A Letter to my 14 Year old Self.
I’ve never written a blog post like this, but since me and the good lady wife now have a son, I thought maybe a few life thoughts whilst I’m somewhat still young, well, middle aged if you ask my body, as to what I would say if a 14 year old asked me for advice now.
Well, first of all, don’t worry about the cool kids. The cool kids always end up with their hot girlfriend 6 years from now living in the same town, with the same girl, with a child in tow. So don’t worry about them.
Definitely not the cool kids.
Find something you love. Find something you can’t stop thinking about day or night. Call it becoming obsessive or an addiction find that thing. It could be playing a musical instrument, being in a band, climbing, water skiing, reading, yoga, snowboarding, football, whatever it is, love it and then try to live it. See if it can help shape your life. There is the amazing quote by Martin Luther King about being a street sweeper. Its true. Its so true.
“If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted or Beethoven composed music or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say “Here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well’
Maybe you like writing, start a blog, maybe you are obsessed with the camera on the iPhone, well, make movies with it.
I watched this video the other day from Italy. Its about a guy who loves the foo fighters, he loves them so much he made a tribute video. But with about 1000 Italian fans of the Foo Fighters. He made this pretty moving video and whilst it also looks like an amazing time, he also caught the attention of Dave Grohl and got him to come and play in his town. I have no idea what that guy is doing now, but knowing how these things work if the bands label haven’t hired him for something you can bet that he is running a festival or something in Italy. Its that motivation and get up and go that you can’t apply for a job with. You have to create something yourself.
In the various worlds of worked or been part of, be it snowboarding, supporting Swansea City, surfing, Crossfit, I would say that there is nothing better than being so passionate about something that it becomes part of who you are, to the point that wherever you go you can feel at home with your family. If you have ever tried crossfit they have figured out a way to make this work. To really mean its not the workout, its the community, the family they have created, so anywhere on earth you go you can walk in a gym and ask what the workout of the day is. Its that simple. Its beautiful really. Same in surfing, last week in Costa Rica we went to a Tiki Hut bar and two locals who hardly spoke english and I sure didn’t speak Spanish in within seconds of him saying “Whoaaa John Johns Turns man” you have a new best friend to share a beer with.
Talking of creating something for yourself, I have been listening to a podcast from NPR called “how I built this” which features interviews with some amazing entrepreneurs including Richard Branson of Virgin, Yves Chouinard from Patagonia, Mark Cuban, the inventors of instagram and one of the key things you notice on each of them is that usually they came up with each idea through seeing an opportunity, being young enough to act on it and having zero responsibilities so they could commit to it. Money was never something they felt like they needed. So I would say thats the next thing.
Enjoy life, enjoy being young, travel, be reckless, love something, but commit to it. Each and everyone of us has probably had that million dollar idea, but never thought to commit to making it happen. And even if its not a million dollar idea exercising that muscle of committing to something is probably one of the best things you can ever do. I started a very low level video production company called Hungerpain and made 3 films. I’d never made a film before but knew that we could find some amazingly talented people to help on it, which included Damian Doyle, Chris Chatt, Chris Schulz & Pete Ellis all of whom have gone on to create some brilliant work. It was enough for the company i was riding for Forum/Burton to take notice and get me to work for them.
Then the next thing….. education…. yes I have thought more about this recently having a young son. Especially living in the states where its frighteningly expensive. Well, do you need a degree and a bachelors? Well…. I think everyone should figure out what feels right for them. I suppose its easy for me to say you don’t need a degree as I do have one. But I studied at a fairly humble place which wasn’t even a University (it was Southampton Institute) but it was 3 years, allowed me to travel to Finland and was cheap at the time, but I still worked around a 30 hr week during that time to pay for snowboarding.
I think having to get through a degree shouldn’t be considered mandatory for people. In the part above about “how I built this” how many of those folks do you think had a degree? None from that list and in the 20 or so I’ve listened to there must be only 2 or 3 who have one. In germany they focus more on vocational learning, so you have a skill, trade or something you can use in the real world. In the UK and US people seem obsessed with “just getting a degree”…. how many people do you know who did film studies or something and then couldn’t get a job. Thousands upon thousands and whilst they were looking for work there were others getting ahead of them by getting real world experience or starting their own company. Again though it depends on the career path. Whether you are looking for a corporate role (for which a degree is very useful) or looking to build something for yourself (I’d argue passion, dedication and commitment is more powerful).
Languages are one of the most amazing thing to learn and woefully under valued in the western society lead by the US and UK. Its shocking really. Scandinavians can speak 5 languages and most in our two countries can’t muster a second language. Try it. Travel with it. It isn’t really that hard once you unlock that part of your brain that encourages learning.
Yes the naked guy speaks 5 languages.
I’d encourage travel. As far as you can go and as cheap as you can make it. Live like the locals, eat their food, drink the local drink, don’t stay in some fancy Westernized hotel. You’ll feel like your home with a starbucks on site and wont see how a country really is. Make sure to also be able to travel on your own. Nothing makes you a better tourist than not sticking out like a sore thumb wherever you go. I’m lucky enough to have travelled personally, with my parents, with my own young family, with friends, alone and with work. Its all part of the learning curve but every time I go I feel I come back better than when I left and also again, thankful for the opportunity I had.
Another thing I would love to pass on is…. Enjoy the now. Its so easy to get caught in looking for the next thing. To buy something new, to travel somewhere, meet someone, to save up for something. Enjoy what your doing right now. Enjoy the time with your family, even if your parents are annoying the hell out of you right now, they only mean the best, but communicate with them. Spend time with your friends, go explore, near or far, stay up late, get in trouble, go on road trips, do whatever feels right. Just know when things are going too far, or it feels wrong.
To that end, to enjoy the now, I think there is a certain amount of needing to be present. I mean putting down that phone and looking up at whats happening around you. Its hard as everyone is constantly updating, checking in wanting to be up to speed with the latest and greatest, but there has to be a time to put down the phone and just live. Have a conversation. Have a beer and have a conversation and a good laugh. One of the things I hope is that my sons generation who grow up with technology will be better placed to deal with it better than my generation do (the 30-45 year olds) because we damn seem obsessed by making sure we update this, that and the other 24/7. How many billions of photos get taken each second and never get seen again. Its like the old home movies but they never get seen. I would love to think the next generation will be way more able to provide boundaries to whats real and not. Because the way that some of us currently use Cell Phones is very unhealthy. Me included. I hate myself for it, and am trying to be more present and in a spring break resolution kind of thing I would do my level best to limit use at home and at work.
This sums it up well….
So was this just a piece about me telling people what to do? Maybe. It wasn’t meant that way. I’m in no means the best person to look to for advice, but these are just my thoughts and sometimes as a kid growing up you just want someone to talk to who isn’t a friend, a teacher or a parent. Everyone wants what they think is best for you, I’m just laying out what worked for me. Even if this just helps one 14 yr old kid help them find their way in the world, then it was worth the hour it took me to write this.
Travel, Be Present, Enjoy Life, Find a Passion, Share your passion, Learn. Learn. Learn. I don’t mean College. I mean whatever and where you go. Have a beer. Enjoy that sunset. Be yourself, be true to what you believe in and the rest is easy.
Thanks for reading. Love to know what you think.