder, “Why do we do it this way?” or, “I wish this was different.” You may think that changing what you see is someone else’s responsibility, but as I have learned, 99% of the time, the only way to bring about the change you seek is to work for it yourself!
Empathy is Everything
“That which you wish for yourself you must give to another.” If you want to be happy, practice giving happiness to others. And remember that sometimes the most important words are the ones unsaid. Empathy is about more than speaking — it’s about connecting with others.
Say Thank You — and Mean It
Our society too often uses “thank you” as a pejorative or throwaway phrase. Own your gratitude, and practice it with feeling and meaning on a daily basis. You’ll be surprised how much happier you will become.
Not Everyone Wants What You Want
Not everyone has the same dream. And that doesn’t make the wants and dreams of others any less worthy than yours. The best way to serve others is by helping them achieve — not judging — their dreams.
Tolerance of Intolerance is Intolerance
We have come a long way in this country, but there are still small, insecure people who will use a person’s appearance or beliefs to belittle them. When you see this or hear this, do not ignore it— call it out, as respectfully as you can. Resisting prejudice is an active task. Stand up for what is right.
If It Seems Like a Lost Cause, Fight the Hardest
Be Brave, Be Bold, Dream Big
If your ideas and dreams and goals don’t sound ridiculous, they’re probably too easy. Now more than ever, there are no limits to what you can do — so don’t limit yourself!
If You Have No Critics, You’re Probably Doing It Wrong
Read, Read, Read!
Fiction, nonfiction, newspapers, magazines, facts, opinions. I have never been bored a day in my life because I have always carried a book with me everywhere. (Eventually, you will hear my related advice: write, write, write!)
Measure Twice, Cut Once
You are going to feel nervous and frustrated along the way. That’s okay! But you can cut through those feelings in your stomach by putting in the work ahead of time. Prepare; don’t fear.
Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff
Don’t lose perspective. Don’t hold grudges. The universe is bigger than just our small, bluish dot. You control how you feel, how you react.
No Weakness Is So Terrifying That It Can’t Be Turned Into a Strength
For the first two decades of your dad’s life, he couldn’t swim. I always felt self-conscious about that, and when I accepted an appointment to the US Naval Academy, a lot of my friends wondered how I would make it through. But I knew that if I did this hard thing, I would know how to swim and succeed. I would turn my weakness into a strength. I worked hard at it every day for three years, learned how to swim, and graduated. Nothing is so difficult that you can’t learn it and turn it around to your advantage. (Your dad still can’t make left-handed layups, though.)
Your Parents Aren’t Done Learning
And I don’t think we ever will be. Like you, we will always seek knowledge and growth. We may make mistakes now and then, but we will always be honest about them and get better each day — just like you.
Be Who You Are
Don’t be somebody else’s idea of that. In all your weirdness, with all your quirks, in all the ways that make you, you. The universe needs you to be you. And you know that we will always love you!
You Own Your Destiny
Nobody can write your story for you, and you won’t know how the story reads until the end — but write it! Every day.
You Can Always Come Home
One last thing: I could be wrong. About all of this.
But that’s okay. Being wrong isn’t the end of things. It’s the beginning.
You and I have a long life ahead of us, daughter. Let’s make it a good one.
I’ll see you soon.
PS — Listen to your mother.
This article was syndicated from Medium.